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Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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What struck me in the opening of this scene was the voyeristic viewpoint of Glenn Ford as he peers through the blinds at Rita. We are no longer just part of the audience, but are taken into his point of view and immediately drawn directly into the scene.

 

Women in those days were not apt to raise their arms overhead as Rita does continually through the song. A "proper" woman kept her arms at her side. That part of body language has gone by the wayside today, but I can imagine how racy it must have appeared in the 1940's.

 

Rita uses the removed glove as a prop, especially when she holds it overhead with both hands. It's symbolic of an overall feeling of bondage in her life. She also does an amazing job at using her hair as a sexually suggestive prop. I wonder if today's music videos and hair commercials which use women's hair in the same manner have copied her style.

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I'll be honest, I had to watch this many times before I could even think about the questions for the daily dose. HOLY COW!  I've fallen in love with Rita all over again.

 

The first things I noticed about her dance, aside from Rita, was the stuttersteps she pulls.at about 41 seconds into the performance and after. I think these are there to indicate she isn't completely sober. The dance is so provocative and the strip tease just enhances the sexuality of it all.

 

Deeper layers of meaning?! it's hard to look beyond Rita's movements, but this definitely captures the social mores that were represented by film noir. i'm not much of a moralist, but I understand that film noir did try to capture a sense of decline on social virtue. Not only is Rita flaunting her sexuality in her dance, when she's done, she's offering an opportunity for strangers to help her off with her zippers.

 

As for the significance of music, perhaps I'm overthinking this, but i do know jazz had a huge impact on film noir. Being a fan of jazz, I'm thinking back to the time period and I know many jazz musicians of the time were taking jazz standards and interpreting them with a much darker spin. I now wonder if this was coincidence that so many artistic endeavors, including film noir, were representing a different kind of morality and a dying of old ideals.

 

 

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This Daily Dose of Darkness is very different from anything we have seen till now, in two different ways. First of all, it's a musical number, and a very convincing proof to what was said in the lecture about the connection between music, especially jazz, and film noir.

 

Furthermore, its fame goes far beyond film noir and its influence; it's one of the most famous and timeless scenes in film history altogether. Almost every movie fan has heard about the famous Rita Hayworth striptease (even if she removes nothing but a glove) and its impact on modern culture is immense.

 

Although music in films is usually cheerful, something contradicting to film noir style, its appearence and influence in these films is obvious. Jazz music dominates in noirs, often playing in diners and nightclubs and accompanying some of the most intense scenes in these films, particularly fighting ones. Besides, in many films noir we are introduced to the femme fatale in such a place, with music playing in the background, adding realism and a sense of passion.

 

In this particural world famous number, we must not forget that Gilda, despite being a pure film noir with immoral characters full of passion, jealousy and greed, is somewhat more glamorous than most noirs; Rita Hayworth's sexually overwhelming persona surely contributing to it. In this scene, Hayworth's character seems frustrated and fragile, we can see these emotions in her face during close-ups. Despite her sexuality and passion, she's ready to collapse to the ground. She's tormented and desperate, and her furious conversation with Johnny (Ford) after her "striptease" is interrupted in his orders, proves it.

 

I have to admit I have seen this musical number many times but I had failed to notice the music's influence to the film's style or that it could even be considered a plot device. That makes me particularly happy, as I watch myself watching these films from a different aspect and with fresh eyes. I'm planning to see the film again in the near future, and notice many more details I haven't until now.

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I have seen this movie quite a few times and never tire watching it. Rita Hayworth is spectacular in the role. The musical number is by far the best part of the movie. It shows just how terribly unhappy she is. But she really loves Johnny.

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Through my 21st century jaded eyes, this seemed pretty tame.

I'm trying to imagine what it would have been like to see Rita Hayworth do this on the big screen in 1946.

It must have been quite risqué at the time, even though she does more teasing than ****.

Glen Ford's slap, on the other hand, would be intolerable by today's standards. In 1946, I suspect the audience deemed it appropriate.

I agree. In fact I never liked the character Johnny so I haven't seen the movie again since my first time.

But it would be a good idea to try and watch again as seen thru 1940s eyes and the knowledge gained from this class

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From the clip it seems that Gilda is using her performance to tell Johnny "You think I am a vamp and responsible for everything that has gone wrong." This is evident in her pseudo strip tease performance and the song itself "Put the Blame on Mame" (Is Gilda saying "You see me as Mame"?)

From what little I know of jazz it seems like it's the perfect vehicle for film noir because both are gritty and earthy. Both seem to seek the true underside of superficial appearances

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I haven't seen the film yet, but this is very provocative indeed. The scene doesn't really strike me as "Film Noir" per se, however, there is a strong sense of desperation, misery and self-destructive behaviour. And of course, there is also "femme fatale" ingredient.

