"Gilda" Saturday June 2nd at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
It’s summertime and the folks at Cinespia are gearing up for a season full of great movie going experiences. Once again, the film society is presenting a variety of classic films at the open-air venue of the well known Hollywood landmark where one can watch some classic old movies under (and above) the stars.
I can’t think of anything that evokes the thrill of summer more than an outdoor event. Picnics on the beach, concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, farmers’ markets and county fairs all have the magical quality of long days, cool nights, and summer vacation. You used to be able to include drive-in movies on that list, but such venues have long since disappeared from our society, sliding into the realm of quaint, bygone institutions. Fortunately, there are some imaginative film fans out there that are as inventive as they are sentimental, and their name is Cinespia.
For years now, the Cinespia Film Society has been presenting films in the open air of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Their purpose and ambition is to expose the masses to quality films from days gone by, and to present to the public an opportunity to view the movies one often hears of or reads about on the “Best” lists, but has yet to see. And it’s all presented in a fun and inviting atmosphere steeped in old Hollywood lore. Not only is the Hollywood Forever Cemetery filled with the likes of cinema history’s most elite, but the establishment stands back-to-back with Paramount Studios – one of the oldest studios in Los Angeles with a grand history of it’s own, and built by many of the great names now residing at Hollywood Forever.
Gilda is a particularly inspired selection for this week’s screening. This truly classic film from the golden age of cinema has been playing around town and on cable television a lot in the past year, celebrating its 60th anniversary and the 90th birthday of star Glenn Ford. Since the recent accolades began, Glenn Ford has passed away, taking with him one of the few remaining visceral links we have to yesterday’s more glamorous age of tinsel and stardust. Fortunately, movies like Gilda will continue to live on for future generations of fans to discover and admire the talents of those who created it.
The film itself is a prime example of Noir at its best with all the elements of the genre fulfilled to near perfection (although the ending’s not strictly noir, it is very satisfying nonetheless). Gilda stars a very young Glenn Ford in a star-making role as a man haunted by his past seeking a new life as a tough manager of a South American casino. Ford’s character is down on his luck but soon thrives in the chiaroscuro realm of the underworld under the wing of a corrupt and double-dealing impresario. All goes well until Ford is introduced to his mentor’s beautiful wife Gilda, a seductive siren with whom Ford has obviously had an involved past. Life becomes complicated when Ford’s ambition becomes entangled with Gilda’s reckless behavior and his boss’s hidden agenda.
Rita Hayworth gives an un-paralleled performance as the title character, playing the tempestuous love goddess that devours every man that crosses her path – a character that would become Hayworth’s signature onscreen personae, and for good reason. Hayworth’s very presence in a scene sparkles with vitality and oozes with sex appeal. Even though the film is in black and white, you can virtually see the vibrant red of Rita’s hair as she teasingly tosses it both on stage and in the boudoir. Her smile radiates with loveliness while her eyes pierce your heart with an aching, forlorn hope. And then there’s that dance. Never again will there be such a revealing and tantalizing spectacle captured onscreen as Rita Hayworth slinking across the dance floor in that black silk dress while removing just her gloves!
Although still new to the screen at the time, Glenn Ford does a commendable job holding his own. For such a young actor (just 30), Ford gives an amazingly palpable performance as the tortured man who struggles with his inner desires over the woman he simultaneously loves and hates. Each encounter with Gilda is a gut-wrenching experience as he struggles between his overwhelming, contradicting emotions and his heartfelt commitment to the man who gave him his new life, as well as his need to rise above his baser instincts that once worked against him. The result is his sadistic treatment of the object of his torment. But Ford never allows the character to slip into showy hysterics. His is a tangible strength that holds fast even at his character’s weakest moments. A lesser actor would have been merely a costar, as the title credits suggest, but his performance bears proof that Ford was to become a great star in his own right.
Simply put, Gilda is a great film, representing the very best that Hollywood has to offer. One of the most iconic films of any era, it bursts with snappy dialogue, sexy dance numbers, emotional tension, and noir intrigue. It’s a cliche to say that they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore, but cliches exist for a reason, and Gilda is a prime example of that old cliche holding true.
The gates open at 7:30 pm, and the film begins at 9:00 pm. The cemetery is located atr6000 Santa Monica Boulevard at Gower. No reservation is necessary and ther$10 suggested donation tickets are available at the gate. As a courtesy to other moviegoers, please remember not to bring tall chairs. For more information about the screenings, or to join the society’s email list visit their website at http://www.cemeteryscreenings.com. You can also join their “MySpace” page at http://www.myspace.com/cemeteryscreenings.