|Birth name:||Margarita Carmen Cansino|
|Date of birth:||October 17, 1918|
|Birth location:||Brooklyn, New York, U.S.|
|Date of death:||May 14, 1987 (aged 68)|
|Death location:||The San Remo, New York City, U.S.|
|Spouse:||Edward C. Judson (1937-1943) |
Orson Welles (1943-1948)
Prince Aly Khan (1949-1953)
Dick Haymes (1953-1955)
James Hill (1958-1961)
Rita Hayworth (October 17, 1918 – May 14, 1987), was an American actress who reached fame during the 1940s as the era's leading sex symbol. Although there was prejudice against Hispanic actors at the time, Hayworth is now widely regarded to be one of the first Hispanic-American "sex goddesses" of "Golden Age" Hollywood with leading roles in film. Rita was a gifted dancer and actress who played glamorous roles that maximized her "sex appeal." In World War II, her picture was popular as a "pin up" among American servicemen. Her personal life was less happy, however and she became more and more irked with the trappings of fame. Her failed marriages contributed to her over consumption of alcohol.
As an actress, she pushed the envelope on what was acceptable in terms of sex-appeal and will be forever remembered for her striptease in Gilda considered by some the most famous film scene ever. She often combined the roles of victim and victimizer—a woman who was herself abused who used her sexuality to manipulate men. Some may think that she pushed the envelope out too far. On the other hand, what she explored in her films is part of the story of life and throughout history some women have managed to exercise considerable power and influence through men even when women were officially absent from public life. The opening up of opportunities for women to take their full share of responsibility in the world alongside men is increasingly making this strategy redundant. She has also been a role model for other actors and actresses from minority communities.
Margarita Carmen Cansino, better known as Rita Hayworth, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Spanish flamenco dancer Eduardo Cansino (Sr.) and Irish-American Ziegfeld girl Volga Hayworth .
She performed with her parents in nightclubs in California and the Foreign Club in Tijuana, Mexico. Margarita was on stage by the age of six as a member of The Cansinos, a famous family of Roma Gitano Spanish dancers working in vaudeville.
Margarita's father wanted her to become a professional dancer, while her mother hoped she would become an actress. Her paternal grandfather, Antonio Cansino, a renowned classical Spanish dancer instructed Rita Hayworth's first dance lesson. Hayworth later recalled, "From the time I was three and a half ... as soon as I could stand on my own feet, I was given dance lessons." She noted "I didn't like it very much ... but I didn't have the courage to tell my father, so I began taking the lessons. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, that was my girlhood."
She attended dance classes every day for a few years in a Carnegie Hall complex, where she was taught by her uncle Angel Cansino. Before her fifth birthday she was one of the Four Cansinos featured in the Broadway production of The Greenwich Village Follies at the Winter Garden Theatre. In 1926, at the age of eight, she was featured in La Fiesta, a short film for Warner Bros.
In 1927, her father took the family to Hollywood. He believed that dancing could be featured in the movies and that his family could be part of it. He established his own dance studio, where he taught such stars as James Cagney and Jean Harlow.
In 1931, Eduardo Cansino partnered with his 12-year-old daughter to form an act called the Dancing Cansinos. Since under California law Margarita was too young to work in nightclubs and bars, her father took her with him to work across the border in Tijuana, Mexico. In the early 1930s, it was a popular tourist spot for people from Los Angeles. Because she was working, she never graduated from high school, but she completed the ninth grade at Hamilton High in Los Angeles.
When she was sixteen, noticed as part of the "The Dancing Cansinos," she was signed by Fox Studios as Rita Cansino and her career in Hollywood began. She soon changed her name to Rita Hayworth to avoid appearing too "Latin."
Naturally shy and reclusive, Hayworth was the antithesis of the characters she played. She complained, “Every man I knew went to bed with Gilda and woke up with me.”
