Margarita Carmen Cansino was born in New York on October 17, 1918 into a family of dancers. Her father, Eduardo was a dancer as was his father before him. He immigrated from Spain in 1913. Rita’s mother met Eduardo in 1916 and were married the following year. Rita, herself, was trained as a dancer in order to follow in her family’s footsteps. She joined her family on stage when she was 8 when her family was filmed in a movie called “La fiesta” (1926) (aka La Fiesta). It was her first film appearance, albeit uncredited, but by no means was it to be her last.
Rita was seen dancing by a Fox executive and was impressed enough to offer her a contract. Rita’s “second” debut was in the film “Cruz Diablo” (1934) at the age of 16. She continued to play small bit parts in several films under the name of “Rita Cansino” until she played the second female lead in “Only Angels Have Wings” (1939) when she played “Judy McPherson”. By this time, she was at Columbia where she was getting top billing but it was the Warner Brothers film “The Strawberry Blonde” (1941) that seemed to set her apart from the rest of what she had previously done. This was the film that exuded the warmth and seductive vitality that was to make her famous. Her natural, raw beauty was showcased later that year in “Blood and Sand” (1941) filmed in Technicolor.
She was probably the second most popular actress after Betty Grable. In “You’ll Never Get Rich” (1941) with Fred Astaire, in 1941, was probably the film that moviegoers felt close to Rita. Her dancing, for which she had trained all her life, was astounding. After the hit “Gilda” (1946), her career was on the skids. Although she was still making movies, they never approached her earlier work. The drought began between “The Lady from Shanghai” (1947) and “Champagne Safari” (1952). Then after “Salome” (1953), she was not seen again until “Pal Joey” (1957). Part of the reasons for the downward spiral was television, but also Rita had been replaced by the new star at Columbia, Kim Novak. After a few, rather forgettable films in the 1960s, her career was essentially over. Her final film was The “Wrath of God” (1972).
Her career was really never the same after “Gilda” (1946). Her dancing had made the film and had made her. Perhaps Gene Ringgold said it best when he remarked, “Rita Hayworth is not an actress of great depth. She was a dancer, a glamorous personality and a sex symbol. These qualities are such that they can carry her no further professionally”. Perhaps he was right but Hayworth fans would vehemently disagree with him. Rita, herself, said, “Every man I have known has fallen in love with Gilda and wakened with me”.
By 1980, Rita was wracked with Alzheimer’s Disease. It ravaged her so, that she finally died on May 14, 1987 in New York City. She was 68.
Rita Hayworth TRIVIA:
Measurements: 36.5-C-24-36 (at peak of WW-II pin-up fame), 35-25-35 (in 1953 at 120 lbs.) (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine).
Height: 5′ 6″ (1.68 m)
James Hill (2 February 1958 – 7 September 1961) (divorced)
Dick Haymes (24 September 1953 – 12 December 1955) (divorced)
Prince Aly Khan (27 May 1949 – 26 January 1953) (divorced) 1 child
Orson Welles (7 September 1943 – 1 December 1948) (divorced) 1 child
Edward Charles Holmgren Judson – (29 May 1937 – 22 May 1942) (divorced)
Some legends say the Margarita cocktail was named for her when she was dancing under her real name in a Tijuana, Mexico nightclub.
The famous red hair was not her natural color (which was black). When she was signed, studio heads decided that her hairline was too low on her forehead, and she underwent years of painful electrolysis to make it higher.
Knocked out two of Glenn Ford’s teeth during their fight in Gilda (1946).
Her singing was dubbed by Nan Wynn (1941-44), Martha Mears (1945), Anita Ellis (1946-48), and Jo Ann Greer (1952-57).
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