Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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I've seen Gilda many times and it's a personal favorite of mine and the this scene (The Mame Song) has always been one of Movie's famous. Those subtle, sensual movements of her head shaking her hair about still holds up for me even after viewing it many times. Hey...Put the Blame on Mame...Boys!!

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I've always thought a scene like this was like an onion. Gilda has many layers and this was her (literally in this case) pealing away some of the outer layers to expose the "true" Gilda. Slapping her is Johnny's reaction to her allowing his audience (and us) to seeing the truth or at least another layer of it.  - All in all, I can see why men to this day fall in love with Gilda (and Rita). 

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I have seen Gilda so many times and, of course, love the Put the Blame on Mame nightclub performance. It is definitely one of the most memorable. It was this scene that made me realize that Rita is THE most beautiful woman I have ever seen! But besides her sexy performance, what makes this scene so memorable to me is the reaction her performance has on Glenn Ford's character. Just watching his facial expressions during her performance shows how much he is in love with her - an he does not even realize it yet at this point in the story.

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Being an huge fan of the musical genre since I was a young girl discovering Hollywood classic cinema, I must admit that this scene was the reason why I first watched to Charles Vidor's Gilda when I was 12 years old. My mother had told me "if you like musicals, then you have to watch Gilda", but she hadn't explained me that it wasn't a musical (she cleverly did that to introduce me to a lot of other films that I probably wouldn't have known by myself). I immediately understood that Gilda wasn't a Hollywood musical, nor "Put a blame on Mame" was just another regular musical number - in the same way that the scene where pianist Sam plays "As time goes by" or where the crowd in Rick's Café sings "La Marseillaise", in Michael Curtiz's Casablanca, are not musical numbers themselves, but undoubtedly are moments of great significance in the film. 

 

Likewise, this scene from Gilda is charged with a particular dramatic tension (should I say sexual tension? the answer is pretty obvious) that allows to move the story forward while contributing to expose other less evident, more unconventional, dimensions of the narrative.

 

Searching an equivalent of the 1960's motto "sex, drugs and rock'n'roll' for the 1930's Great Depression's social mentality depicted in this movie, one would easily suggest "sex, alcohol and jazz", three elements that are more or less overtly presented in this scene: Rita Hayworth's character, all dressed in black (well, not exactly all, since she takes her clothes off during the performance), is a bit clumsy singer but an extremely eficient "femme fatale", so sensual and sexual, so out of Hollywood "decency" conventions, as she seems not only drunk but actually extremely conscient of the fact that she's using her body (and certainly not her talent) to provoke the male character played by Glenn Ford. The fact that the scene opens with him reacting to the sound of the music and the crowd applauding Gilda's entrance introduces the feeling of jealousy, and the fact that we feel that we're watching to the scene throught the eyes of the jealous lover instill our visual experience with the sexual connotations that the lyrics themselves suggest. 

 

The introduction of this type of "noir musical number-like scenes" allow to develop innovative ways to portray the games of seduction, frantic jealousy and doomed romances that characterise the stories of "amour fou" between the femmes fatales and the hard-boiled male protagonists, evolving as a regular tendency of film-noir. 

I finish leaving here two slightly different examples of female characters singing "to" their men in two 1946 well-known films-noir: Lauren Bacall in Howard Hawks's The Big Sleep and Ava Gardner in Robert Siodmak's The Killers.

