Fiery Facts About Rita Hayworth, The Ultimate Femme Fatale

November 1, 2019 | Andrea Papillon

Fiery Facts About Rita Hayworth, The Ultimate Femme Fatale

Rita Hayworth was one of Hollywood’s biggest, most beautiful stars of the 1940s—they called her the “Goddess of Love”—but in real life, Hayworth suffered in love. Her stardom was manufactured by the Hollywood studio system of the time, and she was the first Hollywood star to marry into a royal family—but it was hardly a fairy tale.

Unfortunately, she would also become the first famous person to suffer publicly from Alzheimer’s disease. Here are 41 riveting facts about Rita Hayworth.

Rita Hayworth Facts

1. Brooklyn Baby

Hayworth’s real name was Margarita Carmen Cansino. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1918, her mother was American, and her father was Spanish, emigrating to the US in 1913. Hayworth also had two younger brothers. As we'll see, unfortunately, Hayworth's Spanish ancestry would cause her a world of pain when she tried to make it in Hollywood.

Olivia de Havilland FactsShutterstock

2. First Film—La Fiesta

Hayworth’s parents were both professional dancers. She started dancing young, and her father made her practice, practically every waking moment, at home. When Hayworth was only eight years old, she appeared with her father’s dance troupe in a 10-minute long, black and white movie called La Fiesta. She smiles in the performance, but young Hayworth's life was far from picture-perfect.

Jayne Mansfield factsShutterstock

3. She Drove a Ford

Hayworth’s co-star in one of her most famous movies, Gilda, was the Hollywood actor, Glenn Ford. Their relationship onscreen was tumultuous, though it didn't seem like that changed when the cameras stopped rolling. During a fight scene between their characters in the movie, Hayworth really did knock out two of Ford’s teeth.

Rita Hayworth FactsGetty Images

4. Worse Than Weinstein

To the truly heartless, Harry Cohn—who ran Columbia Pictures, when Hayworth landed a contract with the studio—was the brilliant executive responsible for shaping her stardom. Behind the scenes, however, Cohn was utterly monstrous. He aggressively pursued Hayworth as a conquest, bugged her dressing room, issued her fines for nonsensical reasons, and even forced her to punch a time clock on set.

Jane Bartholomew Possible Model for Columbia Pictures'' Miss Liberty Logo.Getty Images

5. He Faked Her ID

Hayworth left school at just 12 years old, when her father, Eduardo, reinvented her as his dance partner. He dressed her, and made her up, to look much older, and they started performing together, as the Dancing Cansinos, in Tijuana, Mexico. According to Hayworth, her father did far worse things than make her quit school and conscript her into working when she was still a child. He also beat and assaulted her her, beginning when she was just 10 years old.

Rita Hayworth FactsWikimedia Commons

6. Dinner Disaster

Hayworth really knew how to pick em. For a brief time, she was married to a film producer named James Hill. While at dinner with Charlton Heston, Hill was so viciously cruel to Hayworth that Heston and his wife stood up and left. In his autobiography, Heston wrote that he always regretted walking away from Hayworth in her time of need.

Rita Hayworth FactsGetty Images

7. Mistress of the Mysterious Hughes

Men idolized Hayworth, as her star rose higher in Hollywood, during the 1940s. One of her more notorious lovers of this time was the mysterious, rich, and powerful, Howard Hughes.

Ginger Rogers FactsWikimedia Commons

8. The Margarita Legend

If anyone deserves to have the most popular cocktail in the US named after them, it should be Hayworth. She was convinced that the Margarita was invented just for her, in Tijuana, Mexico, when she danced there under her real name, Margarita Cansino. This fact remains unproven, and the history of ‘Hayworth and the Margarita’ may be destined to remain a myth.

Halloween Memories FactsFlickr

9. Young And Sweet, Only 17

Under her real name, Margarita Cansino, Hayworth was ‘discovered’ and signed to 20th Century Fox movie studios. The young star was only 17 years old. But the new starlet’s fame was short-lived. Soon after signing the contract and appearing in a few minor roles, the studio coldly dropped Cansino from their roster.

Adolescence FactsNeedpix

10.  Putting Her Dancing Foot Down

Hayworth’s voice may have been dubbed by real singers in movies, but in real life, she could speak her mind. She defiantly refused to become intimate with Harry Cohn.

So Crazy, No One Believes FactsShutterstock

11. The Darkest of Knights

Eduardo Cansino was desperate for his daughter to get famous in Hollywood. After Margarita’s first contract with 20th Century Fox quickly dissolved, Cansino took his chances and risked it all. He hired a sleazy promoter named Edward Judson to get his daughter another contract. Judson proved to be the exact opposite of Hayworth’s knight in shining armor.

