Two dice roll into close-up. Thus, down-and-out dockside gambler Johnny Farrell is introduced, along with the theme of characters that make their own luck by cheating with chance, love, and big business. Whereas Johnny just plays his way into a job at an exotic Buenos Aires casino through his cardsharp skills, snappy spiel, and fast fisticuffs, his boss, Ballin, has greater ambitions in creating an international monopoly and is willing to use intimidation, illegal business practices, and murder to attain his goal. Johnny becomes as faithful and obedient to his mentor as Ballin’s phallic walking stick, until Ballin breaks their agreement of no women around, returning from a business trip with a wife—Gilda. Especially as she’s the woman who’d ripped Johnny’s heart out. A smoldering ménage à trois begins in which love seeps out as hatred and self-destructive jealousy accompanied by stinging one-liners and teasing, erotic nightclub performances by Gilda. Sinister Germans and dodgy oddball Argentinians keep the intriguing plot pacey while the three antagonists watch each other watching each other as the deadly homo/hetero heat continues to rise towards boiling over in magnificent madness that no noir—nor other film—had achieved.

In this 2K restoration, based upon the UCLA Archive restored print created for the Library of Congress, all scratches, fading, and other time-inflicted wear and tear have been cleaned up and corrected. Just enough grain has been left to give a film feel without interfering with resolution. Contrast is now impressive, with deep blacks in casino patrons’ tuxedos and bright whites in scarves, shirts, and attendants’ coats, along with a wide range of dazzling grays. Johnny’s cheap, woolen jacket has tactile texture, and his shirt’s thin stripes and Gilda’s sparkling sequined dresses are distinct in highly detailed, in-depth compositions that are sharp from front to back.

On the soundtrack, there’s little hiss, no pops, sibilance, or other noise that might mar the clarity so that witty, risqué dialogue is resonant and clean. The score of tangos and songs slinkily performed by Rita Hayworth sounds full and resonant.

In his commentary, critic Richard Schickel elaborates on actors, director, and the intriguing relationships of characters. A vintage featurette, narrated by Joseph Cotton, relates Hayworth’s evolution, and a video interview with noir historian Eddie Muller intelligently analyzes the perversity and sexually subversive passions that made Gilda unique.

Studio: The Criterion Collection, 1946
Aspect Ratio: 1.34:1
Audio: Linear PCM Mono
Length: 110 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Charles Vidor
Starring: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, George Macready