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Searching For Happiness

In looking at Marilyn Monroe and Clara Bow, the notion that beautiful women always get what they want is a myth. Rita Hayworth is another beautiful woman, who, unlike her onscreen man-eating persona, had a timid personality. Her needs were simple, “All I wanted was just what everybody wants, you know, to be loved.” She searched a lifetime for it but never seemed to find it.


Having a background in dance opened Hollywood’s gates for Hayworth in 1935. Rita’s first of five marriages happened while making her first film, “Under The Pampas Moon” (1935). She met Edward Judson. He saw her as a diamond in the rough, ready to be made into a movie star. He put her through an extensive make-over. He helped her become a very popular star, and she garnered higher salaries and more prestigious roles. She danced with Fred Astaire in “You’ll Never Get Rich” (1941) and starred in “The Strawberry Blonde” (1942). After just five years of marriage, their collaboration, personally and professionally, ended in 1943, with a settlement of $30,000 from Hayworth to Judson. Rita summed it up: “He helped me with my career and helped himself to my money.”


Rita’s second marriage was to Hollywood’s rebel genius actor-director Orson Welles. Rita and Orson had a daughter, Rebecca. The press dubbed the couple “Beauty and the Brain.” She was influenced by Welles’s intelligence and challenged herself with more cultural tastes. As a testament to Rita feeling extremely close to Orson, evidence supports that she entrusted to him a dark. personal secret -- incest between herself and her father. However, by the time they started making the film they would star in together, “The Lady From Shanghai” (1946), the couple would file for divorce due to Welles’s infidelities. "I'm tired of being a 25-percent wife,” Rita commented in an interview. Just like their marriage would fail, “The Lady From Shanghai” tanked at the box office. Though critics today believe it is one of Hayworth’s best performances, movie-goers at the time were unhappy simply to see Hayworth’s beautiful red hair cut and dyed blonde.


After the failure of her second marriage, Rita put her career on hold. She then met and married Prince Aly Kahn in 1949. Rita had a second daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan by the end of the same year. But her third marriage would not last long either. At the time of their divorce, a custody battle over Yasmin ensued. Though Rita tried to remain civil with her ex-husband, the early signs Alzheimer’s Disease were appearing, and she began to drink. Eventually, however, Rita won custody of Yasmin.


Rita returned to Hollywood in 1953. She met Dick Haymes on the set of a film he was shooting, “Cruisin’ Down the River.” They seemed to find comfort in each other’s darkness, and they were married. This would make Rita’s fourth and Dick’s third marriage. Haymes was unable to cope with so many problems in his life – his failing singing career, his battle with the government over taxes and citizenship, and the alimony he owed to two previous wives. His addiction to alcohol caused Hayworth to drink more as well. After a two-year marriage of mutual physical and emotional abuse, they divorced in 1955.

Her fifth marriage, in 1958 to executive producer James Hill, seemed as abusive as the others. Rita’s health was deteriorating as well and her decision to retire from pictures was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Hill. Rita and James would divorce in 1961.

As her Alzheimer’s progressed, Hayworth became less able to work. “The Wrath of God” (1972) would be Rita’s last film. Upon reflection of her failed relationships, Rita Hayworth commented, “Every man I knew went to bed with Gilda and woke up with me.”

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