Like Lana Turner and Marilyn Monroe, a lot of people tend to think of Rita Hayworth as simply beautiful and iconic. While she’s both (to be sure), there’s more to her than “greets the eye.” Rita Hayworth was an great actress and an exceptional performer. The same is, of course true of the aforementioned ladies as well.
Rita Hayworth could more than hold her own on the dance floor and she brought life, charisma, and depth to every role she ever stepped into. She could convey more with a facial expression than a lot of actors/actresses get across with a five minute dialogue purge.
Can you tell she’s one of my all-time favorite actresses?
It seems that every actor and actress has a “defining role.” While this may not seem terribly fair, it is what it is. Many stars have several roles that can, and should, serve as sort of a defining compilation, but it’s generally one specific role that comes to mind when you see their name. When it comes to Rita Hayworth, her defining role is a knock out – Gilda.
Gilda is a cinematic dream come true for me, personally, as it has not only one of my top three favorite actresses but also one of my top three favorite actors, Glenn Ford.
Don’t you just love it when your favorites team up for a movie? Feels kind of like a kiss on the cheek from God, Himself.
Make no mistake about it, though, even 10 favorite stars in a movie won’t save it if the movie doesn’t live up to the moment. Fortunately, Gilda does. In fact, it’d be one of my favorite movies even if the lead characters didn’t score so much as a blip on my radar. The movie is simply a lot of fun to watch and provides a few unexpected twists and turns to keep you completely and utterly hooked.
The clothes, the lighting, the music, the dancing, the redhead… they all go together to create cinematic magic.
While the entire cast is outstanding, the casting of the movie’s leads was a stroke of genius. The chemistry between Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford is absolutely palpable. Each time I watch Gilda, I mentally give a standing ovation to the individual responsible for bringing these two together. It’s that special, magical kind of chemistry that is almost impossible to define – yet, when it happens, it lights up the screen and you feel the fire deep in your soul.
The chemistry between Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford in Gilda (along with the chemistry between James Stewart and Lana Turner in Ziegfeld Girl – two more of my personal favorites) is one of the most magical pairings of all time as far as I’m concerned.
You can direct scenes, you can choreograph dances, and you can create moments with lighting and music…. however you cannot manufacture (or even account for) chemistry. It’s either there or it isn’t. While a great movie can overcome lukewarm chemistry between its leads, red hot chemistry can take a great movie and make it… well… a legend.
I believe this chemistry is partly (perhaps even largely) to credit for Gilda achieving the legendary status it has.
If you aren’t as immersed in old movies as some of us are or if you’re just getting into them, I wholeheartedly recommend Gilda. If you are new to the greatest genre of entertainment in the world (can you tell I’m not just immersed but buried?), I want to warn you about one brief little scene in particular. You’ll know it when you see it. The last thing I want to do is give anything away, so I’ll just say one code word: BOAT. Something happens in a particular scene involving a BOAT that serves to remind the viewer of the period of time in which this wonderful movie was made. Effects departments now, upon watching this scene, probably wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Do me a favor, when you see this scene, simply say “1946” – the year in which the movie was made.
This will remind you not to hold the moment against the movie, Glenn, or Rita. Especially not Rita.
When you watch old movies like it’s your job, you just kind of shrug off these moments and accept them for what they are – signs of the times.
Rita Hayworth made Gilda the iconic legend it is and in many ways you can say the movie returned the favor.