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


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Rita in her song and dance sequence is trying to show everyone that she can be a little risque. She wants to make Johnny mad and she does it. 

 

The deeper layers of film noir in this short sequence are first shown at the beginning when Johnny opens and looks through the blinds and the music starts. Those blinds are pure noir. Rita's dress is black and then we have the spot light on Rita and with the dark shadows of the audience. 

 

The music sets the tone, even with not watching, one can "see" what is going on with the dance scene.

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The scene is staged to completely draw us into Gilda's mesmerizing performance as if we are sitting in the audience. It starts from Johnny's birds-eye viewpoint peeking through the blinds in Munson's office. But as soon as Gilda appears, we forget Johnny. We see her moves in medium shots while the close-ups hint at the complex emotions behind the beauty of her face and keep us attached to the character while she works the audience and herself into a near-frenzy. The reckless abandon with which she flings her body about as she leaves the stage is remarkable. Whether or not alcohol was involved, I still believe it was a controlled frenzy - Gilda knew what she was doing.

 

I can't add more to what's already been posted about the effect of her performance and what it meant in the Gilda-Johnny War. The movie is a heady, potent mix that hasn't weakened over time.

 

As for the lyrics, "Mame" is a sly, funny story about the irresistable woman who goes through life leaving a wake of exaggerated destruction as men fall for her. Is it her fault? Of course not. The majority of writers for stage and screen were men and they created such characters perpetually, like Lola in THE BLUE ANGEL and Lulu in PANDORA'S BOX.

 

I agree, jazz in all its variations and often with a touch of blues, is THE music of noir. But there are classical / symphonic centered pictures too, for instance HUMORESQUE with John Garfield as a conflicted violinist and Joan Crawford as his wealthy mentor, and the London-set HANGOVER SQUARE with Laird Cregar as an amnesia-plagued composer. The dramatic climax is set to his masterpiece. Both films lean toward the melodramatic side of noir and I enjoy them!

 

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It seems that music coincides closely with the noir atmosphere.  Since we are in a debate about whether noir is a genre, style, technique, or combination of all three, this clip from "Gilda" seems appropriate to show that it can be a mix of all three.

 

When taking music into consideration, noir definitely contains a particular musical style as evidenced from Hayworth's performance here.  Slightly dark with an intriguing beat, but foreboding tone, the music in this sequence takes noir to a new level by generating a rift that tries to be upbeat, but turns out as dark as the hard-boiled nature of the story.  Once Hayworth is seized by Ford and hit for her ridiculous behavior, the conflicting nature of the musical number becomes evidently dark like the film itself.

 

One thing that "Gilda" does differently with its music in comparison to the earlier films noir of the 40's is this: instead of using a consistent score that highlights the shifting plot throughout, it has a score that changes consistently by using the musical number to heighten the plot and the darkness of the film.  

 

If anything, "Gilda" advanced the abilities of film noir musicians and composers to broaden their horizons and strengthen their musical technique with the noir atmosphere.

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it's funny  you say that. it reminds me of ida lupino's singing in road house. her voice isnt perfect, yet she draws people to her because of the emotion behind it.

Showstopper, indeed!

 

My husband always said that Rita Hayworth was sexier in “Gilda” with all her clothes on than any other actress in the movies stark naked.  I am afraid every time I see this clip that Rita is going to pop out of that lovely black satin dress.

 

The vocal by Anita Ellis is delicious, but I often wonder what Rita herself would have sounded like.  The difference in voices is definitely noticeable.   I do wish sometimes that producers/directors would have the courage to allow for more realism in scenes such as this.  Who is this woman?  Why wouldn't she have a less than "perfect" singing voice? 

 

I mentioned last week how much I enjoyed the music (especially the very evocative Chopin) in “Detour.”  I’ll be watching Friday at 9:30 a.m. to see how it goes with “Gilda.”

 

;)

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Can we all put the blame on Mame? Inserted in this wonderful scene, there is a deeper layer in wich both characters actually act their feelings for each other. If Gilda did something unforgivable to Johnny in the past, she is determined to find out if he's still in love with her. Underneath those ashes something remains the same, and he reacts accordingly. Maybe she sang that same song in their past, and now she repeats it erroneously...

