Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys here with another entry in our series about one of our favorite stars, Rita Hayworth.
By the early 1940’s, she had completed her journey from teenage dancing sensation to actress-to-be-coped-with. The unfolding decade of the Forties was hers, not only because of her alluring screen presence.
Much credit goes to that provocative photo in Life Magazine in the summer of 1941, showing Rita, with bosom thrust forward, kneeling in a negligee on top of a silken bed. The shot (taken by Bob Landry) sent GI libidos skyrocketing making Hayworth World War II’s second most popular pinup (Fox’s Bette Grable was first).
After Rita’s successes on movie loan outs to both Fox and Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures boss Harry Cohn realized he had a star. He shrewdly teamed her in two films with another dancer, someone by the name of Fred Astaire.
Rita dances impressively (no wonder!) with Astaire in 1941’s You’ll Never Get Rich and in 1942’s You Were Never Lovelier. Then came Cover Girl, in color. In the midst of this burgeoning superstardom Rita married boy wonder Orson Welles. They had a daughter, Rebecca. But they soon parted.
Her films were back in black and white but their grosses proved that Columbia had its first genuine home studio grown STAR. If one movie is Rita’s signature hit it has to be 1946’s noirish Gilda, one of several movies opposite Glenn Ford, which features Rita’s simulated striptease to the tune, ‘Put The Blame On Mame.’
Rita would later say, Every man I’ve known has fallen in love with Gilda and wakened with me.
At the behest of second husband Orson Welles — to Cohn’s intense displeasure — she bobbed her hair for 1947’s The Lady From Shanghai (and also divorced the director after the picture was made). The marriage to Welles typified Hayworth’s misguided choices of husbands. She preferred dominant mates who would tell her what to do.
The Lady From Shanghai was a box office dud at the time but has since become a cult classic. Even though it was a commercial failure it did not dim Rita’s bright star.
The five-year union with Welles ended with the director announcing that (in Rita’s words) the institution of marriage “interfered with his freedom in his way of life.”
As for Rita herself, she told reporters, “certainly I’m going to marry again.” True to her intentions, Hayworth in a matter of months embarked upon the most famous of her five marriages, to Prince Aly Khan.
Tomorrow, Rita Hayworth — Hollywood’s first real princess.