The Gay Divorcée—Rita Hayworth
Hardly a week goes by that Rita Hayworth’s name doesn’t pop up in the gossip columns as having been seen around town with two or three men. and scarcely a month passes that the list doesn’t drop old names and add new ones. It is confusing, but to Hollywood citizens it is delightful. Keeping Up With Rita has been, for almost ten years, a favorite pastime of the town. During the months and years She resided in Europe Hollywood didn’t seem quite the same, but nowadays the gossips sit back comfortably and chew the latest Hayworth rumor.
To those who follow the game, Rita is the definition of a gay divorcée. She seems always restless, always on the move, and always merry. There is no malice in the interest she creates, for Rita is an exceptionally well-liked person. She gets into occasional small tiffs with the press when she periodically clams up regarding her personal life, and there are sometimes arguments with her studio bosses, a fact which proves nothing except that she is a good businesswoman. By and large, she is fondly regarded as one of Hollywood’s longstanding favorites, and her amours add considerable sparkle to her basic reputation as a gentle, thoughtful and easy-going girl.
The current reaction is that Rita’s back and the boys are baying. Her marriage to Aly Khan, the split and the ensuing retreat into seclusion created a hiatus of about three years, but as of now things are back to what Hollywood likes to consider as normal.
Among the names mentioned are Dick Haymes, Aldo Ray, Dale Robertson and polo player Manuel Rojas. Both Robertson and Ray have vehemently denied any romance with Rita. Aldo is engaged to marry Jeff Donnell when her divorce becomes final this fall, and such rumors are therefore undesirable, to say the least. They began when a female columnist printed news to the effect that the Aldo Ray-Jeff Donnell romance had blown sky high, and all because of a girl whose initials were R. H. Inasmuch as Rita was then co-starring with Aldo in Miss Sadie Thompson, the busier brains in town jumped to conclusions. The studio also jumped, and the next day the columnist added, “And I don’t mean Rita Hayworth.” People remembered that Aldo had hung around the set of Affair In Trinidad, Rita’s first picture after she left Aly Khan, and that he had said he would like to make a picture with her. He was a novice at the time and people thought him presumptuous to make such a statement. it turned out however, with Miss Sadie Thompson, that Aldo got his wish, and during the picture’s filming he and Rita naturally lunched together. The rumor boiled, the studio dampened it with denials, and although it simmered down to the opinion that the name-linking was all a publicity stunt, Hollywood still kept its tongue in its cheek.
Dale Robertson was even angrier than Aldo. No one knows where it started, but the talk around town was that Dale and Rita had found each other. It was printed that they attended a private party together, and inasmuch as Dale at the time was reconciling with his wife following their separation, he blew his stack. He told Hedda Hopper that he wished the columnists would leave him alone, and he denied that he had ever met Rita. The best Hollywood could do was take his word for it.
This leaves Manuel Rojas and Dick Haymes, concerning whom there are no denials. Last spring when Rita and Dick were both in New York, they were seen together everywhere and returned within one week of each other to Hollywood, where they resumed their alliance. Haymes is still married to Nora Eddington Flynn, but reportedly they have once more agreed to disagree. It is rumored that Nora is seeing Nicky Hilton, Liz Taylor’s ex, and the romantic flings of each don’t seem to annoy the other. It may be a situation where they temporarily are going their separate ways, during which time they will decide if it is wise, or at least inevitable, to suffer through a formal divorce.
Rita and Dick have been seen at Holiday House and Fracati’s, both famous restaurants, and also at Santa Ynez Inn, a pleasant place situated near the Pacific where one may wine, dine, swim or spend a weekend. It is one of Rita’s favorite haunts, and one which has romantic memories for her. About five years ago, somewhere between the divorce from Orson Welles and her marriage to Aly Khan, Rita’s romance was an Australian actor, and they spent a few idyllic days together at the inn. He had a room in one wing and she a suite in the other, and each morning they met for breakfast and spun out long, lazy days together. It was a quiet sojourn that went almost unnoticed, and those who do know about it say that it ended with a broken heart for the Australian. Evidently he was given to understand quite suddenly that it was all over, and was so disturbed that he left the inn immediately, without his luggage, for the nearest airport. It was only through neat detective work that his plane and destination were learned, and his luggage delivered to him before the takeoff. This was an experience typical of Rita’s almost mythical affect on men, and of her sudden changes of heart.
