Rita Hayworth

gigatos | November 6, 2021


Rita Hayworth (real name Margarita Carmen Cansino) was an American actress, dancer and film producer.

As her father”s dance partner, Rita Hayworth was discovered for film in 1934. In the course of her career, she appeared in 60 feature films until 1972. In the 1940s, when she enjoyed her greatest successes, the actress, known above all for her red-dyed hair, was given the nickname “The Love Goddess”. Although she also appeared in a number of light-hearted film musicals, in which she was able to demonstrate her dancing talent alongside Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, Hayworth”s beauty and sensual charisma meant that she was mostly confined to the type of seductive femme fatale.

It was above all the title role in the cult film Gilda (1946) that left a lasting mark on her image as a screen goddess. An attempt to break with this role image with the film noir The Lady of Shanghai (1948) failed. Later, she tried again to free herself from the image of the glamorous film star and switch to the character field with productions such as the star-studded film drama Separated from Table and Bed (1958). As a result of private and health problems, however, she found it difficult to establish herself as a character actress as she grew older.

She repeatedly made headlines in the 1970s when she displayed conspicuous forgetfulness and strange behavior at public appearances, which at the time was attributed to excessive alcohol consumption. It was not until 1981 that Hayworth was diagnosed with the then little-known Alzheimer”s disease as the actual cause of her mental confusion, which brought the disease greater attention, especially in the United States.

In a 1999 survey by the American Film Institute, Hayworth was ranked 19th among the 25 greatest female film legends.

Childhood and youth

Hayworth”s father was the Spanish dancer Eduardo Cansino (1895-1968), who had emigrated from Seville to the United States in 1913. There he performed with his older sister Elisa and other family members as “The Dancing Cansinos” in the vaudeville theaters popular at the time, where they caused a sensation especially with flamenco. In 1917, at a revue in New York, Eduardo met his future wife, Volga Hayworth (1898-1945), who had grown up in Washington, D.C. in an Irish-English family and was trying her hand on Broadway as a showgirl in the Ziegfeld Follies. Eduardo and Volga”s first child, Hayworth was born in 1918 in a hospital on New York”s West Side and was christened Margarita Carmen Cansino. Shortly after the birth, the family moved to Brooklyn from a Manhattan hotel for theater people. A year later, Hayworth”s brother Eduardo Jr. was born. A third child, Vernon, followed in 1922, necessitating a move to larger quarters in Jackson Heights, a prosperous borough of Queens.

At the age of four, Hayworth already received her first dance lessons from her father, during which she used her first pair of castanets. When Eduardo and Elisa toured together, she was taught by her uncle Angel Cansino. In a Vitaphone short film entitled La Fiesta (1926), Hayworth is said to have made her first screen appearance, albeit lasting only a few seconds, with the “Dancing Cansinos.” As movies became more popular, and at the latest with the advent of talkies, vaudeville theaters increasingly lost their importance. As a result, the family moved to Los Angeles in 1926, where Eduardo promised himself a better financial future as a dance teacher and choreographer in Hollywood films.

After the world economic crisis from the end of the 1920s led to fewer and fewer Americans being able to afford dance lessons and also to a decline in demand in Hollywood, Eduardo Cansino saw himself forced to close his dance school, which had been well attended until then, and to perform again with his sister as a dance duo. However, the latter withdrew from show business in 1931 in favor of her own family and moved back to Spain. After Hayworth first appeared on a stage as a professional dancer at the age of 13 with her cousin Gabriel Cansino in the opening act of a screening of Back Street (1932), Eduardo decided to make his talented daughter his dance partner. For the next three years, they performed together as “The Dancing Cansinos” performing various Spanish dances. Since Hayworth was still too young, according to California law, to work in clubs serving alcohol, their performances were limited to nightclubs in Tijuana just over the Mexican border and on pleasure boats off the coast of California. Hayworth, who first attended Alexander Hamilton High and later Carthay High School, also had to make up the material she missed through performing with extra homework.

The family eventually moved near the border to Chula Vista. By now, Hayworth had to do up to four or five shows in a day, so Eduardo took his daughter out of school early and had private tutors teach her during her breaks. Later, Hayworth, whose grandfather Antonio Cansino had established the family”s dance tradition and successfully built a dance school in Spain, complained that her childhood had consisted almost exclusively of hard dance training, which is why it had hardly been possible for her to socialize with her peers, unlike her brothers, who showed neither talent nor interest in dancing. In addition, both parents were very anxious to keep their maturing daughter away from strange men in the casinos and nightclubs, which is why they hardly let her out of their sight and sometimes locked her in her dressing room.

