The Love Goddess
by David Wolfe
As a World War II pin-up, Rita Hayworth was considered so sizzling hot that a famous photo of her in a lacy nightgown was pasted onto the first atomic bomb tested on Bikini Atoll. She started her career as a dancer, became a G.I.’s dreamgirl, made over 60 movies, married a Prince and unfortunately did not live happily ever after. However, her legend as “The Love Goddess” lives on.
In 1918 Margarita Cansino, was born to dance. As a young girl, she was so talented that she became her father’s partner and the two were a professional Latin dance team in vaudeville. The vivacious, young brunette Latina came to the attention of Hollywood while still a teen-ager and she began a career that quickly picked-up speed. After playing in many nondescript movies as Rita Cansino, she changed her name and got major attention as the seductive vamp in “Blood and Sand” opposite Tyrone Power.
Although her considerable dancing talent and growing dramatic skill made her a good candidate for stardom, it wasn’t until she’d been through the studio grooming mill that Rita Hayworth emerged as a beauty. Her hairline had been raised by electrolysis and her luxuriant, long dark hair dyed flaming red. The image of “The Love Goddess,” as she was to be known, had been created. She became a pin-up favorite with G.I.s. Five million copies of the photo of her in a lace and satin nightgown that appeared on a 1941 cover of “Life” magazine were sent to soldiers, sailors and marines.
In “You Were Never Lovelier” and “You’ll Never Get Rich” Rita danced superbly with Fred Astaire who later declared her his best dancing partner. “Cover Girl” paired her with Gene Kelly in his first movie and featured Rita looking her most ravishing in breathtaking technicolor. One famous number has her running and dancing her way down a seemingly endless ramp. Because the movie featured flashbacks to the Gay ‘90s, it allowed the star to look equally gorgeous in both period and contemporary fashions. “Tonight and Every Night,” a patriotic musical tear-jerker, showcased Rita’s glamour and dancing style.“Down to Earth” had the Hollywood goddess typecast as a Greek goddess, Terpsichore, the Goddess of Dance. It was at the time of these delightful musical movies that this paper doll book was originally published. (1942).
Rita Hayworth’s career moved into a second phase wherein her sex appeal was exploited more than her dancing ability. The most famous film from this period is the noir classic “Gilda” co-starring Glenn Ford. In it, Rita sang “Put the Blame on Mame” wearing a strapless black Jean-Louis gown and that image has become positively iconic. “The Loves of Carmen,” “Salome” and “Miss Sadie Thompson” were later hits.
Her personal life, often far from happy and including five husbands along the way, often made headlines. When she married Prince Aly Khan in 1948 Rita Hayworth became a princess who did not live happily ever after, but divorced after giving birth to a daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan. She also famously married acknowledged genius Orson Welles. In a Svengali-like move he cut her hair short, bleached it blonde and starred her in a mediocre movie, “The Lady from Shanghai.”
Rita Hayworth’s stardom dimmed over the years. “Pal Joey” with Frank Sinatra was her final musical role. As her glamorous looks began to fade, she made infrequent appearances that were ended when she became a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease at an early age. Eventually it took her life in 1987 and her daughter Princess Yasmin formed a charitable foundation that has raised over $42 million for research to fight the disease.
“Love Goddess” has become a term that is now applied to many movie stars but it was Rita Hayworth who first inspired the term, deservedly so. The combination of her glorious beauty, her breathtaking grace and potent sensuality make her the only movie star truly worth of the accolade...”Rita Hayworth, The Love Goddess.”