On September 7, 1943, the 28-year old Orson Welles secretly whisked Rita Hayworth, 25, away from the Columbia studio lot after the day’s shooting on the Columbia musical, Cover Girl. At Santa Monica City Hall, Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth were married in the presence of best man, Joseph Cotten.
The marriage between Welles and Hayworth would last less than four years, but it certainly burned brightly while it lasted, as the love letters Welles wrote to his new bride attest. A cache of the love letters and drawings Welles wrote to Hayworth were discovered in a secret compartment of Rita’s make-up case, so she obviously treasured them long after her marriage to Welles had ended in divorce. They were sold on September 20, 2001 at a Christie’s auction in Los Angeles, where they fetched $25,850 and are now part of the Welles collection at the Lilly Library in Indiana.
Here is the description taken from the Christie’s auction catalogue, including excerpts from the letters Welles wrote:
RITA HAYWORTH LOVE LETTERS FROM HUSBAND ORSON WELLES
Rita Hayworth’s traveling makeup case, custom made by John Frederics, brown suede over board construction, with upper and lower tiers. The top tier features two side panels which lifts horizontally, and a center mirrored panel which elevates vertically. Inside are five monogrammed makeup containers and a hair brush and comb, strapped into place. The case has a brass plaque with the star’s name on the top, with a suede overcase which secures with snaps. A second set of latches secures a large lower cloth-lined compartment in which were stashed a cache of beautiful love letters and sketches from Rita Hayworth’s husband Orson Welles. This archive comprises 8 autograph letters signed to a total of 23 pages, quarto, octavo and one 12mo, most New York, various dates in 1943, with 8 autograph envelopes addressed to Mrs. Orson Welles, most additionally signed “Orson Welles” on the verso, with three watercolor sketches depicting a miserable young husband separated from his wife by work. There are also two autograph cards which accompanied flowers, and a color portrait captioned “Another self-portrait of self-pity. …We’re way over budget.”
EXCERPTS FROM LETTERS BY ORSON WELLES TO RITA HAYWORTH:
Dearest Angel Girl:
…I suppose most of us are lonely in this big world, but we must fall tremendously in love to find it out. The cure is the discovery of our need for company — I mean company in the very special sense we’ve come to understand since we happened to each other — you and I. The pleasures of human experience are emptied away without that companionship — now that I’ve known it; without it joy is just an unendurable as sorrow. You are my life — my very life. Never imagine your hope approximates what you are to me. Beautiful, precious little baby — hurry up the sun! — make the days shorter till we meet. I love you, that’s all there is to it.
I knew it would be lonely — but this is even lonelier that I let myself fear …I’m too blue for anything but the sonorous repetition of my love for you – Oh how much there is of it …I worked ’till midnight …and what happened to me …Ms. Parsons (NY gossip columnist) sat at a table by the door so I made Lennie (Leonard Lyons – columnist for The N.Y. Post) write an avadavat to my innocence – in case she prints I’m out on the town without you.
The avadavat by Leonard Lyons is written in pencil on the verso of a Stork Club chit.
I Leonard Lyons, being duly sworn, declare and say:
1. That I am a MALE.
2. That I phoned Orson Welles at 12:30 (a.m.) and asked him to meet me at the Stork Club.
3. That I have known him for 9 years, was his press agent without fear, and he cannot in all decency refuse me.
4. That we are sitting here alone, just we two, drinking COFFEE.
5. That Orson has refused to meet me in any more public places until the arrival of you, his wife.
Sworn before me this 25th day of October, 1943
The avadavat is countersigned by columnist Walter Winchell as a witness. Earlier that same night, Orson Welles addressed a Free World dinner at the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City
Welles has written on the back of the letter:
This is going to be my last saloon ’till you get here.
3:30 (a.m.) (coffee kicking in) The late traffic yawns in the echoing streets below –
The wind whistles – the rain drips
Look I can’t even write!
Sweet one – I can’t live without – you!