Celebrating Rita Hayworth: Cover Girl (1944)

Today (or yesterday, depending on what your timezone tells you) on October 17th, we celebrate 101 year from birth of one of the Old Hollywood screen goddesses, the unforgettable Rita Hayworth. And it’s worth mentioning that October the 17th also marks the would-be birthday of Montgomery Clift, another one of my Old Hollywood favorites, but I chose to dedicate this day to Rita (sorry, Monty!).

For this occasion, I decided to watch a cheery musical with Rita Hayworth – something a tad bit different than smoky film noirs we ususally associate her with. The film in question is Cover Girl, 1944 musical directed by Charles Vidor (who also directed Gilda, two years later). Besides Rita Hayworth, it also stars Gene Kelly (!) way before he made his most celebrated musical, Singin’ in the Rain.

The star of the film is Rusty Parker (played by no one other than Rita Hayworth!) a chorus girl in a nightclub run by her boyfriend Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly). When Rusty decides to apply for a contest to be on the cover of the new Vanity magazine, things start to get awkward… will she choose wealth and fame and pursue her career on Broadway and give in to the courting of a prominent playboy, or come back to the dusty but dear old club and return to her lover? In the meantime, there is playful music and wonderful costumes to entertain us; the fact that film is in Technicolor makes it visually opulent and a little magical…

And for those of you who, like me, love a good side-story, there is a thing going on with Vanity magazine editor John Coudair, a dear old fellow who happens to have been in love with Rusty’s grandmother… their history will prove crucial for Rusty’s decision in the end, however it’s rather a bittersweet romance. And there’s character of the irresitible Cornelia (played by Eve Arden) whose job is to pick models for magazine covers… and I sensed a great chemistry between her and John Coudair, despite the fact that they remain only co-workers and nothing more.

Then there’s dashing Jess Barker in the role of young John Coudair. One of most entertaining musical numbers from the film, in my opinion, is Poor John, sung by Rusty’s grandma Maribelle Hicks (watch it here) to mock John whose mother humiliated her, but also showed her that her heart doesn’t belong to the glitz of the Fifth Avenue after all…

Maybe it’s the presence of Gene Kelly, but Cover Girl does remind me slightly of Singinin the Rain (or shall I say vice versa, for Cover Girl was made eight years earlier). The music, the trio consisting of two lovers and the ever-present outsider friend, and even the ending shot… seems like these two classics do have a lot in common.

So if you’re looking for a way to cherish Rita Hayworth, on her birthday or any other day, and be swept off your feet with her charm and energy, I’d recommend grabbing a version of Cover Girl. That is, except if you hate musicals (a disliking I’ll never understand, but oh well, everyone has their taste). In which case, you can opt for her most well-known, sultry film noir, Gilda. Well you cannot fo wrong with a film noir on a misty autumn’s day, after all…

And here’s a photo of Rita in a more relaxed setting. We tend to associate her with scandalous femme fatales, but after all she was a human being like all of us. As she herself put it: “All I wanted was just what everybody else wants, you know, to be loved.

Happy birthday, Rita!

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