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


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The musical scene shows how we are fascinated with disaster and death, seeing artistry and something worth remembering in violence and destruction. The entire song is a smooth, upbeat rendition of the violence, death, and destruction of the San Francisco earthquake. This rendition, in turn, symbolize one of the essential elements of film noir; the audience's fascination with the dark world of noir, the style and artistry in which film noir spins tales of doomed souls and violent acts.

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I've never seen this movie but this scene seemed to summarize the plot. We have a sweet girl named Gilda who is putting on a show for the crowd. The movie starts with a man seeming to be startled that there is music starting. It's clear he is not expecting this girl to perform but she does. There are closeups only on Gilda throughout the performance and she is smiling and seems to be having the time of her life, thoroughly enjoying herself. Every move she makes seems to suggest sex, even something as simple as taking off her glove. She's clearly acting for the crowd, even when the song is over and she throws her glove at a patron, then her necklace. And then asks them to take off her dress. This is extremely risque in the 40s. The men are loving it but this is the 40s depiction of a modern day stripper show. 

There are some hints of deeper meaning throughout the performance. The song is about a girl who leads to destruction wherever she goes, from an earthquake to a man being shot. And given what happens after the song, where she confronts her husband it seems that she is telling him that she can cause trouble for him if she wants and this performance was just the beginning. She humiliated this man with her behavior and she did it for a reason. The scene ends with the same character it starts with, her husband, so clearly this performance was directed towards him. 

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Wow what a scene. I think that Rita's acting stoned (on whatever) does take away from the scene a bit. At times she is almost falling over, and then others seems to be under control. I understand that she is supposed to be stoned, but at times I think she over does it. 

 

Gilda is performing this number in order to get under Johnny's skin and she does it very well. I try to look at other aspects of the scene, such as lighting, shadows, the way it is framed, but I always come back to Gilda. I can't help thinking I am missing something though.

 

Why does she want to get back at Johnny? what has he done? Or is the answer that she just wants him to notice her. Is there something to the assertion made by other students that the film is really a love story between Johnny and his friend? Is this why she is trying to get his attention.

 

It does remind me though of Marilyn singing happy birthday to John F. Kennedy. Which performance had more sex appeal. I do understand that Marilyn was doing it for real while Rita was just doing character in a movie.

 

For that time period it is amazing that they got away with it.

I've never seen GILDA (actually, nothing with Rita Hayworth--I'll be remedying that this summer), so thank you for pointing out that she was stoned/drunk/whatever. I thought she appeared stiff/clumsy but didn't know if she was supposed to come across that way or if Hayworth just wasn't much of dancer. It also reinforces my initial impression that this was a "show within a show"--one show for the audience and another show for Johnny. Thanks again for the clarification!

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Hope we are still allowed to reply to this particular topic:  I watched Gilda again yesterday. Have seen the film several times, always loved it, but the more I see it the more I find to appreciate. I realize Gilda's "Put the Blame on Mame" scene is important because it underscores Gilda's state of mind and conflicted situation. But I really noted the opening scene in the film, with Johnny/Glenn Ford's voice over as the dice roll to the front of the screen. It's a great introduction to the characters and story, since Johnny, Gilda, and Ballin are all gamblers in their own way, each having left their home country, each on their own, trying to "make their own luck" with no allegiance and no support system. Johnnie's "outsider" status, his risk taking, and his somewhat cynical outlook would qualify him as a noir protagonist. Gilda/Hayworth was certainly beautiful, and her song and dance numbers give her a chance to play her "trump card" to either torture Johnny or find new "protectors". (Maybe it also helped market the film, since Hayworth was a very popular sex symbol at the time.) Interesting that so many people think she was drunk, meaning out of control, since her sex appeal was the source of this character's control, to the extent she actually had any, over her Ballin and Johnny. Gilda/Hayworth doesn't strike me as a typical noir heroine, for reasons illustrated by the dance scene. Typically, noir heroines are less obvious, more reserved or secretive and maybe more successful at manipulation. For example, the Mary Astor character in the Maltese Falcon, Vivian Rutlege/Bacall in The Big Sleep, or Kitty Collins/Gardner in The Killers,  All were more typical noir female leads, in my opinion.

