The Eternal Allure of Screen Siren Rita Hayworth


One of the most iconic sex symbol of the 1940s, Rita Hayworth was born the eldest of three Children in Brooklyn as Margarita Cansino. Her parents were both dancers and were united to in a singular dream to see their daughter rise to stardom from the very start of her young life. As a child, Hayworth performed in nightclubs and would spend hours practicing routines every single day, which prevented her from ever finishing high school.

At only 16-years-old, a Hollywood casting scout came to watch one of Hayworth’s performances at the Caliente Club. Impressed by what he saw, he asked her to come for a screen test at Columbia Pictures’ film studio the next day. At the start of her career, Rita only landed a small number of roles in B movies. At the time, her look was considered too exotic and having what was then deemed as an ethnic name was a major barrier to a successful career in film. To remedy such prejudice, Rita decided to take her mother’s maiden name, Hayworth, in an effort to sound more American.

Having broadened her appeal, her big break came in 1939 when she played a dangerous siren opposite Cary Grant in Only Angels Have Wings. From then on, Columbia went about building her up as a sex symbol; in The Strawberry Blonde, Rita starred opposite Fred Astaire and her sensual style of dance hypnotized audiences. What ultimately cemented her status as a pinup was a photograph of her posing in a black negligee that appeared in a 1941 issue of Life Magazine. The picture entertained many American soldiers, who were stationed far away from their wives and girlfriends during World War II.

During her rise to fame, Rita married the genius director of Citizen Kane, Mr. Orson Welles. She and Welles made a series of motion pictures together, including one of her best Gilda. The film is widely regarded as her most masterful performance. In it, she proved that she a great actress as well as a seductress.

Not long after divorcing Welles in 1949, Hayworth left Hollywood and broke her studio contract with Columbia to marry Prince Aly Khan. Though she was at the peak of her fame, she completely abandoned her career in order to live with him in Cannes. Before Princess Grace of Monaco, she was the first American actress to become actual royalty. When the marriage dissolved in 1953, Hayworth returned to California and resumed working. She starred in a string of successful pictures through the remainder of the 1950s.

In the 60s, her career began to fall off as she succumbed to alcoholism and eventually, Alzheimer’s disease. Working became harder and harder for her and she was reported as frequently forgetting her movie script lines on set. Her last film was in 1972, and titled The Wrath of God. Her health had deteriorated so badly by that point, that she had to film her scenes one line at a time. Hayworth passed away relatively young; she was only 68 when she died in 1987. Still, she remains eternally remembered for her extraordinary beauty and her unique ability to play cunning, but still vulnerable femme fatales.


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