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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musical > Backstage > Drama > Comedy > Hollywood > Show Business > Film Noir > WWII > Biblical > The Films Of Rita Hayworth (Cover Girl/Tonight & Every Night/Gilda/Salome/Miss Sadie Thompson/Sony DVD)

The Films Of Rita Hayworth (Cover Girl/Tonight & Every Night/Gilda/Salome/Miss Sadie Thompson/Sony DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Films: B



Like many actresses, Rita Hayworth started in small parts and might have continued as such if she were not working at a smaller studio like Columbia.  After turns in B-movies like Meet Nero Wolfe (1936) and The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939), she became a familiar face there and sometimes in other studio’s films.  Then an unusual thing happened.  It was always assumed that only the major studios had the best films, stars and material, but smaller companies like Columbia constantly defied and surprised the industry.  This time, Hayworth not only became a big star, but the premiere sex symbol, keeping the company more than competitive with the majors.  The new Sony DVD set The Films Of Rita Hayworth gives us five films that show us how the studio and boss Harry Cohn knew who they had, what they had and what they did about it.


Though she had many more hits, these films show her at her best and in many vehicles.


First we get Charles Vidor’s Cover Girl (1944) a musical comedy she made with Gene Kelly, a huge star usually associated with MGM, the biggest studio of the time.  She plays a young dancer who wins a contest to be on the cover of a major magazine, but this gets in the way of her teacher (Kelly) and their budding romance in this Technicolor-produced hit (lensed by Allen M. Davey and Rudolph Maté), this was the kind of film Columbia could only afford to make a few of a year, but it works and is worth revisiting.  Lee Bowman, Phil Silvers, Leslie Brooks, Otto Kruger and Eve Arden also star.


Victor Saville’s Tonight & Every Night (1945) was yet another big Technicolor musical production the following year (again lensed by Rudolph Maté), but set against the backdrop of WWII (common at the time) about a British performance group who never missed a performance to support the Allied troops, thus the title.  Lee Bowman is back, both joined by Janet Blair (of the well-known comedy hit My Sister Eileen) and a great supporting cast that makes this a very interesting time capsule of the end of a dark time when Hollywood went to war and helped bring in the big win.


When Hayworth and Charles Vidor reunited for Gilda (1946), it would not be another colorful musical, but a powerful Film Noir drama that remains an all time classic of that period.  With a script by Jo Eisinger, Marion Parsonnet and an uncredited Ben Hecht, this dark tale of a self-destructing relationship is as famous a film as Hayworth ever made.  An ugly triangle develops between her nightclub singer title character, the club owner (George Macready) and his new manager (Glenn Ford), who turns out to be from her past.  Madness ensues in this must-see classic, shot strikingly in real black and white film by Rudolph Maté.


The always interesting William Dieterle directed Salome, a 1953 Technicolor costume romp (lensed by the very capable Charles Lang of One Eyed Jacks, Charade and Wait Until Dark) and Biblical epic of sorts (the genre was about to explode along with widescreen filmmaking, though this is a black style 1.33 X 1 film) has John The Baptist (Alan Badel) taking on King Herod (Charles Laughton) with you know who in the middle.  Sometimes a hoot, other times very interesting filmmaking, it is worth at least one look to see who out of their way they went to make it, especially Columbia, who made few films like this in a year.  Also in the cats are Judith Anderson, Cedric Hardwicke and Stewart Granger also star.


Finally is the only widescreen film in the set, as well as a 3-D film (!), a Musical (again) and a Technicolor production with three-track stereo.  Curtis Bernhardt (best known for his Film Noir hit Possessed from 1947) directed this version of Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) with Hayworth in the title role as the title character, stuck on an island with Marines who are all more than interested in her.  Gloria Swanson and Joan Crawford played this role as well and Hayworth is also just right for it, trapped in a moral dilemma and between a Sergeant (Aldo Ray) and overly moralistic preacher (José Ferrer), this is an odd take on the story, but another interesting film worth revisiting.  Wonder if Sony will offer it in the new Blu-ray 3D format.


All the films were originally issued in three-strip, dye-transfer Technicolor except Gilda and all are framed in their original 1.33 X 1 black style frame except Sadie, which is in an anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 frame here (with some sources claming it was 1.75 X 1 upon release, lensed by Director of Photography Charles Lawton, Jr. of the original 3:10 To Yuma and My Sister Eileen) and they all look good for this format and their age.  They have been nicely restored and I have few complaints, though Sadie might be a big soft and the color a little limited since it was also a 3-D film, but it has some fine shots as well.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on all is also cleaned up, though Sadie is not here in stereo, this does not mean the stereo tracks are gone.  We’ll see when even a 2-D Blu-ray rolls around.


Extras include Baz Luhrmann on Cover Girl and Gilda, a featurette he shares with Martin Scorsese.  Patricia Clarkson discusses Tonight and Sadie, Salome has trailers and we also get a feature length audio commentary by Richard Schickel on Gilda.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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