Hayworth was married and divorced five times. Hayworth confided to Orson Welles, her second husband, that her father began to sexually abuse her as a child, when they were touring together as the Dancing Cansinos. Her biographer, Barbara Leaming, wrote that her mother may have been the only person to know; she slept in the same bed as her daughter to try to protect her. Leaming wrote that the abuse experienced by Hayworth as a young girl contributed to her difficulty in relationships as an adult.
In 1937, when Hayworth was 18, she married Edward C. Judson, an oilman turned promoter. Judson was as old as her father, who was enraged by the marriage, which caused a rift between Hayworth and her parents until the divorce. Judson had failed to tell Hayworth before they married that he had previously been married twice. She filed for divorce from him on February 24, 1942, with a complaint of cruelty.
Hayworth married Orson Welles on September 7, 1943, during the run of The Mercury Wonder Show. None of her colleagues knew about the planned wedding (before a judge) until she announced it the day before. A few hours after they got married, they returned to work at the studio. They had a daughter, Rebecca, who was born on December 17, 1944, and died at the age of 59 on October 17, 2004. On November 10, 1947, she was granted a divorce that became final the following year.
In 1948, Hayworth left her film career to marry Prince Aly Khan, a son of Sultan Mahommed Shah, Aga Khan III, the leader of the Ismaili community of Shia Islam. They were married on May 27, 1949. Initially Hayworth and Prince Aly had trysts at the Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans. The couple moved to Europe, causing a media frenzy. Although she did not like horses and thoroughbred horse racing, her husband Prince Aly Khan and his family were heavily involved in horse racing and Hayworth's filly Double Rose won several races in France and notably finished second in the 1949 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
They had a daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, born December 28, 1949. The prince wanted her to be raised as a Muslim; Hayworth wanted the child to be raised as a Christian. Hayworth rejected his offer of $1 million if she would rear Yasmin as a Muslim from age seven and allow her to go to Europe to visit with him for two or three months each year. In January 1953, Hayworth was granted a divorce from Aly Khan on the grounds of extreme mental cruelty.
Her fourth marriage was to Dick Haymes. When they first met, he was still married and his singing career was waning. Haymes was desperate for money because two of his former wives were taking legal action against him for unpaid child support. The two were married on September 24, 1953, at the Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, and Hayworth ended up paying most of Haymes' debts. After a tumultuous two years together, Haymes struck Hayworth in the face in 1955 in public at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles. Hayworth packed her bags, walked out, and never returned. Hayworth was short of money after her marriage to Haymes. She had failed to gain child support from Aly Khan. She sued Orson Welles for back payment of child support which she claimed had never been paid. This effort was unsuccessful and added to her stress.
Hayworth began a relationship with film producer James Hill, whom she went on to marry on February 2, 1958. On September 1, 1961, Hayworth filed for divorce, alleging extreme mental cruelty. In his autobiography, Charlton Heston wrote about Hayworth's brief marriage to Hill. One night, Heston and his wife Lydia joined the couple for dinner at a restaurant in Spain with the director George Marshall and the actor Rex Harrison, Hayworth's co-star in The Happy Thieves. Heston wrote that the occasion "turned into the single most embarrassing evening of my life," describing how Hill heaped "obscene abuse" on Hayworth until she was "reduced to a helpless flood of tears, her face buried in her hands." Heston wrote that the others sat stunned, witnesses to a "marital massacre," and, though he was "strongly tempted to slug him" (Hill), he left with his wife Lydia after she stood up, almost in tears. Heston wrote, "I'm ashamed of walking away from Miss Hayworth's humiliation. I never saw her again."
She had affairs with several of her leading men, most notably with Victor Mature in 1942, during the filming of My Gal Sal.
Hayworth also had a long-term on-and-off 40-year affair with Glenn Ford, which they started during the filming of Gilda in 1945. Their relationship is documented in the 2011 biography Glenn Ford: A Life by Ford's son, Peter Ford. Peter revealed in his book that his father got Hayworth pregnant during the filming of The Loves of Carmen; she traveled to France to get an abortion. Ford later moved next door to her in Beverly Hills in 1960, and they continued their relationship for many years until the early 1980s.
