Born: 17 October 1918
Died: 14 May 1987
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Best known as: 1940s bombshell who ended sadly with Alzheimer's
Name at birth: Margarita Carmen Cansino
Rita Hayworth was a top box office star and sex symbol of the 1940s, perhaps best known these days for the 1947 movie The Lady From Shanghai, and for a LIFE magazine photo of her kneeling on a bed in a lace nightgown, one of the most famous pin-up images of the World War II era. She began her professional career dancing with her father on stage in Los Angeles, and she made her movie debut in 1935. After several B pictures and various makeovers, Hayworth broke through with a role in the Howard Hawks film Only Angels Have Wings (1939). During the 1940s she rose to success playing beautiful bombshells in musicals and romances, including The Lady in Question (1940), The Strawberry Blonde (1941), Blood and Sand (1941) and Gilda (1946). Dancing with Fred Astaire, she appeared in You'll Never Get Rich (1941) and You Were Never Lovelier (1942). Although Hayworth was a top star into the 1950s, it's generally held that her talents were wasted in lesser films. Her personal life was topsy-turvy, and the public followed her through five marriages: Edward Judson (1937-42); Orson Welles (1943-47); Prince Aly Khan (1949-53); singer Dick Haymes (1953-55); and screenwriter James Hill (1958-61). In the 1970s she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and from 1981 until her death in 1987 she was under full-time care from her daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan.
Extra credit: Hayworth also had a daughter with Welles, Rebecca Welles, born in 1944. Rebecca died in 2004, on what would have been Rita's 86th birthday... The Rita Hayworth Gala is an annual fundraising event for Alzheimer's awareness, held in various cities of the U.S.
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