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Gilda is a film noir masterpiece, and yet, behind the scenes, the production was quite a challenge.
Director Charles Vidor said, “We didn’t have a finished script, we never knew what was coming next, and we even started the picture without a leading man.”
Interestingly, Humphrey Bogart was considered for the lead, but he turned it down. Despite the hiccups, the film was a box office smash and established Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford as stars.
1. Hayworth had quite the haymaker!
In the film, Rita slaps Glenn Ford twice. At first, however, she didn’t want to do it. Vidor said, “She wouldn’t do that in real life any more than she’d commit murder. She’s much too gentle, much too feminine.” When she finally did the stunt, the blows were hard enough that they actually broke two of his teeth. But being a true pro, Glenn didn't let the pain ruin the take.
2. The stars tricked the studio head.
Harry Cohn was apparently very controlling of his actors, especially Hayworth. By some accounts, he even had her followed. When filming Gilda, Cohn also had Ford's and Hayworth’s dressing rooms bugged. Ford said, “[Cohn] was worried about my carrying on with Rita, so we gave him some marvelous things to listen to.” The two had fun playing tricks on Cohen by pretending to get very friendly together, knowing he was listening.
3. It has a fun cameo.
The picture of Glenn Ford’s character as a baby isn’t Glenn. Rather, it’s his son Peter. Son and father also appeared together in twelve other films – though the younger Ford was mostly uncredited.
4. Rita’s musical numbers were a last minute add.
In fact, the film was essentially finished when songwriters Doris Fisher and Allan Roberts were tasked with writing two songs. Fisher said, “[We] sat down by a piano and – I don’t know – it just happened.” Fisher was especially nervous about playing the songs for star Rita Hayworth and confided to her that he was a nervous wreck. She responded, “So am I.”