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Archive for the ‘Rita Hayworth: Screen Goddess’ Category

Blood And Sand [1941]

22 Dec

Blood And Sand [1941] — directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Sports Drama. 125 minutes Color 1941.

★★★★★

The Story: A poor illiterate boy from Seville becomes Spain’s greatest matador, marries his beautiful childhood sweetheart, and then meets Rita Hayworth.

~

The lipstick on her mouth is the slash of death. As soon as she appears in purple, you know Tyrone Power is in Dutch. Anyone would be.

She’s 22 but she plays a woman of marked sophistication and massively confident sexual greed. She is never dressed down but always up and never less than to kill. Like gold coins, men move through what her choreographer Hermes Pan called the most beautiful fingers in the world. The part made her a star.

Even here, you can see what a good actress she is, her gift dependent upon her responsiveness. Just watch her in the big confrontation scene with Linda Darnell; watch how everything Darnell says to her hits her and what Hayworth does with it.  She has a natural inbred Meisner technique.

There are many attributes that made Hayworth a star, but let’s just notice one of them: her beautiful carriage. You’d have to wait until Cyd Charisse to meet her match. Look how the shoulders and hands are carried as she dances. She has three dances here, one sitting down playing a guitar in which she moves only her shoulders, one where she turns Power into a bull of her bidding, and one in full upright fornication which she does with Anthony Quinn.

Quinn, when young, is sexier than Power. His eyes burn with the hatred of an Italian whore; nothing could be hotter. And then we have Linda Darnell who is 17 years old here and unutterably touching. These film stars have such natural gifts. Darnell has the power to inhale with her eyes. It’s not a trick. She simply does it as an attribute of what she is. To witness such things is to cause wonder.

The weak link in all of this is Power himself who never has a hardon as the matador. He never investigates the character; he misses the eager brash guttersnipe of that scampering scamp of a boy he began as. You never feel his love of the sport, upon which the story depends. Of course, as in all bullfight movies, you cannot show the actor actually fighting the bull. If it were football, it would be different.

Blood And Sand is renowned for its color scheme of gold, ice blue, and blood red which the director imposed on it, and its Special Features contains a commentary by a modern cameraman Richard Crudo, a tutorial on the cumbersome challenge of Technicolor, which here is thick, rich, and saturated.

Mamoulian paints with film, right from the start with an all-but-naked adolescent boy racing through a blue moonlit countryside. He spray- paints Hayworth’s banquet flowers black. He spray paints John Carradine’s deathbed sheets grey. Darnell’s dresses are always white, black, or true blue. And Mamoulian dyed Hayworth’s hair auburn, which it remained for the rest of her career.

The backstage work of bullfighting is arresting, and we are treated to a supporting cast of considerable strength: Carradine as Power’s faithful friend, J. Carroll Naish as a wise fellow matador; Laird Cregar as louche journalist full of himself; as Power’s mother, storied actress Ala Nazimova. The movie is a lot of different sorts of fun: its camera work, color schemes, bright casting, two gorgeous young women. Although, as a whole, as you will see to your amusement and forgiveness, lead does not add weight to melodrama.

 

 

Cover Girl

28 Nov

Cover Girl – directed by Charles Vidor. Musical. A hoofer in A Brooklyn nightclub becomes a fashion magazine cover-girl and a Broadway star, much to the chagrin of her buddies. 107 minutes Color 1944.

★★★★★

Rita Hayworth was a true dancer, which is to say she was born to dance, and if one could say she was a great dancer, it would have to be not because of her technical prowess and range. There were things she could not do, had not been trained to do, did not have the body to do.

But on the grounds of musicality, enthusiasm for the dance, and port de bras, she is one of the greatest dancers ever filmed.

By musicality is meant: is she just ahead of the beat? She is. This means that the music is a response to the dance, that the music comes out of the steps, rather than the other way round. That is what makes a dance a musical dance insofar as a dancer is involved. It gives something for the orchestra leader to follow. For it is the dance our attention is primarily on.

Enthusiasm is the sense that the dancer loves to dance. This comes off of Hayworth in every dance she does here. Dancing with Phil Silvers and Gene Kelly in “Make Way For Tomorrow” you see how dance gives her glee and glee her drive. You see she is the one of the three most enjoying herself. She does not intend it to, but this draws focus to her. You want to watch and stay with such happiness.

It also validates her being a dancer at all, for this enthusiasm makes clear that she is a born dancer as well as a trained one. It gives us pleasure in her confidence in her physical strength and in her natural power, as this enthusiasm releases the spectacle of her might to us. Which brings us to the question of port de bras.

By port de bras is meant how the arms, shoulders and upper back are carried – the sheer beauty and propriety of her arm movements, how they are held, where they are held, how they float. But in Rita Hayworth’s case, superb as she is at port de bras, she is also endowed with broad flexible shoulders, a back strengthened by practice, and the most beautiful arms and hands in the world.

