Reviews — February 28

The inmates in “The Shawshank Redemption” are enamored of the 1940s “bombshell” actress Rita Hayworth (a poster of whom is used to hide a … well, never mind) and if you watch her in the 1946 classic noir “Gilda,” it’s easy to see why: The postwar years gave America many great performances by female actors, but rarely were they this openly erotic.

Even the way she’s lit is almost impossibly sensual.

“Gilda,” which was recently named to the National Film Registry, features Glenn Ford as a gambler in Argentina hired by a manipulative, sociopathic casino owner (a terrific George Macready) whose wife (Hayworth) has a love-hate history with Ford. With Macready mixed up with a tungsten cartel, it makes for an increasingly tense triangle of toxic relationships.

Hayworth is awesome, though this is admittedly one of those performances that is better than the movie. She sings, dances and holds her own (and then some) with Macready and Ford. She is, in fact, the only woman who appears in the film, which was ahead of its time in alluding to sexual relationships. Even her entrance is memorable. A viewing of it will enhance your appreciation of “Shawshank,” which, after all, was based on Stephen King’s novella titled “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.”

“Gilda” (1946) Directed by Charles Vidor. Starring Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford and George Macready. Unrated. 110 minutes.


The fictional Thea Atwell recalls the pivotal year of her life in this novel, set in 1930, as the Great Depression rumbles.

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, secreted away in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, is a summer camp and year-round school for the daughters of very wealthy families. There they learn just enough about literature and history to make them witty conversationalists who one day will be good hostesses at their rich husband’s parties.

They ride, too, of course, for fresh air and exercise and to perfect a leisure-time activity they’ll eventually teach to their children; no one would ever expect them to make horses a career, or even to have a career of their own.

Thea, certainly, never dreams of working. Although she’s middle class by Yonahlossee standards, she’s grown up with all the luxury and freedom afforded to the upper crust.

Still, she’s different from all the girls she meets at camp: She’s from Florida, which her roommates from Kentucky and Texas and Alabama don’t consider the true South. And she’s a twin who has grown up with only her brother and her boy cousin as playmates; she’s not used to other youngsters, particularly other girls.

She’s also different because of the reason she’s at Yonahlossee, or so she thinks. Her parents sent her to the remote girls’ school after blaming her for a tragedy that ripped her family apart. The nature of the event is revealed gradually as the novel unfolds. Thea drops hints as she talks about the idyllic life enjoyed by herself, her twin and her cousin, who is two years older; how close they were, and how isolated from other people; how their relationships began changing as they reached adolescence.

At Yonahlossee, she won’t have the temptations or the opportunities she had at home -- she assumes that’s why her parents chose the place. And she sets out to prove them wrong.

Author Anton Disclafani, who grew up with horses herself, does a wonderful job of describing the relationship between people and horses. And she brings the reader into the camp, with its evocative setting in the mountains; its gossipy society of students and staff; and its relationship to the “real world,” which is crumbling around the feet of its students’ wealthy families.

There’s a strong element of sexual content in this coming-of-age story. It’s all in context, but it may be more than some readers want to deal with.

 “The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls,” by Anton Disclafani, 2013, Riverhead Books.

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