She had a perfect figure and a smile that could light up the Statue of Liberty. But the feature that most people will probably remember is her hair, whipping around in “Gilda“, cascading over her shoulders on the cover of many magazines and appeared in thousands of World War II pinup posters. If Jean Harlow was Hollywood‘s love goddess in the ’30s and Marilyn Monroe in the ’50s, the ’40s ideal was Rita Hayworth, who’s tragical life ended in 1987 at 68 in Manhattan of complications from Alzheimer‘s disease.
“Every man I knew went to bed with Gilda… and woke up with me.”
Hayworth was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1918 as Margarita Carmen Cansino, the oldest child of two dancers. Her father, Eduardo Cansino, was from Castilleja de la Cuesta, a little town near Seville, Spain. Her mother, Volga Hayworth, was an American of Irish-English descent who had performed with the Ziegfeld Follies. The Catholic couple had married in 1917. They also had two sons: Eduardo Jr. and Vernon Cansino.
“We are all tied to our destiny and there is no way we can liberate ourselves.”
In person Rita was shy, quiet and unassuming; only when the cameras rolled did she turn on the explosive sexual charisma that in Gilda (1946) made her a superstar. With “Gilda” Rita Hayworth became the major sex symbol of the 40s, a sex symbol that at that time was married to Orson Welles.
“All I wanted was just what everybody else wants, you know, to be loved.”
Both coincide in one of the masterpieces of the great director, “The Lady from Shanghai” (1948). Welles, in the process of divorce from Rita, dyed her hair blonde and cut off her famous red hair.
“Increasingly, stars are recruited from the ranks of professional models, with the result that today’s starlets are better dressed and better groomed than ever before, though it is doubtful if they are better actresses.”
Married 5 times: Edward C. Judson (1937–1942), Orson Welles (1943–1948), Prince Aly Khan (1949–1953), Dick Haymes (1953–1955), James Hill (1958–1961). She had two children, Rebecca Welles, and Yasmin Aly Khan. Alzheimer’s disease lead her to death at the age of 68 years on May 14, 1987.