Rita Hayworth achieved fame during the 1940s as one of the era’s top stars, appearing in a total of 61 films. Called by many as “love goddess” after she had become the most glamorous screen idol of that decade, Hayworth was also the top pin-up girl for GIs during World War II. She was a talented actress and dancer, but also a woman who exuded style and beauty; a lady whose films and photos amaze us until today.
Best known for her performance in the 1946 film, Gilda, in which she played the femme fatale, Rita Hayworth began her career being often cast as the exotic foreigner. Born Margarita Carmen Cansino, daughter of a Spanish father and an Irish-English descent mother, her features were unusual and mysterious, giving her a striking beauty for that time.
However, Rita’s opportunities were limited to the small number of “exotic” roles available due to her Mediterranean appearance. To fight any limits, and in order to better appeal to American audiences, Rita took on her mother’s maiden name, and changed her hairline using electrolysis and hair dye. And change it did – that long red hair soon became a signature, in a style that influenced thousands of women after her. And so was born the Rita Hayworth we know today.
Iconic as a redhead, she reportedly got her big motion picture break because she was willing to change her hair color, while other actresses were not. She changed her hair color eight times in eight movies! Her exquisiteness, her talent and her boldness made her a star.
By that time, Rita was not only a leading woman but was also a leading fashion trendsetter. Jean Louis, chief designer to the stars of the “Golden Age,” took her as his muse. She wore elbow length gloves, had pin waved locks, wore body hugging gowns that showed off her hour-glass figure and was often seen in lace and floral prints.
In August 1941, the beautiful actress was featured in a Life photo in which she posed with a negligee with a black lace bodice. This photo, shot by Bob Landry, made Hayworth one of the top two pin-up girls of the World War II years. For two years, Hayworth’s photograph was the most requested pin-up photograph in circulation – all the GIs had it on their lockers.
In every occasion of Rita Hayworth’s life, she strived to be at her glamorous, provocative but classy best. In later life, she admitted to be proud that she was sexy without ever having done nude scenes. During her successful film career, Rita was a beauty icon that ladies aspired to look like.
Over the years, many events defined the power of the posture and style of the actress. For instance, Fred Astaire, with whom she made two films, called her his favorite dance partner, because she was so confident, provocative and sensual. At 5 foot 6 and with hazel-brown eyes, Hayworth soon became a style and beauty icon and was the face of MaxFactor in the 1940s, and by the end of that decade, she was also voted to have the world’s best lips. As a consequence of her beauty and stylishness, Hayworth was even listed as one of the top-25 female motion picture stars of all time in the American Film Institute’s survey, AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Stars.
Proving that her influence lived long herself, Hayworth-worn dresses can claim thousands when sold at auction. That’s what happened with the satin nightgown she wore for her famous World War II pin-up pictures, sold by Sotheby’s in 2002 for $26,888.