What Really Happened Between Rita Hayworth And Aly Khan
A woman meets a man who’s gay, dashing, flirtatious, restless, unpredictable, selfish, and utterly fascinating. She marries him. And immediately tries to make him over into the age-old popular mold of a mate who is solid, stay-at-home and completely stable. Rita Hayworth was no exception. She did everything in and out of the book to force her prince charming to fit the pattern prescribed by American wives for American husbands. And it looked like she had finally succeeded when, in August, Prince Aly Khan flew to Hollywood and without waiting to change his clothes, dashed to Rita’s rented house in Beverly Hills for a six hour huddle that lasted till nearly three in the morning.
But the victory was abortive and pyrrhic. It was Rita who had to change. Aly wouldn’t and couldn’t. And contrary to report, it was Rita who wanted the reconciliation, Rita who wept and begged for forgiveness, who said she had made a mistake in running away from her Prince and who promised to do everything and anything if he would forget, forgive and take her back.
“I realize now I was wrong to leave you,” Rita told Aly in the first rush of remorse. The Prince, gallant in the hour of delayed victory, soothed Rita, and like a father talking to a no longer rebellious child, replied that it wasn’t a question of who was tight or who was wrong. The problem was, could she accept him as the man she married, a Prince with a thousand years of Ismalite tradition, who belonged in part to his religious followers, a smooth sophisticate who could never conform to the humdrum limits outlined by the retiring Rita, terrified-of-people, tongue-tied in company, who would rather wear jeans than jewels.
Rita said she would. But let’s face it. While she had enough sex appeal to catch him, is Rita clever enough to hold him? And if, when you read this, the reconciliation las gone kaput, it will only be because in the final analysis, Rita cannot quite cope with Aly’s way of life, which he will never change for Rita or any other woman, In fact, even when Rita assured Aly she was ready to live with him as his wife, he begged her to consider long and very seriously before joining him in Europe. Because he isn’t sure it can work. Neither am I.
The big trouble is that, while Aly has never wanted a divorce, he has always wanted freedom—four freedoms, in fact—to do as he pleases, to see whom he pleases, to travel when he wants to, and to gamble for high stakes when he’s in the mood. And the ideal life, from his point of view, would be if Rita and little Yasmin and Rebecca lived with him from April until November. Then he would go off on his travels, as he will this year to India and South America, with Rita returning to Hollywood for six months to continue her career in movies.
And there’s the rub. Rita is an all or nothing girl. She always wants to give up everything for the man she loves, and she expects the same consideration from the man. And this worries Aly. He knows that even though she promised “I will do everything your way,” that when the rosy glow of renewed domesticity wears off and he packs up to go on his travels, her American upbringing, which has a few traditions of its own, might send her fleeing back again to the land of the hot dog and the way of life she knows and understands.
Very few people know why Rita left Aly in the first place. The parting is usually ascribed to Aly’s dalliance with dames, especially Katharine Dunham. Aly’s attentions to the dancer didn’t improve the situation, naturally, but Rita took fright, then flight, when Aly displayed his serious side with his Moslem followers in Africa. She couldn’t comprehend how he could be such a god for them, and such a fun loving playboy in France. She accused him of hypocrisy. The surprised Prince advised her to return to France to await his return in Cannes.
“Aly was the most amazed man in the world when Rita took off for America,” a close friend of Aly’s told me. “They were quite friendly when he saw her off from Africa. And he called her every day in France and not a word did she say about coming to America. He had to read that in the newspapers. He had no advance information then about the Nevada divorce, which Rita didn’t conclude. Can you wonder why Rita baffles him?”
Baffling or not, he loves Rita in his fashion, which isn’t the American way. But he made a point of seeing Affair In Trinidad the day he landed in New York. Then he immediately called her in Beverly Hills to tell her how beautiful she looked in the film, “even though I think it’s an imitation of Gilda.” Rita agreed, but said, “It’s making money.” “Anything you’re in would make money,” replied the Prince charmingly. It’s easy to see why she loves him!
ALY ARRIVED IN HOLLYWOOD HOPING FOR A RECONCILIATION. BUT, ALTHOUGH RITA WAS “VERY HAPPY” TO SEE HIM, IT WAS NO GO.
Once Rita had decided she wanted Aly again, she just couldn’t wait for him to arrive in Hollywood. Called him on the boat every day, then telephoned him in New York to invite him to stay with her. But the Prince, who is more worldly than Rita, decided that until she was 100% sure she wanted the reconcilation, his staying at her house would compromise her and nullify the abortive divorce proceedings. And it was Aly who cautioned Rita on this, which gives you an idea of the reversed situation. Rita is only cautious when she is not in love.
Poor Princess Rita. She would have liked Aly to have spent 20 out of 24 hours a day in the house on Alpine Drive. But even on that brief jaunt to Hollywood, Aly had to go to the races at Del Mar.
The Charles Vidors, witnesses at their wedding and close friends of both, wanted to throw a big party for Aly in Hollywood. But Rita wouldn’t hear of it. She explained to them and other friends of the Prince that he was here to see the children and her, and she didn’t think big parties were in order. But because of her friendship with Doris Vidor and Charles, Rita finally consented to a small gathering. And another small soirée at Cole Porter’s house. But up to the last minute no one could be sure she would come to either.
In fact, no one can be sure about anything with Rita—except her love for her children. And for a playboy with a roving eye, it’s surprising how much Aly loves the children, too. If Rita had any defenses up, they were down when Aly walked in the house here with the chauffeur staggering behind him under the weight of 15 pounds of toys. And when Yasmin accidentally swallowed sleeping pills, her father was so distraught he even forgot to comb his hair for the reporters, dashing with Rita to the nearest hospital stomach pump. His concern cemented Rita’s determination to give the marriage another try—if Aly so willed it.
