Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #9: Showstopping (Scene from Gilda)

335 posts in this topic

It's pretty common for movies of this era to stop dead for a musical number.Everyone just agrees to let the plot stop dead so they can hang out in a jazz club and watch some smoky singer slink around the stage. Gilda is different, because the performer is actually part of the movie, and there's acting going on as well as singing. It's a more integrated approach to the inevitable jazz number.

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What did you notice about Rita Hayworth's performance when you were watching this scene?

 

Her performance shows the desperate lengths that Gilda will go to not only irritate Johnny but to also get back at him for not letting her leave him and/or get a divorce or annulment. This desperation shows in the extreme provocativeness of the performance. The song is a little provocative but Gilda pulls all the stops out with this performance. She appears to have been drinking, she's uncoordinated at times and seems to be glassy eyed. I think that she is doing more than just trying to anger and irritate Johnny. She is trying to shame him hoping that this will make him let her go. She wants the audience to see what type of woman Johnny is married to - promiscuous, amoral and a drunk. The large audience at the club and the music seems to add to the frenzy of the moment.

 

I what ways do you think music influenced and contributed to the development of film noir?

 

Much of the music in film noir reflects and emphasizes the behavior of the characters as well as the dark nature of film noir itself. The music builds tension in the actions of the characters in dramatic scenes such as robberies, killings and chases. It also shows the hopelessness and despair when everything falls apart and many opening scenes have melancholy music that reflects the city at night with it's darkness and loneliness.

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It's been some years since I've seen I've seen Gilda, and I'd forgotten how intensely erotic this scene is. Using her body and her hair, Gilda begins a virtual striptease, pulling off each long glove, then taunting the men in the audience to pull of the rest of her clothes!

By the end, she is almost in an "altered state" of wanton depravity, and it literally takes a slap in the face to pull her out of it. Whew!

Yes, I agree there is a huge amount of symbolism in this scene - even talking about being 'good with zippers' introduces a dangerous element and the men who agree to undo this for her are living dangerously.

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What did you notice about Rita Hayworth's performance when you were watching this scene? What are some of the deeper layers of meaning that are contained in this film noir musical sequence? In what ways do you think music influenced and contributed to the development of film noir?

 

I noticed that Gilda had a "devil may care" attitude that was defiant in the face of a controlling, powerful husband. Her provocative dance, flipping of her hair and tease of a strip tease sent a message to her husband that implied, the more he tried to control her, the more she will give him to have to reign in; she would not make it easy for him. The song choice, "Put the Blame On Mame", to me, is her giving him an out, to save face, while she performed this seductive number publicly, he could tell everyone she was the problem, he could blame her for their marital woes, but it will not remain a secret; a manipulative weapon to all controllers. It will become public that they are not so blissfully wedded.

 

I knew the slap was coming, because almost all of the film noir & some other films used that to show physical power over women, plus implicate that the woman was the one out of control; but it still **** me off every time. To me, when he slapped her, it exposed the fact that he was truly the one out of control, of his own emotions, & he derived a lot of his power by keeping her public persona in check. The way a man's woman looked, presented herself in public didn't attribute to her character, but in his ability to keep his woman in check. 

 

 

 

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It seems to me that this music scene just stregnhts even more the power of Rita Hayworth as a femme fatale. Her sensual moving, her pretty face, her curved body and her sexual energy just attract men in a way that can't control themselves. And she has to get out of the stage not to get naked in front of the audience, so we're not talking about silly and annocent women in american cinema anymore. It is a new kind of female portrait.


The music had immense help building tension in all noir movies, but musical interpretations make them even more powerful. If you remember Ann Sheridan in 1947 'Nora Prentiss' you will notice a strong character from that moment on, and so does here.


Finally, the camera points to Hayworth's body almost all of the time while the presentation goes on, just to provoque even more the audience at the screening room. And specially the male one.


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The original post for this mentions Hayworth as the femme fatale of Gilda, but to me, Gilda is partially unique through it's portrayal of events from her point of view. She is trapped, part of which is her own fault, but it is something we are experiencing with her. The scene of her signing followed by the very tense and abusive moments that follow sum this up perfectly. At first she all seduction. She is the embodiment of the noir woman, careless and sinful yet hard to resist. In the next moment she is the victim, the hero, the flawed character you identify with.

