The Eternal and Glamorous Rita Hayworth

The Hollywood Icon was born 105 years ago

The Eternal and Glamorous Rita Hayworth

She was the “all American girl” during the 1940’s, a pin-up girl for military servicemen and a beauty icon for women that remains to this day. Rita Hayworth was born Margarita Carmen Cansino in Brooklyn, New York on October 17, 1918. The oldest child of two dancers, Eduardo Cansino, a Spanish immigrant from Seville, and Volga Hayworth, an American of Irish-English descent. Rita’s paternal grandfather, Antonio Cansino, was renowned as a classical Spanish dancer that popularized the bolero, and his dancing school in Madrid was world-famous and her maternal uncle Vinton Hayworth was also an actor. With her family background, it’s easy to understand how Rita became a talented dancer and actress at such a young age. She begun her career as a child performing together with her father  in nightclubs and bars cross the border in Tijuana, Mexico, since under California law Margarita was too young to work on such places.
By the age 16 she got a role on the Mexican movie “Cruz Diablo” and the following year, 1935, in the movie with the Mexican actress Dolores del Río “In Caliente”. She signed a contract with Fox, being billed as Rita Cansino, but later, after being signed by Columbia Pictures, she became Rita Hayworth adopting her mother’s maiden name to the consternation of her father. This was a request from Columbia’s heads, as they wanted Rita to be regarded as a classic “American” and not being limited to the roles where she explored her Spanish origin. She then changed her hair color to dark red and had electrolysis to raise her hairline and broaden the appearance of her forehead, this would become Rita’s most iconic image.

Establishing The Legacy

For three consecutive years, starting in 1944, Hayworth was named one of the top movie box-office attractions in the world. Her sexy, glamorous appeal was most noted in the back then controversial Charles Vidor’s 1946 “Gilda”, alongside Glenn Ford, and one of her most iconic roles, in which Hayworth wore black satin and performed a legendary one-glove striptease, “Put The Blame On Mame”, made her into a cultural icon as a femme fatale. In 1948, married with Orson Welles and at the height of her fame, Hayworth traveled to Cannes and was introduced to Prince Aly Khan. They begun a romantic relationship that culminated in marriage on May 27, 1949. She left Hollywood and sailed for France, breaking her contract with Columbia, this was the first time a Hollywood actress became a princess. And on December 28, 1949, Hayworth gave birth to the couple’s only daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan. However, because she was still legally married to second husband Orson Welles during the early days of her courtship with the prince, Hayworth, a Roman Catholic, also received some negative backlash, specially by the head of Catholic Church, Pope John XXIII, who claimed her bigamous marriage to Prince Aly Khan was “illicit”. All together, lead to some American fans to boycotting her pictures. Rita never got used to her life as a princess, and the couple end up divorcing in 1953. During this period, she was forced to return to Hollywood, and made her “comeback” movie “Affair In Trinidad” in 1952. Throughout the rest of the decade she continued to act in several other movies, but, Hollywood was changing, and now, younger actresses and sex symbols were emerging, and that, limited the roles that were offered to Rita. During this period, Rita’s alcohol problems got increasingly worst. Orson Welles noted Hayworth’s problem with alcohol during their marriage, but he never believed that her problem was alcoholism, however, during her last years, the problem got worst and public. Hayworth’s alcoholism also hid symptoms of what was eventually understood to be Alzheimer’s disease. Despite that, she continued to act in films until the early 1970’s, her last film was “The Wrath Of God”, released in 1972. In 1974, both of her brothers died within a week of each other, this caused led her even further into heavy drinking.

Farewell and Immortality 

Rita Hayworth lapsed into a semicoma in February 1987, and three months later, on May 14, she passed away aged 68 from complications associated with Alzheimer’s disease at her home in Manhattan. Biographer Barbara Leaming wrote that Hayworth aged prematurely because of her addiction to alcohol and also because of the many stresses in her life, among it her tumultuous love life, Rita married for the first time at age 18 with a man twice her age and had four other marriages, including the ones with Orson Welles and Prince Aly Khan. Her fith and final marriage was with film producer James Hill, with whom she got married in 1958 and divorced in 1961.In an interview which he gave the evening before his death in 1985, Welles called Hayworth “one of the dearest and sweetest women that ever lived”. Rita Hayworth it’s now immortal. She’s an icon of beauty and glamour, her image, familiar to everyone and roles like “Gilda”, are timeless and influential classics that have stand the test of time.

Absolutely iconic: Watch Rita Hayworth performing “Put The Blame On Mame” from the 1946 movie “Gilda”

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