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I saw this movie for the first time a few weeks ago, and even now, struck by how utterly gorgeous Rita Hayworth was, and how terrible it was for her ex-husbands who fell in love with Gilda and woke up with her.  The music for this number was perfect because it was a "bump and grind" for her act, which is in a burlesque style, and she was having fun with her audience.  Unfortunately, Johhny had to slap her down for her to remember who she belonged to, and that she was showing off the goods to every man in the audience.

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I just watched this yesterday! As a side note, can I say that Johnny doesn't deserve Gilda? He's such an idiot this entire movie.

 

Actually, this scene is a microcosm of that; we always see Gilda through Johnny's eyes. That seems to me a disservice to the film's most dynamic character, in a way. I kinda hate that she's so hung up on Johnny that she keeps debasing herself in his eyes to get to him. Since we always see Gilda through Johnny's eyes, here and in the rest of the film, we only rarely get to see the real Gilda, so to speak. We see her as atrociously unfaithful to her husband, shockingly(for the time) promiscuous, and backstabbing. Those aren't her characteristics at all, really, but it's how Johnny sees her and so for quite awhile that's how the audience sees her.

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The first time I saw this number I could hardly breathe. Rita Hayworth is so electrifying and stunning. Leading ladies in this era had a still, polished beauty. Their hair, makeup, wardrobe, and movements were perfect. Hayworth moves her hair and body with an abandon that mimics the recklessness of her actions in life.

 

There is almost a growing desperation in her seduction of the audience. This sense of spinning out of control is a key element in the noir character's journey, and is demonstrated so viscerally in this short and iconic sequence.

 

That's a pretty good read, but from what we find out at the end of the film. Johnny's the one spinning out of control, and Gilda was fine all along.

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The first thing that I really notice is how RH voice drew JF's attention. Then how he rudely pushed a woman out of the way to see her. 

 

It's actually a guy he shoves. Balding, in a white suit jacket.

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Now I know where the Jessica Rabbit character (in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) came from ... for sure! (hubba hubba)

And just like Jessica Rabbit, Gilda could say : "I'm not bad I'm just drawn that way." :)

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As a musicologist, and jazz pianist who has several "noir inspired" albums on the market: I can say I'm glad the topic today is about the importance of music in film noir.   All forms of jazz from cool to bop, and more "pop" burlesque type tunes like "Put the Blame on Mame" by Allan Roberts and Doris Fisher set a new tone.  Rita Hayworth's performance one of the most memorable in noir.  I'm surprised nobody noted that Rita is not the singer....her voice was dubbed over by Anita Kert Ellis, a Canadian (Montreal) born singer.

 

Though Rita's performance would be considered "tame" by 21st century standards.  The performance was indeed quite provocative for it's day. 

 

Miss Davis442 had some great observations: 

 

Has anyone ever watched Cab Callaway sing “Minnie the Moocher”? He struts and he hunches over in his zoot suit, his knees are bent his shoulders are slouched. This is what Rita Hayworth was doing during the first part of the song. She does all of the Cab Calloway stuff AND a bit of hip protruding and arms spread open, insinuating sex. The most obvious sexual allusion is when she pulls her hair up and holds it in place with her arms. Now, any dancer who is on a stage in front of an audience would never pull such a move as that because it would look really odd to the audience in the club. It would not translate very well live. But, that move was not for the audience in the club, that move was for the close up shot that the camera was capturing. That was to make it look as though she might be in bed having sex. And that pose and her movements during that pose, in a close up frame, did resemble that. I imagine the people seeing this on a big screen for the first time in the movie theater must have been put in to a real dither after that performance. 

 

The theme of the song "Put the Blame on Mame" is the anthem of the femme fatale.. the idea that a woman can be the "downfall" of a man.  That there is indeed a sexual role reversal at times in film noir.  The woman has the power to manipulate, use a man etc.  We often see the woman's sexuality as a dramatic contrast to the harsh stark world of noir.  Rita's satin gown, opera gloves, gyration and hands over the head (nice ladies did not do that in that era).. contrast as sensualism to the story and scene. Satin gowns are seen on many femme fatales almost as a coded costume..  Think of Ava Garner's burgundy satin gown in the Killers (by the way also worn by Julie London in the "Fat Man")  The whole iconic look of Jessica Rabbit in her slinky red gown and gloves owes a lot to Rita.  We also owe a lot to Jean Louis who designed Rita's iconic gown in Gilda. 

 

Rita thus becomes the iconic most memorable femme fatale of noir..  Her look and hair style would be copied by so many other actresses.  I think of Veronica Lake with her down hairdoo over the eyes.  