Beginnings with film

In a nightclub in Agua Caliente, which as a resort with a horse racing track and bullfights was particularly popular with film people, the Cansinos finally received an engagement lasting several months. During one of their performances, Rita Hayworth caught the eye of Winfield Sheehan, the head of production at Fox Film Corporation, who then invited her to Hollywood for screen tests. Hayworth eventually received a contract at Fox and then took speech and acting lessons along with other starlets at the studio. At the end of 1934, she made her first film, the movie drama The Ship of Satan, starring Spencer Tracy and featuring her as a dancer. However, this was not released until the fall of 1935, after Hayworth had already appeared on screen in small roles alongside Warner Baxter in The Whip of the Pampas (1935) and as an Oriental servant in Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935) alongside the popular detective of the time, Charlie Chan, played by Warner Oland.

She had her first major role in the film musical Paddy O”Day, made the same year, in which she plays the Russian immigrant Tamara Petrovitch and helps a little orphan girl, played by Jane Withers, find a new home. However, when Fox Film Corporation merged with 20th Century Pictures to form 20th Century Fox, the head of the newly formed studio, Darryl F. Zanuck, had no more use for Hayworth and summarily terminated her contract. Her last appearance at Fox was in the film Dangerous Cargo (1936), which dealt with illegal immigration. After that, Hayworth was forced to keep her head above water for a while as a freelance actress.

Starlet at Columbia Pictures

This was followed by a small role in the Columbia Pictures-produced crime film Meet Nero Wolfe (1936) and a series of small westerns by minor production companies: Lady of California (1936), Gunrunning in Louisiana (1937), Hit the Saddle (1937), and Carmen in Texas (1937), in each of which she took the female lead. Her first husband Edward C. Judson, who managed her at the time, eventually helped her land a seven-year contract with Columbia Pictures. Hayworth had previously appeared as an actress under the name Rita Cansino. Columbia”s studio boss Harry Cohn, however, did not like the name Cansino. So it was changed without further ado – after her mother”s maiden name – to “Hayworth”. In Criminals of the Air (1937), her first film under her new contract, she was cast as a Mexican dancer, as she had been at Fox or in her westerns. Thereafter, she appeared in countless crime films from Columbia”s B-movie division, in which she no longer played exotic beauties but ambitious young American women. Charles Quigley was her on-screen partner particularly often, for example in the films Girls Can Play, The Game That Kills, and The Shadow, released in 1937, which were set in the sports and circus milieus. But unlike Quigley”s career, Hayworth”s soon took off. Under the direction of George Cukor, who had proven himself as a “women”s director,” she was tested for a role in the Columbia-produced screwball comedy The Bride”s Sister (1938), in which she would play Hepburn”s materialistic sister alongside Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. However, during a test with Hepburn, Cukor felt Hayworth was too young and inexperienced for the role, and eventually awarded it to Doris Nolan, while promising Hayworth he would cast her in another film later.

After other minor crime films such as Homicide Bureau (1939), in which, unusually for the time, she played a forensic scientist, and the George O”Brien western The Renegade Ranger (1938), for which she was loaned to RKO Pictures, she made her first appearance as a seductive female character in the crime comedy The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939), alongside Warren William and Ida Lupino, anticipating her later femme fatale roles. For this role, Hayworth was given costumes and a lighting double designed especially for her for the first time in her career.

However, it was her appearance in Columbia”s blockbuster aviation film S.O.S. Fire on Board (1939), directed by Howard Hawks, that gave Hayworth”s career the decisive impetus. The male lead was played by Cary Grant. Grant embodied the thuggish boss of an airline carrying mail across the Andes. Hayworth mimed his former girlfriend, who turned him into a misogynistic cynic who only opens up to love again through a showgirl, played by Columbia”s star at the time, Jean Arthur. Both audiences and critics responded very positively to Hayworth, so Columbia decided to build Hayworth, who continued to take acting classes, as the studio”s new star through large-scale PR campaigns. In addition to film shoots, Hayworth now spent more time than ever at photo shoots in glamour and pin-up poses.