Of course, usually Hayworth’s arms are held above her waist, but they work with a grace so rich and natural and skilled, that it constitutes a dance in and of itself. This comes out of nightclub flamenco where she danced as her father’s partner from the time she was twelve. So it is not the difficulty of the execution of steps that makes her dancing great, but the grasp of it with the flamenco fire-carriage of her arms, carried high above her diaphragm. This is flamenco-style; it gives her dancing duende. Watch her as she dances with Gene Kelly in the fashion showroom number. Look at his port de bras. And then look at hers. Gene Kelly was an agile dancer, good looking, and sexy, as was she, but she is the one you look at, and you can easily see why.

Rudolph Maté films her magnificently, as he was often to do. He discovered how shadow revealed her inner visage, and he knew how responsive she was. Watch for those lingering closeups on her subtly changing face.

Cover Girl is probably some kind of ur-musical, in that we get Kelly first doing the sort of work that would change musicals to an earthy, lower-class, non-backstage, jazz/ballet style. We have the first of his famous, midnight, city-street dances, which we find again in Singing In The Rain and It’s Always Fair Weather – dances where he uses trash cans, street lamps, and passing drunks as props; indeed we have two such dances. His dance to his own reflection in “Long Ago And Far Away” is probably the most elaborate and interesting dance he ever did, because he dances the truly neurotic.

Kelly, selfishly, loses the opportunity to properly dance “Long Ago And Far Away” with Hayworth. Is it Kern’s greatest ballad? Most of a musical’s numbers are comic numbers, and Jerome Kern is the least original of all the great composers at them; there are a number of them here; they are serviceable. But no one could write a more rapturous melody than Jerome Kern. “Long Ago And Far Away” is still with us.

Phil Silvers, Eve Arden, and Otto Kruger fortify the tale of a chorus girl from Brooklyn becoming a fashion magazine cover-girl and then a Broadway star. Apart from this, you might notice a certain treatment going on here: you might notice that Hayworth is becoming enshrined.

But never mind: here she is in all her grace and beauty and skill. Ask yourself the question: whom do you care about here and why?

Or don’t ask it. She doesn’t ask for analysis. She’s an entertainer. That’s what makes her happy.

So just treat yourself to her. She is receptive, she is talented, she is ravishing. She gives off sexuality like fire. And she is also that oddly rare thing among actors: she is touching.

 

 

 

Tonight And Every Night

26 Nov

Tonight And Every Night – directed by Victor Saville. Musical. Starring a loyal American girl drawn to leave by her romance with a Canadian flyer, still a London musical theatre stays open during the blitz. 92 minutes Color 1945.

★★★★★

Baz Lurhmann, in an Extra Feature, describes Rita Hayworth as a big tall girl.

Actually she weighed 120 and was 5 feet 6. She gave the impression of being tall because her male dance partners, Astaire and Kelly and others, were short, and because of her long, slender arms and legs, and because her rib cage was straight, and like many dancers, her hips were shallow. This gave her more of a long, tubular, model figure.

Jean Louis her designer at Columbia Pictures said of her, “She had a good body. It wasn’t difficult to dress her. She was very thin limbed, the legs were thin, the arms long and thin and beautiful hands. But the body was thick, She also had a belly then, [She was pregnant by Orson Welles.], but we could hide that.”

Jack Cole, who did her choreography, said, “She did not have a good figure, but she had beautiful breasts, beautiful arms and the most beautiful hands in show business …. As a young woman she was always a much more beautiful person than she photographed ‘cause they did really icky Columbia make-up for star ladies, with that too hard glossy mouth.

“She was a wildly good humored lady to work with, and she worked very hard. Not that she was wildly talented, but she was wildly suited to what she was doing at the time she was doing it. She was the sum total of a group effort – the way they dressed her, made her up, wrote for her, what she did with it, was a group job. What separates her from similar studio products is this inherent erotic thing of her own.”

So Sammy Kahn and Julie Styne will do the songs. Rudolph Maté films her in a way that gathers her up and continues to film her in a way that produces the Hayworth as we will come to know and admire. She will have a top supporting cast: that emerald lavaliere of an actress, Florence Bates will play the eventual Judy Dench part, Lee Bowman is the leading man, Marc Platt does a sensationally funny dance audition number, she has a couple of delightful cockney charwomen to give it a London lift. And Jack Cole will do her choreography, and go on to do it for her signature dance in Gilda. 

“You couldn’t treat her like a dancer – she could dance, but you couldn’t put that burden on her, she didn’t go to class every day .… I got to know what she could do facilely .… With Rita it looked like she really could do it, and more. There was the effect of ‘stand back I’m going to move now.’”

Since the dancer scheduled to do “What Does An English Girl Think Of A Yank” sprained his ankle on the day it was to be shot, Victor Saville asked Cole to dance it with her himself. He felt ill suited to the character, but there was nothing else to be done. “So I rehearse with Rita a couple of times around and we’re ready to start. Well, baby, I don’t know what hit me, when they turned the camera on. Monroe was the same way – when it was for real, it was like ‘look out.’ For this first shot …suddenly this mass of red hair comes hurtling at me, and it looked like ninety times more teeth than I ever saw in a woman’s mouth before and more eyes rolling, and … you know, she was the most animated object ever.