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Hope we are still allowed to reply to this particular topic:  I watched Gilda again yesterday. Have seen the film several times, always loved it, but the more I see it the more I find to appreciate. I realize Gilda's "Put the Blame on Mame" scene is important because it underscores Gilda's state of mind and conflicted situation. But I really noted the opening scene in the film, with Johnny/Glenn Ford's voice over as the dice roll to the front of the screen. It's a great introduction to the characters and story, since Johnny, Gilda, and Ballin are all gamblers in their own way, each having left their home country, each on their own, trying to "make their own luck" with no allegiance and no support system. Johnnie's "outsider" status, his risk taking, and his somewhat cynical outlook would qualify him as a noir protagonist. Gilda/Hayworth was certainly beautiful, and her song and dance numbers give her a chance to play her "trump card" to either torture Johnny or find new "protectors". (Maybe it also helped market the film, since Hayworth was a very popular sex symbol at the time.) Interesting that so many people think she was drunk, meaning out of control, since her sex appeal was the source of this character's control, to the extent she actually had any, over her Ballin and Johnny. Gilda/Hayworth doesn't strike me as a typical noir heroine, for reasons illustrated by the dance scene. Typically, noir heroines are less obvious, more reserved or secretive and maybe more successful at manipulation. For example, the Mary Astor character in the Maltese Falcon, Vivian Rutlege/Bacall in The Big Sleep, or Kitty Collins/Gardner in The Killers,  All were more typical noir female leads, in my opinion.

 

Gilda had little control over Johnny,  but Johnny had a lot of control over Gilda.   Johnny married Gilda just to punish her for stepping out on Ballin (something she never even did).    It was Johnny,  her husband, that withheld affection and sex from Gilda,  not the other way around.   Johnny used his hired help to ensure Gilda was controlled.  She was being held hostage.

 

Yes,  Glida wasn't a femme fatale.  Not even close.  She was just a young and immature women.    But so many wish to put the blame on Gilda.

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I've never seen GILDA (actually, nothing with Rita Hayworth--I'll be remedying that this summer), so thank you for pointing out that she was stoned/drunk/whatever. I thought she appeared stiff/clumsy but didn't know if she was supposed to come across that way or if Hayworth just wasn't much of dancer. It also reinforces my initial impression that this was a "show within a show"--one show for the audience and another show for Johnny. Thanks again for the clarification!

 

Hayworth was a trained dancer and starred with dancing legends Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in a few films. I didn't realize this until I watched one of the bonus features on the Gilda DVD. It shows just how much of an actress is when she performs poorly; it's always more difficult to do/act/sing/dance poorly if you're actually good at doing/acting/singing/dancing.

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I'll try to react to this musical number from the perspective of someone who has not seen the film. (I have seen it, for the record.)

 

From the lighting/shadowing, the physical setting, and her body language, I suppose that I would infer that she is a femme fatale in every sense of the word - using her sexuality to ensnare a man, perhaps, or teasing men for her own unknown reasons. She seems to be reveling in her physicality and her ability to take the spotlight and looks cunning enough through her facial expressions to use that skill to her advantage. Dissatisfied with society's expectations at the time for women to become wives and eventually mothers, perhaps she is defying that and struggling to break free from the constraints of what she is "supposed to do" with her life.

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


She seems to want attention and affection from Johnny Farrell and can get it by grabbing the spotlight so that he has no choice but to react, though his reaction is all negative.


 


2. What are some of the deeper layers of meaning that are contained in this film noir musical sequence?


The shadowy grayish areas evoke questions such as: Why won't he love her openly? Why does she love someone obviously not good for her?  What is the revenge motive on both their parts? Why is she so vulnerable in wanting his good opinion?


 


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


We are made to pause and reflect on the shadowy significance of moral character, and we must re-evaluate what we've been shown so far. The camera angles suggest we identify with Gilda, as does the music which is bold and blaring -- her dress is bold and her dance is blaring as well. The music is hot and emphasizes her need to warm up her cold husband, dancing provocatively and singing suggestively with that object in mind: an audience of one (him) is her purpose in showcasing herself before an audience of many.

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A hard one to answer as it's been so long since i saw the movie and half remembered stuff about the situation kept creeping in to my reactions. 


 


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


That it's drunk and conveys that in both its recklessness and its small misteps. That she is using the audience as a prop in the second layer of performance that is aimed at Ford's character. That, obviously, it is based on sex, which is again down to the power struggle in the relationship with Ford. 


 


-- What are some of the deeper layers of meaning that are contained in this film noir musical sequence?


Gilda lashing out and using her sexuality to hurt Ford as this is the only avenue open to her. The fact the song is about misplaced blame or taking on of blame due to self sacrifice which again fits the ins and outs of distrust and accusation in her relationship with Ford and the other gangster she has the relationship with (but I can't really remember the shifting 


 


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


I think noir films, like almost all succesful films made excellent use of both soundtrack and diegetic music very well and did so with music from a range of genres, with jazz, lush solo piano classical, latin and supper club cabaret all featuring in multiple key scenes in the movement.  I dont know if there is anything particularly noir about that, I think it's important to most atmospheric sound movies.


