rita hayworth

Star Wars Episode V: Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles (YMRT #31) by Karina Longworth


Listen to this episode, or find on iTunes

Margarita Cansino went to work at age 12, pretending to be her father’s wife so that the pair could get work as a dance team in Mexican nightclubs. Within a decade, chubby, visibly Hispanic wallflower Margarita had been transformed into Rita Hayworth — the quintessential all-American sex goddess of the World War II era. At the peak of Hayworth’s stardom, she fell in love with and married writer/director/actor/radio personality/magician Orson Welles. The glamour girl and the boy genius were happy together, for awhile — as long as both bought into a utopian plot they had cooked up to leave Hollywood. When that soured, the couple broke up…and then made a movie together, The Lady From Shanghai, in which Welles distorted their failed relationship into a bad-romance masterpiece.  

Show notes:

Special thanks to Larry Herold, who played Orson Welles — and the many others who auditioned to play Orson Welles

This episode was initially inspired by the succinct, beautifully written description of Cansino/Hayworth’s transformation/rise to fame in Otto Friedrich’s City of Nets. The other key sources for this episode were Barbara Leaming’s If This Was Happiness, which seems to be the only substantive biography of Hayworth (I would say it’s time for a new one, but Leaming’s book is the rare star biography which seems to lack glaring distortions or omissions); My Lunches with Orson by Henry Jaglom and Peter Biskind; and Simon Kellow’s Hello, Americans! Regarding the latter, I would have loved to have fleshed out Orson Welles’ South American misadventures, but I figured it would be best to save that for a future episode of its own.

There is a clip in the episode from The Lady From Shanghai, excerpted from this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qay6OgDXfT0


This episode includes several songs from the White Stripes album Get Behind Me Satan, which was apparently inspired in part by RitaHayworth. Two songs on the record mention her by name; the title another, "Forever For Her (Is Over For Me)" — which I’ve used as the closing song of the episode — is basically an echo of Orson Welles’ emotional turn away from Hayworth, once she had fully invested herself in him.

Keeps on a Rainin’ (Papa Can’t Make No Time) by Billie Holiday

I Knew a Guy by Kevin MacLeod

Fiery Yellow by Stereolab

Calabash by Co-fee

Je t’aime…Mon non plus au motel by Serge Gainsbourg

The Hardest Button to Button by The White Stripes

Cups by Underworld

The Nurse by The White Stripes

Laserdisc by Chris Zabriskie

Dance of the Stargazer by the US Army Blues

Cylinder One by Chris Zabriskie

For Better or Worse by Kai Engel

Danse Morialta by Kevin MacLeod

Passing Fields by Quantum Jazz

Wonder Cycle by Chris Zabriskie

White Moon by the White Stripes

Forever For Her (Is Over For Me) by the White Stripes