“Rita always did it for real – she always gave more than she got.

“We got along good, we liked each other, Rita knew I was very understanding of what she could and what she couldn’t do. She was very good humored and disciplined. If it was in her to do what you asked of her she’d do it very well and with energy, unlike some.”

These remarks by Jack Cole are from John Koball’s astute book on her work, Rita Hayworth, Portrait Of A Love Goddess: The Time, The Place, And The Woman”. I quote it because it helps tell you what you are looking at. Which is why I write these pieces for you.

Here we have Hayworth in a jolly good part in a book musical, shot in glorious 3-strip Technicolor. The color scheme is rich and quiet. The songs are light and the numbers odd. The plot is unusual. You’ll see.

For, all around, it is one of her most entertaining musicals. She is absolutely lovely.

 

My Gal Sal

22 Nov

My Gal Sal – directed by Irving Cummings. Period Musical. American songwriter Paul Dreiser struggles from the rural Midwest, through raree shows, and into the arms of a beautiful musical star. 103 minutes Color 1942.

★★★

Like Victor Mature, the movie is a big lug. It is also A Gaudy Fox Musical, first meant for Alice Faye, then for Betty Grable, but finally made with Columbia-import Rita Hayworth, and Gaudy doesn’t suit Rita Hayworth, because she is already gaudy enough, with her dazzling smile and power to seduce.

It is also true that Fox musical numbers were usually comic numbers, and they don’t work well for Hayworth, since they are not in her proper range.

Finally, while Hayworth lip-syncs her songs well, she is not actually singing them. Only two major musical comedy stars of that era actually could both sing and dance well: Grable and Garland. Ruby Keeler did neither well, though she did both continually, as though talent for one or the other would one day break through.

What Hayworth did better than any of them was dance her particular dances. Only one of them works at all well for her here, a ballroom number, choreographed and partnered by Hermes Pan, and even here the costume is a demerit. Still and all, watch her port de bras. Her arms are lyric. Pan said she had the most beautiful hands he had ever seen; her upper-body carriage is always emblematic; she had a goddess in her shoulders.

But she does not prevail over the stupidity of the musical numbers staged for her. A movie of the previous year, Strawberry Blond, at Columbia is a much more heartening film. Again, she plays the title role, and it is of the same period and features the same sort of barber-shop songs – although in Strawberry Blond, the music is a constant background, not hitting us in the face like a fly ball as it does here. Besides, that was directed by Raoul Walsh, and this wasn’t.

Phil Silvers, with his personality of a merry cactus, has a couple of good scenes, The lovely and talented Carole Landis plays an early girlfriend of Mature. James Gleason is the cheating music publisher Mature makes rich.

Indeed, as you can see, we are generally in the realm of Gilded Age con men, and all the males of the film, save for the constipated Bruce Cabot, fall into this category. Mature is the con man’s con man. And his playing two pianos at once in a medicine show he works is spectacular and fun and odd and endearing – indeed, an act of genius. Mature was a big hearted galoot and game, and these qualities were a fine foundation for his career in films. As an actor in his craft he is without particular interest. You might say that even interesting roles didn’t lend him interest. He could do it and do it full out, but he lacked the artistic intelligence and imagination to create something marvelous – unless playing two pianos at once is imaginative and marvelous – and you know something? – I daresay it is!

 

Strawberry Blond

21 Nov

Strawberry Blond – directed by Raoul Walsh. Period Comedy. A bad-tempered dentist falls afoul of a beautiful woman and a con man. 97 minutes Black and White 1941.

★★★★★

A Whitman’s Sampler of 1910: beer halls, high button shoes, brass bands, barber shop quartets, and Irish wildness.

Perc Westmore did Rita Hayworth’s makeup and discovered that her hair was so abundant that she could never wear a wig. But he dyed it to make her the title character, which she carries off beautifully. This is her second A-film, having just made Howard Hawks’ Only Angels Have Wings. She is very young. She is flabbergasteringly beautiful. She is perfect as the phony flirt and even better as the rolling-pin wife of Jack Carson.

James Wong Howe upgraded every film he filmed, and you can see it in this one, which otherwise might have been a Fox Betty Grable musical. He colors scenes with shadow, the play of leaves across a face, and this gives them a romantic importance which they actually inherently possess and need.

For as with all of Raoul Walsh’s films, the love story grounds the project. Walsh tells the story imaginatively and crisply, as usual, and his actors are on the mark – free and liberal in their choices. It is entirely without the crass Irish sentimentality you find in Ford and McCrary. Walsh was great with actors. He did not watch their scenes; he only listened to them off-stage. The great stage director George S. Kaufman did the same. If the truth was heard, it would be seen. The result is the actors shine. And this is Walsh’s favorite picture.