Columbia, however, had difficulty finding suitable projects for the actress. In the little-known film musical Music in My Heart (1940), Hayworth”s dancing talent was hardly called upon alongside Tony Martin. George Cukor finally made good on his promise and loaned her out for Columbia”s high-quality MGM production Susan and the Good Lord (1940). Hayworth appeared in it alongside Joan Crawford and Fredric March in the role of a fickle young actress. Hayworth subsequently received lucrative roles from other studios and producers such as Cecil B. DeMille lucrative role offers. But first Hayworth made the film drama The Lady in Question (1940), in the role of a young woman innocently accused of murder, her first of five films with Glenn Ford. The remake of a French film starring Michèle Morgan was directed by Charles Vidor, who would make a total of four films with Hayworth. Hayworth then starred as a naive, job-seeking showgirl alongside Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in Angels Over Broadway (1940), directed by Ben Hecht, known primarily as a screenwriter.

Breakthrough in Hollywood

Hayworth owed her final breakthrough to two loan-outs. For the nostalgic film comedy Most Beautiful in Town (1941), Hayworth was loaned out by Warner Brothers after Ann Sheridan turned down the title role. Alongside James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland and directed by veteran director Raoul Walsh, Hayworth portrayed the beautiful Virginia Brush in the film set in turn-of-the-century New York, who catches the eye of all the men and whom dentist Biff Grimes, played by Cagney, loses to his best friend as the film progresses. Although the film was shot in black and white, given the original title, The Strawberry Blonde, they insisted on dying Hayworth”s dark brown hair auburn for the first time in her career. Jack L. Warner was so taken with Hayworth”s performance that he promptly loaned her out again for the screwball comedy Affectionately Yours, with Hayworth”s name placed above the title on the film”s posters for the first time. The film proved to be a flop, but did not hurt Hayworth”s career.

It was ultimately the role of Doña Sol in the bullfighting drama King of the Toreros (1941) that catapulted Hayworth into Hollywood”s A-League. 20th Century Fox had long searched for the right cast and tested a variety of actresses, including Maria Montez, Gene Tierney, Lynn Bari and Dorothy Lamour, for the role. The film”s director, Rouben Mamoulian, eventually insisted on giving the then 22-year-old Hayworth the role of the Spanish femme fatale because of her sensual charisma and cat-like way of moving. The film, which was to be Hayworth”s first color film, was based on a novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, which had already been successfully filmed in 1922 in a silent version starring Rudolph Valentino. The role of Doña Sol, who seduces bullfighter Juan Gallardo, played by Tyrone Power, drives him into the abyss and then dumps him for a younger one, made Hayworth the most sought-after actress overnight.

A year later, she made two more films for 20th Century Fox: the star-studded episodic film Six Fates, in which, as a married woman, she embarks on a disastrous affair with Charles Boyer, and the Technicolor musical The Queen of Broadway, in which she took the title role alongside Victor Mature, having already demonstrated her talent in this genre at Columbia with the film musical Reich wirst du nie (1941).

Film musical successes

You”ll Never Get Rich was the first of two films made together with Fred Astaire that would revive Astaire”s career after the temporary end of his collaboration with Ginger Rogers and establish Hayworth in the genre. In the film, Astaire played a dance director who is drafted into military service and falls in love with Hayworth. Cole Porter contributed the music. Shortly after filming, on August 11, 1941, Life magazine published Hayworth”s now-famous pin-up photo, which, along with a picture of actress Betty Grable, became the most popular pin-up among U.S. GIs during World War II.

Hayworth”s second musical with Astaire, Du warst nie berückender (You”ve Never Been More Enchanting), followed in 1942, offering audiences escapism with its fairy-tale story set in Argentina, and was similarly successful to its predecessor. Hayworth was by now Columbia”s biggest star, which is why studio head Harry Cohn decided that she could no longer be loaned out to other studios in the future and, like Greta Garbo once did, should only make one film a year so as not to oversaturate audiences.

Away from the screen, Hayworth, whose brothers were stationed as soldiers in the Pacific and Europe during World War II, was busy, like many other stars of her time, providing moral support to the country in wartime. For example, she promoted war bonds, appeared on radio shows directed at soldiers, and entertained and danced with GIs at the legendary Hollywood Canteen. With her later husband, director Orson Welles, who was considered a prodigy and genius, she also performed for the soldiers in magic shows and had herself cut in half for appearances.