Manuel Rojas reportedly is slated for the same fate. Rojas, to the best of anyone’s information, is 26 years old and comes from a highly placed and well-moneyed Chilean family. He came to California last summer, playing polo with an Argentinian team part of the time, and also dabbling in work for the Chilean embassy. According to rumor, the rest of his time was taken up in the pursuit of lovely ladies. Rocky Cooper was among the first, and town talk had it that this was building into a big romance when Manuel met Rita at the Cooper house and suddenly switched allegiance. Not long after he found himself out in the cold when Rita took off to Europe once more to try for a reconciliation with Aly Khan. Rojas became engaged to an American oil heiress, which lasted only until Rita returned to America, and Manuel was her escort at the party she gave the night before leaving for Reno to pick up her divorce. The oil heiress sent back her ring to Rojas, who was still so much in Rita’s favor that he met her when she returned in March from publicizing Salome in New York. As this is being written Rita is seen almost exclusively with Dick Haymes, and Hollywood expects that Rojas will soon get his walking papers. It is said that Rita feels he is a social climber, yet on the other hand it is understood that his family in Chile is highly displeased by his wanderings with women. It is strange that such a highly educated young man should be considered to he social climbing in Hollywood, yet Hollywood has a ladder all its own.
It may be that Manuel will get no notice, as happened in the case of Victor Mature. That was back in the days during the war when Mature, in the uniform of the United States Coast Guard, had taken off into the North Atlantic, along with a few thousand other new sailors. He wasn’t sure of his destination or of his chances of returning alive, but he was sure that Rita loved him. About this time Rita announced her engagement to Orson Welles, and Mature, in the middle of the big briny, caught the rumor as it spread from ship to ship, then had to wait until he reached land to put in a phone call for confirmation. He wasn’t at home to settle the matter, but a pal of his who was appearing in the same show that billed Rita being sawed in half by Orson in his magic act, did the honors for Vic. Mr. Welles was punched squarely in the nose.
Orson was perhaps the most battered of Rita’s romeos, but to atone for it, he was also one of the probable two great loves of her life. Theirs was a stormy romance and even stormier marriage. For a long time Welles had made a point of seeing every Hayworth movie; he thought her face was the most beautiful he had ever seen. When she joined his magic act Rita fell madly in love with him, and the story goes that she felt life wasn’t worth living unless he married her. They were married in September, 1943, four months after Rita’s divorce from her first husband, Edward Judson, had become final. She and Welles squabbled continuously, making all kinds of headlines including funny ones, such as the time when Rita had refused to see Orson and he retaliated by waddling up a ladder to her apartment window. There was a definite split and then a reconciliation during which they went to Mexico to “start over again.” They honestly tried to make a go of it, but Rita finally surrendered to the inevitable and made her only statement to date regarding a divorce—“I can’t stay married to a genius.”
During the four years of their marriage, Welles wrought one great change in Rita. She became accustomed to an intelligent man, and found such to her liking. This was undoubtedly responsible for the attraction felt by her for Aly Khan, and the reason that between Welles and Aly, she did not choose to go back to any of her previous suitors. There had been a fling with Tony Martin soon after her divorce from Judson and when following her divorce from Welles someone mentioned Martin, Rita is reported to have said that she was no longer interested. She had become more selective, and inasmuch as there isn’t an Orson Welles to be met every day in the week, Rita went through a period of depression in general, and was depressed about men in particular.
The man who lifted her out of these doldrums was a publicity-shy producer, who squired her around Hollywood and Palm Springs, but the healing of her heart didn’t last long. The affair broke up after a few short months, this time leaving Rita disillusioned and really ill. She took off on her first trip to Europe, and in Paris went into a hospital for surgery. Her producer is said to have telephoned her often and to have worried enough to contact leading French doctors with admonitions to take good care of Miss Hayworth, but Rita, tired and dispirited, told herself that this was just one more romance that was finished, kaput.
Rita chose the south of France to recuperate and it was here she met Aly Khan. There are some who say Rita has never given herself time enough to get over her respective romances, but this case was not one of rebound. Aly Khan was Rita’s second great love, and it is unfortunate that while he filled the bill concerning charm and intelligence, he did not fulfill the standards set by an American girl for a husband. The commotion of their courtship and the violence of their marriage made headlines the world over. They were married in Vallauris, France, in the spring of 1949, and just two years later Rita walked out on him, bringing her children back to the United States. Columbia Studio had Affair In Trinidad waiting for her, and Hollywood had a batch of bachelors doing the same thing.
