Because Gilda is possibly my absolute favourite ‘Queer Classic’ from Hollywood’s Golden Age, it always surprises me how many people don’t see the very rich gay subtext at its heart. It’s always been so obvious to me and it simmers along so intensely that it’s barely a subtext at all and almost becomes the driving force of the plot. The opening scene alone, as George Macready (at his most sinister and insinuating) picks up Glenn Ford (at his most boyishly handsome) at the docks, in a scene that’s loaded with homo-eroticism (the lighting of the cigarettes, Ford’s ‘knowing’ looks, Ballin’s loving description of his cane, the innuendo tinged dialogue). And when Rita Hayworth turns up (burning up the celluloid in her most glamorous and filthiest role), it does nothing to ‘straighten’ proceedings – on the contrary it simply adds a whole new dimension – a very literal ménage à trois (in no uncertain terms, Gilda mockingly informs Johnny that he is as much ‘kept’ by Ballin as she is).
But even without the gay ‘subtext’ Gilda is still one of the Golden Age’s finest. It does lose some of it’s vitality and delicious deviancy when Macready disappears from the proceedings – and, inevitably, it’s ‘queerness’ dims a little. Also, the very ‘tidy’ moral ending is obviously tacked on to appease the the priggish killjoys and is a real letdown. But these are only minor flaws to be endured. Marvelous!