Born Margarita Carmen Cansino Rita Hayworth made some magnificent movies, from such escapist musicals as You’ll Never Get Rich to the noir classic Gilda. Yet no one saw the ruthless temptress hiding in the sleek gamine like then husband Orson Welles, who cast her in 1948’s The Lady from Shanghai–arguably her best role, and her only time as a villainess.
She could act, she could dance, she could sing, and, oh God, could she toss that living flame of hair. Seeing Hayworth do her melancholy striptease in Gilda–one that consisted of removing only one glove–permanently sears her into any man’s memory. She was sex in the slyest sense of the absurd, and she seemed to chortle at her own vampishness. Though she tried to draw a line between her public and private selves, those in her life were unwilling to do so. “Every man I met fell in love with Gilda,” she once said, “and woke up with me.”
Life dubbed Hayworth the nation’s number one Love Goddess in 1947, but she was a hothouse flower with a short bloom. By the time she was 39, Hollywood had stopped calling. Five husbands, including über-playboy Prince Aly Khan, had taken their toll. She retired, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1982 and died in 1987.
In Her Own Words: “I haven’t had everything from life. I’ve had too much.”