Born Margarita Carmen Cansino in 1918, Rita Hayworth is best remembered today as one of classic Hollywood's sultriest sex symbols, although her famous image did not bring her personal happiness. The glamorous star of "Gilda" (1946) and other films began her screen career in the 1930s as Rita Cansino, working primarily as a dancer. Her transformation into a flame-haired leading lady made her a huge star in the 1940s, but all five of her marriages ended in divorce, and she died in 1987 after a long struggle with Alzheimer's Disease. Luckily for film fans, she left behind some unforgettable screen performances that capture her beauty, energy, and skill as a dancer. Here are ten classic movies where you can see Rita Hayworth at her best.
1) "Under the Pampas Moon" (1935) - This South American story starring Warner Baxter marks the first credited screen appearance of the young Rita Cansino, although she had performed in an uncredited role in another film in 1934.
2) "Only Angels Have Wings" (1939) - Hayworth's heyday kicks into high gear with her role in this drama from director Howard Hawks, which stars Cary Grant and Jean Arthur. Richard Barthelmess plays Hayworth's husband, and other familiar stars include Thomas Mitchell and Sig Ruman.
3) "The Strawberry Blonde" (1941) - Hayworth plays the title character in this romantic comedy from Raoul Walsh. James Cagney stars as her love interest, and the cast also includes Olivia de Havilland, Jack Carson, Alan Hale, and Una O'Connor.
4) "Blood and Sand" (1941) - Hayworth plays a sultry femme fatale in this bullfighting epic, with Tyrone Power as the protagonist whose life she nearly ruins. The Technicolor spectacle boasts a top-notch cast that includes Linda Darnell, Laird Cregar, Anthony Quinn, John Carradine, and Alla Nazimova.
5) "You'll Never Get Rich" (1941) - Hayworth shows off her dancing talent by pairing up with Fred Astaire in this lively romantic musical, which also sees Astaire's character shipped off to the Army.
6) "You Were Never Lovelier" (1942) - Hayworth and Astaire make another outing together, this time with a South American flair. Hayworth plays an Argentine socialite whose younger sisters want her to marry so that they can also get hitched to their beaus. Look for Adolph Menjou and Adele Mara as members of the Argentine family.
7) "Cover Girl" (1944) - Hayworth trades Astaire for Gene Kelly in this musical, which follows the rising fortunes of Hayworth's dancing heroine. Directed by Charles Vidor, the film won an Oscar for Best Musical Score. Phil Silvers and Eve Arden appear in the supporting cast.
8) "Gilda" (1946) - This knockout film noir would provide Hayworth with her most famous role, as the title character caught between the twisted passions of two men. Glenn Ford and George Macready make the other two sides of a deadly romantic triangle.
9) "The Lady from Shanghai" (1947) - Hayworth's marriage to director and costar Orson Welles was already on the rocks when they made this noir thriller together, but the tension between them works in favor of the film. Welles stripped Hayworth of her signature locks and gave her an ice queen style instead, but Hayworth still looks fabulous.
10) "Pal Joey" (1957) - Hayworth stars with Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak in this musical from director George Sidney. By 1957, Novak was the rising star; she would go on to make "Vertigo" (1958) the following year.
Learn more about Rita Hayworth by watching the video at the top of this article.
Jennifer Garlen writes as the Huntsville and National Classic Movies Examiner. Her book, "Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching," is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.