American film actress Rita Hayworth is best known for her stunning explosive sexual charisma on screen in films throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Trained as a dancer, she hit stardom as an actress with her appearance in The Strawberry Blonde (1941). She is best known for her performance in Charles Vidor’s Gilda (1946). Her career ended with Ralph Nelson’s The Wrath of God (1972). Hayworth died of Alzheimer’s disease on May 14, 1987. Rita Hayworth was born Margarita Carmen Cansino on October 17, 1918, in New York City. She changed her last name to Hayworth early on in her acting career on the advice of her first husband and manager, Edward Judson. Hayworth hailed from show business stock. Her father, the Spanish born Eduardo Cansino, was a dancer, and her mother, Volga, had been a Ziegfeld Follies girl. Soon after their daughter was born, they shortened her name to Rita Cansino. By the time Rita was 12 she was dancing professionally. Rita Cansino, as she was still known, made her film debut in 1935 with Under the Pampas Moon, which was followed by a string of other films including Dante’s Inferno (1935) with Spencer Tracy, Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935), Meet Nero Wolfe (1936), and Human Cargo (1936). In 1937 she married Judson, a man 22 years older than her, who would set the stage for his young wife’s future stardom. After a few disappointing roles in several mediocre films, Hayworth landed an important role as an unfaithful wife opposite Cary Grant in Only Angels Have Wings (1939). Critical praise came Hayworth’s way. So did more movie offers. Life magazine writer Winthrop Sargeant nicknamed Hayworth “The Great American Love Goddess.” The moniker stuck, and only helped further her career and the fascination many male movie fans had with her. In 1941 Hayworth took the screen opposite James Cagney in Strawberry Blonde. That same year she shared the dance floor with Fred Astaire in You’ll Never Get Rich. Astaire later called Hayworth his favorite dance partner. A photograph of her in Life magazine wearing black lace became the unofficial pin-up photo for American servicemen serving overseas in World War II. Her stardom peaked in 1946 with the film Gilda, which cast her opposite Glenn Ford. A favorite of film noir fans, the film was chock-full of sexual innuendo, which included a controversial (tame by today’s standards) striptease by Hayworth. The following year she starred in another film noir favorite, The Lady From Shanghai, which was directed by her then husband, Orson Welles. Hayworth’s marriage to Welles in 1943 and subsequent divorce from the director and actor in 1948 garnered plenty of press. It was Hayworth’s second marriage, and with Welles she had a daughter, Rebecca. Hayworth had also met and fallen in love with Prince Aly Khan, whose father was the head of the Ismaili Muslims. A statesman and a bit of a playboy, Khan eventually served as Pakistan’s representative to the United Nations. Hayworth and Khan married in 1949 and had a daughter together, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan. After divorcing Khan after just two years of marriage, Hayworth later married and divorced the singer Dick Haymes. Her fifth and final marriage was to movie producer James Hill. As her personal life was dogged by turmoil, her acting career sputtered. Periodic film roles did come her way, but they failed to capture magic and project the kind of star power her earlier work once had. In all, Hayworth appeared in more than 40 films, the last of which was the 1972 release The Wrath of God. In 1971 she briefly attempted a stage career, but it was quickly halted when it was apparent that Hayworth was unable to memorize her lines. She was placed under the care of her daughter, Princess Yasmin, who used her mother’s condition as a catalyst for increasing awareness of Alzheimer’s disease. In 1985, Yasmin helped organize Alzheimer’s Disease International, and eventually helmed the group as its president. After years of struggle Hayworth died on May 14, 1987, in the apartment she shared with her daughter in New York City. Her passing elicited an outpouring of appreciation from fans and fellow actors.