Hollywood silver screen goddess Rita Hayworth was the original glamour-girl who was supposed to have a fairytale ending after marrying a prince. The American actress and dancer shot to fame in the 1940s, thanks to a series of box office hits, such as Gilda and Cover Girl.
She enjoyed a hugely successful career and was still working into the early 1970s when she was in her 50s, showing an unusual longevity for Hollywood starlets. Her last film was The Wrath of God in 1972, which was an offbeat Western in which she starred as Senora de la Plata alongside Robert Mitchum’s gun-toting priest.
In 1981, she revealed that she had Alzheimer’s disease, going public because she wanted to raise awareness of the condition. At the time, it had largely disappeared from the radar in terms of publicity but Rita’s admission led to an increase in public and private funding to support more research into treatments.
Rita was born Margarita Carmen Cansino on 17th October 1918, in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, Eduardo Cansino, was of Spanish heritage. He was an entertainer and impresario who went on to establish his own dance studio, where rising stars such as Jean Harlow and James Cagney took lessons.
Her American mother, Volga Hayworth, was a dancer who had performed with the legendary Ziegfeld Follies. It came as no surprise that the young Rita followed in her mother’s footsteps to become an excellent dancer – she attended dance classes every day, where she was taught by her uncle, Angel Cansino.
She later revealed she had first danced at the age of three and was performing in public by the time she was six. At eight, her dancing skills had been noticed by Warner Bros and she appeared in a short film made by the studio called La Fiesta. She and her father formed a professional dance act, The Dancing Cansinos, when the youngster was 12.
Rita had a bit-part in a film called Cruz Diablo in 1934 when she was just 16. This was followed by a similar small role in the film, In Caliente, in 1935. She continued the dance act with her father and they performed in nightclubs. Rita was spotted dancing at the Caliente Club by Fox Film Corporation’s head, Winfield Sheehan, who invited her for a screen test.
She was given a contract under the name Rita Cansino and had her first speaking role in the Spencer Tracy film, Dante’s Inferno, in 1935. She went on to sign a seven-year contract with Columbia Pictures, where she changed her name to Rita Hayworth – her mother’s maiden name.
Studio bosses also persuaded her to dye her black hair to the famous trademark red, as they feared she would be typecast if her image was too Mediterranean. She went on to make a string of successful films but it was the aviation drama, Only Angels Have Wings in which she starred with Cary Grant, which saw the fan mail come pouring in.
She also made a number of movies in which she danced opposite Fred Astaire, who reportedly years later said that she was his favourite dancing partner, due to her “trained perfection and individuality”. During World War II, Rita also became known as the Forces’ pin-up girl and was the American GIs’ number one sweetheart.
When she was 30, Rita left her movie career behind to marry her prince charming, Prince Aly Khan. He was the son of the mega-rich Aga Khan III – the racehorse-owning legend. It seemed her dreams had come true but unfortunately, the marriage soon began to crumble. Rumour had it he was seeing other women and Hayworth filed for divorce in 1951, citing mental cruelty as the grounds.
She returned to making movies and had a hugely successful career for the next two decades. However, she appeared in poor health, with her mental state declining by the time she made her final film in 1972.
In 1976, there was a much-publicised incident at London’s Heathrow Airport, when Rita was removed from a flight after she reportedly had an “angry outburst”. It was later understood that this was caused by the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, although her condition wasn’t diagnosed until 1980.
Alzheimer’s had received little publicity in decades and was described as having been “largely forgotten” but when Rita bravely decided to reveal her diagnosis to the press, she became known as the first “public face” of the condition. The publicity surrounding her diagnosis ensured that future patients didn’t go undiagnosed.
She helped remove the stigma from the condition and gained international recognition for Alzheimer’s. After Rita’s health further deteriorated, she was placed in the care of her daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, in July 1981. She died on 14th May 1987, aged 68.
Following her death, US President Ronald Reagan praised her “courage and candor” for bringing attention to Alzheimer’s. He described her as one of the country’s most-loved stars and urged people to remember the wonderful moments she provided on the stage and screen.
Kinderkey’s beds can improve safety and comfort for people who have full mobility but are at risk of falling or climbing out of bed, including people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s. They might sleep during the day but find it hard to rest at night, as they feel disorientated and may try to get up and walk around.
The Kinderkey Stellan complex care system is being constantly developed to help people with a range of care issues. Please contact us for details of our home visits to assess the most suitable option for you.