Rita Hayworth: Part I
Rita Hayworth, aka ‘the Love Goddess,’ would forever be remembered for Gilda [M] (1946), an iconic smoldering sexed-up noir that’s much smarter and intricate than most people remember, but it’s also a film that ensured Hayworth would be remembered for sex appeal rather than acting talent.
The problem isn’t complex: if you’ve seen Gilda, you understand why most men walk away from that film in a daze, and it’s peculiar because Gilda’s two best-known musical numbers don’t happen until the end, and they’re plot-functional rather than standalone music sequences designed to sell singles.
Hayworth remains fully clothed, and yet those two numbers – notably “Put the Blame on Mame” – are the equivalent of being smacked head-on by a bullet train, and I can’t imagine the sensation further deepened by seeing the film the big screen. Even on home video, until you’ve seen Gilda, you just don’t know.
It’s all about context, because the reason those number hit hard (ahem) is their specific occurrence when the titular character is at major emotional lows; they’re not sexy scenes designed to wake-up dozers, they’re the character’s reaction to being dumped, betrayed, and left in a vulnerable place by a shitty husband or boyfriend, and it’s that specific vulnerability which makes the film and Hayworth’s performance far richer than a black & white femme fatale archetype. She’s the equivalent of Casablanca’s Ilsa on a corrosive vengeance streak with a pre-determined crash & burn finale, and it happens in small, carefully developed stages.
Hayworth supposedly once said men would go to bed with Gilda, and wake up disappointed with Rita, and there is that vulnerability which the actress adds to characters in small lookaways – moments when her character reflects on a lousy event which seems to resonate with the actress on a subconscious level.
Whereas Gilda is in dire need of an HD remaster (not to mention Criterion-style special edition), Hayworth’s prior blockbuster, Cover Girl [M] (1944), is available as a limited Blu-ray from Twilight Time. There are no extras, but you do get a sharp HD transfer of the actress’s first Technicolor musical, and every nuance of the film’s rich cinematography comes through sharp & crisp.
As for Criterion, the label just announced Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) is part of their upcoming roster, and their SE will feature a feature length documentary on the film’s composer, Christopher Komeda, who died not long after the film’s completion just as he was poised to start a new career in Hollywood.