Under the spotlights – a blinding light – he undergoes, one by one, the bites of this electric needle which will cut down the black hairs from his forehead. This forehead too narrow for the rigid canons of Hollywood 1936. This hair that is born rebellious and too close to the eyebrows, as thick, Latin, Mexican, native, on this waxy skin that his father bequeathed to him.
His father. Eduardo Tired. Seville. Dancer. The scammers. Who – like so many others – emigrated to New York believing that the light of the Statue of Liberty (always) lit the road to the dollar.
He needed a wife, and he found her. An antithesis of his blood: Volga Hayworth, Irish, but also a dancer, one more from the choir, but with the hallmark of the Ziegfeld Follies. A registered trademark.
Impossible to know what he thinks under the spotlight and the painful pricks and disappearance of his jet black hair turned red. But later, in front of the mirror, transformed into a fantastic redhead, and under the approval of her first husband, a certain Edward Judson, a used-car salesman – the most discredited and suspect task from coast to coast – imagine the crowds who worship it.
You deserve this fantasy. Because since she was thirteen, she’s been forced to dance under the worst teachers: her father, who frequents her in seedy cabarets, forbids her to call him “papa”, registers in hotels under the name “Mr. and Mrs. Cansino”… and shares a bed and a dressing room with her. He’s been raping her since she was thirteen.
From the age of thirteen, yes. Margarita Carmen Cansino Hayworth He was born in New York on October 17, 1918. At 18, he was 1.68 tall. After the painful treatment, her hair was a flamboyant cascade that covered her back with a perfect body. Did you want to be a dancer? No. Already at the top, as reporters buzzed around him, he said more than once:
-Since I was able to stand, at the age of three, my father tormented me with his dance lessons. Repeat, repeat, repeat… I didn’t like it, but I didn’t have the courage to tell him.
Tijuana, Mexico, 1935. Father and daughter-false wife are in a nightclub. A man from another table looks at her for a long time. Approaches. Introduced: “Fox Producer”. And he tempts her with all the fruits of Paradise:
–You will be the new Dolores del Río. (Note: Mexican, 1904-1983, her country’s first to succeed in Hollywood).
No sooner said than done. Margarita limits herself: Rita. Cansino disappears behind the maternal surname: Hayworth. He breaks spears with his father, the big Sevillian exploiter… but on the run he falls into the nets of Edward Judson, the car salesman: double frying in used oil…
However, the guy has a tongue. “I know a lot of Hollywood producers: I can make you a star.” It takes over two decades and comes from two marriages. Enough experience for a crook. He marries her. This forces him into the painful transformation –lights, needles, dyes–. He hunts the Sevillian dancer who loses his prey. Yes, he got him a minimal contract at Columbia, which would later be his flagship label.
Some time later, Rita will say:
– He helped me in my career, and he helped himself with my money and my few properties. In 1942, when we divorced, I was in shambles.
In 1941, Orson Wellesa man from Wisconsin, was only 26 but already terrible child of Hollywood from his masterpiece: Citizen Kane, a monumental film which, in more ways than one, traced a before and after in the history of cinema. And there he was, feeling fine, when saw a photo of Rita on the cover of the magazine Life and swore before witnesses that this woman would be his.
Orson was magnetic: he didn’t need too much effort to seduce her, married her in 1943 – in Hollywood they were called “the beautiful and the intelligent” – and they had a daughter: Rebecca.
But the big man was too busy with too many projects, too many women and too much time away from home. He led her reluctantly the lady from shanghai (1947), called her an “idiot” at a press conference. That same year, the farewell came.
She continued to be the most desired woman, the one everyone wanted.
The next love, the one that would sting the butterfly under the glass again, was the prince, billionaire, playboyThoroughbred horse breeder, Ambassador of Pakistan to the United Nations and citizen of the world, His Highness Ali Khan. The man who would make the often unfortunate Margarita Cansino a princess.
