Does one really need to explain why Rita Hayworth is nicknamed “The Love Goddess”? I mean, just look at her!
This still is from her most famous and provocative role as the title character in Gilda. Gilda is one of those films noir that deserves multiple viewings because it is all over the place but in the best way possible. Hayworth just smolders the screen in each frame she is in.
Ballin Mundson: Gilda, are you decent?
Gilda: Me? (Pause)
Gilda: Sure, I’m decent
Hayworth is the ultimate femme fatale in this one. She is sensual, malicious yet vulnerable in this world of gambling in Buenos Aires with her former flame Johnny, portrayed by Glenn Ford. The two made five films together and it’s safe to say this is the best of the bunch. The sexual tension between the two ignites the screen. Their “love” is twisted filled with moments of rage; you can’t stop watching these two.
The sexuality in this film is laid on thick without any love scene. You’re likely to hear your grandfather in your head saying, “Back in my day, the sexiest women were the ones who kept their clothes on”! It’s certainly true with strawberry blonde Rita Hayworth. This was the film that made Rita a star. In the 1940’s she was one of the most popular actresses by the soldiers overseas fighting during WWII. Her pin-up and Betty Grable’s defined the era. She was so popular that a flight crew testing an atomic bomb in the Marshall Islands put a photo of her on it in homage to her “bombshell status.” Unfortunately, Rita was less than pleased. The most famous scene in Gilda is her “striptease” to Put the Blame on Mame. I put striptease in quotations because the only articles of clothing Gilda takes off is a glove. Yes, one glove.
Rita had another great noir performance in The Lady from Shanghai directed by her then husband, Orson Welles. But Rita wasn’t just a sultry vixen. A trained dancer she starred in a number of musicals with the likes of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Astaire famously called Rita his favorite co-star instead of his other half in 10 films, Ginger Rogers. Her dancing is quite impressive from tapping with Astaire, to ballroom with Kelly and a provocative Pasodoble with Anthony Quinn in the underrated gem, Blood and Sand. What I love about that one and The Loves of Carmen is you’re able to see Rita’s Spanish heritage. She was born Margarita Carmen Cansino, her father was a professional dancer from Spain who trained her in Flamenco and Spanish folk dances. The Hollywood Studio System would strip this away and give her some white-washed “Spanish” roles but when she dances we see Margarita Cansino in her element. Whether she’s dancing or flipping her hair, Rita Hayworth had the unique ability to control a room. Take a look at one of her pictures sometime and you’ll see why the boys at war loved her; you’ll no doubt fall under her spell.