Rita Hayworth Facts Wikimedia Commons

12. According to Astaire

Fred Astaire was one of the greatest dancers of Hollywood’s golden age of musicals. He was often paired up with Ginger Rogers (Hayworth’s so-called ‘cousin’ by marriage), but, when he was cajoled into it, he secretly confessed that his favorite dance partner was Rita Hayworth.

Fred Astaire FactsWikimedia Commons

13. Seven Years of Bad Luck

Edward Judson, hired by Hayworth’s father to get her a permanent Hollywood studio contract, did what he was hired to do, at least. In hindsight, though, his arrival was more of a curse than a blessing. Judson practically owned young Margarita Cansino. Under his orders, the young starlet started to dress more provocatively. She changed her black hair to red. She even changed her name, going by the now-iconic moniker Rita Hayworth.

Hayworth even changed her hairline—through torturous rounds of electrolysis—to reshape her face. After enduring this, Hayworth landed a seven-year contract, with Columbia Pictures.

Rita Hayworth Facts Pixabay

14. The Movie Equivalent of a Pin-Up

Hayworth had become a movie star, prior to the release of Gilda—but it was in that movie that her reputation as a femme fatale really took off. To this day, Gilda is known for making Hayworth a cultural icon.

Rita Hayworth FactsGilda,Columbia Pictures

15. First—and Tied for the Worst—Husband

After all the pain brought on Hayworth by Judson, we'd expect Hayworth to never want to see him again. Instead, she fell in a twisted kind of love. Hayworth eloped with Judson even though he was a whopping 22 years older than Hayworth. But that's not the worst part. Judson frequently pressured Hayworth into becoming intimate with studio executives to ‘advance’ her career.

Creepy Things in Basements factsShutterstock

16. She Got Mature, and Brought Mature

When Hayworth was 23 years old, she starred in the movie, Blood and Sand. The film was successful, crowning Hayworth as a new, young starlet. Gaining a degree of confidence, and maturity, Hayworth decided to walk out on first husband, Edward Judson. He threatened to disfigure her face, if she left him. But Hayworth brought back-up with her—a tough-guy actor, named Victor Mature, who was her lover at that time.

Rita Hayworth Facts Wikipedia

17. Related to Rogers?

For years, movie-goers wondered if the rumor was true. Was Rita Hayworth truly related to fellow Hollywood icon, Ginger Rogers? In a shocking twist, the answer is yes. Here’s the breakdown: Hayworth’s mother’s brother, was married to Roger’s mother’s sister. While this means that the two stars aren’t related by blood, just connected through marriage, the two famous dancers are still cousins.

Ginger Rogers FactsMax Pixel

18. The Jerk Took Her to the Cleaners

After Hayworth left her cruel first husband Edward Judson, he came up with a disturbing plan for revenge. He demanded her whole assets, before he would grant her wish for a divorce. As Hayworth's second husband, the famous director Orson Welles, said later in Hayworth’s defense, “Rita didn’t just have her father to contend with, she also had that first husband.”

Rich Kid Syndrome FactsShutterstock

19. A Bomb Was Named After Her

In 1946, history’s fourth atomic bomb was detonated, in a test over Bikini Atoll, in the Pacific Ocean. In honor of her bombshell status, that bomb had a picture of Hayworth on it, with the name ‘Gilda’ stencilled on it too.

Rita Hayworth Facts Flickr,ROBERT HUFFSTUTTER

20. She Blew up When She Heard

When Hayworth found out that an atomic bomb was being named after her Gilda character, she completely mistook it as an insult. According to then-husband Orson Welles, Hayworth went almost insane with anger.

Rita Hayworth FactsGilda,Columbia Pictures

21. Welles Fell for Her

Famed actor, writer-director, and producer, Orson Welles caught a glimpse of a famous pin-up picture of Rita in Life magazine. He fell for the ravishing redhead immediately. They married in 1943, but, within a year, their love affair ended for a tragic reason. Welles realized that Hayworth wasn’t the ‘Love Goddess’ she portrayed in films. Instead, she was an insecure, abuse-scarred woman who would never heal from her awful past.

Carole Lombard FactsWikimedia Commons, RKO Radio Pictures

22. Her Longest Affair

Despite Hayworth's accidental punch at her Gilda co-star Ford, the actors began an on-and-off affair during the making of the movie. In a surprising twist, their tumultuous relationship was no flash in the pan. Instead, it lasted for 40 years. In the 1960s, Ford even moved next door to Hayworth, in Beverly Hills, and the duo maintained a relationship until the early 1980s.