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What a beautiful scene! First of all the dancing is so sensual that it really lends itself to noir. It has an edge to it that regular musicals and dancing doesn't usually have. Secondly, her hair and the dress go so well with the sexy attitude and the point she is trying to make of rebellion and revelation.  I have not seen this movie yet but I venture to say there is alot going on before this number. The close ups of her are out of this world and it appears as though she is somewhat out of control and desperate especially toward the end.

It is really nice to see a musical number that takes the place of the type of dialogue in a noir movie. Ms. Hayworth says it all with her body and a song.

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One of the things I see in this scene is something I see in many films noir. There is a deliberate attempt made to imply things that would violate the Code rules that governed films at the time. There is the implication that, if allowed, Rita would take her clothes off and do whatever else she could to arouse the audience and make a statement to her husband and that they would show it if they could. There is also the dialog where a certain word is never said but anyone in the audience at the time over 13 or so could easily supply that missing word '****' which couldn't be uttered on-screen at the time.

 

Haworth does a beautiful job of making these implications known to the viewer. She (or her director) knew exactly how far she could go in showing the kind of woman her character was.

 

By the way, I agree that the 'jazz' in this scene isn't very good jazz. As several have observed it is more like the kind of music one would hear in a sleazy strip club or burlesque house but with bigger resources on hand. Much of the jazz in films noir is not really representative of jazz but of the film composer's idea of jazz. Since most of these composers were classically trained, they usually missed the real essence of jazz. It is a rare movie soundtrack of the classic noir era that really uses jazz.

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I thought Gilda's song-and-dance had an interesting combination of innocence and sexuality to it. She was so clearly enjoying making Johnny mad that it almost comes across as playful. However, the strip tease is anything but innocent.

 

Everything about the scene suggests noir, from the opening Venetian blinds shot to the tension of the ending.

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The three questions about Gilda:

 

What did you notice when watching Rita Hayworth?

      Her "little black dress" was exceptionally sophisticated.  It told the audience that she was a woman  of the world, with something to hide (the gloves, the slit in the dress way up the front, the low bodice), and something to convey, both to her audience in general and to Johnny.  Three things were happening as she sang.  First, she used her body in a distinctive way to gain intimacy with the audience in a slightly different way at each of the nightclub's tables.  The second was that she continually crossed her arms in front of her body as she sang, seeming to indicate her conflicted character.  Thirdly, she advanced toward the audience, and their sexual adulation gave her joy, but when the camera shows Johnny, her husband, entering the room to watch, she pointedly retreats into a spotlight at the rear of the stage.  The intimacy that she freely gives the audience is denied her husband, and so the conflicted crossing, diagonal movements of her arms fit her character and make sense.  Here is one very complicated woman.

 

What are deeper layers contained in the musical film noir sequence?

     The song was about rumors, cosmic clashes (the earthquake, etc.), and even murder that happen when the woman in the song swings into action.  It's a burlesque song, brash and fast, leaving little time for reflection, only the image that the woman in the song, "Mame" is big trouble wherever she goes. And, so is Gilda, by association as she sings.  And as well, she likes it that way.

 

There are long "asides" in the song that explain the chorus, and the character of GIlda... perhaps. As the song ends, her performance spins out of control, and so does the effect that she has been striving for, to enthrall her audience and torture her husband.  The message of the song is, don't be fooled or distracted by what you think you see or hear:  here's the real message.  "Look right here," the song tells us.  "I'm the one you want to know about.  I'm the key to the action.  Me!  Don't forget it!"  And we won't.  

 

The song couldn't have been a better choice for this film.  I think I remember, as well, that later in the film, after the nightclub closes, Gilda sings a simple ballad while accompanying herself on guitar. The camera finds Gilda and stays with her, as she reveals in that song her powerful, elegant, and loving heart.  What a contrast to her weirdly thrilling nightclub song.

 

In what ways do you thing music contributed to film noir?

     In the Carol Burnett spoof of GIlda, Carol dons the black dress and whips her hair back and forth, just like Rita Hayworth, but the premise is that her hair contains a short wave radio that transmits secrets to her fellow spies.  In the original, plenty is being transmitted, and no radio waves are needed.  As noted above, Gilda's conflicted character, her barely covered and constrained sexuality, and her need for simultaneous adulation and power over her audience and her husband are firmly established in a nightclub act and by her singing a carefully staged burlesque number.  It works as well as any other use of music in film, doesn't it?  Perhaps much better than most.  In reaching for other examples here, I end up thinking about the venerable Bernard Herrmann, who scored many films for Hitchcock and at the end of his career, for Brian DePalma and for Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.  Herrmann used coronets to guide the audience through scenes of revelation (think about the music for Citizen Kane, and contrast it with the bombastic operatic score written for that film to save money, but which effectively conveys the singer's terrible unease and isolation).  By then, music had the work of telling the viewer more about the story, sometimes more than the characters were capable of knowing for themselves. They worked right alongside the shadows, the diagonal lines of props, and especially with the expressive arms of the singer in Gilda, as well as the dialogue, delivered bitterly or ruefully, as if after a slap on the face, to make the audience move with plot and characters.

