Friday, 4 February 2011

Reel to Real #15: Rita Hayworth in "Gilda"

Last week my film history class covered film noir, which inspired me to revisit 1946's Gilda, the tagline of which proclaims, "There never was a woman like Gilda!" Indeed. Rita Hayworth's performance as the titular siren is unforgettably steamy, to the extent that the first nuclear bomb tested after World War 2 was named "Gilda" after her.

Revisiting "Gilda," I was so impressed by Hayworth's performance. I hadn't forgotten her electrifying presence- just try to after seeing the film!-- but she expertly delivers the characteristically noir, snappy and witty dialogue with panache. Widely regarded as one of cinema's greatest sex symbols, Gilda also proves her underrated talent
Also ignored in the shadow of Hayworth's status as a sex symbol are the details of her clothing. I love many wardrobes from 1940s films (as this blog proves), but Hayworth's in Gilda is distinct because of its unique and rich details and accentuations. Take the following picture, taken from my favorite scene: a melancholy Gilda plays her signature tune, "Put the Blame on Mame" on acoustic guitar in a cowl-necked dress with strangely shaped wide sleeves:
When she stands up, we see that the dress is nipped at the waist by a studded belt, and she sports layers of studded bracelets. Unusual for a 40s woman (the bracelets look more 80s!):
Similarly, I loved the unexpected touches to Gilda's outfits, such as a woven belt or jeweled...well, I don't really know how to describe the thing on her chest in the second picture below:
The object of the characters' (and audience's) attention, Gilda's outfits glitter, keeping our eyes focused on her. If only women today, on the street, could get away with wearing this coat:

What modern viewers can adapt from Hayworth in Gilda is the knowledge of how wonderful an unexpected detail can be. It's always a fun surprise to see an outfit look completely different when the wearer stands up. Additionally, surveying Hayworth's outfits for their stylistic merits rather than simply drooling over how sexy she looks in them allows us to begin appreciating her as not just a sex symbol but an actress whose performance makes the film memorable

1 comment:

  1. The dress in the guitar scene doesn't have a cowl neck--a cowl neck is a draping of fabric along the neckline. There is some gathering and a slit along the front, but no cowl. Interesting post though, I love that movie.