On October 17th in 1918, Margarita (I like her already) Carmen Cansino was born in Brooklyn.
Her father was a very famous Spanish dancer and her mother was a Broadway showgirl. They took the family to Hollywood to try and get dance into the movies and he ended up teaching an up and coming James Cagney. While the family struggled to to make it in California, their beautiful daughter caught the eye of a couple of studios.
At the age of 16, Margarita had a small role in Cruz Diablo, followed by a few parts in equally unsuccessful films. Billed as Rita Cansino, the film bosses of the day thought she sounded too Spanish, so she adopted her mother's maiden name to become Rita Hayworth. She changed her hair to dark red, had electrolysis to lift her hairline and the Love Goddess and top pin up for WW2 GIs was born.
Thirteen small parts followed in the late 1930s, and she landed a lucky break with a relatively small role in the 1939 picture Only Angels Have Wings.
Like a scene from Harry Potter, the fan mail came flooding in.
Over the next two years she appeared in twelve movies, pretty prolific, even then, and over her entire career she is credited with sixty-five appearances.
Most famously remembered for her role in Gilda in 1946, two of her favourites were where she starred with Fred Astaire in You'll Never be Rich (my favourite and released today in 1941) and You Were Never Lovelier.
Being one of the most incredibly elegant, beautiful screen stars ever though, came at a price.
Rita struggled with alcohol for most of her adult life, and was really pretty unlucky in love. She married five times, including Orson Welles, divorcing James Hill, her fifth and final husband in 1961, alleging extreme mental cruelty. Charlton Heston once wrote that he was ashamed to have walked away from a dinner table in Spain once where Hill was so rude and abusive to Hayworth in front of others, that she was reduced to a "helpless flood of tears".
Rita aged early, probably due to her unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and became known for fits of rage. Once, in 1976 she was removed from a plane at London's Heathrow Airport after an angry episode.
Devastatingly, in 1980 and at the age of just 62 she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. Her daughter thought the alcohol and the disease were linked and took some comfort thinking the disease, rather than simply the alcohol, went some way to explain her mother's behaviour.
In 1983, Orson Welles, Rita's second husband approached her at a table during an event being held for Frank Sinatra by the Reagans. "She didn't know me at first, and after about four minutes of speaking, she realized who I was, and began to cry quietly."
Rita Hayworth died on May 14th, 1987, aged just 68 from complications associated with Alzheimer's disease. She is buried in Culver City, Los Angeles, under a headstone which reads; "To yesterday's companionship and tomorrow's reunion."
While her illness and death are sad, she was the first truly famous person to deal with Alzheimer's in the public eye. By raising awareness of the disease, she opened the gates to more federal and charitable funding. An annual event is hosted in her honour, and as of 2018, more than $73 million has been raised in her name for Alzheimer's disease charities and programmes.
RIP lovely lady xx
Thanks for reading.