Rita Hayworth

You Were Never Lovelier (1942)

You Were Never LovelierIn desperate need of work after gambling away all his money, performer Robert Davis (Fred Astaire) goes to ask hotel owner Eduardo Acuna (Adolphe Menjou) for a job. Eduardo is too busy getting ready for his oldest daughter’s wedding, but Robert runs into his old friend Xavier Cugat (as himself), who works at the hotel. Xavier will be working at Eduardo’s wedding and suggests that Robert try to get the boss’s attention by performing with his band during the wedding.

The Acuna family has some odd traditions regarding marriage, the biggest one being that daughters are to be married off in order of their age. With the oldest sister of the family now being married, next in line is Maria (Rita Hayworth), who has no interest in getting married, much to the dismay of her two youngest sisters who are both eager to take a trip down the aisle. At the wedding reception, Robert is immediately smitten with Maria, but his attempt to get close to her doesn’t work out as planned.

Knowing how eager his youngest two daughters are to get married, Eduardo decides to try to change Maria’s ideas about romance by writing phony anonymous love letters and sending flowers to her everyday, in hopes that it will be enough to get her excited about a man. During one of his attempts to get a job working at Eduardo’s hotel, Fred is mistaken for a delivery boy and is sent to deliver a letter and flowers to Maria. But when Maria catches a glimpse of Robert delivering the message, she falls madly in love with him. When Eduardo finds out what’s happened, Eduardo does not approve and he tries to make it worth Robert’s while to end it by offering him a job if he drives Maria away. Despite some mishaps along the way, it turns out you just can’t break up true love.

What a charming movie! You Were Never Lovelier isn’t the best remembered movie of Fred Astaire’s career, nor is it one of Rita Hayworth’s best remembered movies, but it’s a really delightful and funny movie full of spectacular dance numbers. My goodness, did Astaire and Hayworth make amazing dance partners! It’s too bad they only made two movies together because I would have loved to see more musicals with the two of them. The story may be a bit convoluted, but overall, it’s just so darn much fun and entertaining to watch that I can’t help but love it. It’s everything I want when I watch a musical from this era.

Cover Girl (1944)

While working as a dancer in a nightclub, Rusty Parker (Rita Hayworth) hears about a contest being run by Vanity magazine to find a new face for their big fiftieth anniversary issue.  She goes to audition for Cornelia Jackson (Eve Arden), who isn’t impressed by her, but she does catch the eye of publisher John Coudair (Otto Kruger).  Cordelia doesn’t know what he sees in her, but it turns out Rusty is a dead ringer for a woman he had been in love with forty years earlier named Maribelle Hicks. When he finds out that Rusty is Mirabelle’s granddaughter, she wins the magazine cover.

When her magazine cover hits the newsstands, Rusty becomes a local celebrity.  Her boyfriend Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly), who also owns the nightclub she dances at, is glad to see Rusty’s dreams coming true, but he wishes she were becoming famous as a dancer instead of being just a pretty face.  He’s also afraid her newfound success will drive her away from him.  Thanks to Rusty, Danny’s nightclub suddenly becomes the hot place to be and one person who comes to see her is Noel Wheaton (Lee Bowman), the owner of a theater on Broadway.  He wants to put her in a show, but she doesn’t want to leave Danny’s club.

Noel and Coudair won’t to take “no” for an answer and keep trying to get Rusty to come to Broadway, which continues to drive a wedge between Rusty and Danny.  Eventually, Danny decides the best thing he can do for Rusty is let her go.  She finally goes off to Broadway and becomes a big star while Danny and his best friend Genius (Phil Silvers) close up the nightclub and head off to entertain the troops.  Before too long, Noel proposes to Rusty and although she doesn’t love him, she reluctantly accepts since Danny is gone.  When Danny hears about her engagement, he decides to make one last attempt to win her back.

Cover Girl is the best musical MGM never made.  It’s got Gene Kelly, great Gershwin songs, nice bright Technicolor, and is just pure, exuberant fun.  This is one of those movies I can put on when I’m having a bad day and it will never fail to cheer me up.

Cover Girl came pretty early in Gene Kelly’s career and I think it’s one of his more underrated films.  I’ve always been a huge fan of the “Alter Ego” dance scene where Gene dances with himself.  It’s too bad this was the only movie Gene made with Rita Hayworth; I really would have liked to have seen them together again.  What’s really remarkable about Cover Girl is that even though Gene had been only been making movies for two years, he was given a lot of creative control over it.  Maybe that’s part of the reason why I have a tendency to forget it was made at Columbia, not MGM.

