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Rita Hayworth's Second Husband Orson Welles Once Shared Why She 'Hated Her Father'

Rebelander Basilan
Jun 19, 2019
10:11 A.M.

Orson Welles once revealed to biographer Barbara Leaming that Rita Hayworth detested her father Eduardo Cansino because she suffered not only merciless beatings at his hands but sexual abuse too.


This unexpected disclosure appears in Leaming’s book titled "If This Was Happiness." Welles, the second husband of Hayworth, revealed this secret to Leaming in 1983, as reported by PEOPLE.

“She made herself into one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, and it never gave her any happiness.”

Rita Hayworth at Ascot racecourse | Photo: Getty Images

Rita Hayworth at Ascot racecourse | Photo: Getty Images


Leaming was researching a biography of Welles at the time. She recounted:

“I kept hearing stories about how much Rita hated her father. People explained that she resented having to go to work as a young girl and had never gotten over it. But this was a sweet woman who would forgive anything."


"Then, when Orson started telling me about her rages and personality changes, I knew there had to be something else there. One day it just clicked, and I asked him about incest. That incredible voice broke. And he said, yes, it was true.”

Leaming then decided that Hayworth would be her next subject. She set to work interviewing the star’s companions, relatives, and partners in the film business in 1986.

Rita Hayworth sunbathes in circa 1939 | Photo: Getty Images

Rita Hayworth sunbathes in circa 1939 | Photo: Getty Images

Her research led her to the conclusion that the acclaimed actress and dancer's incestuous relationship with Cansino made her adult life a mess. Leaming said:

“Until I knew what had happened between Rita and her father, there were things that she’d done that I blamed her for, such as her behavior with her own kids.”


“She desperately wanted to be the perfect mother, as many incest victims do. But because their own mothers failed to protect them, they often try to set up an ideal of what a mother should be, which dooms them to failure.”

According to Leaming, Hayworth’s relationships with men were likewise bound as a result of her past. Hoping in vain to discover genuine love and security, she wedded five times.

Pin-up photo of Rita Hayworth for the 1944 issue of Yank, the Army Weekly | Photo: Wikimedia

Pin-up photo of Rita Hayworth for the 1944 issue of Yank, the Army Weekly | Photo: Wikimedia


In 1937, aged just 18, she embarked on her first, marrying her manager Edward Judson, who was more than twice her age. Although Judson helped her with her career, he was as wicked as her dad. The two finally divorced when Hayworth turned over their assets to him.



In September 1943, Hayworth married Welles during the run of "The Mercury Wonder Show," a magic-and-variety stage show by the Mercury Theatre. The couple had a daughter, Rebecca, who was born in December 1944.

Hayworth and Welles struggled in their marriage. Despite this, she considered him the "great love of her life." Hayworth was granted a divorce in November 1947 and was finalized the following year.

Rita Hayworth performing "Amado Mio" in the Gilda trailer | Photo: Wikimedia

Rita Hayworth performing "Amado Mio" in the Gilda trailer | Photo: Wikimedia


In 1949, she tied the knot with Prince Aly Khan, the playboy son of the leader of the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam, Sultan Mahommed Shah, Aga Khan III. Their marriage was a short-lived affair that ended in a bitter divorce. The two had a daughter, Princess Yasmin.



In 1953, Hayworth married actor and singer Dick Haymes, who took financial advantage of her before she divorced him as well two years later.


Hayworth then started a relationship with film producer James Hill. They got married in 1958 but ended in divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty in 1961.

Rita Hayworth in the Gilda trailer | Photo: Wikimedia

Rita Hayworth in the Gilda trailer | Photo: Wikimedia


After their divorce, Hayworth struggled to make films for a few additional years. However, her health had deteriorated and she could not remember her lines. While disembarking from a plane in 1976, the press described her as “drunk, agitated and confused."


In 1981, her daughter Yasmin became her conservator. It was Yasmin, who gave the true love her mom had constantly looked for.

In February 1987, Hayworth lapsed into a semi-coma. Three months later, she passed away at age 68 from complications related to Alzheimer's disease. Leaming said:

“Rita Hayworth hated being Rita Hayworth. She made herself into one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, and it never gave her any happiness.”

Leaming pointed out that she's writing the book "not only to make Hayworth better understood but to let us know a bit more about the devastating effects of incest.”


Hayworth, who had become the most charismatic screen idol of the 1940s, appeared in a total of 61 films over 37 years. She was best known for "Gilda," "Cover Girl," "You Were Never Lovelier," and "The Lady from Shanghai."

She earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama for her exemplary performance in the 1964 drama film "Circus World."

Hayworth was recognized as one of the top-25 greatest female stars of Classic Hollywood cinema in the American Film Institute's survey, AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars, in 1999.

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