With a flip of her hair, Rita Hayworth could drive scores of males wild. She was the “love goddess,” a pinup for military soldiers, and she was a presence on-screen that demanded attention.
I may get a lot of complaints, but there aren’t movie stars like her anymore. On screen she was almost always glamorous, to the point of it being unrealistic, but isn’t that what movies are about? Older movies are my favorites for a lot of different reasons, but one is because you know you’re watching a movie, it is an escape from reality, it is entertainment. In real life, Rita Hayworth was still gorgeous, but from what has been told she was very humble and shy, and not always decked out in elegant gowns and glamorous make up. It seems today, it’s the opposite with stars. In their movies they all play worn out characters, wear prosthetic noses or “ugliness,” and try and “nail reality,” but in real life they always look like an unattainable perfection. Personally, I prefer the way it was in Rita Hayworth’s time.
She is, for me (along with Clara Bow), my ultimate icon. She is untouched by no one, in my opinion. (Then again, I’m incredibly biased.)
She wasn’t particularly known for making serious films or playing the most in-depth characters. Though she was nominated for a Golden Globe in the movie Circus World with John Wayne in 1964. However, she was an incredibly talented dancer who was raised in a dancing and performing family. Most of her movies are light and fun, and admittedly a bit silly. They are the epitome of the escape from reality, which most people needed with World War II occupying everyone’s mind.
Fred Astaire said that Rita Hayworth was his favorite dance partner with whom he had ever worked. They starred in You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) and You Were Never Lovelier (1942). They are such a delight to watch together on-screen. They had marvelous chemistry and could exchange their lines with a familiarity and ease. They were both very talented dancers, and moved so elegantly and fluently together. Their dance to “I’m Old Fashioned” in You Were Never Lovelier, as seen in the photo above, is sweet and charming, and a delectable treat for the eyes. Their numbers together are all quite a feast of immeasurable deliciousness. It’s a shame they weren’t able to make more pictures together.
Rita Hayworth was the first actress to dance with both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. She only made one film with Gene Kelly, but it is absolute enjoyment. She could keep up with the best of them from Fred Astaire to Gene Kelly, each with a different stature and dance style, but Hayworth moved with each fabulously and looked the part of perfection. Cover Girl is a brilliantly choreographed and executed film and the partnering of Kelly and Hayworth is another treasure of cinematic and musical splendor.
Most people probably know her from Gilda (1946). It was the role that cemented her persona as a sex symbol and femme fatale. She executes that semi-striptease to “Put the Blame on Mame” so seductively and plays the sultry and scheming Gilda to utter perfection. The ultimate film noir, seducing us with it’s betrayal and deception, smoldering with desire and want. The character of Gilda giving us memorable lines that have been duplicated (and parodied) like, “You’re cock-eyed, Johnny! All cock-eyed!” Or “I hate you too, Johnny. I hate you so much I think I’m going to die from it. Darling…” Scenes with smoke swirling through the air and the smell of cigarettes transcending through the screen, those scenes of Rita Hayworth sashaying in long, elegant gowns, making eyes at every male she shares a scene with, and gangster-like men conducting under-handed business.
Unfortunately, when someone now watches this for the first time, I have to explain this is one of the films where it all started. All the parodies and studies on film noir pretty much come from this movie. At the time, it was original, the over dramatic lines and hatred
burning in their eyes were not mockery, they were the embodiment of this type of film.
This movie paired her with Glenn Ford, with whom she appeared in five all together. These two are one of my favorite onscreen pairings. They are always in sync with an on-screen appeal that was second to none. Their portrayal of the love/hate relationship between Johnny and Gilda is one of film’s greatest couplings.
It should be noted, that though the “Put the Blame on Mame” scene of Rita Hayworth is one of her most famous, she in fact, did not sing the song. She didn’t sing in any of her movies, though she had said she always wanted to, but was never given the time or resources to take singing lessons by her studio. With the exception of a few intros into songs, such as in Pal Joey (1957), she was always dubbed. Though I don’t think it takes anything away from her characters or her dance numbers, they are still sublime and enjoyable.
Though it was a bust at the time, The Lady from Shanghai(1947) is an intriguing film with that notorious Orson Welles’ touch, featuring complex cinematic shots, visually stunning and arresting to the senses. It allows Rita Hayworth to showcase some real acting, and she proves she is more than just a beautiful face. She also sports short blond hair in the film, which apparently was cited as one of the reasons the film did so poorly. For all her beauty and talent, she was pigeon-holed into a look and a particular type, though it was iconic and alluring, it was also a bit unfortunate, as she could have tested the depths of her talents. (That iconic look was the inspiration for the character of Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).)
For all her charm and glamour on-screen, off-screen and in her personal life, Rita Hayworth had many struggles. She had multiple failed marriages (quoted as saying, “They go to bed with Gilda, they wake up with me.”), insecurities, a drinking problem, and later a struggle with Alzheimer’s that took her too soon at the age of 68 in 1987. Because Alzheimer’s was not fully understood during the time she was afflicted, she was seen as a terrible alcoholic with erratic and volatile behaviour, an unfortunate end to a talented and misunderstood woman.
She is stunning whether it is a black and white film or technicolor. She can mesmerize the viewer with graceful dance movements and the luxurious gestures of her long arms and legs, subtle nuisances of her on-screen persona, and a look that is unmatched. She was stunningly beautiful, had a charm about her, could deliver comedy with a twinkle in her eye, or pierce one’s heart with a portrayal of a wronged woman. Rita Hayworth was and is the very definition of a screen legend and icon.