The Strawberry Blonde (1941)

One Sunday afternoon, dentist Biff Grimes (James Cagney) gets a phone call about a man who urgently needs to have a tooth pulled.  Biff doesn’t typically work on Sundays, but when he finds out the man in question is Hugo Barnstead (Jack Carson), he’s willing to make an exception.  It’s not because Hugo is a big-shot business man and he thinks having him as a patient would be good for his career.  No, his reasons are much more personal.

About ten years earlier, Biff was studying to become a dentist and was good friends with Hugo.  Back then, all the guys in town would line up to watch Virginia Brush (Rita Hayworth) as she walked by.  One night, Hugo manages to land a date with Virginia and he asks Biff to come with him because Virginia was bringing her friend Amy (Olivia de Havilland).  Virginia is concerned with being respectable and proper (or at least appearing to be), but her friend Amy is much more forward-thinking and loves to shock people with her modern ideas.  Biff finds Amy rather off-putting and after that night, he puts all his efforts into wooing Virginia.  The two of them spend a memorable day together and Biff asks to see her again, but she can’t see him for a few weeks.

When the day of their date arrives, Biff waits for Virginia in the park, but is in for a surprise when Amy shows up instead.  Even worse, he gets word that earlier that day, Virginia married Hugo.  After talking to her for a while, Biff begins to see something in Amy that he hadn’t seen before and they start seeing each other.  Eventually, they get married and when they run into Virginia one day, she invites them over for dinner.  By then, Hugo’s contracting business has really taken off and he offers Biff a job as Vice President of his company.  However, Hugo is involved in some illegal business practices and really just wants Biff around to take the fall for it.

Biff ends up spending a few years in prison because of Hugo, but while he’s there, he finishes his dentistry program and starts practicing as soon as his sentence is over.  So when Biff gets the call about Hugo needing his tooth pulled, he knows this is his chance to get his revenge.  But when Hugo and Virginia arrive and he sees how miserable they are together, he realizes he’s truly gotten the last laugh.

I’d never even heard of The Strawberry Blonde before today, but I’m really glad I took a chance on it.  It’s funny and pretty endearing for the most part.  James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland were hilarious in this and played off each other so well.  Cagney has charisma to spare here and did such a great job of making Biff sympathetic.  You don’t typically think of Olivia de Havilland as a comedienne, but she made me laugh out loud in this movie.  All she had to do was wink and I was cracking up.  The supporting cast is excellent, particularly Alan Hale, who played Biff’s father.  Rita Hayworth didn’t really have to do very much other than act very proper.  I actually liked Rita the most in her last scene where we get to see how eight years of marriage to Hugo has changed her. Also, you might be surprised to know this was directed by Raoul Walsh.  At the time, he wanted a little change of pace from movies like High Sierra and The Roaring Twenties, and The Strawberry Blonde fit the bill perfectly for that.  Walsh proved he can direct comedy just as well as he can direct gritty noirs or gangster films.

The only thing keeping me from calling The Strawberry Blonde “completely charming” is the fact that the way Biff gets revenge on Hugo is awfully ghoulish.  Hugo certainly deserved to get some kind of punishment for his behavior, but watching him get a tooth yanked with no anesthesia while his wife and former friends laugh with delight just seemed too awful even for him.

What’s on TCM: August 2012

How is it already time for another round of Summer Under the Stars?!  As usual, TCM has done a great job of coming up with a nice blend of stars who are no strangers to the SUTS schedule and stars who have never been featured before.  The more I look at the schedule, the more excited I get to start my Blogging Under the Stars marathon.

Some of the days I’m most looking forward to are: Myrna Loy (August 2), Marilyn Monroe (August 4), Toshiro Mifune (August 9), Ginger Rogers (August 12), James Cagney (August 14), Lillian Gish (August 15), Jack Lemmon (August 22), Gene Kelly (August 23), Kay Francis (August 21), and Warren William (August 30).  I have seen woefully few Akira Kurosawa films, so I am really looking forward to Toshiro Mifune’s day.  As a fan of silents and pre-codes, I was thrilled to see Lillian Gish, Kay Francis, and Warren William got spots on this year’s line-up.  Lately, I’ve been really getting into Tyrone Power movies, so I’m glad to see he got a day this year.  And since I’ve always wanted to see more Jeanette MacDonald movies, I’ll definitely be tuning in a lot for her day.

The complete Summer Under the Stars schedule is available to be download here.