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Wow, was it a big deal for a star like Hayworth to do a scene like this?  I'm surprised she didn't pop out of her dress, and the shot where you're looking up at her and can only see her bare upper chest and arms, and she's bouncing up and down and lifting her hair up.  Not to be crude, but I'm sure the guys are thinking "that's how it looks when she's on top"!

 

I'm not sure if seeing Johnny makes her ratchet up the sexiness, or if it's the looks from all the other men, but I think she's very much enjoying being the object of all their attention, and equally enjoying making Johnny mad. 

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I apologize if this has already been mentioned (I've had some trouble keeping up with all the boards!) but I didn't really view Rita Hayworth here as a traditional femme fatale. I haven't seen Gilda yet but her performance doesn't strike me as one from a woman with confidence. She seems desperate and eager for protection... although I'm interested to see if that leads into her becoming a femme fatale later on.

 

Question though - I thought about how this scene compares with Lauren Bacall's song in To Have and Have Not. And while that has many of the same features of a noir, I'm not 100% sure it counts. What do you all think?

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While watching the scene from Gilda the song "Put the blame on Mame", reflects the character of Gilda herself. The emphasis is more so as she is singing the song. Music can add a certain depth to film noir and it can also set the tone of the film.

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I apologize if this has already been mentioned (I've had some trouble keeping up with all the boards!) but I didn't really view Rita Hayworth here as a traditional femme fatale. I haven't seen Gilda yet but her performance doesn't strike me as one from a woman with confidence. She seems desperate and eager for protection... although I'm interested to see if that leads into her becoming a femme fatale later on.

 

Question though - I thought about how this scene compares with Lauren Bacall's song in To Have and Have Not. And while that has many of the same features of a noir, I'm not 100% sure it counts. What do you all think?

 

You're correct that Gilda isn't a femme fatale.  Not even close to being one.   Instead she is just a young, confused, venerable, immature women.     

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I think music has played an essential role in solidifying the feel of film noir.  Speaking personally, I have a difficult time separating noir from its music.  To take a detour, I went searching for a compilation of jazz noir and found a great one in the "Jazz Noir" box set; I highly recommend it.  Whereas a scene like was able to build tension without music, creating a sense of gritty realism, the music of film noir enhances the formalistic elements.  I feel as if the music is a character unto itself.  In modern cinema, it seems as though music is often either a distraction, or a cue to inform the viewer of how they should feel.  Music is a highly manipulative cinematic device.  Noir represents, in my opinion, the best use of music in cinema.  Noir doesn't leave music in the background, creating a subliminal message.  Rather, noir turns the music up, its an essential part of the tension.  The scene from "Gilda" shows the music being not a sidestep, but an integral part of the story, revealing much about the characters.

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I think music has played an essential role in solidifying the feel of film noir.  Speaking personally, I have a difficult time separating noir from its music.  To take a detour, I went searching for a compilation of jazz noir and found a great one in the "Jazz Noir" box set; I highly recommend it.  Whereas a scene like was able to build tension without music, creating a sense of gritty realism, the music of film noir enhances the formalistic elements.  I feel as if the music is a character unto itself.  In modern cinema, it seems as though music is often either a distraction, or a cue to inform the viewer of how they should feel.  Music is a highly manipulative cinematic device.  Noir represents, in my opinion, the best use of music in cinema.  Noir doesn't leave music in the background, creating a subliminal message.  Rather, noir turns the music up, its an essential part of the tension.  The scene from "Gilda" shows the music being not a sidestep, but an integral part of the story, revealing much about the characters.

Here is a link to Crime Jazz: http://boingboing.net/2014/02/07/crime-jazz-noir-ish-music-fro.html

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DDD #9 Gilda

 

Comparison of (1)  “Amado Mio” and (2) "Put the Blame…”:

 

(1) Romantic, not sexy, music. It is pleasant, rhythmic. Liight-colored beautifully designed dress, beautiful rather than glamorous.  The midriff is exposed, but not the breasts; the skirt is split up the calf and thigh, but never used to titillate. Gilda seems to take pleasure in performing, sharing her physical, dancing and vocal gifts with the audience.  She remains in her own sphere keeps the audience at an aesthetic distance, except when she glances at her fiancé. They are free to enjoy, not pressed to participate. In its expositional context, this sequence tells us that Gilda has relocated successfully, has fallen on her feet, perhaps found some balance..

