Rita Hayworth broke your heart and made it flutter, all at once.

Born into a show business family of dancers, she grew up in the footlights, and her dazzling beauty made her future as a Hollywood starlet seem inevitable. And so it was. In the mid-thirties, Columbia Pictures put her under a long-term contract, transforming dark-haired teenager Rita Cansino into redhead bombshell Rita Hayworth. 

Her acting skills were more than adequate, but first and foremost, how the camera loved her. With her film career launched in earnest by the dawn of the forties, she became a top pin-up during World War 2, as she continued cranking out pictures at Columbia.


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Naturally shy and insecure, Rita was often uncomfortable with her sex symbol image, and mostly hated working under crass, ruthless Columbia boss Harry Cohn. She was unlucky in love as well, marrying five times (among her famous husbands: Orson Welles, Prince Aly Kahn, and singer Dick Haymes). Often her romantic travails interfered with her career, and by the end of the fifties, her career was fading.

Her final years were especially tragic. As Rita's time in the spotlight passed, she increasingly turned to drink. Now in her sixties, she'd sometimes experience alcohol-fueled rages- at least once in public, leading to unwelcome negative publicity. Only later was it realized that she had the beginnings of Alzheimer's disease, an illness she'd die from in 1987, at age 68.

But before all that, there was the radiant Rita, who took our breath away. These pictures celebrate her.



Boo! A young Rita Cansino at a Halloween party.  1935


A new starlet showing off the form that would soon carry the whole male population through a second World War.  1937


A breakthrough role in a terrific film: with Cary Grant, in "Only Angels Have Wings" (1939).


Nice bungalow and wheels, but all we see is the girl!  1941


 Rita's winning smile. If only her private life had afforded her more occasions to do so.


Oh my. A picture IS worth a thousand words — in this case, maybe ten thousand...


The strange Hollywood custom of signing your name in cement, with French heartthrob Charles Boyer.  1942


In this case, redheads MUST have more fun.


Dive right in, fellas. 


Her early dancing training paid off when she was cast with Astaire — this was her proudest moment in show biz .  1942


She's adorable, even with her mouth full. 


Reclining again, to winning effect. How about a bedtime story? 1942


Just how could her opponent concentrate on a ping pong ball? 


With second husband Orson Welles. Spanning just over five years, this was her longest marriage.


Is that hat big enough? Talk about hiding your light under a bushel!  1945


If this lady's playing solitaire, it's a crime against nature.


The dress, from her signature role in "Gilda" (1946).


She floats! On the set of "Gilda" (1946).


The kind of picture that haunts your dreams, and on waking, inspires you to get through one more day.


Perfection. Can I get you anything, Miss Hayworth? Anything at all?  1946


That justly famous "Hall of Mirrors" sequence. With Orson Welles in "The Lady from Shanghai" (1948).


Suddenly a blonde. Paint her hair blue, we'd still love her.


With soon-to-be third husband, Prince Aly Kahn. She's got the better hat.  1948


At her wedding reception with new hubby Aly Khan. Sorry — but why isn't he smiling?  1949


Motherhood agrees with her. Older daughter Rebecca Welles and half-sister Yasmin Khan.  1950


Still radiant after nearly twenty years in an unforgiving business.  1952


With frequent co-star Glenn Ford. They appeared in five pictures together.  1952


Posing for a young fan...hey, what about us older guys?  1953


Looking dreamy and fiddling with her jewels in "Salome."  1953


Happy moments — just too few of them: having a giggle with Kirk Douglas.


Getting a helping hand from Robert Mitchum. Painful duty, eh Bob? 1957



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