 


http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/296712/Killers-The-Movie-Clip-The-More-I-Know-Of-Love.html
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Wk 3 Gilda

 

--What did you notice about Rita Hayworth's performance when you were watching this scene? She is totally in control, even of her hair—she’s not only “taming” the men in the audience, she taunts with her hair as well.  She allows it to be wild for a bit, and then with a simple flick of her head, she tames that too, letting us know she is in complete control.  Her choreography is provocative but careful:  she never “bumps” too hard or too far.  The rest was left to the mind of the beholder.  And from the enthusiastic response, that crowd was envisioning a lot more in their minds than what she was showing on stage.  The first glove that comes off she sort of lets go of on the stage; you don’t even see where it lands.  This is a safe move.  She doesn’t take a risk here, but after the number is over, she takes off the other glove, and throws it out into the audience, much bolder a move.  Could this be a metaphor for her lover that the “gloves are now off”?  And then, she takes it a step further by breaking her necklace and throwing it into the audience. I don’t remember if this was a gift from Ford, I’ll find out when I look at the film later in the week, but if it was, --she's now sharing what they had with other men--that’s a further layer of disrespect to him.  And if that isn’t enough, she delivers an open invitation to anyone to come up on stage and help her undo her zipper. All the while she seems to be looking directly at Ford. If the stage manager didn’t intervene, they most likely would’ve unzipped her.  She was losing control here, perhaps suffering the suddenly realized embarrassment for what she had just done.

 

 

-- What are some of the deeper layers of meaning that are contained in this film noir musical sequence?  At first, Glenn Ford, when he hears the music, abruptly stops talking to actor Joseph Calleia, familiar to Noir—He’s bad guy Nick Varna in “Glass Key,” among others, and goes to a window and opens a louver overlooking the stage, a peephole of sorts. Voyeurism is a staple of noir.  He goes into the showroom to get a better look. The lyrics of the song itself, about a guy brought down by a femme fatale named Mame: the essence of noir. At its most base level, I’m sure audiences at the time were holding their collective breath as to whether the dress would stay up.  The black dress.  Suspense, how far will it go?  How far will a person go into the darkest part of their character?  It seems that if her situation with Ford were different and she weren’t trying to get back at him by embarrassing him, she might have taken the sexual edge off the number.  When she says the line about the zipper, it looks like she’s looking directly at him, taunting him.  The two men that almost lose control of themselves fighting over which one will actually undo her zipper: in life, these characters were probably straight-laced men. Their response here was primal.  This femme fatale reduced them to debasing themselves.  Classic noir. Men treat women like chattel but the women have complete control over the man’s demise.  Noir tends to have a misogynistic point of view:  “How could she embarrass him?”  A more “evolved” male might say something like “How could you disrespect yourself like that?”  He didn’t much care what people thought of her, he was much more concerned with what people thought of him for being with her. And, he smacks her.  Another staple of noir: men hitting women who have “disobeyed” them.

 

-- In what ways do you think music influenced and contributed to the development of film noir? It set the tone in many cases.  It helped point out many things that you might not see.  Using this particular song in “Gilda” underlines what the film is about.  And what noir is about:  the femme fatale drags the guy down.  In general, underscoring, or even background diegetic music, say in a nightclub, greatly contributes to film noir.  The use of unconventional music like jazz, lets us know that something off-kilter is going on.  Horn stabs accent an entrance, or a climax. Sustained notes played on a bowed string instrument, most effectively a stand up bass, create a sense that something dark this way comes.  Characters often have their own “themes” that underscore their entrances/exits/scenes.  It all contributes to creating the atmosphere necessary to constitute a well-executed film noir.

 

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No doubt everyone is put in mind of "The Shawshank Redemption" when watching Gilda; but I confess I've never thought about it as film noir. Not so, however, with the other Hayworth/Ford collaboration, "Affair in Trinidad."  To wit: 

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It's appropriate that the scene of Gilda's pseudo striptease begins and ends with Farrell.  After all, she is doing it for his benefit.

 

When I think of music in film noir the first movie that comes to mind is "Out of the Past".  The song "The First Time I Saw You" is played in several different styles of music.  I especially like the jazz rendition played in the nightclub.

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No doubt everyone is put in mind of "The Shawshank Redemption" when watching Gilda; but I confess I've never thought about it as film noir. Not so, however, with the other Hayworth/Ford collaboration, "Affair in Trinidad."  To wit: 

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Rita Hayworth was a very talented dancer. In fact, she began her career as a dancer. She was also Fred Astaire's partner in You Were Never Lovelier. I also heard that she was pregnant during the filming. 

