Rita Hayworth 1918 - 1987

 

Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:


One of the screen's premier "love goddesses," this Latin beauty enjoyed remarkable screen success following a humble beginning and a long grooming period. Born to professional dancers, she started dancing at age 12 and was working in Hollywood nightclubs at age 17. During one such engagement, the raven-haired, slightly chubby teen was spotted by Fox executive Winfield Sheehan, who enabled her to get a contract. Billed as Rita Cansino, she played exotic Latin dancers in 1935's Under the Pampas Moon (her first feature), Dante's Inferno andIn Caliente (on loan to Warner Bros.), and even delivered some dialogue as an Egyptian servant in Charlie Chan in Egypt that same year. The following year she was cut loose from Fox (following Sheehan's departure), but a star-struck Cansino now determined to become a successful movie actress. She freelanced in B Westerns-including Rebellion (1936);Old Louisiana, Trouble in Texas and Hit the Saddle (all 1937)-before marrying businessman Edward Judson, an older man who took her under his wing and helped her get a contract with Columbia.Sigh....

First billed as Rita Hayworth (above the title, at that) in a modest B mystery, The Shadow (1937), she learned her craft the hard way, toiling in low-budget quickies, sometimes playing the lead, sometimes in support.Criminals of the Air, The Game That Kills, Paid to Dance, Girls Can Play (all 1937), Who Killed Gail Preston?, Renegade Ranger (on loan to RKO for this George O'Brien horse opera), Juvenile Court, Convicted (all 1938), Homicide Bureau and The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (both 1939) aroused little interest from either critics or audiences, but they provided valuable learning experience for the supremely dedicated Hayworth, who lost weight, raised her hairline with electrolysis, and took elocution lessons.Columbia president Harry Cohn believed in Hayworth and pressed director Howard Hawks to use her as the "other woman" in Only Angels Have Wings (1939), a hard-boiled adventure story about mail pilots in South America. She acquitted herself admirably, prompting Cohn to take her out of B pictures after Blondie on a Budget (1940).

The Beautiful radiant Rita HayworthCohn tested Hayworth on two 1940 "nervous A" pictures, Angels Over Broadway and Music in My Heart before loaning her out to other studios. She appeared in Susan and God (1940), supporting Joan Crawford and Fredric March, for MGM; played an aristocratic Spanish temptress in a Technicolor remake of Blood and Sand (1941) for 20th Century-Fox; and assumed the title role (having dyed her raven tresses red) in The Strawberry Blonde (1941) for Warner Bros. She won enthusiastic reviews for her work in these films, which encouraged Cohn to bring her home and try her out in big-budget A vehicles. Fred Astaire, recently departed from RKO and Ginger Rogers, chose her to costar with him in You'll Never Get Rich (1941) and You Were Never Lovelier (1942), enjoyable musicals that showed a radiant Hayworth at her best. (Though her dancing was faultless, her singing voice was dubbed, as it always would be.)

Back at Fox, Hayworth-by now an established star and a national pinup favorite, thanks to a sultry negligee shot originally taken for "Life" magazinestarred in a period musical, My Gal Sal and the episodic drama Tales of Manhattan (both 1942). That same year she divorced Judson to marry Sal costar Victor Mature, but the proposed nuptials never came off and Hayworth began dating Orson Welles, whom she married the following year.

Cover Girl (1944), a lavish Technicolor musical, helped boost Hayworth into stardom's top ranks, even though the next year's Tonight and Every Night (the story of a London music hall that never closed during the WW2 bombings) was actually a better picture. Hayworth achieved another milestone in 1945: Her famous pinup shot was attached to the atomic bomb dropped on Bikini.Gilda (1946), probably her best-remembered picture, reteamed her with Glenn Ford-they first worked together in a 1940 programmer, The Lady in Question-for a steamy, corny, campy melodrama. In that film she performed a genteel (partial) striptease while singing the torchy "Put the Blame on Mame." That number ultimately became one of the most frequently anthologized sequences in movie history.

The Technicolor musicals Down to Earth (1947, a semi-sequel to the nonmusical Columbia hitHere Comes Mr. Jordan and The Loves of Carmen (1948) kept Rita's followers happy but broke no new ground. It was The Lady From Shanghai (1948), written, directed by, and starring Orson Welles (whom she had divorced the previous year), that really shocked moviegoers. For her role as a sultry seductress, Hayworth sheared off most of her lustrous locks and dyed what was left platinum. (This reportedly infuriated Cohn.) By this time anxious to prove herself a serious actress, Hayworth delivered a creditable performance as a femme fatale.

Her runaway romance with millionaire Moslem playboy Aly Khan-played out all over Europe-kept Hayworth off the screen for several years and engendered more than a little unfavorable publicity. She married him in 1949, had a daughter, and won a divorce in 1951. A heartbroken Hayworth, without money of her own, returned to Hollywood the following year to pick up where she'd left off at Columbia. She was immediately reteamed with Glenn Ford for Affair in Trinidad (1952), a mediocre attempt to fashion another Gilda and the following year starred in a watered-down Biblical opus, Salome and a similarly diluted version of Somerset Maugham's "Rain,"Miss Sadie Thompson (which did feature one good musical number, "The Heat Is On"). Disturbed by her inability to regain the heights she'd reached in the mid 1940s, Hayworth clashed repeatedly with Cohn over story choices, budgets, and directors, with the result that she left Columbia again in 1953. The same year she married singer Dick Haymes, but the union was dissolved after just two years. Swallowing her pride, she returned to Columbia again to play second female lead in Pal Joey (1957), with Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak. Her opportunities in that film were limited, but she made the most of them, particularly in the "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" number.

What can you say....Hayworth gave creditable dramatic performances in Separate Tables (1958), They Came to Cordura and The Story on Page One (both 1959), and more or less walked through The Happy Thieves (1962), Circus World (1964), The Money Trap (reunited with old friend and costar Glenn Ford), The Poppy Is Also a Flower (both 1966), The Road to Salina (1971), and The Wrath of God (1972) before retiring from the screen. A victim of Alzheimer's disease, she was cared for in her later years by Yasmin, her daughter by Prince Aly Khan. She was portrayed in a 1983 TV movie, Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess by Lynda Carter.

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