Peter Lawford has always had a nose for publicity, and few of his ladyloves have escaped the glare of the spotlight when he escorted them to a shindig. In the instance of Rita Hayworth, however, Pete went about it in comparative quiet. It is said that he was the first man Rita phoned on her return to Hollywood, and he continued to date her in an interwoven fashion between all the others who followed. When Rita first returned to town she lived in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and although she insisted she was interested only in her career and her children, he dates included, in addition to Lawford, Cy Howard, Jackson Leighter, Benny Holtzman and Charles Feldman. Feldman is a well known, well-heeled agent around town who has known Rita for many years. During their marriage, she and Orson used to spend many evenings in the company of Feldman and his wife, but at the time Rita returned from Europe Mr. and Mrs. Feldman were separated. As her agent, he necessarily spent a good deal of time with Rita, but nevertheless it was rumored to be pleasure as well as business.
In the spring of 1952 Rita moved from the hotel to a home in Beverly Hills, a house that saw a lot of Feldman and also of Gilbert Roland. Roland also had known Rita for a long time and their friendship is easily resumed at any time. She invited him to dinner several nights and eventually it was rumored they were engaged, a supposition which Roland promptly denied. He told a friend, “I’m very fond of Rita. We have mutual backgrounds, both being Spanish. We love Mexico and the bull fights and all that, and I am a staunch admirer, but we have never discussed marriage.” It was Roland who defended Rita when the press attacked her for coming back from Europe with a British accent. In point of fact, he telephoned columnists, “She’s an actress—if she wants to have an accent, let her.”
By July of that same summer, Rita was dating Kirk Douglas. It was a short whirl, the first two dates promising Hollywood another big romance, but something happened on the third date that precluded a fourth. Rita seemed not to care, and three days before Aly Khan arrived in Hollywood to talk things over, Rita had a date with Richard Greene.
Aly’s return put a damper on the merry-go-round, During his visit here in August, the only question was would she or would she not divorce him. She had established residence in Reno the preceding summer and could pick up the papers whenever she wished. The upshot of it, of course, was that Rita went back with Aly to try once more. As the world knows, it didn’t work out and one day she abruptly left him in Paris and went to Spain. The minute this news hit Hollywood several hearts thumped a little faster, and one Bob Savage even took off in a plane for Europe to seek out Rita, although nothing ever came of it. In Spain she was met at the airport by Spanish Count José Maria Villa Padierna, and for the next two months was seen all over Madrid with him. Tongues wagged that this was a new romance, and again denials were scattered by both parties. Back in New York in December, Rita was reported waiting to welcome the Count to America, and in the interim dining with producer Ramon Hakim. And Hollywood began to bounce happily once more—Rita was obviously getting back in her old form and could once more be depended upon for headlines—this time at home.
Since then she has been living up to expectations, keeping the town guessing about her current dates. Since then she has also been disappointed in her attempt to get a trust fund set up by Aly for their daughter Yasmin. She picked up her divorce in January, and in April the Reno court ruled that Aly must pay an annual sum of $48,000 for Yasmin’s support. This has little effect as Aly must be in the state of Nevada in order for the ruling to have any validity. However, it was been alleged that Rita’s balding ex-husband has settled $1,000,000 on his daughter. True or not, dearth of money will never be one of Rita’s worries as her career has zoomed rather than suffered from her recent screen absences. She has bought a new home in Brentwood and settled her two daughters there while she continues to pursue her career.
At this writing Rita has left for Honolulu, where the finish of Miss Sadie Thompson will be filmed. Her leading man in the picture is Aldo Ray, a young man of the earthy type sometimes preferred by Rita, but people are wondering, if reports are true that this coupling is merely a publicity gimmick, who will be Rita’s romance during the island sojourn. From Here To Eternity is also being filmed, in Hawaii, and gossips have run their fingers down the list of men in the cast of this movie. They shake their heads at Burt Lancaster and again at Montgomery Clift, but they stop when they come to the name of José Ferrer. There, they say, is a likely prospect. A brain, and charm, and Cuban to boot, and they wonder if Rosemary Clooney has thought of the same thing.
Sirens may come and sirens may go, but they have to go far to outdo Rita, who at 35, and 18 years after her first film still can turn on the type of glamor that enchants man. She proves that it takes more than beauty to be a real charmer, for there are many in Hollywood who are perhaps as beautiful, but can’t hold a candle to Hayworth. They can talk all they want to about other beauties, but a lot of them spend a lot of lonely evenings at home. Not Miss Hayworth, unless of course she wants to, and that, Hollywood says in high good humor, would be a very rare evening indeed.
—BY JIM NEWTON
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE JULY 1953