Rita Hayworth was the most beautiful woman in the world. She said the happiest time of her life was with her second husband, Orson Welles. She was so proud he picked her; at the time he was the wizard of Hollywood, everyone wanted a piece of him and he wanted her. He’d seen a picture of her in Life magazine, a picture of her sitting on her bed in a satin slip, and he said, “That’s the girl, I’m gonna marry her.” And he did, and it was the happiest time of her life. The shyest girl in all of Hollywood who never wanted the title “The Love Goddess.” She worked so hard for him; reading the literature he gave her, took a stand on current politics, his, of course. Everything to keep up with his restlessness and nationally declared genius. He left her. Twice. Then her beloved husband later said, reflecting back on their time together, “If this was happiness, imagine what the rest of her life had been!”
In The Lady from Shanghai, the picture that was supposed to give them a second chance and ended up being the final wedge between them, he made her recite some supposedly Chinese wisdom. Looking at the father of her child, she says, “The Chinese say it is difficult for love to last long and therefore, one who loves passionately is cured of love in the end.” And maybe in that moment she believes it. He had been the first person to love her for who she was, and now he didn’t anymore. Everything before him had been sick and wrong. At thirteen she had started performing Spanish dance with her father in Tijuana and somehow ended up replacing her mother, in every sense of the word. To escape she married a man twice her age at eighteen, who was only interested in making the painfully shy Rita into a movie star, a girl who couldn’t even raise her voice in public without blushing.
You’d think that would be enough to break anyone. Where do you go after that final blow that closes the chapter you can’t regret no matter how much it hurts? Rita turned to love. Work always came second, she was always willing to give up her career in an instant for someone she loved. The next one was a prince, who made her a princess but that didn’t last either. The irony is as much as she was willing, wanted to, in fact, give up her career, the men in her life always pushed her back into it. They wanted the Love Goddess. She just wanted to be someone’s wife. And so she never stopped giving her heart away, never stopped trying. Her biography is one of my most treasured possessions. I don’t think I’ve ever hugged a book before after finishing. It almost broke my heart putting it away so I kept it in my bed a few nights after turning the last page. I didn’t want to put her away. I don’t think I’m capable of loving as easily as she did but I know not to ever be ashamed of having loved, although others might shake their heads at what could come to be known as the happiest time of my life as well.