It is James Cagney’s film, and he abounds; scarcely a scene he does not appear in. He was after a change of pace, and balked fiercely about doing this, until Hal Wallis and Jack Warner offered him 10% of the profits and brought in the Epstein brothers to rewrite it. It had been a stage play and then Gary Cooper’s only flop. They switched the milieu from the Midwest to New York City, where, of course, Cagney belonged.

Cagney is a curious actor. He acting personality is one who wants to be ahead of the game. This means that he is not actually a responsive actor, since he always has his fear for the possible in mind. His definition of acting was: “Look ‘em in the eye and tell the truth” – which is fine if you are a machine gun. So I find it hard to acknowledge his talent; I do but I find it hard to. His headlong “personality” worked well here, since he plays a man consistently duped. He was high-waisted, long legged, and short, and carried himself  step-dancing tall at all times, which is nice. His scenes with Alan Hale as his Irish blarney drunk father are scrumptious. Hale is just terrific in the part, and Cagney plays along with him almost bursting out laughing at Hale’s inventiveness.

But it is Olivia de Havilland who carries the film. She is full of mischief, sweet, pretty, and real. Raoul Walsh’s acknowledgement of the truth of her love is the waking moment always. James Wong Howe films her like the bonbon she is, full of flavor, rich, molded to a shape, and toothsome. The passage of feeling across her face validates this charming comedy, and carries its value as an entertainment right to this day.

 

Miss Sadie Thompson

20 Nov

Miss Sadie Thompson – directed by Curtis Bernhardt. Drama. Quarantined on a South Seas island a dance-hall girl and a man of the cloth battle it out for their souls. 93 minutes Color 1953.

★★★★

It’s stupid of me to suggest that the screenplay needed to be rewritten from scratch. For here it is 60 years later and the wench is dead. But do you ever get the feeling of a lost opportunity that must be corrected, and you know exactly how to do it?  Somerset Maugham’s story Rain was done on Broadway by Jeanne Eagles, and then in a silent with Gloria Swanson and Lionel Barrymore, a talkie with Joan Crawford and Walter Huston, and this with Rita Hayworth and Jose Ferrer.

The original story begins with a long introduction of the missionary. The stage play starts with scenes with the owner of the Pago Pago hotel and his native wife. This version begins with a bunch of rowdy Marines, bored and hard up for female companionship. It plays like a stock version of South Pacific. You never believe them for a minute. They bray. And they pray. And they bray. The problem is that the director establishes no balance, pace, or variety with these men nor is it afforded to Rita Hayworth when she arrives as a tourist off the freighter that is to carry her to a job on a farther island.

You never believe the reformer/missionary and his cortege either, because they are not given enough screen time. They are interesting people, and Maugham knew they needed to be revealed first and fully. For the story is the conflict of two passions, one for perfection and the other for pleasure. Each passion contains a flaw fatal to it as they play themselves out against one another. In the Swanson version, the missionaries are established (by Raoul Walsh who directed, wrote, and starred in the role now played by Aldo Ray) as a bursar collects their entries for his autograph book, and we learn immediately from the pieties they indite therein the intensity of their persuasion.

This version is actually filmed in Hawaii, which brings a proper tropic to it, and which Charles Lawton, who filmed it, sustains in the interiors shot at Columbia. “The Heat is On” which Hayworth dances is beautifully filmed in the atmosphere of sweat, tropical rain, and the mist rising from hot male bodies watching. Her dance, her very presence in a film is worth the price of admission and the time. And I wanted her to be directed better, this is true for the film itself, which was a bowdlerized version cut down to fit the Hays office, women’s clubs, the Catholic Church, and other groups who crossed their legs about it. Didn’t work. Hayworth’s dance is so steamy that the film was banned.

Swanson brought to the part her long skills as a film actor in serious parts (which Hayworth did not have) and her abilities as a natural soubrette, which is how Maugham wrote her. Hayworth is no soubrette, but she unleashes herself on the part admirably, and, being Hayworth you care about her, even as you recognize how her beauty and joie-de-vivre will get her into trouble. Hayworth is the most subtle of the three actresses who played Sadie, she is the most sexually powerful, she is the most convincingly flagrant. In her performance is a performance greater than the one the director had the talent to give her. Maugham said she was his favorite of all the Sadies. She’s mine too. And why? Rita Hayworth is that rare thing, an actor you actually automatically want to root for.

 

Salome

17 Nov

Salome – directed by William Dieterle. Biblical Epic. The king of Galilee and his queen are in mortal conflict over the rant of a desert prophet, but whose side will their daughter take? 103 minutes Color 1953.

★★★★

What sands, what scimitars, what sanctimoniousness!