 

Back to the subject of music: Music be it a romantic sweeping soundtrack like "Laura", burlesque songs like "Put the Blame on Mame",   bluesy,  be bop frenzied, or La Cool jazz soundtracks or suspenseful soundtracks by such greats as Bernard Hermann, Mikos Rosza, Walter Schumann and others .... set the mood. They are just as important as the actual cinematography..   One can not watch the shower scene from "Psycho" without Bernard Hermann's screeching violins.  

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The decade of the 1920s is called the "Jazz" age, and this is not intended to be a compliment about the music, but it refers to the decadence of the time. Jazz, alcohol, and sex were the three pillars of sin, just as rock, drugs, and sex were in the 60s.

 

In the 1930s, jazz generally became more sophisticated and even played in Carnegie Hall. Hence jazz in film noir can call on either connotation. Gilda's song clearly ties in with the former, but I agree with an earlier commentator that this is not jazz, just jazz inspired. I haven't seen the reference yet in other comments to the showing of this scene in Shawhank Redemption. It highlights the impact of Gilda at the time.

 

Despite the theme of this lesson, I have heard little real jazz in film noir. It is mostly present as source music, and much of that is the sophisticated type. The edgy trumpet and sax melodies don't appear until the early 1950s. For a fun quasi-noir with jazz, watch Blues in the Night from 1941.  

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Its a great scene, and Rita Hayworth pulls it off easily. Clearly, as has been mentioned, its her attempt to get through to Johnny. I'm reminded of the scene in Phantom Lady, where Elisha Cook, Jr. Tries to get to Ella Raines through a drum solo. In film noir, singing not cooking is the way to a man's heart. There's a lot of music in film noir, Elizabeth Scott was always good for a song or two in most of her noirs, like Dead Reckoning and Dark City. Noir films were good for women actors, they had more to than in mainstream films, singing, romancing, scheming, shooting.

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I think it is interesting that this scene is remembered as a classic "stripper" scene, even though Rita Hayworth removes only her gloves and a necklace. It shows how powerful "suggestion" can be. Ironically, the persona played by Rita in this scene was in sharp contrast to her real-life personality, leading her to sadly remark later that "Men fall in love with Gilda, but they wake up with me."

 

Some of the posts in this thread indicate displeasure with the slap that Glenn Ford gives Rita. Later in the movie, Rita slaps Glenn Ford, but according to Hollywood legend, she did not pull her punches and actually broke two of Glenn's teeth, causing a delay in filming while Glenn had dental work to repair the damage!   

 

As for the daily dose prompts:  

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

Sorry, but as a typically shallow male viewer, I was just noticing how sexy she was. No deep insights here.

 

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

As Gilda explains when Johnny pulls her aside after her performance, she was trying to debase herself in front of the audience in order to make Johnny look bad, but also, the lyrics of the song about blaming Mame suggest that the nature of woman is that of a femme fatale who is capable of killing a poor innocent man simply by doing a provocative dance, ha ha. Oh, we men are such victims! Right.

 

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

I am no music expert, but as I try to envision Gilda singing and dancing to "The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music," I can see that this scene would have been much less effective.  Offhand, I might have said that film noir music should be dark and menacing, as it was in Fritz Lang's "M," but this clip proves that it can be jazzy and energetic too.

 

- Tom Shawcross 

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Let me say Rita Hayworth was pretty hot back in the day. That was the first thing I noticed, flinging her hair around got me interested very quickly. The musical number brought out the scamp in her, did you see the guys drooling over who's going to unzip her dress? The men with who had dates didn't give much of a fight to stop them either. 


Lust, jealousy were predominant in the scene. I haven't seen the movie but Glenn Ford looked pretty riled up as Hayworth provocativeness seemed to do him in.


How the music influenced the scene for me was obvious. It was basically a strip tease melody, inciting the whole audience while Ford could only watch, seething to get that slap in the end.


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Gilda’s Thunderbolt:  Put the Blame on the Sexual Politics of Power and Pain

 

Yowsa! This is a film sequence that grabs you and won’t let go. Rita/Gilda is on a mission and she delivers in monumental fashion, throwing down for every woman tormented by bad love. In sleek black satin and all that glorious hair, Gilda is Primal Female in full command of her power—her

“Oh, yeah?” moment in which she serves up a heaping dish of pain for the man who’s  been dishing it out for years.

 

Stylistically, the scene is gorgeous in every respect:  a dream blend of actors, music, costume, lighting—the whole ball of wax—but its undertone is anything but. This is not Marilyn/Loralei, the charmingly transparent gold digger in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” but a wounded, defiant  woman caught in a train wreck of mutually hurtful actions and reactions.

