Gilda starts out with Johnny, a young American gambler, getting rescued from a mugging by Ballin, a dapper silver fox with a
JOHNNY: A cane like that is handy.
BALLIN: It is a faithful friend. Mostly silent, but talks when I need it to.
JOHNNY: That's your idea of a friend? You must lead a gay life!
(All italicized dialogue is stuff that a.) I am quoting straight from the movie and b.) made sovay and me turn to stare at each other like "REALLY??")
Ballin suggests Johnny get himself dressed up fancy and check out a local casino; Johnny promptly attempts to cheat the casino; Ballin, of course, turns out to own the casino. Johnny's like, I would like for you to have two friends, and I would like for me to be one of them, it is A-OK with me if your sword-cane is the other one. >:]
BALLIN: I must be sure there's no woman in the picture.
JOHNNY: Get this: I was born last night, when we met in the alley.
And for a while Johnny and Ballin and the sword-cane are very happy together --
BALLIN: You're sharp. Almost as sharp as my other friend, but not quite so obedient. My other friend would kill or me.
JOHNNY: That's what friends are for.
BALLIN: To us, Johnny. To the three of us.
-- until Ballin goes on vacation and comes back with: A WIFE! aka the titular Gilda.
JUDGY CASINO COWORKER: One hears she is very beautiful. And young, and American. You also are young and American.
Johnny's like, YES I'M AWARE BALLIN SEEMS TO HAVE A TYPE. >:[ >:[ >:[
Ballin appears to be mostly just confused about why his wife and his special friend don't seem to get along, like, why wouldn't they get along? THERE CAN BE NO POSSIBLE REASON.
BALLIN: Let's drink to the three of us. ... what's the matter, Johnny?
JOHNNY, SULKIEST IN THE WORLD: I get confused. Just a few weeks ago we drank to the three of us.
And last time the third party in the threesome was a phallic symbol and Johnny was so much happier!
Anyway soon enough it turns out that, adding insult to injury, Gilda is Johnny's ex and they had an extremely bad breakup. They spend the next half hour sniping at each other in corners and hissing about how much they hate each other. Gilda flirts with other men; Johnny covers up for her to Ballin, and yells at her about she had better not hurt him; Gilda's like, "Don't kid yourself that this is all about Ballin, Johnny!" and Johnny's like "UH ACTUALLY I THOUGHT I HAD MADE IT QUITE CLEAR THAT IT IS VERY MUCH ALL ABOUT BALLIN."
...and then Ballin has a conversation with Gilda in which he explains that he is actually super into being the focal point of an emotional triangle between two people who hate each other??
BALLIN: Hate can be an exciting emotion. There is a heat in it one can feel. Didn't you feel it tonight? It warmed me. Hate is the only thing that has ever warmed me.
ALSO at around this point a plot rears its head about how Ballin runs a secret tungsten cabal that he stole from angry Germans and plans to rule the world via chemical monopoly???
But Johnny doesn't care! He just wants to protect Ballin! He trusts him, he believes in him! He'll sacrifice his own happiness for him! At this point, Johnny is earnestly competing with Gilda for the role of Gothic heroine.
Unluckily for Johnny, Gilda is actually hanging out in the OTHER kind of Gothic where the sinister silver fox you impulsively marry is the villain instead of the love interest, and is starting to be like "maybe I ... shouldn't have married a man who runs a secret tungsten cabal on the rebound on one night's notice? In retrospect, that might have been a bad plan."
Anyway all of this comes to a head at a masquerade ball, when Gilda disappears, and Ballin murders a guy on account of the secret tungsten cabal, and Johnny brings Gilda home, and Gilda's like "Johnny I am basically just sticking around here at this point for the inevitable hatesex, why has that not happened yet," and Johnny's like "BECAUSE I WANT TO KICK YOU OUT OF THIS RELATIONSHIP SO I CAN LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER WITH BALLIN IS WHY."
JOHNNY: I knew all his dreams of greatness would be wrecked because of her. He wasn't strong enough to throw her out. I had to do it for him.
However in the process of attempting to throw her out he ends up accidentally making out with her after all, and it as this point that the movie takes ... a turn .....
So Ballin walks in on Johnny and Gilda having an angry makeout session. MYSTERIOUSLY -- since up until this point Ballin seems to have been A-OK with the notion of having a hot wife and a hot right-hand-man who hate each other in his bedroom -- Ballin promptly turns around and fakes his own death in a plane crash!
Gilda's like, great, the Gothic villain is dead and I can marry my true love, who was Johnny all the time! :D
Johnny's like, I CAN'T BELIEVE GILDA AND I CAUSED THE DEATH OF MY TRUE LOVE! ;____;
At this point the Gothic novel shifts around and Johnny becomes the Gothic antihero (and, as sovay says, he is TERRIBLE at it.)
Johnny revenge-marries Gilda, buys a fancy new apartment with a GIANT PICTURE of Ballin on the wall, then disappears IMMEDIATELY after the ceremony. After this, he starts living in the casino, refuses to speak to her, and hires a guy to beat up anybody else that Gilda flirts with.
JOHNNY: She wasn't faithful before, but she would be, now that he was dead!
Understandably, Gilda gets sick of this pretty soon and leaves town. Johnny HIRES A FAKE LAWYER to pretend to be in love with Gilda and get her to come BACK to town by convincing her that she can get an annulment for their unconsummated marriage! just so Johnny can dramatically reappear and be like LOLOLOL GOTCHA.
Gilda, at this point, is just like "WTF IS THIS EVEN, WHY IS MY LIFE," and RIGHTLY SO. All Gilda wanted was some good old-fashioned hatesex! She didn't ask for this!
Also because of Ballin's presumed death Johnny is now the head of the secret Tungsten cabal?? This poor police officer keeps showing up to get Johnny to give up and hand over the names of his secret cabal friends and then being like 'dude I am threatening to arrest you for secret world-controlling cabal activities and you're not even LISTENING to me because you are so busy with your messed-up personal life.'
Anyway, in the last five minutes of the movie:
- the police officer turns out to be a romantic and is like 'great, thanks for being too emotionally messed up to effectively run a secret tungsten cabal, now you two kids should work it out!'
(POLICE OFFICER: I'm a great cop, and a pushover for a love story.
sovay AND I: Were you ... not there when Johnny hired a FAKE LAWYER to seduce Gilda for him?? Because we BOTH FEEL LIKE THAT'S CROSSING A LINE SOMEWHERE')
- Ballin returns from the dead and attempts to symbolically stab Johnny and Gilda with his symbolic sword-cane!
- but somebody shoots him, I honestly couldn't tell if it was Johnny or Judgy Casino Coworker!
- but the police officer who is literally there for the WHOLE THING is like 'eh, bygones!'
- and Johnny and Gilda go back to America to live happily ever after??
sovay: Well, that was a lower body count than I was expecting.
ME: Yes, of all the noirs I've seen, I was not expecting this one to be the one with the happy heterosexual ending?
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