After about 1960, Hayworth suffered from extremely early onset of Alzheimer's disease, which was not diagnosed until 1980. She continued to act in films until the early 1970s and made a well-publicized 1971 appearance on The Carol Burnett Show. Both of her brothers died within a week of each other in March 1974, saddening her greatly, and causing her to drink even more heavily than before. In 1976 in London, Hayworth was removed from a flight during which she had an angry outburst while traveling with her agent, an event which attracted much negative publicity. In 1977, Rita Hayworth was the recipient of the National Screen Heritage Award. Lynda Carter starred in a 1983 biopic of her life. She lived in an apartment at the San Remo in New York City.
Following her death from Alzheimer's disease in 1987 at age 68, she was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California; location: Grotto, Lot 196, Grave 6 (right of main sidewalk, near the curb). Her marker includes the inscription "To yesterday's companionship and tomorrow's reunion."
At age sixteen, she attracted the attention of film producers as part of "The Dancing Cansinos" and was signed by Fox Studios in 1935 as Rita Cansino. After her option was not renewed by Fox, she freelanced at minor film studios before signing with Columbia Pictures in 1937. Studio head Harry Cohn signed her to a seven-year contract and tried her out in small roles.
During Cansino's time, Latin-ness was often used as a kind of "flounce" or a decorative feature, yet it was also a central notion for the culture. Cohn argued that her image was too Mediterranean, which limited her to being cast in "exotic" roles that were fewer in number. He was heard to say her last name sounded too Spanish. Judson acted on Cohn's advice: Rita Cansino became Rita Hayworth, adopting her mother's maiden name to the consternation of her father. Her name change served as protection against discrimination in Hollywood, as she shook off her Latin identity.
After two more years of minor roles, she gave an impressive performance in Howard Hawks' 1939 film, Only Angels Have Wings, as part of an ensemble cast headed by Cary Grant. Her sensitive portrayal of a disillusioned wife sparked the interest of other studios. Between assignments at Columbia Pictures, she was borrowed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer for George Cukor's Susan and God (1940) with Joan Crawford and Warner Brothers for Raoul Walsh's The Strawberry Blonde (1941) with James Cagney. 
While on loan to Fox Studios for Rouben Mamoulian's Blood and Sand (1941) starring Tyrone Power, Hayworth achieved stardom with her sizzling performance as the amoral and seductive Doña Sol des Muire. This Technicolor film forever branded her as one of Hollywood's most beautiful redheads. Gene Tierney was originally intended for the role, but was dropped by Darryl F. Zanuck when she eloped with Oleg Cassini. Carole Landis was the next choice for the role, but refused to dye her blonde hair red and was replaced by Rita Hayworth prior to filming. Fox then borrowed Hayworth from Columbia and dyed her raven hair auburn which soon became her best remembered feature. Her stardom was solidified when she made the cover of Time Magazine as Fred Astaire's new dancing partner in You'll Never Get Rich (1941). Although Fred Astaire was more than pleased with Hayworth's dancing and considered her an excellent partner, he declined to have her appear in any more pictures with him. He gave his reason as being tired of working as part of a "team," as he was with Ginger Rogers, and wanting to "break out" in his own right.
The "love goddess" image was cemented with Bob Landry's 1941 Life magazine photograph of her (kneeling on her own bed in a silk and lace nightgown), which caused a sensation and became (at over five million copies) one of the most requested wartime pinups. During World War II she ranked with Betty Grable, Dorothy Lamour, Hedy Lamarr, and Lana Turner as the pinup girls most popular with servicemen. Rita Hayworth would also become Columbia's biggest star of the 1940s, under the watchful eye of studio chief Harry Cohn, who recognized her value. After she made Tales of Manhattan (1942) at Twentieth Century Fox opposite Charles Boyer, Cohn would not allow Hayworth to be lent to other studios.