 

Strains of ****  are plentiful in films noir, but this relationship is one of the most puzzling and frustrating.  Both protagonists inspire sympathy, but they are blindly locked in a fierce vendetta. In Gilda’s show-stopper, she literally and figuratively takes off the gloves—an act she knows she will pay dearly for, but self-destruction has her in its grip. With an impromptu strip tease as she leaves the stage, she is also stripped bare emotionally and near collapse.  It’s an apt metaphor for the damage such “love” does.

 

Sadly, Rita’s life-- like Marilyn’s—was short and filled with tragedy.  But in this film, she leaves undeniable proof of cinema’s legitimacy as high art. Gorgeous Gilda/Rita is timeless, fascinating, and completely inimitable.        

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I see a sexually provocative show but reckless abandon in Rita Hayworth's actions for sure. Without knowing the movie I'd say she is playing the audience with her sexuality but also sacrificing her body. There seems to be a contradiction if in fact she is coming apart emotionally/psychologically but showing such control in the singing and dance number. Jazz also seems to be the counter choice (like a contradiction) for such cool controlled actions if in fact it is to lure both the audience and Glen Ford's character. I'd say there seems quite a bit of false seduction and contradiction to the scene which could point to her as a femme fatale. Hope I'm warm in that assessment because that scene definitely heats things up. Gilda is a prominent reference in Shawshank Redemption (personal fave) who owns the prison viewership during the cinema scene. Look forward to seeing Gilda for the first time.

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WOW!! Having never seen 'Gilda' I am very intrigued by this movie. I like one of my fellow 'students' was taken in from the start with Rita Hayworth. The music & woman both draw you into this movie and it proves that visualization is a KEY in noir! Something or someone gets your attention in a film and your locked in...lots of noir films are made to draw you in, with a sound, a look, a scene set up just screams NOIR! Can't wait to see Gilda

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Hayworth is a beautiful woman, and there is certainly a salacious element to the scene. However, she's such a glamorous figure that I had trouble seeing the final moments where she nearly allows men to disrobe her as degrading, to the point where her love interest would be so outraged. It just struck me as part of an act that would never actually go that far.

 

I suppose that just speaks to the disconnect between times. These days the scene would be much more explicit.

 

Anyway, it's still a gorgeous scene, and the song works very well thematically without beating you over the head too much.

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Such a sad, complicated and lurid film, climaxing in Rita's seductive performance. This scene never gets old no matter how many times I've seen it. Aside from the amazing talents of Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford, I'm captivated by Anita Ellis's voice. For years I thought Rita Hayworth was singing since Ellis so brilliantly captured the nuances in her voice. A shout out to the behind the scenes contributors, like Ellis, who made this film so iconic.

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That's a pretty good read, but from what we find out at the end of the film. Johnny's the one spinning out of control, and Gilda was fine all along.

I agree that there is a element of desperation to Hayworth's dance and it's difficult to pinpoint just one reason for this sense.  Being a beautiful, exploited woman couldn't have been easy--especially how you see how Johnny slaps her after this scene.  Clearly, there's an influence of alcohol too.  I also wonder how good a dancer Hayworth was.  Dancing may not have been the primary element needed for this number, but at times she seems awkward--and I don't know if that's acting or a lack of talent.  I also understand she had recently given birth, so I wonder if there was a small window of time for rehearsal.  Dancing talent or not--this is a riveting number and Hayworth is definitely the poster girl for hair flipping.  

As far as the music is concerned, the huskiness of her voice dominates, so although the music is important, this number is all about Rita.

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I agree that there is a element of desperation to Hayworth's dance and it's difficult to pinpoint just one reason for this sense.  Being a beautiful, exploited woman couldn't have been easy--especially how you see how Johnny slaps her after this scene.  Clearly, there's an influence of alcohol too.  I also wonder how good a dancer Hayworth was.  Dancing may not have been the primary element needed for this number, but at times she seems awkward--and I don't know if that's acting or a lack of talent.  I also understand she had recently given birth, so I wonder if there was a small window of time for rehearsal.  Dancing talent or not--this is a riveting number and Hayworth is definitely the poster girl for hair flipping.  

As far as the music is concerned, the huskiness of her voice dominates, so although the music is important, this number is all about Rita.

 

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. 

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What a great scene. I see a lot of the inherent tension between the image of Gilda and her own sense of control. She might be drunk, sure, but she's totally in control of what happens here. Her dancing isn't on point but she knows what she's doing. And when there's the mad-dash from the audience to disrobe her, she's the one in control and she's the one inviting them to take care of the zippers. The fact that very few folks in the audience seem to stop (or discourage) the action (even dates of some of the men) show that Gilda is flexing her sense of power and purpose. When Johnny slaps her, he's fighting over control. He's losing and she's winning in this competition between the two. And this just shows what's great about film noir. The story is about people moving through situations rather than just trying to solve a problem. I haven't seen Gilda in awhile but I need to re-watch it now. 

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