 

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Aside: the most authentic and interesting local music performed is in To Have and To Have Not when Bogie and Bacal go into the local bar and the local black people are performing. Also in Flamingo Road Lutie Mae has a dancer doing an authentic spanish dance. Also the band the Fisherman in D.O.A was authentic. cant think of any more now. but i believe there are a few more examples, 

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Rita Hayworth as Gilda danced coquettishly and got the attention of Johnny. The dance was sort of a striptease. Not having seen the film yet, I would guess that the scene came as a surprise to audiences because of the reaction that Johnny has both during the dance and afterwards when he slaps her.  

 

Looking forward to seeing this pair (Hayworth and Ford). They do not on the surface seem like they belong in a film noir. But then again, according to this week's podcast, casting at first may seem unlikely but turns out a winner.

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One of the things I see in this scene is something I see in many films noir. There is a deliberate attempt made to imply things that would violate the Code rules that governed films at the time. There is the implication that, if allowed, Rita would take her clothes off and do whatever else she could to arouse the audience and make a statement to her husband and that they would show it if they could. There is also the dialog where a certain word is never said but anyone in the audience at the time over 13 or so could easily supply that missing word '****' which couldn't be uttered on-screen at the time.

 

Haworth does a beautiful job of making these implications known to the viewer. She (or her director) knew exactly how far she could go in showing the kind of woman her character was.

 

By the way, I agree that the 'jazz' in this scene isn't very good jazz. As several have observed it is more like the kind of music one would hear in a sleazy strip club or burlesque house but with bigger resources on hand. Much of the jazz in films noir is not really representative of jazz but of the film composer's idea of jazz. Since most of these composers were classically trained, they usually missed the real essence of jazz. It is a rare movie soundtrack of the classic noir era that really uses jazz.

 

I wonder if the jazz that was being played in that scene was meant to represent the type of jazz that would be played in South America at the time.   The might explain why it was kind of cheesy.

 

Some noirs make good use of bebop jazz in nightclub scenes (e.g. DOA, The Strip)  but overall, as you noted, the scores of films didn't have solid jazz scores early 60s.

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In keeping with this week's lecture about artistic elements contributing to noir, including music, "Put the Blame on Mame" is right from the big band-influenced sound, not the bluesy, mournful notes so often associated with noir. The sound is enhanced by the image of Gilda's bump-and-grind to the song to emphasize its overt sexual content as yes, Gilda tries and succeeds in enraging Johnny, arousing not only his innate jealousy but confirming his negative feelings toward her since the beginning of the movie. I think this is a fine example of Eddie Muller's definition of noir as "suffering in style" because it involves glamorous if complex characters enmeshed in a twisted situation in a setting where they don't lack for anything except such basics as love, affection and trust. Thus the suffering. The cinematography for this sequence is darker than the usual musical scene for this period -- as Gilda moves in the spotlight, the band disappears into the darkness behind her in the long and medium shots, making her the sole focus. We are then drawn to Johnny's shocked and then angry reaction in the crowd in the reverse shots. The emotionally-and-otherwise scene arrived as noir took hold of Hollywood and created one of its signature moments and a bold shot across the bow against the Production Code.

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A few minutes after watching this scene from Gilda, I had Jessica Rabbit's version of "Why Don't You Do Right" from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in my head, and it occurred to me, that movie is a noir with toons! http://bit.ly/VVBpPC

I had heard about the animators being inspired by her, but I've never seen Gilda (maybe this weekend though). Now I completely see the inspiration for Jessica! As an artist, I was completely inspired by the way that Rita Hayworth moved in her portrayal as Gilda. Anyway, back to the discussion...

 

The thing that I notice the most about the way Rita Hayworth portrays Gilda is the way she saturates her performance with sexuality. In the wideshots, she leads with her hips; in the closeups, not only does she seduce the men in the audience, she also seduces the audience as well.

