Jan. 6, 2022 – Pulled out of school at 12 to join the vaudeville circuit with her father, Seville-born dancer Eduardo Cansino , Rita never had friends her own age. “Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse,” recalled the star, who was then known by her birth name, Margarita Cansino. “That was my girlhood.”

There were darker goings-on as well. Although her mother, Volga Hayworth, tried to protect her, Rita later told Orson that her father sexually molested her when they were on the road — and she remained permanently scarred by the experience. “Because her father was so abusive, she didn’t have any role models,” says biographer Adrienne McLean, the author of Being Rita Hayworth: Labor, Identity, and Hollywood Stardom. “He kept her isolated, too.” By the time she became a teenager, this young beauty began scoring bit parts in films. At 18, Rita married Ed Judson, a salesman nearly twice her age, who convinced her to dye her hair red and adopt her mother’s maiden name “Hayworth” to appear less Mediterranean. She signed with Columbia Pictures, and though she later called studio head Harry Cohn a “monster” who was “very possessive of me,” he helped Rita skyrocket to stardom.


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