As a teenager Margarita Cansino (Rita Hayworth) was sexually abused by her abominable father, a Latin dancer named Eduardo Cansino, who not only abused her himself, but rented her out to his cronies. When she confided this to her husband Orson Welles he was rightly appalled. ‘He was a terrible man and she hated him’, said Welles. In her later years Rita took a lot of lovers, a lot of fleeting moments, as she sought to convince herself that she was still desirable. The ravages of Alzheimer’s surely impacted on her decision-making as well. It was a horrible, sad end for one of the great beauties of the American cinema.
Edward Judson met Rita in 1936 and they dated for about 16 months before marrying in 1937. The union ended five years later. Like her father, Judson hawked his attractive young wife to a lot of studio executives as he endeavoured to push his meal-ticket to the top of the Hollywood pile. Both he and her father threatened to expose her past if she refused to co-operate.
Victor Mature co-starred with Rita in My Gal Sal (1942) and dated for about a year before going their separate ways. In truth, she was beginning to enjoy having the one and only Orson Welles courting her. A few years later, after walking out on her philandering husband Prince Aly Khan, she would again find her way into Vic’s bed for a time.
Orson Welles took one look at the iconic Bob Landry 1941, WW2 pin-up of Rita, the one in which she is kneeling on a bed in a black and white negligee, and decided he had to meet her. They dated for 20 months from 1942 until 1943 before marrying in September. In December ’44 they had a child, but the marriage folded in November 1947. Orson was a compulsive adulterer. Even while Rita was giving birth to their child he was cheating with Judy Garland, Gloria Vanderbilt and who knows how many prostitutes.
Errol Flynn hooked up with Rita in 1946 when her marriage to Welles was all but over. He loaned her husband the use of his yacht Zaca for his movie The Lady from Shanghai. Flynn and Rita were photographed skiing and in Dodge City together. No sign of Orson anywhere. He had finished with Rita.
When David Niven’s wife was tragically killed in a fall down some stairs, he went on a sexual rampage, hoping to quash his grief by seeking love wherever he could find it. Rita became one of a long line of lovers he took at that time.
She first met Prince Aly Khan in 1947 and they dated for two years before marrying in 1949. Although they had a daughter (Princess Yasmin) in December 1949, nothing was ever going to save a marriage in which the husband took women to his bed whenever he chose to. He had been educated in imsak, the art of indefinite postponement of ejaculation, in the brothels of Cairo when he was a boy. In bed he had few equals and Rita had always enjoyed sex. Expert lover or not, she divorced him in 1953.
Kirk Douglas added Rita’s scalp to his already full belt in 1952. Their interlude was fleeting. Neither Kirk nor any of her other lovers could perform like Aly Khan in bed, so she went back to him (yet again) simply for the sex.
Known ladies’ man Vincent Sherman directed Rita in Affair in Trinidad (1952) after she scurried back to Hollywood because of her troubled marriage to the Prince. Although married all his life, Sherman built a reputation for seducing his leading ladies – Bette Davis and Joan Crawford included. He and Rita hit it off at once and enjoyed a happy affair for several months.
Dick Haymes was an Argentinian actor with a drinking problem and known by the not too flattering nickname of Mr. Evil. Nevertheless, Rita must have seen something in him because they dated for almost two years before she agreed to be his wife. When he wasn’t squandering her money he was beating her up. Not that she had a lot of money in the first place. The Prince had happily spent most of her fortune without touching much of his own. In 1955, after Haymes had blackened both her eyes, she finally got the message and left him.
Frank Langella was 34 when he played opposite 54 year-old Rita in a western called The Wrath of God. For a few weeks he slept with her in her rooms, but he left when filming concluded. ‘Don’t leave me. I gotta have a man with me’, she pleaded. But he left anyway.