 

I guess I would say that the deeper meanings that I saw came after the song. Not knowing anything about the film, after her performance, I got the impression that she was just a loose woman. But as she and Johnny (?) interacted, I saw that her seduction as a mask, and now I'm intrigued by that mask.

 

As far as the jazz influence, I agree that this jazz is more along the lines of burlesque than what I would consider "traditional" jazz. Again, having not seen the movie, I can't speak to the other ways that jazz is used in this film. From what some of you had been saying, though, it sounds like "Put the Blame on Mame" is one of Gilda's themes, so it'll be interesting to see what the rest of the film is like.

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Rita Hayworth portraying the beautiful, sexy, luring Gilda all the perfect elements of a classic female Noir character. She finally gets Johnny's attention by playing it the only way she knows how and by the preconceived impression people have always had of her - a wanton woman. The music fuel's Rita seductive and sensual dance and watching how the movie subverts the production code in the dance number along with the frenzied sexual reaction of the men, again so much is implied in this showstopping scene yet nothing shown. 

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Rita Hayworth portraying the beautiful, sexy, luring Gilda all the perfect elements of a classic female Noir character. She finally gets Johnny's attention by playing it the only way she knows how and by the preconceived impression people have always had of her - a wanton woman. The music fuel's Rita seductive and sensual dance and watching how the movie subverts the production code in the dance number along with the frenzied sexual reaction of the men, again so much is implied in this showstopping scene yet nothing shown. 

 

If the classic female noir character is a femme fatale,   Gilda isn't it.    Gilda doesn't use men for her own gain as much as she is used by men for their own gain.   Gilda is also too vulnerable and adolescent to be a femme fatale.

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I've actually never seen this scene before, nor the movie from which it's pulled. I'm normally a big fan of musical numbers, but I have a hard time reconciling them with film noir. I thought Rita's performance in this scene was a bit awkward, though that may have had more to do with the dress she was wearing than anything else. I get that she was using her seduction skills to assume a role and make her audience believe her to be one thing, but I'm unclear on her motivations for doing so. I'll have to watch the rest of the film to understand the bigger picture here.

 

I think the style of music in this scene works well for film noir, though. The big beats and the sassy tune - they're like gunshots and witty banter in a film noir. Very interesting and a connection I wouldn't have made without this course.

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Because Rita Hayworth is lip-syncing, her voice sounds equally distinct no matter what position she takes in the dance, even when her head is upside-down, facing away from the audience. This adds to Gilda's persona/act as an impossibly beautiful woman, whom men cannot resist.

 

Because Gilda cannot satiate her sexual desire with her husband, she symbolically offers her body to the men in the audience, first through the seductive dance and then by throwing articles of clothing to them. Of course, she does all of this merely to make Johnny jealous.

 

In this instance, the music is not only  throw-away sequence, taking up time in the film. It offers a window into Gilda's desires. Also, the theme of "Put the Blame on Mame" turns the centuries-old idea of the woman as an evil seductress on its head by flaunting it - a point that is even more poignant because it is sung by a woman.

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I think that Rita's performance in this scene is perfect for film noir because it oozes sexuality. We don't really see this in other films of the time and so it comes across as shocking. I wonder if in the 1940s, people maybe felt a little naughty while watching this scene, like they were watching something that they shouldn't be watching? I think that's an important component of film noir, for us to see things in these movies that we don't see in other films and so it shocks us or makes us feel a little uncomfortable, but we can't stop watching.

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Rita is iconic in her form fitting black satin gown, long black gloves and luscious hair. She is alluring and quite provocative in her dance and semi strip tease. Vidor designed the scene to imply that Gilda is a very sexually desirable woman with loose morals.I noticed it was filmed in such a way that there were moments when she looked directly at the camera and seemed to be performing for us.She moves toward the camera and back.The camera switches between close ups and medium shots. She is intentionally trying to humiliate Johnny who is furious at her public display of lust. Johnny is also embarrassed when the male patrons try to paw her and encourage her to strip. He goes as far as striking Gilda in order to dominate her. The music pushed the story's narrative by introducing a jazzy big swing band sound. The number is complete with percussion that emphasizes all her bumps and grinds. The music defines a sleek and sophisticated eroticism. You feel it!!  The viewer understands the underlying sexual message through the song.

