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Entries in Rita Hayworth (10)

Monday
May012017

The Furniture: My Gal Sal's Nonsense Gay Nineties

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail. Here's Daniel Walber...

My Gal Sal is a pack of lies. The 1942 musical, ostensibly a biopic of songwriter Paul Dresser, is almost entirely fabricated. Of course, that hardly matters. Accuracy is no prerequisite for the Best Production Design Oscar, which Richard Day, Joseph C. Wright and Thomas Little won for the picture. No one will be mad if some details are fudged in musical numbers like “Me and My Fella and a Big Umbrella.”

That said, My Gal Sal is interesting because it’s all nonsense. It’s a window into the way Hollywood projects itself onto the past, a compendium of historical kitsch.

Dresser (Victor Mature) begins the film in a strict, Indiana home. His minister father objects to his music, so he runs away and gets a job with a medicine show. 

Eventually he meets Sally Elliott (Rita Hayworth), an established Broadway star. They don’t hit it off right away, but he meets her again in New York City. Their on-again-off-again romance, troubled by his sudden success, drives the rest of the plot...

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Sunday
Jan292017

28 Days Until Oscar

Today's number is 28. I trust you know that Gloria Swanson was ALWAYS ready for her close-up. 

She's best remembered for Sunset Blvd (1950) but that movie couldn't have existed, at least not in the perfect form it does, were it not for her earlier silent screen stardom.  Her first Oscar nomination came for Sadie Thompson (1928) in the very first year of the Oscars. The movie was also nominated for Best Cinematography but both the DP and Swanson lost the Oscars to Janet Gaynor and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, respectively. Swanson wasn't the only female superstar to play Sadie...

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Friday
Jul082016

Good Morning from Rita and Me. 

I'm not as peppy as Rita Hayworth here* -- yesterday was so disheartening on so many levels -- but the coffee is helping. While I struggle to get my day going with a smile, tell us about yours -- any big movie plans this weekend?

*Coffee cup via Alejandro Mogolla's shop. He's a great illustrator and also a reader of The Film Experience! 

Thursday
Feb182016

Q&A: Actressexual Longings & Carol Gender-Flipped

It's another Q & A. Ask it and it shall be er... might be answered. When I started typing this week I couldn't stop and before I know it there were thousands and thousands of words. So that takes care of two Q&As .

Here's the first half of the mad scribblings typings then.

What is your favorite non-nominated performance from each of the five titans of the acting nominations? (Meryl Streep, Katharine Hepburn, Jack Nicholson, Bette Davis and Laurence Olivier) - SEAN

NATHANIEL: Oh this is a tough one since those people were Oscared for breathing. Okay. Let's take them in reverse order of preference as actors...

Sir Laurence Olivier. Weirdly I was just watching As You Like It (1936) just the other day. I wasn't all that impressed though he definitely had an easier time with the material and the medium than the other stagebound performers. I have seen several of his non-nominated films, mostly from when I was very young so I don't remember them well. SpartacusDracula? That Hamilton Woman? I have no idea. I'm not a Sir Larry person at all! I almost always prefer his co-stars even in his biggest hits.

Katharine Hepburn. Bringing Up Baby (1938) is such a comic jewel. Mid 30s to Early 40s is best with Hepburn. 

Jack Nicholson. The Shining (1980). Sure he goes big but the nightmare requires that level of commitment to devilish abandon. He does supersized devilish abandon in Witches of Eastwick (1987) as well but in the latter case it's distracting since the women are already sparking so much. Take it down, Jack.

Bette Davis. I confess: I haven't seen all that many of her non-nominated performances. I don't think she's very good in Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte or her late camp work and not very memorable in Three on a Match. Hmmm. Maybe The Great Lie (1941)? But Mary Astor performs Grand Theft Movie in that one. What a knockout star turn.

Meryl Streep. Easy. The Hours (2002). "I seem to be... unravelling."

lots more after the jump

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Saturday
Jul042015

Beauty Break: What a Firecracker!

 Happy Fourth of July !!!  Party safely. Here's Ann Miller, and 20 other beautiful firecrackers to celebrate with you (who would you like to set off sparks with?) after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
May062015

"A bright guilty world." - On The Lady From Shanghai

Hit Me With Your Best Shot S6.10
Mid Season Finale (See all the pics tonight at 11!)
The Lady From Shanghai (1948)
Directed by Orson Welles. Cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr.


Though we're usually tasked to watch the same film for Hit Me With Your Best Shot, today for the Orson Welles Centennial, participants had their choice of three films. I chose The Lady From Shanghai (1948) largely because the only image I ever see for it online is Orson Welles seizing Rita Hayworth, both of them reflected by mirrors in the über famous "Crazy House" finale. It's one of those movie sequences you learn by osmosis just watching other movies (remember Woody Allen's take on it in Manhattan Murder Mystery?) even before you get around to this 1948 noir (Technicall IMDb says 1947 but it was released practically everywhere in 1948). Though the hall of mirrors contains roughly 50 shots that could justifiably be called "Best" it's their proximity and their dizzying accumulation of lies (all about to shatter) that really does it for me so I looked elsewhere.

The Lady From Shanghai is gorgeously uncluttered. It's as if only the basic tropes have room to exist: the femme fatale, the narrating dupe, the shadows, and the crimes. It's so self aware it even toasts its own genre halfway through...

Here's to crime!"

You might even call it minimalist despite the famously baroque visual finale. It was the fourth Orson Welles picture and the first to be ignored entirely by the Academy when it opened in the summer of 1948 but it won the important battle: standing the test of time.

The movie plays its hand immediately, informing you that Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth) will be Michael O'Hara's (Orson Welles) undoing. But every time you look at her, which is often since Welles and Lawton Jr give Hayworth star vehicle closeups throughout, you hope it won't be true.  One very smart recurring visual motif is that Mrs Bannister is bathed in light more often than she's in shadow. She so clearly has her own key light that at the tail end of the movie's first sequence, when Welles jumps in a horse drawn carriage with her, their images seem artificially conjoined since he's so shadowy and she's so bright.

But this lighting motif is a lie, one you catch if you a) believe the narration and b) listen to the dialogue of the film's oiliest and most repulsive character who refers to the paradise around these rich sharks as a  "bright guilty world." One notable exception, the one I'd select as Best Shot if I could have two conjoined images to illustrate a point, is when Elsa and O'Hara meet in an quarium. This time they're both bathed in shadows though something is very different about the shots: when O'Hara stands next to the glass they're like harmless magnified fishies; when Elsa picks a spot to stand the marine life is far more disturbing, gasping for air. 

But for Best Shot I'm going minimal, and brightly lit, conveying the intoxication of Rita Hayworth. The shot below is breathtaking in its sensuality; Elsa gets the full glamour treatment, the glistening eyes and slightly parted mouth, the soft but ample lighting. But Welles doesn't rest on his co-star and lover's beauty alone. There's an impressive array of choreographed movement that keeps whiplashing the camera back to her, reclined, through lots of business with her three men and one cigarette. You're constantly aware of the relationships between the four principles. This is is not a typical triangulated affair or evil quartet but a circle with Elsa Bannister always at its center.

best shot

And since we're speaking of juxtapositions, if you pair this hypnotic sequence -- your eyes are getting heavier... You will do whatever Rita breathily implores! -- with an even more brightly lit but far less serene shot of her face in the climax, this star turn reveals itself as quite a bifurcated triumph; it's half fawning iconography (until the mask of her glamour finally drops) and half shifty performance. 

By all means if you haven't seen this movie -- or any of Orson Welles's masterpieces, do.