RITA HAYWORTH : – ACTING FIRE DOWN BELOW (Part 1)

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THERE was a time when the most admired quality of a female screen star was based on how dynamic, witty, glamorous and fashionable she was on screen. 

This also became an inspiration for audiences.

Rita Hayworth was such a screen star. In her case, it was a designation encompassing more than just an actress of theatrical roles. What Rita Hayworth did on screen, and gave to those women and men of the world who wanted to enjoy their life-span, was more than acting certain roles; it was appearing a certain way: dressing, eating, dancing, travelling and, in general, socialising in a certain way that could be separated from the exaggerations of her film roles, to become an exciting everyday lifestyle beyond only celebrity privilege.

Hayworth’s formation

From the start, Rita Hayworth, born and bred in Brooklyn, New York to a Spanish dancer father and dancing mother from the famous Ziegfeld Chorus Line girls, and in addition a cousin of the brilliant Hollywood dancer/actress Ginger Rogers, was trained as an entertainer, and began dancing on stage at age twelve. She would not be limited by that original professional skill, or by Hollywood screen roles which she was ushered into by her first male companions, who saw her potential for success, especially at a time — the 1930s — when America was struggling out from economic depression and the Hollywood film industry was both a social process for injecting optimism and hope, as well as a means to employment and profit in America.

Hayworth’s originality

The originality and lasting contemporary artistic value of Rita Hayworth as a screen star is linked to her real gregarious social lifestyle, which is separate from her screen roles but attached to them because of the opportunity they offered for her to project an inner verve, both pleasantly attractive yet critical of self-destructive feminine vanity and male weakness in relation to it.

One may surmise that Hayworth’s real life was caught between the theatrical roles of uncontrollable women she portrayed on screen, and the actual everyday pleasures of living such a life offered via her profession.

It was at age twenty-one that Rita Hayworth, after a few minor screen appearances, got the role which started her film career and consequent fame as an actress/performer in other roles, which both promoted and punished feminine seductiveness.

The film was ‘ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS’, produced in 1939, and directed by the outstanding Howard Hawks. It starred Cary Grant and Jean Arthur. Apart from Hayworth’s stunning performance as the sensual and attractive young wife of a husband powerless to quench her feminine sense of self, there is something else this all-time classic film of one of Hollywood’s greatest film-producing years introduces, and which Hayworth would grasp as a thematic value she uniquely projected most memorably on screen during the 1940s and 50s. That something else is centred on Hayworth’s ability to be an adventurous, daring, fun-loving, and down-to-earth (she actually starred in a film called ‘DOWN TO EARTH’ in 1947) woman, who felt at home in colourful tropical ports of the Caribbean, South America, Asia, among grimy dock workers, plantains and coconuts, various proletarians, tramp steamers, sailors, and adventurous men and women of any colour.

Hayworth, perhaps due to her Latin roots, had that off-beat white creole look, those special chameleon-like features, which could be glamorously beautiful yet simple, found among white creole women of the Caribbean islands, British Guiana, Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina, all places where Hollywood films were once set much more than they are today; and where, apart from Rita Hayworth, other Hollywood stars like Tyrone Power and his wife Annabella, Glenn Ford, John Garfield, Jane Russell, Lillian Gish, Dorothy Dandridge, Danny Kaye, Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Cornel Wilde, Robert Mitchum, Charleston Heston and Orson Welles, among others, could be found filming or just passing through.

Hayworth would become one of the most popular female Hollywood stars in the Caribbean/Latin American region during the 40s and 50s, when film productions both targeted and used talent from the region.
For two decades, Rita Hayworth came to life on the screen as though ignited by a tropical heat that burned from within her guts and downward. What fanned those flames was her skill as a dancer, which could erupt on the streets or clubs of these ‘exotic’ places like an uninhibited source of real life found there.

*** PULL QUOTE:
Hayworth, perhaps due to her Latin roots, had that off-beat white creole look, those special chameleon-like features, which could be glamorously beautiful yet simple, found among white creole women of the Caribbean islands, British Guiana, Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina, all places where Hollywood films were once set much more than they are today