The mystery to me is why Rita ever left the guy in the first place. She knew he was a Moslem, she knew he was a playboy. She knew her life would have to be different. And quelle difference, as the French say. We should all live like this.
Aly actually owns eleven houses—five in Ireland where he breeds horses, a beautiful home in London’s swankiest section, plus a country place in Paris and a three hundred acre stock farm elsewhere in France. And his estate in Cannes is the showplace on. the Riviera. When it was owned previously by Maxine Elliott, Prime Minister Churchill and all the crowned and uncrowned kings of Europe were constant guests.
There’s another chateau in Deauville. All the homes are fully staffed with servants. In the Paris house alone, there’s a chauffeur, butler, maid, cook, kitchen maid, nurse for the children, supplemented by Aly’s valet and Rita’s own personal maid. There are no problems of housekeeping. Aly has a very efficient French secretary who speaks perfect English.
There was a story that Aly was broke and dependent for support on his father, the fantastically wealthy Aga Khan. But this isn’t quite the truth. Aly is perennially hard up because he lives in such majestic style, but there’s enough to pay for everything, including his gambling debts which are always high. He recently settled a little debt of $100,000 with the Big Casino in Monte Carlo.
But it isn’t true that he used Rita’s money to pay more pressing bills. Most of Rita’s spare cash went to square Orson Welles’ income tax with Uncle Sam. I haven’t peeked at Aly’s bank book, but ’m sure he’ll never have to live off his wife.
It’s too bad Rita doesn’t care over-much for clothes. She can charge it to Aly at Jacques Fath, Balenciaga, and all the top notch Parisienne couturiers. But all those times she was dressed to the teeth at the opera, the race tracks at Longchamps and Ascot, she’d have given the gowns away to be comfortable in a bandana, sweater and blue jeans, which is how she greeted Aly when he arrived for the reconciliation.
Most girls would have worn their best bib and tucker—but not Rita. She didn’t have any makeup on either. She never eared for jewels, but Aly has given her some beautiful diamonds. And in her maddest moments of flight, she didn’t leave them behind. She isn’t a horse racing fan. But Aly put some of his finest horse flesh in her name, and to the best of my knowledge, has never taken them back.
In the matter of horses and women Aly is a chip off the old Aga. He’s a partner with his father, with the four footed fillies—fifty-fifty of everything. And he listens to his advice re the women in his life. The Aga is strongly in favor of his son staying married. He would have preferred another son for Aly and Allah, but the old man adores Yasmin. Rita has more of a problem with the Aga’s wife, who started life in as poor circumstances as Rita. I believe she was a waitress. But the Begum mistook Rita’s shyness for stand-offishness, and the weather between them has always been cool.
But none of the power, the pomp and the money has meant a nickel in terms of happiness for Rita. When she asked a million dollar settlement for Yasmin, it seemed as though she were money mad. She never has been. She was just trying to make darn sure that Aly’s only daughter had as big a settlement as his two sons. With Moslem thinking, this could never be.
Some sourpusses spread the tale that Rita wanted the reconcilation merely to get a hunk of the Aga’s money for her daughter. But Rita doesn’t need anyone else’s dollars. She can make as much as Aly can spend. Her Beckwith Company is in partnership with Columbia. She earned quite a bit on Carmen. And while Trinidad was no great shakes as entertainment, as Rita told Aly, its making money. lots of it. So she didn’t have to pretend to Aly that she loved him, prompted by any financial insecurity. I think she just had to get away from him to realize that if she loves him she’ll have to accept him on his terms, or not at all.
Rita learned the hard way that Aly can’t be stampeded into any situation, although the wisenheimers insist he was stampeded into marriage and subsequent parenthood with Rita. I don’t believe it. If that were true, why should he have wanted to resume the marriage.
And he does want it to last. And this bothers him more than it does Rita. That’s why he begs her to continue her career. A busy girl doesn’t have the time or the inclination to mope while her husband is dashing all over the world. Why doesn’t Rita go with him? Come closer kiddies and I’ll tell you a little secret. When Aly was courting Rita, she simply loved to fly. When they were married, she confessed she is terrified in planes. And Aly rarely travels any other way. The only reason he came by boat this last time was because he wanted to relax on board deck and look real rested when he saw Rita. But he flew back. She likes to travel but leisurely, by car, or train, or boat. And she hates to leave the children. So she’ll have to do a lot of deciding. And a heck of a lot of compromising.
I hope she is as sure of her feelings as she tells Aly. Because a month before he arrived in Hollywood she was having a mad whirl with Kirk Douglas and after two dates was sure she wanted to marry him. But something went wrong-on the third date, and Rita was out when he called for a fourth.
Three days before Prince Aly appeared she dated Richard Greene, even appeared at a party with him. And she hates parties. Before Dick or Kirk there was a little fling with Cy Howard, who replaced his bedroom photo of Lana Turner with one of Rita.
So who knows what the end of this idyll will be. One thing, Rita, don’t let yourself get fat again. She is so beautiful when slender and with red hair. Aly prefers it naturally black and long. Orson made her dye it blonde and cut it short. Her studio prefers auburn and medium length. You can tell by her hair the direction of Rita’s heart.
But this is for sure. The book of Rita’s romances isn’t yet finished. The final chapter has yet to be written. I sincerely hope she’ll be able to write, “. . . happily ever after.”
—BY SHEILAH GRAHAM
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 1952