TCM’s Summer Under the Stars: Day Three — Rita Hayworth

More than just a beauty.

Day Three of Summer Under the Stars features an actress that I’ve long considered to be one of my favorite actresses – Rita Hayworth. She is, in fact, one of only four actresses whose movie magazine cover portrait graces my bedroom wall (the other three are Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, and Barbara Stanwyck). Noted for her striking beauty – she was commonly known as “The Love Goddess” – Hayworth was more than a lovely face. She was a multi-talented performer, an excellent dancer and equally adept at comedy as she was in dramatic roles. And she could sing!

 In the Beginning:

Born Margarita Carmen Cansino on October 17, 1918, in New York, Hayworth was the oldest child of three children of Volga and Eduardo Cansino. Both of her parents were performers and the actress herself once said that, because her father taught her everything he knew about dancing, “I knew how to dance as soon as I was able to walk.”

Rita and her father, Eduardo.

In 1927, Eduardo moved his family to Los Angeles, and when his painfully shy and slightly overweight daughter was 14, Eduardo teamed with her to form the Dancing Cansinos. Together, the two became an instant hit in floating casinos anchored off the California coasts and nightspots in nearby Tijuana and Agua Caliente. While performing at the Caliente Club in 1935, Margarita caught the eye of Winfield Sheehan, vice president in charge of production for the Fox Film Corporation and he promptly signed the young girl to a contract. The studio shortened the girl’s name to Rita, signed her up for a series of acting and diction classes, put her on a diet and exercise regime, and cast her in her first picture, Dante’s Inferno (1935), where she displayed her dancing talent. This was followed by a speaking part in Under the Pampas Moon (1935), in which the 16-year-old Rita was reportedly so nervous that she constantly stuttered while delivering her few lines to the film’s star, Warner Baxter.

Pre-Hayworth.

Over the next two years, Rita appeared in a series of forgettable films as Rita Cansino, but when Fox merged into 20th Century Fox, the studio’s new head, Darryl F. Zanuck, failed to renew her contract. But more importantly during this period, Rita met Edward Judson, a middle-aged foreign car salesman, ex-husband of a Chicago toothpaste heiress, and front man for a Texas oil promoter. Through an acquaintance with Columbia Studios head Harry Cohn, Judson secured a small part for Rita in a Columbia film. Before long, a slew of monumental changes took place: Rita signed a contract with Columbia, she married Edward Judson, and she added the letter “y” to her mother’s maiden name of Haworth, becoming Rita Hayworth.

Other stuff:

Rita and her first husband. (Blecch.)

  • When Rita Hayworth married Edward Judson, she was 18 years old and he was 41.
  • After signing with Columbia, Hayworth underwent a lengthy and painful series of electrolysis treatments (in which an electric current is used to destroy the hair roots) to broaden her forehead and change her hairline.
  • Hayworth and actress Ginger Rogers were related by marriage. Hayworth’s mother’s brother was married to the sister of Rogers’s mother. (Did you get that?)
  • Hayworth died in 1987 at the age of 69 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Sadly, she suffered the effects of this then-little known disease for many years before a doctor finally diagnosed her in 1980.

    Jasmin, Rita, and Rebecca.

  • Rita Hayworth had two daughters – Rebecca, from her marriage to Orson Welles, and Yasmin, from her marriage to Prince Aly Khan. Rebecca died of cancer at the age of 59 on October 17, 2004, on what would have been her mother’s 86th birthday. Yasmin has become known for raising funds for Alzheimer’s research and increasing public awareness about the disease.

My SUTS Pick:

This was a no-brainer for me. My pick for Rita Hayworth Day is Gilda (1946), in which Hayworth plays the title role. In short, the film involves a ruthless Argentinian casino owner, Ballin Mundson (George Macready), who hires Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford), a small-time American hood, to serve as his enforcer. The relationship is a symbiotic success – until Ballin returns from a trip with a new wife – Gilda – who just happens to be Johnny’s former lover.

It’s better than you remembered. Find out.

There are so many things I love about this film. Hayworth is positively luminous – this is the movie where she’s introduced with a flip of her thick mane of hair. It’s also where she performs a strip tease to “Put the Blame on Mame.” Her chemistry with Glenn Ford fairly sizzles and pops. Macready is one of the scariest noir villains you’ll ever encounter. Hayworth performs not one, but two numbers – plus, you get a chance to hear her real voice in a scene where she accompanies herself on the guitar. The dialogue is crazy-good; here’s just one example: “Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven’t you noticed? Very exciting. I hate you too, Johnny. I hate you so much I think I’m going to die from it.”

I could go on, but I’ll let you find out for yourself. Even if you’ve seen Gilda before, you may be surprised at how good it is. And it’s good, y’all.

Join me tomorrow for Day Four of Summer Under the Stars!

~ by shadowsandsatin on August 2, 2020.

3 Responses to “TCM’s Summer Under the Stars: Day Three — Rita Hayworth”

  1. My adult special needs son’s fondness for Rita in Cover Girl has lasted since his toddler-hood.

    I’ve come to appreciate her performance in Separate Tables more with the passing years and am sorry it is not scheduled. Today will be my first viewing of Down to Earth.

    • I was thinking about Separate Tables last night when I was writing this post. I think Hayworth gives one of her best performances (if not THE best) in this film. I wish it had been part of the line up.

  2. […] Day 3: Rita Hayworth […]

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