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The female onstage is one of the tropes that appears in films noir--though, as we learned in the lecture, it's so hard to really go down a checklist of the standard iconography that make a genre in film. Usually the woman is singing for some character in the audience, as a statement about the relationship between them. She might be in front of a large audience, but she's often performing for just one person.

Gilda's performance is pretty typical though--right down to the point that Egythea_A makes about the focalization of these sequences, starting with a pov and then seeming to "forget" the pov shots, and moving to medium shots that take the audience closer than the character for whom the woman is ostensibly performing. 

"The scene is staged to completely draw us into Gilda's mesmerizing performance as if we are sitting in the audience. It starts from Johnny's birds-eye viewpoint peeking through the blinds in Munson's office. But as soon as Gilda appears, we forget Johnny. We see her moves in medium shots while the close-ups hint at the complex emotions behind the beauty of her face and keep us attached to the character while she works the audience and herself into a near-frenzy. "

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What is really captivating about this musical sequence is its duality: there is the illusion and idealized vision of Gilda, a sexy and confident woman men grovel at, as viewed by the audience (and us the spectators as well) and then there's Gilda's own insecurity and her broken down image at the end of this scene. The close-ups exude Gilda's hyper sexuality with the hair whips and slow, sensuous removal of her glove. She is teasing the audience, luring them in true femme fatale fashion. Her exuberance implies confidence but by the end of the scene we know that it is a mask for her insecurity and her attempt to lower herself to "prove" Johnny Farrell right: that she is a loose woman who used her feminine wiles to manipulate him. 

 

This sequence is insecurity, regret and resentment lusciously wrapped in silky confidence and sexuality. Jazz, in all its improvised sensuality and freedom, is her mask. It is the tool that grants her confidence or rather audacity for a brief moment. 

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While I think Gilda's song is just amazingly sexy, I don't think it qualifies as classic Noir in my estimation, though the movie does.  It certainly is not like a number from a 1930s Astaire/Rogers film, I think it is light, bawdy and not especially dark or menacing.  However, Clare Trevor singing her number in Key Largo, that is more in the mood of Film Noir.  What do you all think?

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

 

I noticed several things about Rita Hayworth’s performance when I was watching this scene.

 

To me, it was provocative, enticing, and ultimately defiant.

 

In addition to this, I also noticed that the camera kind of showed a hidden dialogue between Gilda and Johnny Farrell by zooming in for close-up shots between the two characters to intensify their emotions during the performance.

 

For example, the camera zooms in to show Gilda having the time of her life even though she knows that her actions will make Johnny angry. She doesn’t care. In fact, she wants him to be even angrier as he moves through the crowd to watch her.

 

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

 

In her performance, she embodies the concept of the ultimate femme fatale archetype that is often seen in film noir.

 

She also embodies the beautiful, charming, and fatal woman that is metaphorically represented in the song’s lyrics through cataclysmic events in American history.

 

She even flaunts her body in synchronization to the song’s lyrics and dark setting that is created by the jazz music.

 

At the end of the song, the woman named “Mame” even causes the fictional death of a man named McGrew.

 

This concept possibly foreshadows the end result of Gilda’s power over Johnny Farrell.

 

She uses Johnny’s jealousy as a weapon against him by saying things like “I’m not very good at zippers, but maybe if I had some help” knowing that it will entice the men in the crowd. Not only to angry him, but to also entrance and hypnotize him.

 

Her defiance at being the object of Johnny’s desire and her willingness to challenge gender norms in society at that time is very courageous.

 

Gilda’s performance eventually leads to a compromising and dangerous argument between her and Johnny.

 

However, keeping true to the film noir style (cynical and twisted), Gilda is proud of herself and Johnny gets a pleasure out of slapping her for her actions.

 

This is noted by his sly grin after slapping her.

 

In a sense, they both get a little twisted pleasure out of the event.

 

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

 

After watching this scene from Gilda, I believe music influenced and contributed to the development of the film noir style in three major ways.

 

First, I believe that music influenced and contributed to the development of the film noir style by placing musical numbers at the heart of a film’s action.

 

To me, this allows the story’s characters to either express great moments of power or greatly expose their character flaws.

 

Secondly, I believe that this also allowed the camera to add tension and subtext to the story’s plot in relation to the music.

 

Lastly, I believe that music influenced and contributed to the development of the film noir style by allowing jazz music to create dark moods and have a mise-en-scene like presence in the film or film score.

 

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