Rita Hayworth FactsGilda,Columbia Pictures

23. That Didn't Go Welles

Hayworth’s second husband, Orson Welles, tried to reshape her image, and revamp Hayworth’s look, her career, and her education. It was a familiar pattern of controlling Hayworth, although Welles thought his motive—to craft Hayworth into a woman who was both beautiful, and brainy—was done out of love. Their marriage, and Welles’ vision of Hayworth, ultimately failed.

Natalie Wood FactsGetty Images

24. A Tragic Mom

Hayworth gave birth to two daughters, one with Orson Welles, and the other, with Prince Aly Khan. In 1954, she left her children with a babysitter while she took off on a Florida vacation with husband number four, Dick Haymes. But that's not the worst part. Apparently, the babysitter was in over her head and a neighbor noticed Hayworth's children playing in trash. This neighbor decided to notify the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Rita Hayworth FactsShutterstock

25. Vicious Cycle

Though the Society did not charge Hayworth, the episode devastated her. As Hayworth biographer Barbara Leaming noted, Hayworth wasn’t an intentionally bad mom. It was Hayworth’s own dark childhood that rendered her unable to properly parent her kids.

Stevie Nicks FactsShutterstock

26. Pursued by a Prince

Hayworth’s third marriage brought her the closest to a fairy tale. Prince Aly Khan, as he was known, was a fabulously rich playboy and adventurer whose family owned a pricey stable of racehorses. Khan had a private movie theatre in his palatial residence on the Riviera, and his favorite film, in 1948, was Gilda...starring Rita Hayworth.

After watching the film numerous times, Khan was hooked. There was just one problem: he was still legally married to his first wife—but that was a trifling matter, to the Prince.

Rita Hayworth Facts Wikimedia Commons

27. He Got Game

Prince Aly Khan was a legendary lover. He was also called the most promiscuous man in Europe. Blame that on the ‘ancient Arabic art of imsák’ that Khan studied, as a young man, to control his muscles, and his climaxes.

Rita Hayworth Facts Wikipedia

28. They Could Have Danced All Night

Khan had someone plan a fancy party on the French Riviera shortly after Hayworth’s arrival there. Khan waited at the bottom of the staircase as Hayworth made a grand entrance. He never left her side that night. In following days, he invited her to his spectacular house, where they slow-danced alone in his grand ballroom for hours.

Rita Hayworth Facts Wikipedia

29. Rochester Did It First

Khan lived in an oceanfront estate on the Riviera, with gorgeous views, a sparkling pool, and attentive servants. He also had a bedroom safe that held thousands of dollars in practically every currency so Khan could take his private jet anywhere at the drop of a hat. Still, Hayworth had to be further convinced that she was ‘in love’ with him. Khan apparently hired a gypsy fortune teller to come to his estate, to assure Hayworth that Khan was ‘the one’.

Ancient Egypt FactsShutterstock

30. She Played Impossible to Get

After wining, dining, and bedding Hayworth, Khan decided it was time to wed her. But when he proposed for the first time, tragedy struck. She refused him. Hayworth returned to the US, and Khan immediately followed her, moving into a house right across the street from her LA estate. Khan kept up with his ardent romancing, and he continued to ply her with gifts…the most adorable was a small puppy.

Susan B. Anthony factsShutterstock

31.  Nothing Like a Fairy Tale Shotgun Wedding

Hayworth finally agreed to marry Khan, when she became pregnant with their daughter, the future Princess Yasmin Aga Khan.

Hedy Lamarr FactsGetty Images

32.  No Help from Mother

Hayworth’s mother, Volga Hayworth, was a popular Broadway showgirl when she met Hayworth’s father, Eduardo. Tragically, the couple was doomed to an utterly heartbreaking end. Volga fell deeply into alcoholism, and she died in 1945, at just 47 years old.

Changed Opinion FactsShutterstock

33. Holla We Want Prenup!

Hayworth probably wouldn’t have listened to that Kanye song anyways. She declined a prenuptial agreement with Khan, for reasons unknown. It made the prince happy, though. He gave her a priceless diamond necklace to thank her.

Sex and the City FactsShutterstock

34. A Shocking Case of Cold Feet

Hayworth always said that Orson Welles was her greatest love. Right before her 1949 wedding to Prince Aly Khan, Hayworth cried out to Welles, begging him to see her. Welles arrived at her hotel to a startling sight. He found Hayworth’s room lit with candles and his ex-wife in a sensual negligee. She pleaded with him to remarry her, and Welles had to calm her down, sadly convincing her, that it would never work. Welles apparently remained haunted by the tragedy of Hayworth’s life, for as long as he lived.