Hayworth's well-known films include the musicals that made her famous: You'll Never Get Rich (1941) and You Were Never Lovelier (1942) (both with Fred Astaire, who wrote in his autobiography that she "danced with trained perfection and individuality"), My Gal Sal (1942) with Victor Mature, and her best known musical, Cover Girl (1944) with Gene Kelly. Although her singing voice was dubbed in her movies, Hayworth was one of Hollywood's best dancers, imbued with power, precision, tremendous enthusiasm, and an unearthly grace. Cohn continued to effectively showcase Hayworth's talents in Technicolor films: Tonight and Every Night (1945) with Lee Bowman, and Down to Earth (1947), with Larry Parks.
Her erotic appeal was most notable in Gilda (1946), a black-and-white film noir directed by Charles Vidor, which encountered some difficulty with censors. This role—in which Hayworth in black satin performed a legendary one-glove striptease—made her into a cultural icon as the ultimate femme fatale. Alluding to her bombshell status, in 1946 her likeness was placed on the first nuclear bomb to be tested after World War II at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, as part of Operation Crossroads. Hayworth performed one of her best remembered dance routines, the samba from 1945's Tonight and Every Night, while pregnant with her first child, Rebecca Welles (daughter of Orson Welles). Hayworth was also the first dancer to partner both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly on film—the others being Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds, Vera Ellen, and Leslie Caron.
Hayworth gave one of her most acclaimed performances in Orson Welles's The Lady from Shanghai (1948), though it failed at the box office. The failure was in part attributed to the fact that director/co-star Welles had Hayworth's famous red locks cut off and the rest dyed blonde for her role. This was done without Harry Cohn's knowledge or approval, and he was furious over the change. Her next film, The Loves of Carmen (1948) with Glenn Ford, was the first film co-produced by Columbia and Rita's own production company, The Beckworth Corporation (named for her daughter Rebecca). It was Columbia's biggest moneymaker for that year. She received a percentage of the profits from this and all of her subsequent films until 1955, when Hayworth dissolved Beckworth to pay off debts she owed to Columbia.
After the marriage collapsed in 1951, Hayworth returned to America with great fanfare to film a string of hit films: Affair in Trinidad (1952) with favorite co-star Glenn Ford, Salome (1953) with Charles Laughton and Stewart Granger, and Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) with Jose Ferrer and Aldo Ray, for which her performance won critical acclaim. Then she was off the big screen for another four years, due mainly to a tumultuous marriage to singer Dick Haymes. In 1957, after making Fire Down Below with Robert Mitchum and Jack Lemmon, and her last musical Pal Joey with Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak, Rita Hayworth finally left Columbia. She got good reviews for her acting in such films as Separate Tables (1958) with Burt Lancaster and David Niven, and The Story on Page One (1960) with Anthony Franciosa, and continued working throughout the 1960s. In 1964, she appeared with John Wayne in Circus World (UK title Magnificent Showman) and in 1972 she made her last film, The Wrath of God.
Rita Hayworth was one of the most famous early Latinas in Hollywood. To enter showbiz she shook off her heritage and even changed her name to disguise her Hispanic roots. She would soon rocket to stardom and be forever remembered for her signature red tresses. Rita was a talented dancer and actress, which was showcased in her various feature film roles. She was highly glamorous and yet coy. Her sex appeal was obvious, yet she never portrayed herself as forward. Rita was a legend in her time and a target of the press. As a talented young actress Hayworth forever made a place for herself in the annals of Hollywood. Her death from Alzheimer's brought greater awareness and attention to the disease.