John the Baptist on a soapbox in the dessert preaches not salvation but sedition. That is, he defames Queen Herodias because she has married twice — which is hardly prophetic, since she has been married to Herod for twenty-five years.  It seems rather hard of John. And what is worse the poor actor who has to spout this rigmarole is ill equipped for the chore. He plays it with his blue eyes constantly raised to the second balcony. Ya know what it is? It’s a bunch of hooey, that’s what it is. And it’s so aggravating, ah, if only someone would come and behead that actor – and – oh, blessed chance – whadyaknow? – someone does. But I won’t tell you who.

Into this Biblical thingamajig we have four good actors, in major roles, and all at their  professional best.

Judith Anderson with her voice of an old Chevrolet reprises her peculiar-relation–to-daughter-figures number from Rebecca.

Then we have Charles Laughton, one of the most inventive actors ever to draw breath. As he is warned against the prophet. watch him hug the pillars like a baby. Watch him put the make on his step-daughter. Watch him respond to each of Salome’s veils as they drift off of her. Watch how he agrees to Herodias’ request. He is so marvelous, you would suppose him to be playing one of the greatest roles ever written. Well, actually he is playing Herod, so perhaps he is.

Then there is Stewart Granger, who is handsome, sensual, humorous, intelligent, sensitive, and has a delicious speaking voice. Professionalism can do no more. For there again you see an actor completely convinced; the role is of a Roman Centurion, at ease in the role and also in a little white skirt. Every time he is on screen, your morale goes up. With his grey-at-the-temples look, he is well cast opposite superstar Rita Hayworth.

For, oh dear, she is twenty years too old for the part. Salome has to be a fifteen year old girl, and Rita Hayworth was well into her 30s when this was mounted for her. She, of course, is wonderful, as good an actress as you get in movies, you get behind her completely. And her dance of the seven veils (we get to, but not past the seventh) is sensational. Her power to taunt and entice was unequalled. And her dance is all about those kind of illicit, illusory invitations. Worth the price of admission.

Also worth for the costumes, by Jean Louis. They will take your breath away. C.B. DeMille never had things so wonderful on the human form. Nor did he ever, as Dieterle did, shoot 18,000 feet of exteriors in the Holy Land. Nobody had ever done that, and they are very interesting. Indeed, no expense has been spared on the production; beautifully shot by Charles Lang; sumptuous, even dazzling; and, apart from those four performances, another reason for seeing Salome.

 

The Naked Zoo

01 Dec

The Naked Zoo – directed by Richard Grefe. Drama. Swingers degrade themselves. 78 minutes Color 1971.

Subnormal, actually. Here is a great superstar appearing in what is slightly better than porn-blanc. A dreadful script with actors unworthy of her gifts and beauty. Rita Hayworth — it’s hard to get the words out — at the end of her career, it is true. Yet I can imagine why she accepted the script. There is an emotional scene in it which no script she was ever handed gave her the opportunity to perform. I can’t say it’s worth renting it to watch her do this work, but there it is. She was a very good actress, quite underrated as such, when her glaring beauty and sexual joie de vivre was so astounding and so much fun for her. What happens when such a rose fades? Do we stop photographing it? Or is the fading a piece of life also. We know the answer. It’s just that one wishes the occasion had been rose-class. Here’s to you, Rita. You are still, in the right hands, one of the great ones!

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE: AMERICAN REALISTIC, DRAMA, Rita Hayworth: Screen Goddess

 

Blood And Sand [1941]

27 Jan

Blood And Sand — directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Sports Drama. 125 minutes Color 1941.

★★★★★

The Story: A poor illiterate boy from Seville becomes Spain’s greatest matador, marries his beautiful childhood sweetheart, and then meets Rita Hayworth.

~

The lipstick on her mouth is the slash of death. As soon as she appears in purple, you know Tyrone Power is in Dutch. Anyone would be.

She’s 22 but she plays a woman of marked sophistication and massively confident sexual greed. She is never dressed down but always up and never less than to kill. Like gold coins, men move through what Hermes Pan her choreographer called the most beautiful fingers in the world. The part made her a star.

Even here, you can see what a good actress she is, her gift dependent upon her responsiveness. Just watch her in the big confrontation scene with Linda Darnell; watch how everything Darnell says to her hits her and what she does with it.  She has a natural inbred Meisner technique.

There are many attributes that made Hayworth a star, but let’s just notice one of them: she has the most beautiful carriage. You’d have to wait until Cyd Charisse to meet her match. Look how the shoulders and hands are carried as she dances. She has three of these, one sitting down playing a guitar in which she moves only her shoulders, one where she subjects Power into a bull of her bidding, and one of full upright fornication which she does with Anthony Quinn.

Quinn, when young, is sexier than Power. His eyes burn with the hatred of an Italian whore; nothing could be hotter. And then we have Linda Darnell who is 17 years old here and unutterably touching. These film stars have such natural gifts. Darnell has the power to inhale with her eyes. It’s not a trick. She simply does it as an attribute of what she is. To witness such things is to cause wonder in us.

