Beautiful vintage poster art for the classic musicals and films noirs of 1940s screen siren Rita Hayworth.
Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
Director Howard Hawks
|A Rita Hayworth season plays at BFI Southbank throughout June 2013.|
A hard-bitten Cary Grant is holed up in the Andes running an air-freight service in an almost documentary-style, life-and-death Boy’s Own Adventure that’s also a terrific love story of unsentimental camaraderie. Into this feast of character-acting steps big-hearted Jean Arthur. Things grow yet more complicated when young Rita Hayworth vamps her way into the picture that made her name.
Angels over Broadway (1940)
Director Ben Hecht
How many movie styles can you pack into 78 minutes? Written, directed and produced by Ben Hecht (Nothing Sacred; His Girl Friday; Notorious), this fast-talking, deliciously high-boozing, bitter comedy is also a crime thriller crossed with a backstager, a heartbreaker beneath film noir lighting. Handsome, gum-chewing Douglas Fairbanks inveigles Hayworth’s radiant young dancer into a risky gambling plot masterminded by a gloriously grandiose playwright.
Blood and Sand (1941)
Director Rouben Mamoulian
Ever wondered what costume design can do for a picture? Shooting in luscious Technicolor, Mamoulian took a tale of a toreador, ensured everyone shone in super-saturated colours, and pitched Tyrone Power into a dilemma between faithful Darnell and temptress Hayworth’s explosive trademark mix of hauteur and come-hither. Gazing at her at a bullfight, Laird Cregar drools, ‘If this is death in the afternoon, she’s death in the evening.’
You’ll Never Get Rich (1941)
Director Sidney Lanfield
This near-screwball musical-comedy of misunderstanding boasts a largely lunatic plot with Astaire joining the army to avoid being shot by showgirl Hayworth’s brother who isn’t her brother. Still with me? Smart Hayworth equals Astaire step for step in their opening routine, delights in a rhumba and winds up duetting with him in a Cole Porter finale on a wedding-cake in the shape of a tank.
You Were Never Lovelier (1942)
Director William A Seiter
Hayworth’s second pairing with Astaire – the only film in which anyone fell in love with him because of his voice – is a 30s mistaken-identity comedy in 40s (well-cut) clothing. Latin maestro Xavier Cugat heats up Jerome Kern’s score and highlights include Astaire’s tap solo all over his enraged boss’s office and Hayworth’s joy as she matches him in ‘Shorty George’ and ‘I’m Old-Fashioned’.
Cover Girl (1944)
Director Charles Vidor
Loyalty is tested as top-form Hayworth swaps Gene Kelly’s Brooklyn club for Broadway fame via Vanity magazine. Hayworth positively gleams, doubles as her character Rusty’s grandmother and dances like a dream in the sockeroo title number. With Phil Silvers making it an ebullient song’n’dance trio, astringent Eve Arden, Jerome Kern-Ira Gershwin songs and more millinery than you can shake a stick at, it’s the finest musical Hayworth made.
Director Charles Vidor
Hayworth’s crowning glory is a jaw-dropping textbook of Hollywood sexual politics. Her climactic strip ‘Put the Blame on Mame’ (she removes one glove) is one of the most erotic sequences in cinema history. But it’s also shockingly clear the moment lethal George Macready smoothly picks up Glenn Ford in the thriller’s opening scene that this is one of the gayest straight films ever made. A matchless maelstrom of jealousy.
The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
Director Orson Welles
“Some people can smell danger. Not me.” So says Orson Welles in hard-boiled voiceover of femme fatale Hayworth. Columbia slashed over 65 minutes from Welles’ rough-cut, but it still proved box-office poison. But the now celebrated noir-thriller has deep-focus cinematography, serious smouldering from paradoxically newly ice-blonde Hayworth and a dazzlingly surreal funhouse/hall of mirrors finale echoed in Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery.
Pal Joey (1957)
Director George Sidney
“I’ll sing to him, each spring to him, and worship the trousers that cling to him” was one of many Rodgers & Hart lyrics deemed too scandalous for Hollywood’s version of their Broadway hit musical. But gains included Sinatra swinging through ‘The Lady Is a Tramp’ for the delectation of Hayworth encased in orange fur. Now the classy older woman, she competes with Novak for Sinatra’s, er, favours.
Separate Tables (1958)
Director Delbert Mann
Replacing Vivien Leigh when her director husband Laurence Olivier quit the project, Hayworth scores highly as the fading ex-wife of Burt Lancaster (who produced the film), whose unexpected arrival at an unobtrusive hotel unsettles a series of pained relationships. Terence Rattigan’s sensitive play survives surprisingly intact thanks to (almost) uniformly well-pitched performances, especially Hayworth and Oscar-winners David Niven and Wendy Hiller.
Film notes by David Benedict