When Hayward died, President Ronald Reagan, who was one of Hayworth's contemporaries in Hollywood, issued a statement:
Rita Hayworth was one of our country's most beloved stars. Glamorous and talented, she gave us many wonderful moments on stage and screen and delighted audiences from the time she was a young girl. In her later years, Rita became known for her struggle with Alzheimer's disease. Her courage and candor, and that of her family, were a great public service in bringing worldwide attention to a disease which we all hope will soon be cured. Nancy and I are saddened by Rita's death. She was a friend who we will miss. We extend our deep sympathy to her family.
One of the major fundraisers for the Alzheimer's Association is the annual Rita Hayworth Gala, which is held in New York City and Chicago. Hayworth’s daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, has been the hostess for these events, which since 1985 have raised more than $42 million for the Association.
In Popular Culture
- In the world famous comic book/strip The Phantom, the mother of the twenty-first Phantom, Maude Thorne McPatrick, is drawn to resemble Rita Hayworth. In one story, she even worked as Hayworth's stunt double in a movie.
- A poster of Hayworth was used as a plot device in Stephen King's short story, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption from the Stephen King anthology Different Seasons.
- A clip from Gilda (1946) was used in the film version of The Shawshank Redemption (1994) which starred Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.
- In 1999, Rita Hayworth was placed nineteenth on the American Film Institute's list of the 25 greatest female movie stars of all time.
- Referenced in the 2001 film Mulholland Drive, when Laura Harring's character takes the name "Rita" after seeing a Gilda movie poster.
- She is referenced in Tom Waits' song "Invitation to the Blues" on his 1976 album Small Change: "And you feel just like Cagney, she looks like Rita Hayworth."
- In 2005, the White Stripes wrote a song titled "Take, Take, Take" on their album Get Behind Me Satan, which humorously describes a man meeting Hayworth in a bar and pestering her for an autograph and a picture. She is also briefly mentioned in the song "White Moon" from the same album. Jack White named one of his guitars after her. It also portrays a picture of her on the back side. Her portrait on Jack White's guitar can be seen in the White Stripes' music video for the song You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You're Told).
- Hayworth is one of the famous personalities mentioned in Madonna's song "Vogue" as follows: "Rita Hayworth gave good face."
- In Salvador Plascencia's The People of Paper, Rita Hayworth is a sad, disenfranchised character. In the novel, she was made infamous for having sex with a lettuce picker.
As Rita Cansino
- Anna Case in La Fiesta (Short subject, 1926, Unconfirmed)
- Cruz Diablo aka The Devil's Cross (Uncredited, 1934)
- In Caliente (1935) (scenes deleted)
- Under the Pampas Moon (1935)
- Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935)
- Dante's Inferno (1935)
- Piernas de Seda aka Legs of Silk (Uncredited, 1935)
- Paddy O'Day (1935)
- Professional Soldier (Uncredited, 1935)
- Human Cargo (1936)
- Dancing Pirate (1936)
- Meet Nero Wolfe (1936)
- Rebellion (1936)
- Old Louisiana (1937)
- Hit the Saddle (1937)
- Trouble in Texas (1937)
As Rita Hayworth
- Criminals of the Air (1937)
- Girls Can Play (1937)
- The Game That Kills (1937)
- Life Begins with Love (Uncredited, 1937)
- Paid to Dance (1937)
- The Shadow (1937)
- Who Killed Gail Preston? (1938)
- Special Inspector (1938)
- There's Always a Woman (1938)
- Convicted (1938)
- Juvenile Court (1938)
- The Renegade Ranger (1938)
- Homicide Bureau (1939)
- The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939)
- Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
- Music in My Heart (1940)
- Blondie on a Budget (1940)
- Screen Snapshots Series 19, No. 6 (Short subject, 1940)
- Susan and God (1940)
- The Lady in Question (1940)
- Angels Over Broadway (1940)
- The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
- Affectionately Yours (1941)
- Blood and Sand (1941)
- You'll Never Get Rich (1941)
- My Gal Sal (1942)
- Tales of Manhattan (1942)
- You Were Never Lovelier (1942)
- Show Business at War (1943) (short subject)
- Cover Girl (1944)
- Tonight and Every Night (1945)
- Gilda (1946)
- Down to Earth (1947)
- The Lady from Shanghai (1948)
- The Loves of Carmen (1948)
- Champagne Safari (1952)
- Affair in Trinidad (1952)
- Salome (1953)
- Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)
- Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Grows Up (Short Subject, 1954)
- Fire Down Below (1957)
- Pal Joey (1957)
- Separate Tables (1958)
- They Came to Cordura (1959)
- The Story on Page One (1959)
- The Happy Thieves (1962) (also producer)
- Lykke og krone (1962)
- Circus World (1964)
- The Money Trap (1965)
- The Poppy Is Also a Flower (1966)
- L'Avventuriero (1967)
- I Bastardi (1968)
- The Naked Zoo (1971)
- Road to Salina (1971)
- The Wrath of God (1972)
- Patrick Agan, The Decline and Fall of the Love Goddesses (Pinnacle Books, 1979, ISBN 978-0523406237).