The weak link in all of this is Power himself who never has a hardon as the matador. He never investigates the character; he misses the eager brash guttersnipe of that scampering scamp of a boy he began as. You never feel his love of the sport, upon which the story depends. Of course, as in all bullfight movies, you cannot show the actor actually fighting the bull. If it were football, it would be different.

Blood And Sand is renowned for its color scheme of gold, ice blue, and blood red which the director imposed on it, and its Special Features contains a commentary by a modern cameraman Richard Crudo, a tutorial on the cumbersome challenge of Technicolor, which here is thick, rich, and saturated. Mamoulian paints with film, right from the start with an all-but-naked adolescent boy racing through a blue moonlit countryside. He spray paints Hayworth’s banquet flowers black. He spray paints John Carradine’s deathbed sheets grey. Darnell’s dresses are always white, black, or true blue. And Mamoulian dyed Hayworth’s hair auburn, which it remained for the rest of her career.

The backstage work of bullfighting is arresting, and we are treated to a supporting cast of considerable strength: John Carradine as Power’s faithful friend, J. Carroll Naish as a wise fellow matador; Laird Cregar as louche journalist full of himself; as Power’s mother, storied actress Ala Nazimova. The movie is a lot of different sorts of fun: its camera work, color schemes, bright casting, two gorgeous young women, although, as you will see to your amusement and forgiveness, lead does not add weight to melodrama.

 

 

Charlie Chan In Egypt

20 Mar

Charlie Chan In Egypt — Directed by Louis King — Murder Mystery. The sage jade inspector journeys to a tomb whose buried treasure is being stolen, only to find much worse than that. 73 minutes Black And White 1935.

* * * * *

I watched this picture, from the teen-age beginning of her career, the same night I watched The Naked Zoo at the trash-crash end of it. Here she is before her hairline was raised. Here she is a black-haired beauty playing an Egyptian parlor-maid. She has very few lines. She mainly brings on tea and takes it off again. And her name was Rita Cansino then. Looking at her, there is perhaps no shot willing her into the fame of the most flamboyant sexual creature ever seen in film. At one point she eavesdrops between Venetian blinds, and, there, the remarkable symmetry of her face registers for a moment or two. Rita Hayworth. She began in pictures playing adult roles when she was thirteen, as did Betty Grable, Ann Miller. (Even her cousin Ginger Rogers was making films as a teenager.) All these ladies but Hayworth were charged by strong mothers, but Hayworth alone had no stage parent, and so she married a man much older than she when she was a teenager herself. The picture is an A-class B-picture, well produced and told, with tomb sets that are convincing enough for all normal purposes and a story line that holds one’s attention till the denouement. Our Charlie Chan’s Warner Oland was, of course, not Chinese but Swedish. But then, of course, Rita Hayworth was not Egyptian. I give it five stars. I rate all films not in relation or comparison or contrast to some ideal film or other or some ideal experience I have had in my life seeing a film. I rate pictures by other standards, and one of those is: Did the picture accomplish what in my judgment it seems to have set out to accomplish? This one, I should say, did so. It is a picture with an Oriental hero; it would be a mistake to expect Kurosawa.

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Affair In Trinidad

17 Mar

Affair In Trinidad – Directed by Vincent Sherman – Spy Melodrama. The brother of the husband of a beautiful cabaret dancer comes to Trinidad to find him murdered. 98 minutes Black and White 1952,

* * * *

These people have no real background, so they are susceptible to fall in with crooks and nightclub owners, people with no cast, living in tropical no-man’s-lands and no woman’s- lands either. This show would be a B picture, were it not for the fact that it marked Rita Hayworth’s return to the screen after her sad marriage to Ali Kahn. She had to learn a living and back to Harry Cohn she went, to fulfill her contract. She was, of course, the biggest female movie star of her time in the line of gorgeous sexy ladies, and no one before or since ever produced the outrageous sexual excitement she generated on a movie screen when she danced. Here and forever she is definitely the fallen woman, the woman of dubious past and livid reputation which she had played in Gilda. As a movie Gilda is more fun, because the neurotic tension between her and Glenn Ford is more exquisite, and perhaps because, by this time, she was the mother of two daughters. The Loves of Carmen was the last movie she made before that fateful European vacation that led her to Ali Kahn. Ford was under contract to Columbia for 19 years, and he made 5 films with Rita Hayworth, Gilda not being the first. Here at least the director knows how to reintroduce his superstar in a fitting manner: she is hiding behind a nightclub pole, turns, is seen to be raising a shoulder provocatively, and goes into one of her wild dances. The plot and the setting of everything which follows are preposterous and awkward, involving international secrets mortally dangerous to the America we all loved so well at the time. A gaggle of spy-stooges barges around in the background, set off by Valarie Bettis, who choreographed Hayworth’s dances, but who as an actress is not an actress. The script is tripe. No. It isn’t even that digestible. But it is Hayworth who makes it all happen, in Jean Louis gowns and the lighting and the quiet dignity of herself and her acting talent, which is considerable if you consider her brilliance in being responsive. The camera feeds on it and the audience feeds on the camera. You cannot help but care about her. And no one ever in movies had her power of an absolute almost Zen stillness. Watch her wait for someone to open the door of convertible, and you’ll see what I mean. And feast, oh feast, on her great beauty. Feast on her jawline. Affair in Trinidad is a put-up-job; it is obvious it was not shot in Trinidad and there is no affair. Don’t miss it.

