Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth.
The two pin-up girls that almost all soldiers pinned on their barracks and hearts during World War II. The two glamour girls duked it out to be Number 1 pin-up thanks to two famous LIFE photos. Betty with her coy over the shoulder bathing suit glance, and Rita perched on a bed in lacy negligee.
Both women were no doubt enviously beautiful but in very different ways. Hayworth had major glamorous sex appeal. Long wavy red hair, a slender figure and smoldering beauty. Grable’s sparkling eyes, blonde hair and sunny smile gave way to an all-American girl look. In the 1940s Time magazine said, “She can lay no claims to sultry beauty or mysterious glamour. Her peach-cheeked, pearl blonde good looks add up to mere candy- box-top prettiness.”
This was no doubt the reason Grable was the top pin-up girl. She had attainable beauty that soldiers could find in their wives and childhood sweethearts.
But though Grable wins in the pin-up photo battle, she may lose in other areas.
I adore Betty Grable so in the past week I’ve been watched both “Springtime in the Rockies” (1942), “Song of the Islands” (1942) and assorted YouTube clips of Betty. While watching these, I’ve noticed something that very much disturbs me. Betty Grable isn’t the best dancer.
In “Rockies” her dance numbers were good but not exciting. In “Song of the Islands” I felt like her hula dancing was a bit haphazard. She almost frantically waved her arms and hips around. I will say the sand that she was dancing on looked like a hindrance. I was pleased to note that several of her hula moves were authentic based off my “Island Girll” work out DVDs.
In comparison, a recent clip I watched of Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire dancing in “You Were Never Lovelier” (1942) or Hayworth dancing solo in “Down to Earth” (1947) were impressive to say the least. Her moves were graceful and well thought out, and footwork was complicated but done with ease. Hayworth was an excellent tap dancer, but-to be fair- she also had the upper hand since she was part of her father’s dance troop.
Grable can really sell a song and do a fun dance number, but when compared to her contemporaries like Rita Hayworth- Grable really falls short.
Here are too numbers I found to compare their dancing styles.
I chose these two clips for specific reasons:
1. Both Grable and Hayworth are wearing pants, so you can see their feet better
2. They are both meant to look like practice routines
3. Hermes Pan and Fred Astaire have very similar dancing styles
Betty Grable and Hermes Pan in “Footlight Serenade” (1942):
Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire in “You’ll Never Get Rich” (1941):
Both dance well, but I think Rita does a better job. Astaire and Hayworth seem to be on the same skill level in their number while Pan is much more graceful than Grable.
What do you think?
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The major difference I see is that Hayworth seems to be enjoying it while Grable seems a bit bored and under-practiced. Nice article!
Kristebn…Thank you so much. Astaire and Hayworth are breathtaking together….and he considered her his best and favorite partner, Grable is adorable…a cutie, and the two make the perfecy oppositet as the G.I’s’s fav. pin Up’s. Rita, first arrival in Hollywood, came with her father in his Spanish dance troupe. Her name was Margarite (Or spelled Margurita)Carmen Cansino, Her hair was jet blackt, (As it was in “Bood and Sand.) The studio not only dyed it red w/ a red blondeframe at the temple, they also raised her low hairline, at forhead and temples. She and Astaire were wonderful together, what a treat to see these clips. Thank you, again.
Betty may have won the hearts of the GI’s, but Rita will always be my favourite. I think you hit the nail on the head when it comes to song and dance-Hayworth just seems more polished and genuine.
I agree with you. I just enjoy watching Rita dance more. She seems to be having fun and is very light on her feet. I’m not very good at comparing dancing, though, as I’m no dancer myself. Both of them can dance a lot better than I’ll ever hope to.
I agree with you. Rita is graceful and can keep up with Fred Astaire. Betty is working hard but just doesn’t have it. Betty can sing though and Rita had to be dubbed. I like both and Betty’s movies are fun and colorful; she just lacks in dancing skills. She was pregnant in that famous picture which is amazing to me.
Very intriguing idea for a comparison! Didn’t Hermes Pan work with Fred Astaire on choreographing many of his famous dance routines?
Hermes Pan and Fred Astaire were like soul brothers seperated at birth. They met at the beginning of Astaire’s film career in 1933, and Pan assisted Astaire with his choreography. They clicked right away and had similar approaches to choreography. They worked together on and off during Astaire’s entire film and TV career-even in the 1968 film “Finian’s Rainbow”, and were lifelong friends. Pan moved from an assistant to an equal, and they worked on the dances together and blended their ideas. They both influenced each other tremendously. However, Astaire always retained the right of refusal, and seemed to control the final decisions. Grable was no more than a servicable dancer, and Pan’s choreography for her was consciously selected to have her appear at her best. She just sparkles on screen in what she does and has a very appealing screen persona. But she is limited in her dancing and acting abilities-although she makes the most of what she has. Hayworth is in a different, higher class. She was an excellent actress and dancer, with a wide range in both. They were not rivals in any real sense of the word. That was all PR. They made very different films and never directly competed for roles, because they just had a different style. You should enjoy both, and not get into this false competition.
@Rick: I was pretty sure he did, I just didn’t add it in since I hadn’t looked for documented proof that they did. Thanks for commenting!
@Red: Thanks for all the info about Pan and Astaire. I never really knew what their history was, other than the fact that they collaborated.
As for Grable and Hayworth rivalry, I wasn’t really saying there was any competition as far as dancing and acting, etc goes. Just more an interesting comparison of WW2’s top 2 pin-up girls. They are two of my favorite actresses. It’s really a shame that TCM isn’t able to show more Fox films so we can enjoy their films more.
Some bias showing around here, LOL. Betty had style & was technically a better tap dancer than Rita. Rita had her strength in ballroom which is why she flows so well with Fred.
I did notice Rita for being a ballroom dancer is a bit awkward with her knees far apart as seen tap dancing in Cover Girl. Her tap numbers are not as great as Betty’s, but her grace in ballroom is over the top lovely. Both great dancers. And haven’t any of you seen Betty tap dancing with the Condos Brothers in Moon Over Miami?!
I will say though I think Rita danced better, I’m a bigger fan of Betty. I have seen Moon Over Miami and she’s great there. Just different styles of dancing I guess!