Friday, May 18, 2018

Put the Blame on Me

Has any movie actress ever sizzled on celluloid like Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946)? I doubt it. When this “Love Goddess” of the 1940s sang “Put the Blame on Mame,” her sex appeal almost jumped off the screen. Women wanted to be her; men of all ages dreamed about her. And World War II servicemen couldn’t get enough Rita Hayworth pinups. I remember that this lovely movie star was a big favorite of mine then. However,  she was responsible for one of my most embarrassing teenage situations.

In the forties, students at my high school were expected to demonstrate school spirit every day --- which meant showing an interest in sports, especially football. Although that required an Oscar-caliber performance from me, I didn’t have to fake my enthusiasm for pep assemblies. I quickly became involved in writing skits plus choreographing and doing dance numbers for these almost weekly events. 

One of my favorites featured imitations of Al Jolson, Rita Hayworth, Mae West, Mickey Rooney, and Judy Garland. I’m sure Margie (my debate partner) and I had more fun performing this act than the students had watching it. Except for my “Put the Blame on Mame” rendition, that is.  Evoking so many laughs for impersonating Rita Hayworth didn’t sit well with me. I was going for Gilda’s sexy persona. Maybe that’s why my friends started calling me “Torchy” while giggling behind my back.         

In 1983, Lynda Carter portrayed Hayworth in a TV movie titled Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess. Although Carter did her best to capture the essence of Hayworth’s appeal, her performance (as well as the production) failed to do justice to one of Hollywood’s most glamorous stars. Happily, because many of Hayworth’s films are shown on television and are also available on video, viewers can still enjoy her unique movie magic. 

Fortunately -- because of popular demand -- I never tried performing my Gilda impersonation again! 

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