The Films of Rita Hayworth
Rated: Not Rated
Cover Girl 107 minutes
Tonight and Every Night 92 minutes
Gilda 110 minutes
Miss Sadie Thompson 90 minutes
Salome 103 minutes
Cover Girl Color, 1.33:1
Tonight and Every Night Color, 1.33:1
Gilda Black & White, 1.33:1
Miss Sadie Thompson Color, 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Salome Color, 1.33:1
Languages: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven't you noticed? Very exciting. - Gilda
Rita Hayworth was more than just a glamorous Hollywood movie star. She also could sing and dance, but most of all she was able to display a degree of sensuality on screen which most of her peers could not match. This collection of five films from Sony showcases some of the iconic performances of her career and puts the full range of her considerable talents on display. As a bonus, the transfers are virtually pristine, with four of them in glorious Technicolor. Three of the films - Tonight and Every Night, Miss Sadie Thompson, and Salome - appear on DVD for the first time in Region One.
Cover Girl (1944)
In this enjoyable piece of fluff Rita Hayworth stars as Rusty Parker, a dancer whose relationship with Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly) becomes strained when she is selected to be a magazine cover girl. Danny becomes jealous when Rusty's fame surpasses his own, and predictable complications ensue. The clichés can be forgiven because of the songs by Ira Gershwin and Jerome Kern (including "Long Ago and Far Away"), Kelly's superb dancing, and excellent work by the supporting cast. Otto Kruger appears as magazine publisher John Coudair, and Eve Arden steals every scene in which she appears as Coudair's wisecracking assistant. Phil Silvers provides comic relief as Genius, a friend and co-worker of Rusty and Danny. Rita Hayworth is gorgeous, of course, and she dances very well. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards and won for Best Music Scoring of a Motion Picture.
Tonight and Every Night (1945)
This musical was inspired by the true story of the Windmill Theatre, a variety venue in London which gained fame because it never closed during World War II. When bombs started to drop during The Blitz, the performers and audience members found safety in the underground floors beneath the stage. The Windmill also earned renown because of its risqué shows which prominently feature nudity (none of which can be found in Tonight and Every Night). Those who might be interested in seeing a more adult film about The Windmill should take a look at the 2005 film, Mrs. Henderson Presents. In Tonight and Every Night, Rita Hayworth plays Rosalind Bruce, an American showgirl who has fallen in love with Paul Lundy (Lee Bowman), a flyer for the RAF. The theater's fame increases when a photographer from Life magazine arrives to cover the story of the theater which never allowed anything to prevent the show from going on. Although the true nature of the theater had to be toned down for Hollywood, Hayworth's scintillating performance of "You Excite Me" surely raised the temperature in movie theaters.
Buenos Aires at the end of World War II is the setting for Gilda, a classic but somewhat overrated film noir. Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is an American drifter who, after winning some cash in a game of craps, is held up by a thug but is rescued by Ballin Mundson (George Macready), the mysterious and sinister owner of an illegal but prosperous casino. Mundson likes what he sees in Farrell, who eventually becomes the casino manager and Mundson's right-hand man. All is going swimmingly until Mundson returns from a trip with a wife, Gilda (Rita Hayworth). Unbeknownst to Mundson, his new wife and Farrell have a past, and her appearance stirs up highly charged love-hate feelings in both of them. There is a murky sub-plot involving Germans, the tungsten market, and the ownership of patents. Mundson harbors ambitions of becoming an extremely powerful man - ambitions which are never adequately explained. The real drama, however, is found in the tortured relationship between Gilda and Farrell. One thing about the film which is not overrated is Rita Hayworth's performance. The screen sizzles in every scene in which she appears, and the striptease which she performs while singing "Put the Blame on Mame" is notable both for its sensuality and the fact that the only things she removes are a glove and a necklace.
Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)
Miss Sadie Thompson is a musical version of "Rain," the oft-filmed short story by W. Somerset Maugham about a prostitute in the South Pacific and the efforts of a missionary to reform her. However, this adaptation was filmed in the early fifties, so while Sadie (Rita Hayworth) is accused of being a prostitute, she insists that she is just a night club singer who happens to be very popular with the local Marines stationed on American Samoa. Aldo Ray co-stars as Phil O'Hara, the Marine sergeant who falls in love with Sadie but turns on her when he hears stories about her supposedly sordid past. Jose Ferrer appears as Alfred Davidson, the missionary who accuses Sadie of being a worker in the world's oldest profession. Charles Bronson also has a minor role as one of the Marines. This is a highly sanitized version of Maugham's story, but it is redeemed by some bright musical numbers and Hayworth's provocative and steamy performance as Sadie.
An all-star cast enlivens this Biblical potboiler. Among the famous actors are Stewart Granger, Charles Laughton (as King Herod), Cedric Hardwicke (as Tiberius Caesar), and Judith Anderson (as Queen Herodias). The Queen is angered because John the Baptist (Alan Badel) has been preaching against her and the king, calling her an adulteress because Herod is the brother of her former husband. Herod is reluctant to do anything about John the Baptist because of a prophecy he has heard. Rita Hayworth stars as the title character, who is Herod's stepdaughter. Without spoiling the plot, I will just say that this film turns the Bible story on its head. Nevertheless, viewers will be fascinated by Salome's erotic dance, the "Dance of the Seven Veils." Hayworth's biographers have referred to it as the most demanding dance of her career.
The video quality of this DVD set is superb. Gilda is the same restored transfer which was previously released on DVD in 2000. While not perfect, it is very satisfying. The transfers of the Technicolor features are dazzling, and it is difficult to believe that they have ever looked better. An appropriate level of film grain has been retained to give all of these films very pleasing, film-like appearances. There is some inherent softness in some of the shots, but contrasts and strong and shadow detail is very good. All of the films except Miss Sadie Thompson are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios. Miss Sadie Thompson was originally filmed and released in 3-D, but shortly afterwards the 3-D prints were recalled and subsequently the film was presented only in 2-D. Several sources report that the single-strip 3-D version was released at 1.75:1 and the dual-strip version was released at 1.85:1. This DVD presentation is framed at 1.85:1.
Fans will be delighted by how good these vintage films look.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is nothing to get excited about, but it does the job with clear, intelligible dialogue and no noticeable distortion. IMDB says that Miss Sadie Thompson was recorded in three-track stereo, but I cannot confirm this and I do not detect any stereo separation.
Each film in this collection except Cover Girl is accompanied by its original theatrical trailer (the trailer for Gilda indicates that it is for the film's re-release), all of which are in commendably good shape.
Cover Girl includes a four-minute commentary on the film by Baz Luhrman, who clearly is fascinated by Rita Hayworth. Here he emphasizes her ability as a dancer. This disc also includes the trailer for the mini-series The Pillars of the Earth.
Tonight and Every Night has its original theatrical trailer and a four-minute exposition about the film by Patricia Clarkson.
Gilda contains its trailer and a 16-minute featurette with appearances by both Martin Scorcese and Baz Luhrman. Both directors discuss how they were influenced by Gilda and Rita Hayworth's torrid performance. Gilda also has the box set's only running commentary track, by Richard Schickel.
The extras on Miss Sadie Thompson include the trailer and four minutes of comments about the film by Patricia Clarkson.
The only extra on Salome is the theatrical trailer.
Each of the five features is on its own disc. The five discs are in a three-section gatefold package, so two of the discs are overlapped. The gatefold packaging is encased in a slipcase. The slipcase lists the major credits and a brief summary of each film. The gatefold packaging includes some evocative still photos from the collection.
The Final Analysis
The Films of Rita Hayworth is an excellent collection which will certainly please her fans. It is particularly gratifying to see that some classic catalog films are still getting first-class releases on DVD.
Equipment used for this review:
Toshiba HD-XA-2 DVD player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable
Release Date: December 21, 2010