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Afternoon Delight: Disco Rita

by Jerome Weeks 27 Aug 2012 12:59 PM

Some of the Afternoon Delights this week will be featuring dance — and who better to start with than Rita Hayworth, a dancer so vivacious she makes the Bee Gees sound sexy?


Afternoon Delight is a daily diversion for when you’re just back from lunch, but not quite ready to get back to work. Check back weekdays at 1 p.m. for another one.

It’s actually no surprise that footage from Rita Hayworth’s great dance numbers in such films as Pal Joey and You’ll Never Get Rich could be wonderfully edited to fit the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” (once you get past the ghastly, disco-period, dancing silhouettes that open the video). Hayworth’s dancing still feels incredibly alive and sensual — she’s the sexiest partner Fred Astaire ever had (as I’ve argued in a previous Afternoon Delight).

In fact, seeing Hayworth in excerpted snippets like this is a pleasure partly because, despite her superstar status after Gilda in 1946, she was stuck in so much junk. Her dancing is often the only thing worth watching in films such as Salome or Down to Earth. And even then, when she was older, Hayworth could abandon herself to the music and the movement with a smoldering energy that made her burn through the screen like few of her male co-stars did.