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Hollywood Screen Tests

25 Oct

Hollywood Screen Tests –– documentary scrapbook of  stars’ screen tests. 2 discs 2000.

* * * * *

If you’re interested in the matter at all, it can’t be beat. Judy Garland, horrifyingly skinny doing color costume tests for a picture she was eventually fired from. Bruce Lee, good looking, phenomenally skilled, and displaying the arrogance that must eventually have killed him. Tuesday Weld, as honest here as she is in her pictures. Cary Grant, even wonderful opposite the non-actress Suzy Parker. What skill he had, what readiness, what modesty! He’s even better here than he was in the eventual film. It’s a lesson in supreme screen technique to watch him seamlessly adjust to her, respond to her, play with her. And Rita Hayworth, absolutely lovely, screen testing the children who were to play opposite her in Story On Page One. Her decency, willingness to help them, pay attention to them. quietly humor  them, is a model of kindness. What a beautiful creature she was, what a fine lady.

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You’ll Never Get Rich

19 Oct

You’ll Never Get Rich –– directed by Sidney Lanfield –– a musical in which a song and dance man escapes his boss’s wrongdoings by joining the Army and tangling with a lovely lady. 88 minutes black and white 1942

* * * * *

Rita Hayworth was Fred Astaire’s favorite dance partner and you can easily see why. She was a professional dancer since she was eight and had the true dancer’s carriage. Her elegant long arms and hands, held perfectly, moved like fronds. The torso, still or in motion, is proud and graceful. Technically there is nothing she cannot do within her range –– which is the same range as his. In addition, she brings to this a perfect and well earned confidence, great speed, ease of attack, humor, and, best of all, joy in the dance. Astaire is at his very best here –– imaginative, lithe, funny, and ready for anything. His dance in the Army jailhouse is a masterpiece. (There is a funny sequence of double-talk; if you’ve never seen one, this one is good.) The story is no more memorable than an ice cream cone, but it is just as diverting as one, and sometimes an ice cream cone is required. Astaire was brought in to Columbia to make this picture with Hayworth. It made Hayworth, aged 23, a star, and it was a huge hit, so they made another one –– You Were Never Lovelier –– equally as good. These two pictures contain the finest dancing of its kind ever put down on film. Watch her move –– you cannot take your eyes off her. Astaire was a very great dancer and never luckier than with Rita Hayworth as his partner.

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You Were Never Lovelier

19 Oct

You Were Never Lovlier –– directed by William A Seiter –– musical comedy of a Taming Of The Shrew father who will not allow his younger daughters to marry until the eldest does. 97 minutes black and white 1942.

* * * * *

Rita Hayworth was Fred and Astaire’s favorite dance partner. From the time she was thirteen as Margarita Cansino she was working in nightclubs with her father as her partner. Dance was in her body and her being and was her joy. Astaire has at times a bit of a push to keep up with her here, so easy is she, so happy, and with such breadth of technique. She had a perfect bust and torso, straight back, beautifully shaped and held head, thick mobile hair which she used as a female force, and, for dancing, long lovely arms and the most elegant hands in the world. There was something just innately decent and even noble about Hayworth, at once prim and enticing. And of course she was a raving beauty. She came to life dancing! It’s just amazing to see her vim and wit, and how happy she is to be dancing with Astaire –– perfectly matched in abilities. For the title dance, by Jerome Kern/Johnny Mercer, she wears a gown which is clothed moonlight. You wonder how on earth… You would drool were you not so agog. The story is a dubious piece of fluff, and we could do with less of the Adolph Menjou plot, but never mind. She does a number with Astaire in a tennis outfit that’s super duper. And Astaire has a dance in a fancy art deco office in front of Menjou that may be the most brilliant sequence he ever performed. Replay it if you cannot believe your eyes. Yes, he actually does those things! Replay it if you cannot believe your eyes. Yes, he actually does those things!

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Angels Over Broadway

19 Oct

Angels Over Broadway –– directed by Ben Hect and Lee Garmes –– noir about Broadway hustlers in the 40s. 80 minutes, black and white, 1940.

