Rita Hayworthl

Rita Hayworthl, Actress, NYC


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Rita Hayworth (October 17, 1918 - May 14, 1987), was an American actress of Spanish Gypsie and Anglo-Irish descent who reached fame during the 1940s as the era's leading sex symbol. Although there was prejudice against Hispanic actors at the time, Hayworth is now widely regarded to be one of the first Hispanic-American "sex goddess" of "Golden Age" Hollywood with leading roles in film.

Career success

The "love goddess" image was cemented with Bob Landry's 1941 Life magazine photograph of her (kneeling on her own bed in a silk and lace nightgown), which caused a sensation and became (at over five million copies) one of the most requested wartime pinups. During World War II she ranked with Betty Grable, Dorothy Lamour, Hedy Lamarr, and Lana Turner as the pinup girls most popular with servicemen. Rita would also become Columbia's biggest star of the 1940s, under the watchful eye of studio chief Harry Cohn, who recognized her value. After she made Tales of Manhattan (1942) at Twentieth Century Fox opposite Charles Boyer, Cohn would not allow Hayworth to be loaned out to other studios.

Hayworth's well-known films include the musicals that made her famous: You'll Never Get Rich (1941) and You Were Never Lovelier (1942) (both with Fred Astaire, who wrote in his autobiography that Rita "danced with trained perfection and individuality"), My Gal Sal (1942) with Victor Mature, and her best known musical, Cover Girl (1944) with Gene Kelly. Although her singing voice was dubbed in her movies, Rita was one of Hollywood's best dancers, imbued with power, precision, tremendous enthusiasm, and an unearthly grace. Cohn continued to effectively showcase Hayworth's talents in Technicolor films: Tonight and Every Night (1945) with Lee Bowman, and Down to Earth (1947), with Larry Parks. Her erotic appeal was most notable in Gilda (1946), a black-and-white film noir directed by Charles Vidor, which encountered some difficulty with censors. This role - in which Hayworth in black satin performed a legendary one-glove striptease - made her into a cultural icon as the ultimate femme fatale. Alluding to her bombshell status, in 1946 her likeness was placed on the first nuclear bomb to be tested after World War II at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, as part of Operation Crossroads. Hayworth performed one of her best remembered dance routines, the samba from 1945's Tonight and Every Night, while pregnant with her first child, Rebecca Welles. Hayworth was also the first dancer to partner both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly on film - the others being Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds, Vera Ellen, and Leslie Caron.

Hayworth gave one of her most acclaimed performances in Orson Welles' The Lady from Shanghai (1948), though it failed at the box office. The failure was in part attributed to the fact that director/co-star Welles had Hayworth's famous red locks cut off and the rest dyed blonde for her role. This was done without Harry Cohn's knowledge or approval and he was furious over the change. Her next film, The Loves of Carmen (1948) with Glenn Ford, was the first film co-produced by Columbia and Rita's own production company, The Beckworth Corporation (named for her daughter Rebecca). It was Columbia's biggest moneymaker for that year. She received a percentage of the profits from this and all of her subsequent films until 1955, when Hayworth dissolved Beckworth to pay off debts she owed to Columbia.



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