FILM CLIPS: “It was an aroma compounded of plush and worn carpet and Devon violets and sweat. It was that scent, perhaps, which first made me a film fan; for it was to the Queen’s in Bolton that I ventured on my first remembered visit to any cinema, one wet and windy afternoon in 1933, when I was four.” Leslie Halliwell*
AND NOW RITA
“Miss Rita Hayworth as Miss Sadie Thompson”
That’s what the writing on the screen said in the original theatrical trailer for Miss Sadie Thompson. Curtis Bernhardt’s 1953 film is jerky, jumpy and disjointed and presents narrative and character with surprising obliquity. The pace is about as awkward as Rita Hayworth’s walk here ( an effective part of her characterization). And the film’s indirect exposition eventually gets us somewhere.
Rita Hayworth plays the early scenes with such conviction, hiding her past, that it is hard later to adjust to the fact that the missionary’s accusation is true. She has been a prostitute. As the story progresses, though, she shows her ability to grasp perfectly the emotional forces within a scene. As always, she hears what everyone else is saying. And as in Down to Earth she is excellent in each scene as written; and it is not her fault that the writing has failed her and that the director hasn’t noticed..
Her outrageous number “The Heat Is On” still packs a wallop despite its throwaway quality. “The Blue Pacific Blues” is a good song, again a pleasing throwaway. (We of course never heard Rita’s own singing voice until near the end of her career when she herself is finally on the Pal Joey soundtrack singing “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”)
Aldo Ray is very likable as her romantic interest and Russell Collins is excellent as the island doctor. Charles Bronson is charismatic in an early supporting role. And as the missionary José Ferrer virtually plays himself: arrogant, conceited, self-centered and pompous.
MISS SADIE THOMPSON Curtis Bernhardt 1953
(from the story “Miss Thompson” by W. Somerset Maugham)
* * * * * * * * * *
*I found the Leslie Halliwell quote in A Movie Lover’s Diary published by Firefly Books and copyright 1997 by Shelagh Wallace and Scott McKowen.
NEXT POST: THE MEMORABLE OCCASION WHEN I SAW MISS RITA HAYWORTH
Friday March 11
See you at the movies,