Rita Hayworth (Margarita Carmen Cansino), 1918 - 1987

portrait of Rita Hayworth
Blood and Sand (1941)

Born: 17 October 1918, Brooklyn, New York
Died: 14 May 1987, New York City

Born Margarita Carmen Cansino, her father was a flamenco dance instructor who had immigrated from Seville, Spain where his father was still a major exponent of classical Spanish dance, made the bolero famous, and operated a famous dancing school at Madrid. Her mother, Volga Hayworth, was a Ziegfeld girl. "Rita" started dance lessons with her uncle when she was three and a half, "as soon as I could stand on my own two feet". The family moved to Hollywood when she was eight and her father opened a dance studio, with big names coming for specialized training for movie parts. When the Depression came, musicals were out of favor, cutting dance studio income, and their investments were wiped out. Because she was too young to work in California her father took her to Tijuana to dance at the Caliente Club. Here she was spotted by the head of Fox, who arranged a screen test a week later, and a six-month contract. In 1937 she changed her name in the credits to Rita Hayworth and began the first of her five short marriages. The first one started with her husband serving as an effective agent, moving her to Columbia and getting her better parts, but he ended up with the money. The second was to Orson Welles, they worked together well for a while, had a daughter, but he resented being tied down. She married Prince Aly Khan, son of Aga Khan III, in 1949. Rita and Aly had a daughter, Princess Yasmin, and then a very ugly and public custody fight at the end, with Khan offering her a million dollars to raise Yasmin as a Muslim. Hayworth was often uncooperative with the studios and had intermittent problems with alcohol, although she did complete 61 films over 37 years and may have been the most popular pinup in the Army during World War II. Normally shy, she turned into the powerful "Love Goddess" character when the camera rolled. She frequently fought with Columbia chief Harry Cohn. One issue was that Columbia refused to provide voice training, or time to get it, and her singing parts were always dubbed, an embarrassment for her when touring to visit the troops they always asked her to sing and she had to decline. In her last film, The Wrath of God (1972) she forgot her lines so quickly that every single line of hers was a separate take. Friends, and her daughter, assumed this was her alcoholism when it was actually Alzheimer's Disease, possibly affecting her for twenty years before it was diagnosed in 1980. In 1981 she was committed to her daughter's guardianship. In February 1987 she lapsed into a semicoma for the last three months of her life, dying in her Manhattan apartment. Princess Yasmin reconciled with her late father's family and is a board member of several of the family charities and on her own is president of Alzheimer Disease International and on the boards of several other health-related agencies.

Biography from Wikipedia and the Biography Channel

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