- Joe Morella and Edward Z. Epstein, Rita: The Life of Rita Hayworth (Doubleday, 1983, ISBN 978-0385292658).
- Susan Ware and Stacy Braukman (eds.), Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 5: Completing the Twentieth Century (Belknap Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0674014886).
- Karen Burroughs Hannsberry, Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film (McFarland Publishing, 1998, ISBN 978-0786404292).
- Barbara Leaming, If This Was Happiness (New York: Ballantine Books, 1990, ISBN 0345369319).
- Joe Sommerlad, Rita Hayworth at 100: The Hollywood star trapped by her greatest role Independent, October 17, 2018. Retrieved July 25, 2022.
- John Kobal, Rita Hayworth: The Time, the Place, the Woman (New York: Norton, 1978, ISBN 0393075265).
- Alan Shuback, Rita Hayworth: A Pin-Up Queen’s Flirtation With The French Turf Paulick Report, September 28, 2016. Retrieved July 25, 2022.
- Charlton Heston, In the Arena: An Autobiography (Simon & Schuster, 1995, ISBN 978-0684803944).
- From the Archives: Victor Mature, Beefcake Star of '40s and '50s, Dies Los Angeles Times, August 10, 1999. Retrieved July 25, 2022.
- Peter Ford, Glenn Ford: A Life (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0299281540).
- Ronald Reagan, Statement on the Death of Rita Hayworth Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. Retrieved July 25, 2022.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Agan, Patrick. The Decline and Fall of the Love Goddesses. Pinnacle Books, 1979. ISBN 978-0523406237
- Ford, Peter. Glenn Ford: A Life. University of Wisconsin Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0299281540
- Hannsberry, Karen Burroughs. Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film. McFarland Publishing, 1998. ISBN 978-0786404292
- Heston, Charlton. In the Arena: An Autobiography. Simon & Schuster, 1995. ISBN 978-0684803944)
- Kobal, John. Rita Hayworth: The Time, the Place, the Woman. New York: Norton, 1978. ISBN 0393075265
- Leaming, Barbara. If This Was Happiness. New York: Ballantine Books, 1990. ISBN 0345369319
- Morella, Joe, and Edward Z. Epstein. Rita: The Life of Rita Hayworth. Doubleday, 1983. ISBN 978-0385292658
- Nericcio, William Anthony. Tex(t)-Mex: Seductive Hallucination of the "Mexican" in America". Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006. ISBN 9780292714571
- Ringgold, Gene. The Films of Rita Hayworth: The Legend and Career of a Love Goddess. New York: Citadel Press Inc., 1975. ISBN 0806504390
- Ware, Susan, and Stacy Braukman (eds.). Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 5: Completing the Twentieth Century. Belknap Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0674014886
All links retrieved December 14, 2022.
- Rita Hayworth Biography
- Rita Hayworth Find-A-Grave
- Rita Hayworth, Present at the Creation NPR
- Rita Hayworth IMDb
- Rita Hayworth Turner Classic Movies
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