Riverdale factsWikimedia Commons

35. Four Year Itch

Hayworth married Khan in 1949, and gave birth to their daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, in December of that year. The marriage barely lasted until 1953. Although Khan professed to be deeply in love, his actions did not match his words. He was never faithful and may have had an affair with Hayworth's rival Joan Fontaine.

On top of this, Hayworth's temper tantrums—caused by their unstable home life and the residue of Haywood's childhood trauma—were epic. Hayworth married two more times in her life, but never successfully, or for long.

Farrah Fawcett FactsShutterstock

36. Order in the Playroom

Hayworth’s daughter with Khan, Princess Yasmin, was three years old when the pair were snarled in a nasty divorce. While Hayworth battled it out with Khan in front of a judge, their daughter took the oblivious opportunity to treat the court like her own personal bouncy castle, at one point even climbing into the Judge’s lap!

Outrageous Reasons for Divorce factsShutterstock

37. Drinking Her Problems Away

Both Orson Welles, and daughter Yasmin Aga Khan, commented publicly on Hayworth’s abuse of alcohol. They felt utterly helpless as they watched Hayworth slowly destroy herself. Sadly, things would only get worse. In 1974, tragedy struck. Hayworth’s two brothers died within a week of each other. Her inconsolable sadness fuelled more devastating drinking.

Alcoholism.Getty Images

38. This Sad Truth Didn’t Set Her Free

Hayworth’s daughter, Yasmin Aga Khan, has described the “two decades of hell” she experienced with her mother, prior to Hayworth receiving a proper diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in 1980. However, there was a heartbreaking silver lining. While it was the beginning of a tragic end to the tragic life of Rita Hayworth, Hayworth’s fame, at least, lent much-needed publicity to a disease that was still shrouded in mystery.

history chilling momentsShutterstock

39. Her Mother's Daughter

Khan became her mother’s conservator, caring for Hayworth, until Hayworth’s death in 1987. Khan has also become a dedicated advocate for Alzheimer’s research, fundraising extraordinary amounts of money into treatments.

Rita Hayworth FactsGetty Images

40. In World War II, She Was Number 2

A sensual, lingerie-clad Hayworth was photographed for Life magazine in August 1941. That picture was the second most popular pin-up for all American troops, during World War II. In fact, the famous movie The Shawshank Redemption was originally titled Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. In Stephen King's novella, one of the prisoners has her poster up in his prison cell.

Rita Hayworth FactsGetty Images

41. Welles Gets the Last Word

Orson Welles gave a final interview on the evening before his death in 1985. He poignantly called Hayworth, "one of the dearest and sweetest women that ever lived"…a fitting tribute to the outer beauty, and inner talents, of Rita Hayworth.

Rita Hayworth FactsGetty Images

42. The Double Step

Rita Hayworth's father was really one for the books. Not only did he bar his daughter from an education and abuse her, he also forced her to perform with him as a dancing duo. They were called the Dancing Cansinos and to make the act seem less sinister, Mr. Hayworth told a terrible lie about the relationship between himself and his young dance partner.

Instead of admitting young Rita was is daughter, he passed her off as his wife. Hayworth was forced to perform in rowdy gin mills, and raunchy, floating casino boats, in Mexico, and off the California coast.

Rita Hayworth FactsGetty Images

43. The Secret Destroyed Her Life

Hayworth’s unwilling, incestuous relationship with her father may have remained in the dark, if biographer Barbara Leaming had not broached the delicate subject with Orson Welles, Hayworth’s second husband. In the interview, Welles broke down, admitting that Hayworth had confided her terrible secret to him, during their marriage.

Rita Hayworth FactsGetty Images

Sources1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

More from Factinate

Featured Article

My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.

Dark Family Secrets

Dark Family Secrets Exposed

Nothing stays hidden forever—and these dark family secrets are proof that when the truth comes out, it can range from devastating to utterly chilling.
April 8, 2020 Samantha Henman

Featured Article

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.

Madame de Pompadour Facts

Entrancing Facts About Madame de Pompadour, France's Most Powerful Mistress

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
December 7, 2018 Kyle Climans

More from Factinate

Featured Article

I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.

These People Got Genius Revenges

When someone really pushes our buttons, we'd like to think that we'd hold our head high and turn the other cheek, but revenge is so, so sweet.
April 22, 2020 Scott Mazza

Featured Article

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.

Catherine of Aragon Facts

Tragic Facts About Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s First Wife

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but very few people know her even darker history.
June 7, 2018 Christine Tran

Dear reader,

Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to Thanks for your time!

Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at Thanks for your help!

Warmest regards,

The Factinate team

Want to learn something new every day?

Join thousands of others and start your morning with our Fact Of The Day newsletter.

Thank you!

Error, please try again.