In May 1943, filming began on Columbia”s biggest project of the year. In the lavish Technicolor musical It Dances the Goddess (1944), Hayworth appeared – again directed by Charles Vidor – as a showgirl who makes a career for her pretty face, but is not happy in the process and ends up returning to the man she loves. Hayworth”s screen partner was Gene Kelly, on loan from MGM, who was also responsible for the choreography. The film became a great success with audiences and critics were also full of praise, as it represented a further development of the genre through innovative animation techniques and with music and dance interludes as important parts of the plot. For Gene Kelly, the film marked a breakthrough, while further cementing Hayworth”s position in Hollywood”s front rank. Tonight and Every Night, another profitable musical, followed in early 1945. This time, in war-torn London, Hayworth played a showgirl who falls in love with a U.S. pilot and performs night after night on stage despite bombing raids. As in all her films, however, Rita Hayworth did not sing herself. In her songs, she was always dubbed by singers like Nan Wynn, Martha Mears, Anita Ellis and Jo Ann Greer.

Rise to superstar

While light, colorful musicals were in demand during the war, film noir with its pessimistic and disillusioning world views flourished after the end of the war. In September 1945, filming began on Gilda, a melodrama set in South America with a highly charged erotic subtext, in which Hayworth took the title role. She was joined on screen by Glenn Ford, with whom she had already shot The Lady in Question. The director was again Charles Vidor. The role of the provocative Gilda, who turns men”s heads and falls in love-hate with Ford”s Johnny Farrell, marks the most famous screen appearance of Hayworth”s career. An erotic classic of the “Black Series,” the film is especially famous for the scene in which Hayworth, in an off-the-shoulder black satin dress, removes her long black gloves to the song Put the Blame on Mame. Though reviews were poor at the time, audiences flocked to theaters worldwide. Bosley Crowther, the redoubtable New York Times critic, called Hayworth a “superstar” after seeing her in Gilda.

After the immense success of Gilda, Hayworth was at the height of her fame as a screen goddess. It therefore made sense for Columbia to cast her in their next film as Terpsichore, who comes to earth as the divine muse of dance to restage a Broadway show that she finds unacceptable. A Goddess on Earth (1947) was the last typical Hayworth musical, and went down in Columbia”s studio history as one of its most expensive productions. After the film”s release, Life magazine declared Hayworth the “Love Goddess of America” and devoted an extensive editorial to her and the film.

The Hayworth cult was abruptly shaken when Hayworth made the film noir The Lady of Shanghai (1947) with her then-husband Orson Welles. Hayworth played the married Elsa Bannister, who entangles Michael O”Hara, the sailor played by Welles, in a web of intrigue and does not shy away from murder. To the dismay of Harry Cohn and her fans, Hayworth appeared in the role of the cold, calculating femme fatale with a blonde short hairstyle, with which the actress tried in vain to break away from her Gilda image in order to be perceived as a serious actress in the future. But neither the critics nor the audience accepted a blonde and evil Hayworth. The film also proved to be a big flop due to high production costs. It was only years after its premiere that The Lady of Shanghai advanced to become a classic of its genre. The final scene in the hall of mirrors became particularly famous.

Film breaks and comebacks

After her separation from Orson Welles and the exhausting shooting of Love Nights in Seville, Hayworth decided in May 1948 to take a vacation for several months until her next film. In New York, she first saw the latest plays before traveling on to Paris. Although she returned to Hollywood briefly to take part in the initial preparations for her next planned film, the western Lona Hanson, she did not stay long and traveled to Europe again. The film, which she was supposed to make with William Holden and Randolph Scott, was ultimately never realized. As a result, the actress fell out of favor with Columbia and was suspended. Hayworth meanwhile stayed on the Côte d”Azur, where the international jet set bustled about and, in addition to countless playboys, the young Shah of Persia also vied for her attention. At a party given by Elsa Maxwell in Cannes, Hayworth met Prince Aly Khan in early July 1948. Since both were living separately from their respective spouses at the time, but had not officially divorced, their romance, accompanied everywhere by papperazzi, and later marriage made headlines in the international tabloid press similar to those of Ingrid Bergman”s scandal-ridden liaison with Roberto Rossellini at the time.

