During the shortages of World War 2, clothing was restricted to conserve materials and resources. The Limitation orders eliminated cuffs and pockets, narrowed and shortened skirts, narrowed belts and streamlined fashion. The war years look was no nonsense, no frills and no fun! After this period of “make do and make over” masculine looking fashion, glamour and femininity returned. Rita Hayworth depicted this rennaisance and was the first screen siren or sex goddess, epitomised in the film noir movie Gilda (1946).
New foreign locations became known to the general public through the movies and places like Casablanca, Cairo and South America were seen as exotic, alluring and wild. Aesthetically they were as removed from the West as they were culturally and their motifs dominated patterns and decoration. Interestingly underwear returned to the more structured pointy bustline and corsets that were feats of engineering.
Born in Brooklyn New York daughter of Spanish flamenco dancer Eduardo Cansino and Ziegfeld Follies girl Volga Haworth. Rita danced almost before she could walk, performing regularly on stage from the age of six. As a dancer and was said to be Fred Astaire’s favourite dance partner making several movies with him.
She had already made 36 movies before starring in a film called Blood and Sand (1941), playing a seductress, which created the sex goddess image she was from then associated with. Gilda (1946), a film noir, concreted this image of her, as a sassy, sensuous, seductive woman, who appears brazen on the exterior but is really a good girl at heart. She was plagued with this image throughout her life and famously said, “Men fall in love with Gilda, but they wake up with me.” Rita was married five times, her husbands include; Orson Welles and Prince Aly Khan. She died in 1987 suffering from Alheimer’s Disease for the last 8 years of her life.
A genre of film that can be a little difficult to categorise but is easily recognisable: filmed in black and white, set contemporary to the time, in a world that is corrupt and lost, with dark and foreboding images and exotic locations. The late 1940s through to the mid 50s are the most productive period for film noir. As film noir movies were usually B grade, low budget without big stars, the producers were free from “guidance” of the studio system to feature plots and dialogue that were more controversial and risqué, often portraying women with questionable virtue, with whom the private detective usually falls in love with and saves from her dubious past.
Gilda was the quintessential film noir movie; exotic locaiton – Argentina, filmed in the shadowy world of black and white, set in a casino with a beautiful women in a classic love trianlge. Add thugs, guns, gamblers, Nazis and intrique for the backdrop and you have film noir.