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- Published on Amazon.com
This is not your typical celebrity biography.
Author Adrienne L. McLean is a film scholar from the University of Texas at Dallas, and on the back cover of the book it says FILM/WOMEN'S STUDIES, with review quotes from other members of academia from across the country... so I would hazard to guess that this book --and, I find, many others offered here at Amazon-- are in depth studies by scholars for students studying film, film theory,etc. Thanx Amazon for offering these types of books to the public at large.
That being said, McLean approaches Rita Hayworth's career from a feminist perspective... how does a woman navigate "Superstardom", balance that with a full domestic life with a husband and children, while, at the same time, being boxed in by a society who sees her value only in being a "Beautiful Woman"? (As a lifelong fan of Hayworth's I admit to "boxing her in" myself, and I've made Sony VERY HAPPY buying Hayworth videos & dvds over the years.)
In six different chapters here, McLean analyzes several aspects of Rita's life and career...Rita's need to distance herself from the "the dark Spanish stereotype" Hollywood had placed her in early on to move up the ladder... her transformation (including the raising of her hairline to give herself a more elegant brow) into an "All American Girl" as she rose to top stardom.... how this transformation from Margarita Cansino to "Rita Hayworth" was recounted time and again in almost every newspaper and magazine article newsmen wrote on Hayworth throughout her career.
(That the public knew her real name and her early beginnings as a Spanish dancer with her father's company is not so amazing to me, I'm positive the real name and humble origins of MOST stars were known to the public thru the media, it made good copy).
McLean notes that Hayworth was quite proud of her Spanish-gypsy heritage, and by her successful integration of her anglo/ethnic heritage, she was able to transcend the "Spanish stereotype" of a Carmen Miranda or a Lupe Velez and present the public with a new, unique Spanish-All-American persona all her own. Interesting.
McLean also looks at Hayworth's domestic life, and it's sad that Hayworth seemed to fail here.... Hayworth, married five times, walked away from her lucrative career TWICE -- from 1948 to 1952, then again from 1953 to 1957 -- each time for a new marriage. It is quite obvious that Rita would have retired from the screen entirely had she found the RIGHT husband, but the men (Judson, Welles, Khan, Haymes, and Hill) found RITA HAYWORTH (the clout, the prestige, the power of that persona) irresistable and each, in his way, used that (and Margarita herself) for their own ends.
McLean further studies that persona by comparing the films GILDA 1946 and THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI 1948, a film she does not like (reading this section made me ponder: did husband Orson Welles -on some deep level- purposely try to destroy Hayworth's image in this film because at this point, commercially, she was on SUCH A HIGH AND A BIGGER STAR THAN HE?) McLean makes another interesting case here of Welles attempt at totally de-constructing Rita's GILDA image with his "Elsa Bannister".... yes I believe Welles enjoyed being subversive and he WAS wasteful & self-destructive, but could he go THIS FAR?
Finally, and this was most enjoyable part of the book for me, an in-depth analysis of Rita Hayworth the dancer. McLean gives Hayworth credit for her amazing abilities as a dancer, pointing out that in this ONE aspect of her career, Rita had total control -thru her movement in the dance- to create, to express herself, and to be free....NO WONDER SHE WAS SO FANTASTIC AT IT.... the dancing is totally Rita's spirit, Rita's voice. Another point I never really considered.
McLean also points out how an exceptional FEMALE dancer like Hayworth or Eleanor Powell was never given the acclaim or held in as high a regard by critics as a MALE dancer like Astaire or Kelly, and that it was mainly the MALE critics of the time who described/critiqued the women dancers by their looks first, not their abilities.
McLean also does an in-depth study of Hayworth's earthy dances in 1952's AFFAIR IN TRINIDAD, choreographed by Valerie Bettis. She greatly admires this collabaration of Bettis and Hayworth, and tracks down and quotes a number of articles Bettis gave over the years about this film and about dancing in general. Quite enjoyable.
McLean is at all times a sympathetic advocate for Hayworth and, being the scholar she is, her ideas are backed up with thorough research and footnotes. As a Hayworth fan I enjoyed the wealth of new information provided and found myself always challenged by McLean's views, insights and perspectives.
There's much more I haven't covered...I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book for Hayworth fans, whom I'm sure will savor this refreshing take on Hayworth's life and career..... yes, the book is at times highly technical in it's wording, and there's so much here to ponder... it's not an easy read... you won't finish this book in one sitting..... but if you already own books on Hayworth, you'll quickly see that this one goes beyond & beneath the standard facts of Rita's life and career... "Being Rita..." will be a great addition to your Hayworth library.