b. 17 October 1918, Brooklyn, New York, USA
d. 14 May 1987, New York, New York, USA
Co-starred with Fred in You'll Never Get Rich and You Were Never Lovelier
Nicknamed "The Love Goddess," remembered as one of the greatest and sexiest film stars in history, one of the famous pin-ups that inspired American troops in World War II and adorned the atomic bomb that was dropped on Bikini Atoll, and a consummate actress and dancer, Rita Hayworth was the epitome of sex on the screen. She is even said to have inspired the Margarita cocktail when she was dancing under her real name at a Tijuana, Mexico nightclub.
Yet in real life she was quiet, shy and unassuming. Only when the cameras rolled did she exude the explosive sexual charisma that drove men all over the world mad.
Fred appeared on the same bill as her father. Eduardo Cansino, during their vaudeville days and so knew the family. Rita, also trained as a dancer, joined the act when she was 12 and three years later was later spotted by Fox Studios. Her Fox contract was dropped after 5 small roles, but expert promotion by first husband Edward Judson soon brought Rita a new contract at Columbia, where studio head Harry Cohn changed her name to Hayworth and approved raising her hairline by electrolysis. After 13 mainly minor roles, Columbia lent her to Warner Brothers for her first big success, The Strawberry Blonde.
In 1941, she was teamed with Fred in You'll Never Get Rich, and their dancing together not only helped revive his flagging onscreen career but made her into a star. A year later she teamed with Fred again in You Were Never Lovelier, another smash hit. In between the two, she danced onscreen with Fred's longtime friend and choreographic collaborator, Hermes Pan, in My Gal Sal.
It was Gilda in 1946 which made her into a superstar. She and co-star Glenn Ford lit up the screen, and forever created the enduring image of her as beauty, eroticism and sex combined. She spent the rest of her career trying to escape the image, but never successfully. After the 40s her career went into a slow decline.
She was married and divorced five times, including Orson Welles (which produced one daughter), playboy Moslem leader Prince Aly Khan (another daughter), and singer Dick Haymes. One of her most famous quotes was, "Every man I have known has fallen in love with Gilda and wakened with me".
By 1980, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and spent her declining years being cared for by her second daughter, Yasmin Aga Khan, and died peacefully in her sleep just six weeks before Fred.
Princess Yasmin Aga Khan has become a leading campaigner in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. The annual Rita Hayworth charity gala, managed by daughter her, raised $1.8 million in 1999 alone for the Alzheimer's Association.
For more information:
Mark Edmond's Rita Hayworth Page
Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess
The Internet Movie Database