The ceremony deservedly deserved the banal title of “The wedding of the century” commonplace exhausted by the number of heart magazines that abound on the planet. Year: 1949. Setting: the Côte d’Azur. Guests – including royalty – four thousand five hundred. The groom’s catwalk: a mantle of thirty thousand roses next to a pool filled with cologne.
A daughter was born to them: princess yasmin. But Ali was an unstoppable whirlwind: a world-record womanizer, a gambler capable of incinerating fortunes in the casinos of the Côte d’Azur, and idle by vocation and profession. “A thoroughbred born to spend the summer”, as one journalist defines it.
But Rita, the abused, unloved, ripped off by love, very good dancer, not very good actress, very beautiful (perhaps the most brilliant of her time), she made her way with blood, sweat, and forgetting the tears. He shot thirty-seven films between the unknown devil’s cross (1934) and The wrath of God (1972). But these are only figures, filmography, frozen statistics. Let’s go to the heart, to greatness.
For example, this Doña Sol from blood and sand (1941), which leads to love and death in the ring of bullfighter Gallardo (Power of Tyron). But above all… (reflectors, music, suspense!), the moment of epiphany. Script. Johnny Farrell (Glen Ford) is a little trickster who comes from Buenos Aires in the United States. He is saved from a robbery attempt by a casino owner and is anointed with his right hand. Johnny discovers that his employer is married to Gilda (obviously: Rita H), his former lover, whom he has come to hate. Hate and love: a dichotomy that has drawn a lot of blood.
The ending doesn’t matter. Either way, get the movie. But she has three memorable scenes. Long live the currency that will never be repeated, would still have written Federico García Lorca. First she sings, pure eroticism and while she dances, My love. Later, It’s Mame’s fault… and at that time, if he had ever marveled with his gloves that reached his finish line just above the elbows.
Rita begins, with the cadence of a luxurious, volcanic stripper, slowly, very slowly, taking off one of her gloves. Yes Glenn Ford turns around with the most famous slap in silver screen history.
The truth doesn’t matter: Rita danced (she did it wonderfully with Fred Astaire, Anthony Quinn, Gene Kelly), but his voice was Anita Ellisa great professional.
Gilda was banned in the Spain of Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde – a long title for a much longer horror –, at the peremptory demand of the Catholic Church, which considered “the scene of the glove, seriously dangerous”.
The rest was the least. Although opulent and star, two more failed marriages – as if someone so punished wanted to punish themselves – brought her closer to the end.
Especially the one about the hustler, the mugger, and the Argentinian singer (in that order) Dick Haymeswho married her to avoid deportationused it to win contracts, and closed the pathetic story by turning his face, in public, with a slap: the miserable reverse of that of Glenn Ford…
As for the director James Hill, her last husband, his abuse prompted her to divorce him for “mental cruelty”.
Hill was a nobody, but he thought he was covering up his mediocrity by physically and verbally punishing her in public. Charlton Heston witnessed, and said: “That night in a restaurant in Spain was the most embarrassing of my life.
Among the unhappy loves, they were also her lovers Anthony Quinn, Kirk Douglas, David Niven and of course Glenn Ford.
The collapse began in 1976 and with a picture that still shakes if one is old enough. Rita Hayworth at Heathrow Airport in London, looking old, wobbly, unrecognizable… when she was barely seventy.
In recent years, unemployed and ruined, she was an alcoholic, an alleged inheritance from her mother and the price of her misfortune. Seven years before his death, which occurred on May 14, 1987 in New York, at the age of sixty-nine, her daughter Yasmin presented irrefutable evidence of her mother’s decline and downfall: Alzheimer’s disease.
Rita, died without knowing who she was.
She was buried in Santa Cruz Cemetery, Culver City: an anonymous death. Glenn Ford carried one of the coffin handles, possibly with the same hand as this historic slap.
The American Film Institute considers Rita Hayworth number 19 on the list of The 50 greatest movie stars of all time.
*A version of this text by Alfredo Serra was published in Infobae in 2017