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2003 / B&W & Color / 1:33 flat full frame / 59 min. / Street Date June 15, 2004 / 24.98
Narrated by Kim Basinger
Written by Caren Roberts-Frenzel and Elaina Archer
Produced by Hugh Hefner and Elaina Archer
Produced, Edited and Directed by Elaina Arche

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

This is an adequate but not outstanding docu on a tough subject, the enigmatic Rita Hayworth. Through home movies, stills, film clips and interviews with people who knew and worked with the star, we're told the story of Rita Cansino, the talented dancer who became her family's breadwinner at an early age on the stage, in clubs and in movies. She seems to have moved on through a succession of domineering, controlling men; her trademark independent Gilda character may have expressed her inner rebel, but for most of Hayworth's life she worked hard mostly to make studios and husbands rich. The docu quotes her famous line, "Men fell in love with Gilda but woke up with me." The curse of stardom wasn't as bad for her as others, but it's not a very pretty story.

The testimony is the best part of the show. Her daughter Princess Yasmin Aga Khan appears to be voicing a lot of second-hand opinions (she was awfully young for some of the things she talks about) but most of the other interviews are right-on, including Anthony Franciosa, Eli Wallach, Tab Hunter, George Sidney and Marc Platt. Ann Miller breaks from her show-bizzy character to relate some good and insightful personal stories. But Vincent Sherman does the same thing he did with Joan Crawford, mainly, concentrate on his romantic relations. Everyone is taken by surprise when her erratic behavior is eventually diagnosed s Alzheimer's.

The show insists on the contrast between Hayworth's screen persona and her shyness and simplicity offscreen, which just attests to the power of her sexpot image. It prejudiced potential men in her life the way publicity prejudices juries. Her marriage to Price Aly Aga Khan was a flop, in contrast to Grace Kelly's more successful break into royalty. Clearly wanting to flee her film career, Hayworth was forced to return for more years of diminshing work.

Selectivity of materials accounts for a thin view of Hayworth's career. We see only limited clips of her greatest films and skip the high points of Gilda and Cover Girl. For some reason, the docu wants us to believe she attained a higher dramatic level in movies like Fire Down Below, just because her embarrassing scenes resemble themes from her own life.

Rita Hayworth was one of the most photographed women of the 40s but we see only a scattering of the images that made her a glamour queen before her big film roles. This has to be a result of expensive clip and still licensing. Overall the judgment in the docu is good, and many parts of her story are compellingly told, especially her relationships with her immediate family and her servitude under her husbands and Columbia's Harry Cohn.

Playboy's DVD of Rita is billed as "Playboy Presents." The film was shown on the Turner Classic Movies channel. The quality is fine, with Kim Basinger's narration nicely mixed with Hayworth's theme song from Cover Girl.

Extras include some unused home movies, newsreel footage of Hayworth's honeymoon with the Prince and another unfunny comedy clip from The Carol Burnett show. A second disc has a public domain Tex Ritter western called Trouble in Texas; Rita's in it but it's not very interesting, and certainly not in great shape.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Rita rates:
Movie: Very Good
Video: Excellent
Sound: Very Good
Supplements: outtakes, additional interviews, archival clips, photos, filmography
Packaging: two discs in double keep case
Reviewed: July 1, 2004

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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