Rita Hayworth Remembered
Did any movie actress ever sizzle on celluloid like Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946)? I doubt it. When this “Love Goddess” of the 1940s sang “Put the Blame on Mame,” her sex appeal almost jumped off the screen. Women wanted to be her; men of all ages dreamed about her. And World War II servicemen couldn’t get enough Rita Hayworth pinups.
Although Gilda solidified Hayworth’s cinematic sex appeal, she also projected her glamorous image in other popular films. In Blood and Sand, Hayworth played Linda Darnell’s rival for bullfighter Tyrone Power’s attentions; she danced with Gene Kelly in Cover Girl and with Fred Astaire in You’ll Never Get Rich and in You Were Never Lovelier; and she fell for Victor Mature in My Gal Sal. But no matter how many leading men she appeared with, Hayworth was at her seductive best with Gilda co-star Glenn Ford and made four more movies – including Affair in Trinidad and The Loves of Carmen – with this handsome actor. Sparks always flew between Hayworth and Ford on screen, and it wasn’t because of any dialogue in the script. They generated an electrifying chemistry together. As Mark Twain once observed, “Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself.”
Growing older, Hayworth turned to more dramatic roles in films like They Came to Cordura, Miss Sadie Thompson, Separate Tables, The Lady from Shanghai and The Story on Page One. At the time of her death at age 68, Hayworth had over 60 movies on her resumé.
Born Margarita Carmen Cansino on October 17, 1918, Hayworth was the daughter of a Spanish dancer and his partner, so it’s no surprise that she began dancing at an early age. In fact, when she was only 13, she danced in Tijuana and Agua Caliente night clubs. That’s where a Hollywood production boss discovered her. In 1935, as Rita Cansino, Hayworth appeared in small roles in Under the Pampas Moon, Charlie Chan in Egypt, Dante’s Inferno and Paddy O’Day. Her career took a leap forward in 1937 when she married businessman Edward Judson, who quit his day job to manage her. Under Judson’s direction, Hayworth changed her name, her hair color (to a gorgeous red that looked so great in Technicolor), became more sophisticated and obtained a seven-year contract with Columbia.
Hayworth married five times. After Judson, she wed Orson Welles (father of her daughter Rebecca), Prince Aly Khan (father of her daughter Yasmin), Dick Haymes and James Hill. Hayworth’s active love life continually served as a bone of contention between the actress and Harry Cohn, the Columbia studio head who tried to manage her personal affairs as well as her career.
Misdiagnosed as an alcoholic in her later years, Hayworth actually suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Declared legally unable to care for herself, she was placed under the care of daughter Yasmin.
In 1983, Lynda Carter portrayed Hayworth in a TV movie titled Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess. Although Carter did her best to capture the essence Hayworth’s appeal, her performance (as well as the production) failed to do justice to one of Hollywood’s most glamorous stars. Fortunately, because many of Hayworth’s films are shown on television and are also available on DVD, viewers can still enjoy her unique movie magic.
Photo: Rita Hayworth on IMDb