Siren Song – Ladies of Film Noir, Part 4: Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946)

If there is a single role that is associated with Rita Hayworth, it is the title character in the film noir Gilda (1946, dir. Charles Vidor). The title femme fatale sings in casinos throughout the film, which is set in Buenos Aires, and the most famous scene is when Hayworth’s Gilda sings “Put the Blame on Mame” and threatens to do a striptease to mock jealous husband Johnny (played by Glenn Ford, who costarred with Hayworth in five films between 1940 and 1965). Hayworth’s sex appeal, evident in every flip of her red hair and especially in the way that the iconic black satin dress designed by Jean Louis fits her body, makes the scene unforgettable and turns up the temperature in the already steamy Argentine climate. It should be noted that Hayworth’s vocals were dubbed by Anita Ellis in this scene and when Hayworth performs “Amado Mio” – Ellis also dubbed Hayworth’s singing voice in Down to Earth (1947), The Lady from Shanghai (1947) and The Loves of Carmen (1948) – but Hayworth did perform “Put the Blame on Mame” with her own vocals in an earlier scene in Gilda when the character plays the song with an acoustic guitar accompaniment (also done by Hayworth herself). Any way you hear it, “Put the Blame on Mame” is one of the ultimate theme songs of film noir, describing a woman with a sexual presence so fiery that men are destroyed and entire cities are leveled.

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