After the breakdown of her turbulent marriage to Khan, Hayworth returned to Hollywood in 1951. Three years had passed since her last screen appearance. All that had emerged was Champagne Safari (1951), a 60-minute documentary about her second honeymoon with Aly Khan, showing the couple in southern Europe and various African countries shortly before their separation. After the return of its still biggest star, Columbia Pictures immediately lifted Hayworth”s suspension and tried to set up a new project for her as soon as possible. It took nine more months, however, before shooting began on the crime film Affair in Trinidad (1952), which, thanks in part to the casting of Glenn Ford, was an obvious rip-off of Gilda for critics and audiences alike, but which – thanks in part to targeted advertising campaigns by Columbia – became an even greater financial success than the 1946 film, thus giving Hayworth a successful comeback.

Hayworth then went on to star alongside Stewart Granger and Charles Laughton in Salome (1953), another box-office hit in which she played the eponymous biblical princess. However, the monumental film directed by William Dieterle could only convince the critics with Hayworth”s modern dance-influenced Dance of the Seven Veils in view of the heavily distorted Bible story in it. This was followed by the Somerset Maugham film Purgatory (1953), produced in 3D, with Hayworth in the role of the easygoing Sadie Thompson, who meets a religious zealot on a South Sea island. The story, heavily censored in the film due to the Hays Code, had previously been filmed with Gloria Swanson (1928) and Joan Crawford (1932) and gave Hayworth the opportunity to prove that she was not only a movie star but also an actress, which is why she insisted on appearing less glamorous in the film, even in the face of protests from Harry Cohn. She received good reviews for her portrayal of a woman with a past, and Somerset Maugham also praised her performance, but audiences were less enthusiastic.

Due to her fourth marriage to singer Dick Haymes, which was marked by trouble with state authorities and legal disputes with Columbia over the failed project Joseph and His Brethren, Hayworth took another break from films for several years. In the meantime, she was increasingly supplanted on screen and in the public eye by younger actresses such as Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor. Asked about this, Hayworth is reported to have said with relief about her successors, “You can have the headlines, I”ve had enough! The only headlines I want are the ones about my acting.”

Hayworth returned to the screen again in 1957 with the Caribbean-set adventure film Playing with Fire, in which Jack Lemmon and Robert Mitchum vied for her favor, after Ava Gardner turned down the film”s female lead. Hayworth”s second comeback in the role of a more mature, life-troubled but still beautiful woman, however, did not turn out to be nearly as successful as the 1952 one, due in part to Columbia”s final cut, which completely overturned the film”s original concept. That same year, Hayworth appeared in a movie musical for the last time with Pal Joey, a screen adaptation of the Broadway hit of the same name. Directed by George Sidney, she played an elderly, wealthy widow who ultimately loses the singer she patronized, Joey, played by Frank Sinatra, to her younger rival, portrayed by Columbia”s new star Kim Novak. Pal Joey proved a huge box office success and was to be Hayworth”s last film under her 20-year contract with Columbia Pictures.

Serious character roles and last films

No longer under contract to Columbia, Rita Hayworth was active as a freelance actress until the end of her career. In her search for roles that would help her, at almost 40, finally leave behind the image of the sensual Gilda and move into the longed-for character field, her later fifth husband James Hill helped her. As co-owner of the production company Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, he got her the role of Ann Shankland in the star-studded ensemble film Separated from Table and Bed (1958), based on a play by Terence Rattigan. Alongside Burt Lancaster, David Niven, Deborah Kerr and Wendy Hiller, and directed by talented up-and-coming director Delbert Mann, Hayworth played a former model struggling with aging who, out of loneliness, tries to win back her ex-husband. The film received excellent reviews and seven Oscar nominations while being one of the most successful productions of the year. Hayworth was also praised by critics for her portrayal of Ann Shankland. Nevertheless, she considered retiring from the film business at this time. However, James Hill, who was by then convinced of her talent as a serious actress, persuaded her to continue making films.

