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Rita’s father was Edwardo Cansino……..a Spanish flaminco dancer. Her mother, Volga Hayworth was a Ziegfield Girl. They named their daughter Margarite Carmen Cansino…and her dancing careed began at age 12. [ She never finished high school ]. Instead, she joined her fathers act in Tijuana.
She became a glamorous film star in the 1940’s and 50’s…….acting in 61 movies. For years she was “owned”…..[under contract]……by Columbia Studios. She could not choose her movies……….in the Hollywood tradition she was TOLD which films she must appear in.
She spend her last years…………living here in the Dakota Apartments on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I would hardly call it living. Her daughter Yasmin said she was ravaged with dementia which left her utterly helpless.
Rita married and divorced four husbands. When she left her first husband she married Orson Welles in 1943. While he was directing one of her best films in 1949 [The Lady from Shanghai]… she filed for divorce……claiming “extreme cruelty”.
“GILDA” was the film that made her a glamorous “Pin-up” poster girl. She did a strip scene…..taking off only one glove……..and sang seductively…..”Put the Blame on Mame”. Hollywood censors went crazy. Her famous quote was: “MEN FALL IN LOVE WITH GILDA………..BUT THEY WAKE UP IN BED WITH ME!.
Looking down from my terrace I can see where Rita lived while in New York.
Rita met and fell in love with Prince Aly Kahn……….traveled around Europe with him…and married him in 1949…..pregnant with Yasmin. Two years later they were divorced. He offered her $1 million if he could raise their daughter as a Muslim. Rita refused. In later years she sued him for alimony…….but lost the case.
She returned to Hollywood in 1951. She changed her hair color eight tmes for eight films…..but it was the flaming dark red hair that ignited the men.
Rita appeared in 61 films…and a featured dancing partner with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.
She died in 1987 at the age of 69. She had become an alcoholic ………which helped mask her symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Her daughter Jasmin continues her efforts to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association Inc.
Rita is buried in the HOLY CROSS CEMETERY in Culver City California.
Turn up YOUR SPEAKERS…….and enjoy this fabulous video of DANCING RITA. Someone very creative has added the BeeGee’s “Stayin Alive” to Rita’s movie dance scenes.