Birthdate: Thursday, October 17th, 1918
Location: Brooklyn, New York, USA
Died: Thursday, May 14th, 1987
Location: Manhattan, New York, USA
Cause of death: Alzheimer's Disease
Best known for: Beautiful actress and dancer who was at her height in the 1940s with films such as Cover Girl (1944), Gilda (1946) and Salome (1953). She was never nominated for an Oscar, but was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in Circus World (1964 - she lost to Anne Bancroft). She was married five times, including to actor and director Orson Welles, Argentinean actor and singer Dick Haymes, socialite Prince Aly Khan, and producer James Hill.
|Rita with husband Dick Haymes|
in July 1954
One day in 1955, the unpredictable Haymes struck Rita in the face in public at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles. Rita walked out and left, never to return to him, although she was severely shaken by the incident and doctors ordered rest for several days. By this point Rita hadn't appeared in a film since 1953's Miss Sadie Thompson, and wouldn't have another film role until 1957's Fire Down Below. Her tumultuous marriage and private life - which involved everything from her husband's Inland Revenue debts to a custody and alimony battle with her ex-husband, Aly Khan - were taking a toll on her career.
Over the next few years she starred in a string of films which kept the money flowing - the Frank Sinatra musical Pal Joey (1957) was her final project for Columbia Pictures, after which she appeared in Separate Tables (1958), They Came to Cordura (1959), The Story on Page One (1959) and The Happy Thieves (1961), all to decent acclaim.
|Rita with fifth husband James Hill, 1958|
|Rita in Road to Salina (1971)|
Rita's final two acting performances were equally as inauspicious. In February 1971 she appeared in Road to Salina, co-starring Robert Walker Jr and Ed Begley, which had an uncomfortable subplot involving incest and murder. Rita's final acting appearance was in November 1972's Western The Wrath of God, playing Senora De La Plata, but only secured the role thanks to a favour from co-star Robert Mitchum. By this point Rita was in ever-spiralling debt due to the various disastrous marriages in her wake, and was also drinking heavily. She was forgetting her lines and being temperamental on set, and her scenes had to be shot one line at a time.
|Rita in her final film role, the Western|
The Wrath of God, aged 54
Little did anybody know that it wasn't the drink that was causing Rita's unpredictable behaviour, but what was later understood to be early onset Alzheimer's Disease. By this point Rita was just 54, but life did not make it easy for her - alcohol was her automatic respite when both of her brothers died within a week of each other in March 1974, and in January 1976 she was removed from a TWA flight at London's Heathrow Airport after having an "angry outburst".
|Photos of Rita being removed from a TWA flight at Heathrow in 1976|
show how distressed she was by this point by her undiagnosed Alzheimer's
Disease. She is just 58 years old here, and clearly in need of medical help.
These outbursts were a hallmark of her later life and career, and most people put them down to alcoholism, but finally, in 1980, at the age of 62, Rita was diagnosed with Alzheimer's by New York psychiatrist Ronald Fieve. But as her daughter Yasmin said: "There had been two decades of hell before that." The disease had been discovered by Alois Alzheimer back in 1906, but until the 1980s, when Rita became the first public face of the condition, it had largely been forgotten. It was only through Rita's diagnosis that it became known that the disease did not only affect the elderly.
|One of Rita's final public|
appearances was at a National
Film Society convention in
Washington DC in 1978, aged 60.
Pic: Alan Light
Those who saw Rita in the 1980s say her mental condition was severe. When ex-husband Orson Welles saw her at an event the Reagans held for Frank Sinatra, he said he was speaking to her for around five minutes before he noticed her finally remember who he was, and begin to cry. In 1983, Orson and Rita's daughter Rebecca visited her mother for the first time in seven years, but said her mother barely recognised who she was.
Rita's nephew Richard Cansino said: "It's upsetting that we all thought that she was drinking and we attributed all of her behaviour to her being an alcoholic. I feel guilty I perceived it that way."
In February 1987, at the age of 68, Rita lapsed into a semi-coma, and finally died from complications associated with Alzheimer's Disease on May 14th. A funeral was held five days later at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills; pallbearers included Ricardo Montalban, Glenn Ford, Don Ameche and Hermes Pan. Rita was interred at Culver City's Holy Cross Cemetery.
Yasmin Aga Khan has dedicated much of her life to raising awareness of Alzheimer's Disease since her mother's death, getting heavily involved in the Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Association (ARDA), Alzheimer Disease International (ADI), and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (SIBS).
|A rare photo of Rita in her latter years. It's taken in 1981 while|
she was out to dinner with daughter Yasmin.
Pic: Adam Scull
Here's some rare footage of Rita Hayworth on a visit to Buenos Aires in 1976. She is obviously a little vague and confused during the interview, talking about a film she was going to shoot in Canada in three months which ultimately never happened. However, she's just as beautiful and radiant as she ever was...