Animated GIFs didn’t exist in 1946, but if they did you could be sure Rita Hayworth tossing her hair back, asking “Me?” would make its way into an astounding amount of texts and tweets. That famous welcome, in close-up, from the quintessential film noir “Gilda,” is something you probably know even if you’ve never seen the movie, as it appears in both “The Shawshank Redemption” and every single montage of classic Hollywood that’s ever been made.
The newly expanded Film Forum has programmed “Gilda” and 11 other Hayworth pictures as part of a 100th birthday celebration for cinema’s most ravishing redhead. If these titles are new to you (or if it’s been a while) the weeklong festival is a perfect crash course, plus FF’s new Smarties-colored comfy seats work well with Technicolor beauties like “Cover Girl.”
“Gilda,” an Argentina-set postwar crime story pairs well with the pulpy 1948 film “The Lady From Shanghai,” directed by her then-husband Orson Welles. Its climactic amusement park funhouse shootout offers another of those “Oh, I’ve seen this clip before” moments.
Film historian and author Farran Smith Nehme is hoping audiences rediscover Hayworth’s singer-dancer side, as well. “Her dazzling work in musicals is often overlooked in favor of the other dramatic parts,” Nehme says.
Two films opposite Fred Astaire, “You’ll Never Get Rich” (1941) and “You Were Never Lovelier” (1942) are included in the retro, “both of which are charming,” Nehme says. “She was the best match Fred Astaire had post-Ginger Rogers — the most joyous, the most effortlessly fluid, the most in tune with his style.”
TCM host Alicia Malone, excited to cheer on another redhead, cites 1953’s “Miss Sadie Thompson” (her only 3D film, and being shown in that format in a new restoration) as a great opportunity to see beyond the “beauty” and “luminous face evident in every frame” of movies like “Gilda.”
In “Miss Sadie Thompson,” Hayworth is a “bar girl” deemed morally bankrupt by a religious zealot and, says Malone, “is virtually unrecognizable, shedding all of her Hollywood glamour to play this raw character. She was never lovelier.”
Other highlights include the Seville-set bullfighting love story “Blood and Sand,” a box office sensation from 1941 that secured the 100th birthday girl’s bombshell status. Hayworth playfully shouting “Toro!” as Tyrone Power lowers his head and charges forward was hot stuff then, and it’s hot stuff now.
Another must-see is Charles Vidor’s 1944 hit “Cover Girl,” a Technicolor musical in which Hayworth pairs with Gene Kelly, featuring music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Ira Gershwin (and a little Yip Harburg) plus choreography by Kelley and Stanley Donen. With this murderer’s row of essential names, it can be safely said that if you don’t like “Cover Girl,” American musicals of the 1940s and ’50s just aren’t for you.
How great to live in a town where a place like Film Forum is here to offer you this litmus test.