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Not since the enforcement of the Hayes code had we seen a screen siren behave in such an overtly sexual way. Gilda is well aware of the power that her sexuality exerts over men, and she has learned how to use it to her advantage. In the case of the "Put the Blame On Mame" number she seems to genuinely enjoy twisting the males in the audience around her finger, but this performance is directed at one man in particular- Johnny. From the first notes of the Jazzy, bluesy song it is evident that Johnny recognizes a familiar theme. He becomes enraged when he sees what Gilda is up to- the exact response that she was hoping to elicit.  This musical interlude is not incidental to the plot, it is integral, giving as more information about these two characters- their pasts, Gilda's relationship with herself as well as her relationship with Johnny. Johnny's strong reaction belies his previous distant, aloof behavior. Jazz music is so appropriate in film noir, it has the same provocative quality, an angular and atonal mood that interfaces perfectly with the darker side of human nature.

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Rita’s performance is so electrifying. I love everything about this clip. I love the dance she does and the way she flips her hair.  She really seems to let herself melt into the music and let loose. You can tell that she’s doing this to get Johnny’s goat.  The faux strip tease in the end is Gilda’s way of getting back at him for how he treats her.  This musical sequence serves to spotlight the seductive power that Gilda has and the ways that she is willing to use her feminine wiles. The swing of the jazz band goes along perfectly with the swing of Rita's hips. On a slightly off topic note, I’ve always thought that they drew inspiration from this clip for Jessica Rabbit from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” 

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Rita is a lighting volt in a storm in this scene,she uses every part of her body to tempt, invite and seduce the audience, particularly, the men. She knows she is getting them stirred up sexually and they're ready for whatever this bombshell dishes out. Unknowingly to all her willing potential playmates, she is using them just to get under Glenn Ford's skin. I believe she does this for two reasons; (1) to see if he has feelings for her still; (2) to hurt him by exposing her past life as a stripper or hooker--we don't know,but we get that her previous life involved solicitation.And in what better way could she do this than in front of everyone as she stated so that everybody could see that he "...got taken" and that he married a..." (but before she could tell us what he had married he slaps her and walks away).

 

From this scene we can see how music contributes to the noir films by looking at Rita's character, she had the way an means in which she could take control,on stage, because at that moment there was nothing that Glenn could do;she had the audience eating from her hands. If he got on stage the men would have tried to stop him and then a fight would have occurred,so it was best to wait until she had finished her song and got off stage. The scene also showed us how much music can tell us about the background of that character ( Rita) and the type of relationship that character has with another character (Glenn) in the scene. Music can also assist in tying the plot along; in Gilda, we know that this past/present relationship adds to the fuel or in some large way has contributed to whatever is about to happen or is the reason for what occurs in the existing plot.

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There are many aspects that caught my attention in this scene. First of all, this is possibly Hayworth’s most well-known number, but without the use of her trademark, professional dancing that first brought her to the attention of studio boss, Harry Cohn and the public. The lighthearted bounce and bustle used in other musical numbers, opposite the likes of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire is gone. Rita Hayworth, the perky girl-next-door, is gone and in her place rises the femme fatale that would ultimately dominate Hayworth’s professional and personal life.

 

Despite the lack of sophisticated choreography, Rita Hayworth knows exactly what she is doing. She looks carefree and seems to throw caution to the wind, yet all her movements from throwing back her hair, the swaying of her entire body (from head to legs), and slow, gradual striptease with the gloves capture the complete attention of audiences on and off-screen.

 

In spite of the crowd, Gilda’s sights are purely on Johnny. She’s not able to get to him on her own he constantly rejects her. So, Gilda makes sure to provoke the perversity of the men around her in order to raise Johnny’s ire- and it works. He’s furious, outraged… And afraid.

 

Some people point out that Johnny smiled after slapping Gilda. Take a closer look. At best, Johnny gives only a slight smile (possibly glad for a moment that he was able to break her), but it immediately vanishes, as does he in fear and shame. The following scene thereafter, confirms this.  

 

Music has so much influence. It sets up the mood of the setting and heightens the emotions of film scenes. Music also serves as a time capsule because it is as much a part of culture as the style and trends of the time period. In Gilda, the clothes, styles, and music transport us back to a time of classy nightclubs, big bands, and sultry musical numbers- the likes of which are gone in today’s world. 

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