The real Rita Hayworth knew only the Mr Evils of this world

Lifestyle

The real Rita Hayworth knew only the Mr Evils of this world

The actress’s endless series of disastrous relationships with men began with her abusive father

Martin Chilton

There’s a Stephen King novella in which a man, wrongly imprisoned for life, spends 25 years staring at a picture of Rita Hayworth on the wall of his cell. The photograph hides a hole he has patiently chiselled in the concrete, his only means of escape. For the prisoner, the pin-up is a symbol of freedom and hope.

Yet the real Hayworth knew little of either. Abused by her father, then mistreated by a succession of studio heads and appalling husbands, she made 61 films in 37 years before a dismal end, ravaged by alcoholism and Alzheimer’s.

“Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. That was my girlhood,” she said. Born Margarita Carmen Cansino in New York in 1918, she was the daughter of Spanish flamenco dancer Eduardo Cansino. When she was 12, he took her out of school to be his full-time dancing partner, dressing her in skimpy clothes and scarlet lipstick. To evade American child labour laws, the pair worked on gambling boats off the California coast and in sleazy casinos and nightclubs in Mexico...

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