 

(2) As the number opens, we see Gilda blow onto the stage with long strides and immediately strip off her cape and throw it to the ground behind her.  She is bold, determined. One gets the feeling there will be no future after this.  Her eyes are laughing but there is a hint of hard resolve underneath.  Her gown is glamorous, I imagine it to be deep red or scarlet (like Davis’s in “Jezebel”).  It half-exposes her breasts, and the skirt is split up the middle, which to the libidinous unconscious might indicate easy accessibility.  The music is hot, suggestive of burlesque, with a heavily accented bass beat and a syncopated, sexy rhythm. The words are about the capabilities of women's sexual power. Her dance is teasing, suggestive, her objective clear. The number seeks to stimulate excitement rather than to simply entertain. Men are approached tauntingly, a woman high-hatted, scorned.  We know from the first moment we see her that she is here to take revenge on Johnny.  After the number proper is over, she extends the strip-tease. heating up the room until it feels dangerous, too full of testosterone.  Two men, apparently in rut, are seriously fighting over who gets to unzip her.  She is stopped on Johnny’s order and roughly pushed off the stage, albeit still in a follow-spot.  By this time we are disturbed, perhaps repulsed - sympathetic? 

 

Every technical tool is brought into play to achieve this contrast. 

  -Amado:  Wide shots, a couple MCU’s.  No “film noir” camera angles.

   Lighting gentle, textured, soft planes, edges. Low contrast, soft focus.

  -Mame:  Higher contrast; hard dark surfaces, faceted rather than softly

   arranged fabric. Many more CU’s, MCU’s.  The spotlight strips her bare.

   She becomes, blowsy, seems to lose control under the glare.

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Rita Hayworth does a good lip-synch to "Amado Mia", sung by Anita Ellis; but the enclosed clip has a far superior musical score and vocals. There are also many of the more interesting NOir effects included in the short 5 minute video:

 

 

Interesting how everything changes with only editing and sound.  Of course you're aware that Vidor had other objectives in mind when he made the choices he did.  

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I think that I could not expound on the subject any better than the thousands of posts that have been made by incredibly thoughtful people. 

 

My only thought: Her hair. Sexual and used to draw you in. Like a stripper's feather boa. Flipped, tossed and pulled.

 

If watched only for the musical number, I don't think the layers are as obvious. The scene plays as a drunken, lustful performance. However, knowing what has happened before, the scene becomes a conflict over power and control. Gilda is devilish, but smart, using what she has, her sexuality, to fight back. It's the only thing that any of the men will listen to.

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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!

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I have not seen the film, I have only watched this scene from Gilda. She seems right on the edge of being out of control, and watching the reactions of the audience, they too are right on the edge of losing control during her performance. She is using them to respond to her man, Johnny. She is at the center of attention, but in a gleeful and negative way. She uses the audience response to attack Johnny. The musical number is her means to express herself and advances the plot, it is not for entertainment.

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9. GILDA Teaser.
Gilda, the canary in a gilded cage, sings of other femmes fatales and knows (as we do) that her dress must remain zipped due to the Hayes Code.

 

 

Yes,  Gilda is a teaser especially in that scene since she isn't close to being an actual femme fatale.   But since she is going to be accused of being one regardless,  since might as well act the part.    

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

I was distracted by how well that dress was tailored. The other thing I noticed was how nuanced the performance actually was.

Gilda wasn't just performing a song, she was lashing out at the men who had tried to control her. She is furious, but she keeps it reigned in just enough to pass it off as sexual agression.

 

-- What are some of the deeper layers of meaning that are contained in this film noir musical sequence?

Gilda is tired of being controlled by her husband and Johnny, and her performance expresses this. She gets lots of mileage out of taking off one glove.

 

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

I think that jazz was a big contributor to noir. Jazz had a reputation for being played in dark, dangerous, clubs by hopheads and addicts. Jazz wasn't respectable music, and was an easy shorthand that directors could use to tell us that the film would be gritty.

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Even today, the scene is sexually intoxicating with Rita's black strapless dress closely fitted over her long slender body and accentuating every swivel of her hips.  Her dance is an introduction to an elaborate strip tease to play to the image of the classic film noir "bad girl" and force Johnny Farrell to want her and to love her.  Their relationship is antagonistic and violent, in keeping with the "noir" theme.  Johnny may not understand his feelings for her but there is no doubt that the camera loves her as it captures every graceful movement and moves in for close ups of her beautiful face and long, thick hair.

 

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