Here's a clip from 1935's "Dante's Inferno", when she was "Rita Cansino:"

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhKFVU0GPVU

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Well we definitely know that Gilda is going to be the femme fatale from that scene don't we.  Film noirs' really did get away with a lot because that scene was quite risque for those days.  I am sure nowadays people would laugh at saying that was a racy scene based on the stuff they show in movies made today.

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Awww Gilda. My all-time favorite film and the very reason why I love film noir. Rita Hayworth is also my favorite actress; she is the very reason I became a redhead (like Rita, I'm a natural brunette). This performance in particular is also my favorite both as a dance/striptease routine and song. It never gets old for me. At the time of this film's release, this was a very risqué performance, but it defined Rita's status as a sex symbol. 

 

Analysis:

Gilda was not necessarily a femme fatale in this film; she was more a woman scorned. I've always seen Johnny Farrell more as the male fatale who projected this onto Gilda. Hence the song choice, Put the Blame on Mame. While he is the one essentially making trouble in their relationship by his callous emotional abuse, she is the one punished for his misdeeds. So she willfully accepts this role, but in doing so, she will bring Johnny down with her. The performance is more about her embarrassing Johnny publicly. And on a deeper level, she is highlighting the fact that she is the fall guy for Johnny's problems. Later, when he slaps her, it's not necessarily because of her performance, it's because she made a mockery of him; a mockery that HE is responsible for.

 

During the Golden Age of Cinema, performance music was less a backdrop of a scene and more of an integral part of the film to pay close attention to as it was very revealing about characterization, theme and foreshadowing events. It advanced the story more than timed-out.

 

 

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Clearly Gilda is in control during the song. Her stride on stage is bold and self confident. As she sings she pushes the sexual innuendoes right down to the modified strip tease ( she puts the "tease " in strip tease). As she is "guided" off stage she acts drunk, perhaps part of her "act." Because the confrontation with Johnny is full of anger, not drunkenness.

 

There is more going on than Gilda's performance. She is revealing her sexual side to a wide audience and Johnny is not well please. She is teasing, taunting him publically.

 

The thing that has always most attracted me to film noir is the music, Especially the use of jazz. From the slow sultry horns to the more raunchy lyrics it reflects the temper of the film and of the times. Society isn't quite certain what to do or how to behave in the changing world.

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I was just a young teenager back in the early 1970s when I had gotten my first television set for my bedroom.  It was a little black-and-white Panasonic that in pre-cable days showed grainy images even with rabbit ears.  Somehow this coincided with my burgeoning discovery of old Hollywood films that aired occasionally on the networks.  Two films in particular left an indelible stamp on my young psyche back then, largely due to the acting prowess of its female stars but also because of the directorial masterfulness in showcasing these women.  One was Greta Garbo in Camille while the other was Rita Hayworth in Gilda.  The beautiful black-and-white cinematography of both was so magestic, alluring and captivating that "color" was not even missed or considered necessary.  My intellect recognized of course that these films were from an era long gone, and still the women resonated and beckoned out of the phosphorescent glow,  both through their tragic or sad vulnerability but also through their charged seductiveness.  

 

Hayworth's sashaying dance movements and expressiveness through her tossing of luxuriant hair, sly smiles and come-hither glances combined with her beauty made this scene iconic eroticism, one for the ages.  What a study in contrast her milk white skin is against the black satin gown that shimmers and shines as she performs.  The music goes with the territory and by extension with film noir.  It is a layer added to suggest mise-en-scene, in this case, a South American casino night club.  Beyond setting it also functions as a provocateur, the men in the club and male viewers of the film who fall under Gilda's siren call but also literally provoking Glenn Ford's Johnny into dredging up an unpleasant past and unleashed anger.        

