Movie Details

The life and career of 1940s sex symbol Rita Hayworth (1918-1987) is affectionately but uncompromisingly recounted in this cable TV documentary, produced by Hugh Hefner and narrated by actress Kim Basinger. Born into a show business family, Rita Cansino was still a pre-teen when she attracted the attention of Hollywood with her sultry Latin looks and her remarkable dancing skills. With her first husband, the much-older Edward C. Judson, as her manager and agent, Rita managed to land a starlet contract at 20th Century Fox, then moved on to greater glory when, signed by Columbia Pictures, she was re-christened Rita Hayworth and given a more "all-American" image via cosmetic surgery, electrolysis, and a new crop of flaming red hair. Though her career was sometimes impeded by Columbia boss Harry Cohn, who was upset that she continued to fend off his advances, Rita ultimately achieved superstardom as the alluring star of such films as Cover Girl and Gilda. Alas, her private life was never quite as satisfying as her professional one: After breaking up with Judson, she entered into a well-publicized but ultimately unhappy marriage to Orson Welles, then, in quick succession, wed a foreign prince, Aly Khan; a popular singer, Dick Haymes; and a flamboyant movie producer, James Hill. Through it all, the painfully shy and retiring actress yearned to be simply a normal wife and mother, but the pressures and responsibilities of international stardom denied her this balm. Rita's final years were clouded by Alzheimer's disease, which ended not only her career but her life. Among the interviewees in this documentary are Hayworth's daughter Yasmin Aga Khan, who has devoted her life to helping other victims of Alzheimer's, and Rita's best friend, musical star Ann Miller. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi