A History of “It” Girls: The ’40s



In the 1940s, Ann Sheridan was labeled “The Oomph Girl” by her studio, Warner Brothers, but Sheridan was much too smart and good-humored to take that seriously; she said that “oomph” sounded to her like a fat man trying to tie his shoelaces in a phone booth. My pick for the “It” girl of the 40s is Rita Hayworth. She’s much closer to Clara Bow in that her stardom was based on how gracefully she moved her beautiful body. One thing she lacked, however, was Bow’s flapper gumption. In Gilda, her iconic role, she is a wanton, perverse and insecure woman whose fate is determined by the men vying for her. While Bow certainly had the “It” confidence that Glyn wrote about, Hayworth rarely seems to dominate her own movies or even her image. (She famously said, “Men go to bed with Gilda and wake up with me.”) This discernible lack of control is part of what made her sexy, bringing a new kind of erotic neurosis to the post-war bombshell.

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