Her beauty and glamorous image earned her the nickname “The Love Goddess.” Rita Hayworth, a dancer who became a favorite pinup of soldiers during World War II, carried that smoldering sexuality to the big screen, playing one of film’s most memorable femme fatales in 1946’s Gilda.
Like so many other men, Kirk Douglas remembers being besotted by her. They began dating in 1952, while she was still married to her third husband, Prince Aly Khan, whom she later divorced.
Rita was “beautiful, but very simple, unsophisticated,” Kirk once recalled according to the NY Post. He apparently felt disappointed that the real woman didn’t live up to the sexy image Hollywood built for her. “Men go to bed with ‘Gilda’ — but they wake up with me,” she told him. “I felt something deep within her that I couldn’t help — loneliness, sadness — something that would pull me down,” Kirk said. “I had to get away.’’
Kirk broke Rita’s heart, but not her spirit. “Basically, I am a good, gentle person, but I am attracted to mean personalities,” reflected Rita, who married two more times before her final divorce in 1961.
Despite five unhappy marriages, Rita did find a man who loved her for herself — her Gilda co-star Glenn Ford. The pair maintained a lifelong friendship and were rumored to have been lovers. “To the world, she was a sex symbol, but with me, she could just be herself,” Glenn once said.
The actor, who had four failed marriages of his own, continued to visit Rita even after she began suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which claimed her in 1987. “She always held a special place in my dad’s heart,” Glenn’s son, Peter, has admitted. “Their relationship lasted until the very end, even when Rita could barely recognize him.”
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