DVD Review: Love, Gilda

Saturday Night Live has been on the air for more than forty years now, but few television historians will disagree that the series’ first five seasons–from 1975 to 1980–were it’s best. The first of the “Not Ready for Prime-Time Players” selected (as the cast was known), Gilda Radner (Haunted Honeymoon) became an immediate fan favorite. Love, Gilda explores the life and career of the beloved comedienne in her own words and those of the people who knew her best: family, friends, and colleagues.

The extensive use of Gilda’s own audio recordings and written journals give the proceedings intimacy, as we are taken back to Radner’s childhood in Detroit, Michigan. Her weight was a problem from an early age. Concerned, Gilda’s mother took her daughter to a doctor who put her on Dexedrine diet pills, age 10. For Gilda, being the butt of fat jokes forced her to develop her sense of humor, “I made them laugh before they hurt me. Before any kid could go, ‘Hey, you fat thing,’ I would say, ‘Hey, I’m fat! I can’t see my toes!’”

Gilda went on to study theater at the University of Michigan. She dropped out in her senior year to follow her sculptor boyfriend to Toronto. However, it wasn’t long before she decided the life of a housewife wasn’t for her. Gilda’s boyfriend didn’t enjoy her humor, so she found comfort in local theater. There she made her professional acting debut in Godspell, with future stars Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Victor Garber, Martin Short, and Paul Shaffer. Afterward, Radner joined Second City, which led to John Belushi calling her to be the girl on The National Lampoon Radio Hour with Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in New York City. According to Radner, it was difficult to get her ideas into the sketches, so she volunteered to become the typist. That way, she could insert her humor as they hashed things out.

Watching clips of Gilda’s work, it’s no surprise that Lorne Michaels cast her in his new show Saturday Night Live. She looks so comfortable on stage; funny and genuine. It took Saturday Night Live a few episodes to find its footing, but once it did, the show was a hit and Gilda was one of its biggest stars. She worked hard, collaborating with other cast members and the writers to produce the best material possible. Lorne Michaels shares that if he had time in the show but not enough time for a real sketch, he’d just put Gilda on the stage to fill the moment. She could talk about what she ate that day and make it funny.

A ninety-minute documentary can’t possibly cover every aspect of Gilda’s life, and director Lisa Dapolito doesn’t try to—the focus is on her career and humor, with just brief mentions of her struggles with eating disorders and relationships. This seems appropriate, given her humorous approach toward fighting the cancer that would take her life in 1989. Listening to any one of the family and friends interviewed here, it’s clear that Gilda was deeply loved. If you’re a fan, Love, Gilda stands as a fitting tribute to a comic legend.

Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the video quality varies depending on the archival source material. Naturally, new interviews are clear, while older material is a grab bag, but never unacceptable.

The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio offers a pleasant listening experience, with clean, clear, and concise dialogue throughout. English and Spanish subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Additional Interviews (37:33) Additional comments from Alan Zweibel, Robin Zweibel, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Cecily Stong, Jude Levy, Laraine Newman, Paul Shaffer, Martin Short and more.
  • Gilda’s Gallery has dozens of photos and writings from her.
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:30)

Movie title: Love, Gilda (2018)

Director(s): Lisa Dapolito

Actor(s): Gilda Radner , Andrew Alexander , Chevy Chase , Bill Hader , Melissa McCarthy , Lorne Michaels

Genre: Documentary

  • Movie
    (4)
  • Video
    (4)
  • Audio
    (4)
  • Extras
    (2)
Overall
3.5
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