In the Robert Rossen-directed western They Came to Cordura (1959), she then played the only female role alongside Gary Cooper, Van Heflin and Tab Hunter, returning to Columbia for the last time. As a prisoner escorting a major considered a coward and a group of soldiers across the Mexican desert, Hayworth eschewed all glamour for older makeup. As a result, she received some of the best reviews of her career for her acting performance. However, the film failed with audiences. That same year, she followed it up with the courtroom drama Sensation on Page 1, in which she was also shown as a mother for the first time in the role of a lower-middle-class woman accused of murdering her husband. It was directed by noted playwright Clifford Odets, who also wrote the screenplay and had long wanted to work with Hayworth. Once again, critics were full of praise for Hayworth, but this time, too, box office success failed to materialize.

Hayworth and James Hill eventually formed their own small production company called Hillworth. After Hayworth had already co-produced Love Nights in Seville, Affair in Trinidad and Salome with her Beckworth Corporation, she now appeared again as a film producer for the crook comedy Rendezvous in Madrid (1962) and was also mentioned in the opening credits for the first time. The film, in which Hayworth and Rex Harrison play a pair of crooks trying to steal a painting from the Prado, turned out to be a big flop. The marriage between Hayworth and Hill, which was already in crisis, was divorced soon after. Together with Gary Merrill, with whom she then had a relationship, Hayworth was to make her theatrical debut on Broadway in 1962 in the stage play Step on a Crack. However, after the first week of rehearsals, Hayworth was put on sick leave due to nervous exhaustion and was eventually replaced by another actress.

After several months without role offers, Hayworth was cast in 1963 as a replacement for Lilli Palmer in the film drama Circus World (1964) alongside John Wayne in the role of a former high-wire artist and as Claudia Cardinale”s mother. Filming, marked by delays, proved difficult and Hayworth was increasingly rumored to have a drinking problem. For her portrayal of Lili Alfredo, however, she was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1965 in the category Best Actress in a Leading Role – Drama, earning her a nomination for a prestigious film award for the first and only time in her career. She then starred in the crime film Gold Trap (1965), her fifth and last film together with Glenn Ford. While the film was otherwise slated, Hayworth stood out for critics as a down-and-out waitress and old love of Ford”s played cop. Time found Hayworth to have “never looked less like a beauty at 47 , but never so much like an actress.”

Productions followed, which, like Rendezvous in Madrid and Circus World before them, were shot primarily in Europe, including two films directed by James Bond director Terence Young: the UN co-produced anti-drug film Poppy is Also a Flower (1966), in which Hayworth joined a cast of international stars including Yul Brynner, Omar Sharif and Marcello Mastroianni, and the adventure film I”ve Come from the End of the World (1967), set in the Napoleonic era, in which she starred alongside Anthony Quinn for a second time after King of the Toreros. A year later, she appeared in the cynical gangster film The Bastard as the alcoholic mother of Giuliano Gemma and Klaus Kinski, who was originally supposed to play Joan Crawford.

As an emotionally distraught mother in the Lanzarote-set film drama The Road to Salina (1970), Hayworth gave another strong performance in her early 50s, prompting the Los Angeles Times to write that it was “the irony of Rita Hayworth”s career” that “she is making fewer (and increasingly obscure) films but delivering better and better performances.” After the release of the low-budget production The Naked Zoo (1971), which had already been filmed in 1966 and marked the low point in Hayworth”s career among fans and critics as a cheap exploitation film, she made her last screen appearance in 1972 in the western To Hell with Hosanna. Partnering Robert Mitchum, who played a smoking and shooting priest, she embodied the deeply religious mother of a crazed criminal.

Alzheimer”s disease and the last years of life

At the age of 43, Rita Hayworth began to show the first signs of Alzheimer”s disease. By the early 1970s, her health had deteriorated to such an extent that she could no longer accept any more roles. In July 1981, she was incapacitated. Her daughter from her marriage to Prince Aly Khan, Yasmin Aga Khan, took her to live with her in New York and cared for her until her death in 1987. Hayworth, who died at 68, was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Yasmin Aga Khan still remembers her mother today through her annual “Rita Hayworth Galas” in New York and Chicago, raising money for Alzheimer”s research through donations from New York high society.

Private life

Rita Hayworth was married a total of five times and had two daughters. In 1937 she married Edward C. Judson, a businessman 20 years her senior, who managed her and advanced her career. The marriage was divorced in May 1942. After a romance with Victor Mature, Hayworth married Orson Welles in September 1943, with whom she had a daughter together, Rebecca Welles (1944-2004). After a first separation in the fall of 1945 and several attempts at reconciliation, the divorce followed in December 1948.