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Affair in Trinidad (1952)

For three years, Chris Emery (Rita Hayworth) has been living in Trinidad with her husband Neal.  He’s an artist, she’s a nightclub singer and dancer.  After one of her performances, she comes off stage to find Inspector Smythe (Torin Thatcher) waiting to break the news that her husband is dead.  At first, the police believe he committed suicide, but they soon discover it was murder.  Chris is ready to go back to America, but the police want her to stay and help them.  They know that Neal’s friend Max Fabian (Alexander Scourby) is responsible for Neal’s death, but they also know that Max is the head of an organization that sells military secrets.  To get the proof they need to convict him on that charge, they ask Chris to spy on him for them.  Wanting to avoid an ugly murder trial, Chris agrees.

A few days later, Neal’s brother Steve (Glenn Ford) arrives in Trinidad after receiving a letter from Neal about having a job for him down there.  Not only is he shocked to find out about his brother’s death, but also that Chris is rumored to be romantically involved with Max.  Chris wants to explain to him what she’s doing, but Inspector Smythe warns her not to.  Determined to get to the bottom of what’s going on, Steve stays with Chris for a few days.  When the two of them are invited to Max’s house for dinner, Steve quickly realizes Max is connected to Neal’s death.

Meanwhile, Max and Steve both have fallen in love with Chris and they each ask her to leave the country with them.  She turns down both of their offers and Steve is frustrated by her apparent desire to stick close to Max.  When Steve tries going to the police with proof of Max’s connection to Neal’s murder, he doesn’t understand why Smythe doesn’t seem to care about the matter.  Chris and Steve each carry on their investigations, but when Max and his associates find out what Chris has been doing, Steve winds up in a shootout to save Chris.

Affair in Trinidad was the first movie Rita Hayworth made after taking a four-year break from movies.  From her first moment on screen, Rita proves that none of her magnetism was lost during those four years.  Teaming her with Glenn Ford again was definitely a good move; their chemistry certainly hadn’t faded with time.  The story is pretty convoluted, but it is entertaining and Rita Hayworth’s charisma more than makes up for a far-fetched story.  All in all, a pretty enjoyable comeback movie.

Fashion in Film: My 10 Favorite Costumes

10.  Rita Hayworth’s “Put the Blame on Mame” dress from Gilda

On a lot of other women, that gown would have been pretty unremarkable.  But Rita Hayworth had so much charisma in that movie and had such an incredible screen presence that she turned what could have been a forgettable gown into the most iconic costume of her career.

9.  Elizabeth Taylor’s white slip from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

This right here is proof that Elizabeth Taylor could take the simplest garment and turn it into a definitive screen costume.  Nobody worked a white slip better than Elizabeth Taylor.

8.  All of Norma Shearer’s gowns from Marie Antoinette

I’d be very hard pressed to pick just one favorite costume from Marie Antoinette.  Adrian put an enormous amount of time and effort into designing all those exquisite gowns, no detail was overlooked.  They are all works of art.

7.  Debbie Reynolds’ “Good Morning” dress from Singin’ in the Rain.

Plain and simply, she looks absolutely adorable in it.  She had a lot of wonderful costumes in Singin’ in the Rain, but whenever I think about her in that movie, this is the first costume that comes to mind.

6.  Myrna Loy’s striped party dress from The Thin Man

I just think this dress is pure Nora Charles.  It’s fun, but classy.  She looks like the life of the party.

5.  Grace Kelly’s black and white outfit from Rear Window

This just epitomizes Grace Kelly to me.  It is so clean and simple, it’s not bogged down with a lot of accessories or jewelry, but it’s one of the most elegant dresses I’ve ever seen.

4.  Jean Harlow’s party dress from Dinner at Eight


It’s slinky and ridiculously glamorous.  This is Jean Harlow at her finest.

3.  Marlene Dietrich’s tuxedo from Morocco

In an era when women rarely wore pants, Marlene Dietrich went all out and donned a tuxedo.  Not shocking by today’s standards, but it’s no surprise that her tux caused a commotion when Morocco was released in 1930.

2.  Gloria Swanson’s outfit from her first scene in Sunset Boulevard

This outfit tells us right off everything that we need to know about Norma Desmond.  She looks rich, she looks like a movie star, and she’s definitely got some issues.