* * * *

Douglas Fairbanks Junior is first class and well worth watching as the tough-talking hardboiled grifter of this Ben Hecht (His Gal Friday) written and directed film noir. D.F. Jr never takes the gum out of his mouth, and it works. Mealy-mouthed John Qualen is fine as the focal figure, which he also was in His Gal Friday. Thomas Mitchell, in full Irish drunk mode once again, plays the surrogate Hecht character and gives vent to the screenwriter’s most self-indulgent utterances. It is endearing to hear the yearning idealism of an earlier era, and in this era it was put in the form of a certain overblown futile self-pity, which you find in many of its writers, Saroyan, Steinbeck, Maxwell Anderson, Odets. Lovely Rita Hayworth plays an aspiring nightclub chorine, uncertain of herself yet loyal. She’s young and touching. She plays the movie’s moral center, and Hayworth as a picture’s moral or immoral center is always well cast. The supporting cast are excellent. The movie is a piece of chewing gum, something to do until something tastier comes along, but that’s all right. Like chewing gum it’s not supposed to stick with you. The flavor doesn’t last, but it has a tang while it lasts.

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The Loves Of Carmen

17 Oct

The Loves Of Carmen –– directed by Charles Vidor –– tragedy when a naïve soldier falls in lust with a slatternly factory girl. 1948 color.

* * * * *

Spanish to her beautiful long and graceful fingertips, Rita Hayworth is the greatest Carmen ever to be filmed, in opera or out, the Carmen of Carmens. She could kill you with a click-clock of a castanet. Her opening appearance, teasing with an orange, is bravura acting at its best, easiest, and most fluid. This was the last picture she made before marrying Ali Kahn, her last picture as a young woman. The production is, of course, a Hollywood pastiche; the setting has nothing to do with Spain, or even with Mexico, where it is supposed to be placed. But so what –– with this provocative, saucy, witty, unpredictable, fiery, and bold woman brought to life with force, subtlety, and brazen confidence. There was nobody like Rita Hayworth. You couldn’t take your eyes off of her, and it’s still true. She made five films with Glen Ford, but he said he felt out of place in this one, and he does look foolish in his regimentals, but as soon as he gets out of the soldier suit he’s fine. Don Jose is gauche, awkward, inexperienced –– and Ford conveys all that and brings to his scenes a bandanna of terrifying violence and cruelty once that uniform is exchanged for a highwayman’s rig. Victor Jory is a drooling monster, and Luther Adler sound as the wise thief. But it’s Hayworth in full force whose radiant and astonishing femininity make this picture a treat. Look at her bearing as she moves. Absorb her intensity when she is still. Surrender to her when the music starts. For it is quite apparent that no one in films ever enjoyed herself so much as Rita Hayworth when she danced.

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They Came To Cordura

17 Oct

They Came To Cordura – directed by Robert Rosen – Period Western drama in which an officer must chaperone a pack of renegade men and a treacherous woman across the parching desert. 123 minutes color 1959.

* * * *

A better picture than it was thought to be at the time, the actual story of internal human values supervenes in our interest in the arduous trek. Rita Hayworth was a good screen actress and a knockout. The sight of her elegant dancer’s carriage sitting in a saddle in a wide-brimmed hat shading that incredible jaw-line is alone worth the price of admission. In support are a pack of first class stars, Richard Conte, Van Heflin, Tab Hunter. Gary Cooper is close to the end of his work in films. He seems too old for the part, at least he looks too old –– for the simple reason that the efficient cause of his being given this assignment would only obtain to a newcomer. The grueling haul of seven individuals of dubious character across the spectacular desert ranges of the Southwest is stunning. Robert Rossen of All The Kings Men wrote and directed, and the script demonstrates a gripping moral debate, the constituents of cowardice and courage, Cooper’s home territory. Better now than before, this film may grow into its proper audience. It was, and still is, the sort of picture no longer made by Hollywood: one with adult themes, made with adult stars, and intended for adult audiences. Well worth watching.

* * * *

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Rita

16 Oct

Rita – a documentary in which various calebrities speak of the ravishing Rita Hayworth, her impression and career. Kim Bassinger, Tab Hunter, Nicole Kidman, Ann Miller, Orson Welles, Eli Wallach, Juanita Moore, Delbert Mann. 2003 black and white and color.

* * * * *

A fine and honorable depiction of Rita Hayworth’s  long life as a movie Star – from the time as a teenager when, as Rita Cansino, she started in B Westerns and a Charlie Chan movie. It shows less of her work after They Came To Cordura than I would like to have seen; in fact I would like to have seen fuller scenes of her work throughout her working life, especially as an actress, for she had a gift for it, and to act well was her first and main ambition. Fine interviews with those she worked with – all of whom both liked and respected her. And talks by members of a family that was dear to her – her nephews and her children, particularly Princess Yasmin. Rita Hayworth suffered at the end of her life from alcoholism and Alzheimer’s. She was a unique star and one of tremendous cinematic power — quiet and reserved and even prim until the music started and the dance began, then she was a powerhouse of female sexual vivacity. Setting aside Ginger Rogers, she was one of two of Fred Astaire’s greatest dance partners. This piece about her does her justice. Film is radiance captured. Hayworth exuded it like no one else. Behind it resided a sensitive and loving spirit. See especially her screen tests for Story On Page One to reveal her kindness, modesty, and skill. Well worth watching as a record of picture-making during the Thirties and Forties.

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