Rita Hayworth - Actress
Created | Updated Nov 12, 2008
Gypsy women are well-renowned for their beauty. In fiction, characters like Carmen and Esmeralda are known for their beauty and charm. In entertainment, women like Rita Hayworth, Eva Gardner and Kelly Brook are all of Romani ancestry.
- Jake Bowers from Rokker Radio
Although Fred Astaire was linked to Ginger Rogers most of his career it was believed that he actually preferred dancing with her cousin Rita Hayworth. Born Margarita Carmen Cansino on 17 October, 1918 in Brooklyn, New York, she was later to adopt the stage name Rita Hayworth and become known as 'The Great American Love Goddess'. The daughter of Spanish dancer Eduardo Cansino and showgirl (in Ziegfeld Follies) Volga Haworth, Hayworth followed her father's work to Los Angeles where she received her education before shortening her name to Rita Cansino and joining her father in the dance team The Dancing Cansinos.
The Great American Love Goddess
Her first film role was in the budget film Under the Pampas Moon. She married businessman Edward Judson when she was 18 and with his encouragement undertook electrolysis in order to raise her hairline, dyed her black hair auburn and was introduced to Harry Cohn the head of Columbia Pictures. Cohn changed her name to Rita Hayworth and gave her a role in Howard Hawk's Only Angels Have Wings, which was released in 1939.
I don't really think she knew how intensely sexy she seemed to others.
Throughout her life Hayworth was resoundingly shy, but when the cameras were rolling she came alive as a temptress. She danced with Fred Astaire in the films You'll Never Get Rich (1941) and You Were Never Lovelier, (1942) and with Gene Kelly in Cover Girl (1944). As Technicolor was phased in many people began to recognise Hayworth for her auburn hair and with wartime she gained pinup popularity. One of the most famous images of her was printed by LIFE magazine1 depicting her lying on a bed wearing nothing but lingerie.
I like having my picture taken and being a glamorous person. Sometimes when I find myself getting impatient, I just remember the times I cried my eyes out because nobody wanted to take my picture at the Trocadero.
During the 1940s she appeared in the classic film noir Gilda, which has a famous strip scene in it where she peels off her gloves while singing 'Put the Blame on Mame'. Gilda became both her trademark and nemesis as she remarked 'Men fall in love with Gilda and wake up with me' reflecting that she was the antithesis of the characters she played.
A picture of Hayworth was even stuck to an A-bomb that was dropped on Bikini Atoll in 1946.
Married Unhappily Ever After
What surprises me in life are not the marriages that fail, but the marriages that succeed.
- Rita Hayworth
Two years later, Hayworth appeared in another film noir called The Lady from Shanghai (1948). Orson Welles - her husband at the time and with whom she had a child Rebecca Welles on 17 December, 1945 - directed the classic and the film cemented Hayworth as being seen as 'The Great American Love Goddess'. During the same year that the film was released Hayworth left for Europe to marry Pakistani Prince Aly Khan making her Hollywood's first princess. However, her marriage to Prince Aly Khan was not to have a happy-ever-after ending and in January, 1953 she found herself divorced and flying back to the US.
On returning to America she resumed her acting career but she had become so disheartened with the world of acting and showbusiness that she turned to drink for comfort. To add to this two further failed marriages - one to Dick Haymes and the other to James Hill (a movie producer) - resulted in her becoming despondent, often not showing up to rehearsals and, when she did, forgetting her lines. Her last film was The Wrath of God in 1972.
In 1980 Hayworth was diagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Due to Hayworth's celebrity status she acted as a catalyst to get the disease widely known and federal funding was given to research into it. Her daughter Princess Yasmin Aga Khan (born 28 December, 1949,) saw Hayworth through her disease until 1987 when Hayworth passed away in her Central Park West apartment in Manhattan. President Reagan, who years later died of the same disease, said of her death:
Rita Hayworth was one of our country's most beloved stars. Glamorous and talented, she gave us many wonderful moments on the stage and screen and delighted audiences from the time she was a young girl. Nancy and I are saddened by Rita's death. She was a friend whom we will miss.
In memory of her mother, the Princess went on to become the vice chairwoman of the Alzheimer's Association and the president of Alzheimer's Disease International. Under the Alzheimer's Association she set up the Rita Hayworth Charity Galas, which have been held every year in Chicago and New York since 1985 to raise money to put an end to the illness.