When Rita Hayworth’s name is mentioned, invariably I think of this scene in Gilda:
Or my favourite Rita Hayworth moment, this scene from The Lady From Shanghai. Her voice was dubbed by Anita Ellis, but it is Hayworth up on deck with the moon in her eyes.
Thirdly, the first image that comes to mind for many who lived through the 1940’s is this pin-up, one of the most famous images to be distributed during wartime, and a favourite of many soldiers, some who’ve said that seeing her in film and her pictures reminded them of the girl they left at home, and how they determined to make it back.
Spending any time at all with Rita’s history, we see several powerful men who guided and sometimes controlled her life. But as I read and listened, I also saw a strength in her, that when she trusted the wrong man, she would leave when it suited her. She would not stay forever.
I hear many lovely qualities attributed to her, the real her, not the femme fatale and leading lady we see on the screen–such as beauty, charisma, love, kindness, and courage, the last especially in her last years when she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. I have never heard a word against her, especially from her family members, who made it very clear that the woman on screen was created for her career, and not the real Rita Hayworth, born Margarita Carmen Cansino.
She danced from a very young age, and at 13 replaced her father’s dancing partner, looking and handling herself as older than she was, and performing on the road with him. Here are two dance routines that showed off the talent she had, as well as sharing two dancers that I admire as her partners.
First, from You Were Never Lovelier, with Fred Astaire.
Rita Hayworth was a talent in a league with only a few peers, a real life princess for a time, the stuff of fairy tales, both in regards to romance and also disappointment. I will close with this second dancing clip, Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly in Cover Girl. I love her dress in this scene, and I never wear green, but wowsa, Rita! Enjoy.
*pin-up photo by Bob Landry for Life, 1941