In May 1949, Hayworth, who was brought up as a Catholic, and Prince Aly Khan, known as a playboy and the son of Aga Khan III, who was of the Muslim faith, were married by the communist mayor of Vallauris near Cannes, to great attention from the press and the world public. A marriage according to the Islamic rite took place one day after the civil ceremony. Their daughter Princess Yasmin Aga Khan was born at the end of December 1949. The couple separated as early as 1951, but did not divorce until January 1953.

In September 1953, Hayworth married Dick Haymes, an Argentine singer popular in the United States. However, the marriage was divorced in December 1955 after only two years. In February 1958, Hayworth entered into a fifth and final marriage with film producer James Hill, but it too ended in divorce in September 1961. Despite her five marriages and her artistic reputation as a love goddess, Hayworth was privately considered very reserved.

In Manuel Puig”s first novel Betrayed by Rita Hayworth (original title: La traición de Rita Hayworth, 1968), which immediately became a classic of Argentine literature, Puig refers to Hayworth”s role of Dona Sol in King of the Toreros (1941), which, as in the film, also becomes the novel”s protagonist”s undoing as a femme fatale.

The film drama The Barefoot Countess (1954), with Ava Gardner in the role of a Spanish dancer who rises to become a celebrated Hollywood star and marries a nobleman, is based in part on Hayworth”s life. Originally, even Hayworth was up for the title role, but she turned it down because of the parallels to her own biography. Decades later, Hayworth also served as the inspiration for the animated character Jessica Rabbit, portrayed as a femme fatale, in Wrong Game with Roger Rabbit (1988), alongside Veronica Lake and Lauren Bacall.

In the prison film The Shawshank Redemption (1994), based on the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, the inmates in the prison movie theater prefer to watch the film Gilda. A pin-up poster of Rita Hayworth then becomes a symbol of redemption for the protagonist, played by Tim Robbins, by hiding an escape tunnel behind it. Other films have also paid tribute to Hayworth, especially in the role of Gilda. In David Lynch”s Mulholland Drive – Road to Darkness (2001), a woman suffering from amnesia calls herself “Rita” after reading Hayworth”s name on a Gilda poster, and becomes a femme fatale in the course of the film.

In Notting Hill (1999), Julia Roberts embodies a famous actress who at one point quotes Hayworth as saying “They go to bed with Gilda, they wake up with me.” (Eng: “They go to bed with Gilda, they wake up with me.”), alluding to her image and its impact on her love life. In the French crime comedy 8 Women (2002), Fanny Ardant”s vocal performance is modeled on Hayworth”s glove striptease in Gilda. In the same film, Isabelle Huppert, initially unassuming, later wears her red hair like Hayworth”s and an off-the-shoulder gown with a large bow, also referencing Gilda and Hayworth, respectively.

In Michael Jackson”s This Is It (2009), Hayworth is featured in a video for the song Smooth Criminal, in which Michael Jackson uses montage to catch a glove that Hayworth throws into the audience in the role of Gilda. Hayworth is also one of the many legendary Hollywood icons mentioned in Madonna”s song Vogue (“Rita Hayworth gave good face”). In June 2005, the album Get Behind Me Satan by the rock band The White Stripes was released, on which at least two songs refer to Hayworth. The song Take, Take, Take tells how a fan in a bar successfully asks Hayworth for an autograph and a photo, but is disappointed in his insatiability when the actress leaves the bar without giving him another kiss or even a lock of her hair. White Moon, in turn, describes an unfulfilled longing for a pin-up named Rita, who is an unattainable “ghost.” The band”s singer and guitarist, Jack White, stated that Hayworth was his source of inspiration when writing the songs for the album. Furthermore, White owns a guitar with a portrait of the actress depicted on the back, which he uses for his performances with the White Stripes.

The first song from Billy Idol”s EP The Roadside, released in September 2021, is titled Rita Hayworth.

Among the actresses who lent their voices to Rita Hayworth in the German dubbed versions are:

Rita Hayworth appeared in a number of U.S. radio drama productions and radio shows from 1939 to 1948.


Rita Hayworth”s Movies

Illustrated book

Further literature

Reception literature


  1. Rita Hayworth
  2. Rita Hayworth
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