1.  Charlie Chaplin as The Little Tramp

As far as I’m concerned, this is the most iconic movie costume of all time.  It doesn’t just represent one movie, it represents Chaplin’s entire body of work and it’s a symbol for that whole era of film history.  When you see that hat, the cane, those shoes, that mustache, there’s no mistaking him for anybody else.  Even when people who don’t know silent films try to describe silent films, odds are they’re going to describe Charlie Chaplin and what he wore.

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

When Bonnie Lee’s (Jean Arthur) boat docks in Barranca, she gets off the boat thinking she’ll just be in town for the night.  But when she meets American pilots Joe (Noah Beery, Jr.) and Les (Allyn Joslyn), she’s happy to meet some fellow Americans and starts spending the evening with them.  The three of them stop into a bar, but then an order comes in that one of them has to fly out with some mail.  It’s very foggy that night, but their boss Geoff Carter (Cary Grant) is trying to land a mail delivery contract for his airline and has to stay on schedule for six months.  It’s decided that Joe must make the trip, but once he gets a ways out, they decide that it’s too dangerous for him to continue and is ordered to turn around.  When he gets back, he can’t see the runway to land.  Carter orders him to stay up until the fog clears, but he doesn’t listen and tries to land anyway.  He hits a tree on his way down, crashes, and dies.

Bonnie is deeply affected by Joe’s sudden death and is rather disturbed by the cold, distant attitude Carter seems to have about the incident.  But when some of the other pilots explain that they understand the risks of the job and that casualties are just a fact of life to them, she softens up toward Carter.  The two of them have a wonderful night together, drinking, singing, and playing the piano.  She even starts to fall in love with him!  Carter is attracted to her, too, but he’s had a bad experience with a woman that’s put him off the idea of love.  Plus he doesn’t want to give up flying and knows a lot of women couldn’t handle being married to a pilot.  Their evening is suddenly interrupted when Carter has to leave to deliver that mail.  Bonnie’s next boat is due to leave before he’d be back, but she decides at the last minute to skip the boat and stay in town for another week.  Carter is very surprised to find her waiting when he gets back, but not in a good way.  Bonnie feels stupid for having stayed, but she sticks around anyway.

But Carter is in for an even bigger surprise when Bat MacPherson (Richard Barthelmess) and his wife Judy (Rita Hayworth) suddenly arrive.  Bat’s come to town under an assumed name because he’s had a bad reputation in the flying world ever since he bailed out of a plane and left his mechanic to die.  The mechanic that died happened to be fellow pilot Kid’s (Thomas Mitchell) brother.  Carter immediately recognizes him and is hesitant to hire him at first.  The other pilots don’t want him there, but they really need the help and Bat is assigned to the most dangerous flights.  Not only that, but it turns out Bat’s wife Judy is the same woman who broke Carter’s heart.  Meanwhile, even though Carter had hurt Bonnie earlier, she continues to fall in love with him.  But after seeing one of his flights nearly go horribly wrong, she really begins to question whether or not she could handle being married to a pilot.  Then the time comes time to make the final delivery to get that mail contract.  Carter had planned to make the treacherous flight himself, but before he can leave, Bonnie accidentally shoots him in the arm and he can’t go.

Bat and Kid make the trip in his place.  When they realize they can’t fly as high as they need to, they’re told to turn around.  But on the way back, a bird hits the windshield and breaks Kid’s neck.  The plane also catches on fire and Kid tells Bat to go ahead and parachute out of the plane.  But this time, Bat is determined to not leave his companion and the two go down with the plane.  Kid doesn’t make it, but Bat survives and earns the respect of his fellow pilots.  By then, Bonnie is ready to catch her boat and move on.  When she goes to say goodbye to Carter, he gets word that the weather is clearing and he starts rushing to make that mail delivery.  But before he leaves, he tells Bonnie they should flip a coin to decide if she stays or not.  She doesn’t want to decide anything so glibly, but then she realizes he’s flipping a two-headed coin.

Even though adventure movies aren’t typically among my favorite movies, I really enjoyed Only Angels Have Wings.  I really liked that it managed to find a balance between being an action film and a romance without feeling like two different movies got stuck together.  And the best part is that both parts are carried out equally well.  Plus the cast is fantastic!  Of course, I like Cary Grant in just about anything, but I really loved him and Jean Arthur together here.  I mostly know Richard Barthelmess from his silent films and a handful of his pre-codes, so it was nice to see him in this.  This was one of Rita Hayworth’s first substantial roles.  She doesn’t have a particularly big part, but she made herself noticeable and this movie really helped her career.  And to top it all off, it’s got superb direction from Howard Hawks!  All in all, an excellent movie.