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Awww Gilda. My all-time favorite film and the very reason why I love film noir. Rita Hayworth is also my favorite actress; she is the very reason I became a redhead (like Rita, I'm a natural brunette). This performance in particular is also my favorite both as a dance/striptease routine and song. It never gets old for me. At the time of this film's release, this was a very risqué performance, but it defined Rita's status as a sex symbol. 

 

Analysis:

Gilda was not necessarily a femme fatale in this film; she was more a woman scorned. I've always seen Johnny Farrell more as the male fatale who projected this onto Gilda. Hence the song choice, Put the Blame on Mame. While he is the one essentially making trouble in their relationship by his callous emotional abuse, she is the one punished for his misdeeds. So she willfully accepts this role, but in doing so, she will bring Johnny down with her. The performance is more about her embarrassing Johnny publicly. And on a deeper level, she is highlighting the fact that she is the fall guy for Johnny's problems. Later, when he slaps her, it's not necessarily because of her performance, it's because she made a mockery of him; a mockery that HE is responsible for.

 

Excelent point, ThePaintedLady! I agree that she is playing a role, and the stage is the perfect place for this declaration.

My favorite cinematic representation of a twisted relationship. And yet, Hayworth and Ford are so brilliant in this film, I eat it up every time!

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I haven't seen the film, but this clip sceams Femme Fatale to me (others have noted it isn't necessarily the case). In terms of what this clip says to me about Noire as a style, I really see how the restrictions of censorship force more creativity. This is a really innovative and sexy strip tease even though it's not totally risqué.

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Wow, what an incredible scene.  Whenever I think of this movie I think of that scene.  It just burns the screen.  Her sex appeal, her seduction, her playfulness keep you mesmerized.

 

Not only does her body sizzle but her hair plays a role as well.  Just the way she moves her had and plays with her hair has you glued to the screen.

 

You quickly learn that this whole production was really to get at Johnny whom she obviously loves and cares about.

 

I love the music and how much of the story is told in just that song. It does forward the action in the movie and is very much an important part of the film.

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This is quite possibly the sexiest sequence I've ever seen in a film noir. Rita Hayworth has the crowd in the palm of her hands as she sings this number and sways her hips. I've never seen Gilda, but I assume this is probably the introduction of her character, or very early on in the film. She obviously doesn't see herself in a positive light, as she was about to say before Johnny slapped her. She seems quite careless, even almost drunk as she was whisked away. There is obvious conflict between Johnny and her which I'm pretty sure will get solved before this movie ends. The use of musical sequences as this one are huge in noir. Many of the femme fatale characters are nightclub singers and they usually perform a number in the film. The use of jazz makes the films sexy, emphasizing the femme fatale, which of course is a staple of the genre. 

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Rita Hayworth's use of the glove is perfect. You can't help but wonder -- as Johnny must be -- how far is she going to take this, to prove her point? How far is she willing to go, to live down to Johnny's impression of her? I can't help but think of Gypsy Rose Lee, but she makes the moment her own with her hair and that smile. The scene -- while sexy -- still feels sad and dangerous, and on a dime, explodes in violence. This is one of my favorites.

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Perhaps oddly, it seems, I've never seen Gilda and so I cannot pre-judge the scene in question. To me it's obvious she's behaving in an extremely provocative manner towards Glen Ford's character - all the while provoking very different emotional responses from the onlookers at the club - perhaps also revealing things about her past that he didn't want revealed.

 

I also got the idea that she may have been drunk, and I'm sure we've all done things we later regret when under the influence! But perhaps it was all part of an act? Guess I'll have to watch the film and find out. Certainly I won't mind seeing Rita doing that scene again! Loved the high contrast between her skin and dress: I wondered too if it was pushing the Code boundaries with the amount of flesh she had on show, and the eroticism of the number?

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Ooo la la

I'm a big fan when women sing torch songs. There's plenty more examples of torch song ballads in noir-land.

A little burlesque-y for me, ambience, costume, hair-very well put together and I see how the scene advances the plot with out screaming: hey we're trying to peddle a new song here. Those two look absolutely terrific together

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Ooo la la

I'm a big fan when women sing torch songs. There's plenty more examples of torch song ballads in noir-land.

