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Spanish dancer Eduardo Cansino's daughter Margarita studied dancing beginning in her girlhood. At age 12, the mature-looking Rita joined Eduardo's stage act, in which she was spotted three years later by Fox studio head Winfield R. Sheehan, leading to her first studio contract and film debut at age 16 in Dante's Inferno (1935). Fox dropped her after five small roles, but expert, exploitative promotion by her first husband Edward Judson soon brought Rita a new contract at Columbia Pictures, where studio head Harry Cohn changed her surname to Hayworth and approved raising her hairline by electrolysis. After 13 mainly minor roles, Columbia lent her to Warner Bros. for her first big success, The Strawberry Blonde (1941); her splendid dancing with Fred Astaire in You'll Never Get Rich (1941) made her a star.

In person Rita was shy, quiet and unassuming; only when the cameras rolled did she turn on the explosive sexual charisma that in Gilda (1946) made her a superstar. To Rita, though, domestic bliss was a more important, if elusive, goal, and in 1949 she interrupted her career for marriage - unfortunately an unhappy one almost from the start - to the playboy Prince Aly Khan. Her films after her divorce from Khan include perhaps her best straight acting performances, Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) and They Came to Cordura (1959). Beginning in 1960 (age 42), early onset of Alzheimer's disease (undiagnosed until 1980) limited Rita's ability. The last few roles in her 60-film career were increasingly small. Almost helpless by 1981, Rita was cared for by her daughter Yasmin Khan until her death at age 68.

Source: Rod Crawford at