Just last weekend I watched the 1946 Glenn Ford/Rita Hayworth smash Gilda at the delightful Suxkville Theatre. I always feel some melancholy seeing old movies on the big screen. It is the combination of the larger than life personas and the fact that I consider my own mortality. I always think about the fact that almost every person involved with a particular film must be dead. I then click around IMDB and read the biographies of the various actors and directors, and was pleasantly surprised that Glenn Ford (Superman’s dad to many people, from the Christopher Reeves film) was still alive at the age of 90. I think about movies I grew up with and how people are starting to die now that I never really thought of as “dead” material. Glenn Ford died yesterday.
I have sort of a soft spot for Glenn Ford. People don’t talk about the film Gilda as much as they could. It is remembered, and rightly so, for Rita Hayworth’s smouldering “Blame it on Mame” dance number, but the film is more like Vertigo in reverse (this film is not so bold as to destroy everything in the end). The hypocritical hard boiled crooked gambler played by Glenn Ford who’s twisted version of loyalty conflicts with his sexual obsession for Rita Hayworth’s Gilda- the desire of Ballin, the effete asexual, to possess Gilda as an object (for what purpose?)- the final realization of Glenn Ford’s character that surrendering to his feelings for Gilda would not be emasculinating or somehow against whatever rules (patriarchy?) he was trying to embrace or uphold. What seems a one note portrayal, may in fact be a one note portrayal, but that is what denial looks like.
Another seeming one note portrayal is Ford’s work in The Big Heat, a single-minded vengeance film that sets the template for Dirty Harry. A very good film, with incredibly cynical undercurrents. Also there is Fastest Gun Alive, a somewhat hokey Western about a man trying to live down his abilities and escape a cycle of revenge and killing, trying to lead a peaceful life.
In all these films, audiences are able to look past large character flaws simply because the characters are played by the “everyman” Glenn Ford, and I think that makes the films much more subversive than they otherwise might appear.
Also recommended by many, yet not seen by me yet- 3:10 to Yuma, Cimarron, The Blackboard Jungle, Experiment in Terror.
3B toasts Glenn Ford, the fastest gun.