A little burlesque-y for me, ambience, costume, hair-very well put together and I see how the scene advances the plot with out screaming: hey we're trying to peddle a new song here. Those two look absolutely terrific together

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I never watched Gilda (it's on my list of movies to watch, though).

It's significative the scene begins and ends with Johnny Farrell, since Gilda is dancing to get his attention.

 

At the beginning of Rita Hayworth's performance, the camera is in the middle of the audience, which means we're among Gilda's audience, we're almost in the situation of voyeurs. The camera follows Gilda as she dances, just like the spectators keep their eyes on her.

Apart the provocative dance and the glances to the audience, what I found very daring in this scene is what happens after the music stops. The audience is conditioned to expect things to get back to normal when the song ends, but it's the moment Gilda chooses to start her strip tease. During that part of the sequence, one can tell she's trying to embarrass Johnny Farrell; when men start 'helping' her remove her dress, she's not looking at them, she's looking at Johnny and she deliberately puts him in the position of a helpless observer.

 

Music is often important in film noir: it sets the mood, it precipitates things (in Shadow of a Doubt, it forces one of the main characters to face the consequences of his crime). In The Big Combo, brass are part of the atmosphere but they also play a significant part in the torture scene.

Here, a cheerful song is used to build up tension between the two main characters and it helps revealing what they're ready to do to hurt each other.

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I've always been told that this is most famous striptease in the movie history and I agree. I was mesmerized by it since the first time I watched it and I believe the censors at that time felt the same and so they let it go. I can imagine them saying to their angry wives, "But hon, she was only dancing and singing". But we know otherwise. She was willing to do more than dancing and singing. 

 

I don't believe she is in control. She seems drunk and falls to pieces after discussing with Ford. She lets her raw sexuality let loose, causing havoc among men. And Ford, poor guy, is barely able to control himself. 

 

In fact, both are under control of one our most basic instinct and something so common in noir: desire. That force pulsating under a nice dress or well cut-tuxedo. You can think you can dominate it, but you can't. And when it explodes on your face, then it is just downhill. At least on a noir movie. 

 

 

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Analysis:

Gilda was not necessarily a femme fatale in this film; she was more a woman scorned. I've always seen Johnny Farrell more as the male fatale who projected this onto Gilda. Hence the song choice, Put the Blame on Mame. While he is the one essentially making trouble in their relationship by his callous emotional abuse, she is the one punished for his misdeeds. So she willfully accepts this role, but in doing so, she will bring Johnny down with her. The performance is more about her embarrassing Johnny publicly. And on a deeper level, she is highlighting the fact that she is the fall guy for Johnny's problems. Later, when he slaps her, it's not necessarily because of her performance, it's because she made a mockery of him; a mockery that HE is responsible for.

 

 

 

Spot on. Man, Johnny did not deserve Gilda in this movie. The saddest thing for me was seeing just how stuck on him she was. Part of me wished it hadn't all been an act, that she was really just that liberated and free and full of life. But to find out most of it was in service of getting that little weasel to pay attention to her was a bit disappointing.

 

But I really like your idea that Johnny is the Male Fatale, as he's the guy who insinuates himself into the story and ends up bringing about most of the tragedy.

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Man, did this woman's style strike a chord. I think I've seen Marilyn Monroe and Madonna in similar scenes, but in color :)..... I've not seen this film yet, but what I get from this scene is Gilda's need to express pent up emotions in an obviously dysfunctional relationship she's putting out there something he definitely doesn't want advertised. Jazz to me has a rough, in your face kind of feel to it. It's smoky clubs and whiskey. A bit of a rough edge with a little desperation to it. It's not usually a bright and happy tone. It's muted, black, white, gray. Not shiny color. It's not snooty, it's down and dirty and that's why I feel jazz adds to the tone of film noir. ;D

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