by Rose-Mary Rumbley
You know you're old when you remember the movie, COVER GIRL, starring Rita Hayworth. Now, this goes way back, but I'm compelled to write about Rita and this movie, because I adored basking in the spot light as the Celebration Magazine Cover Girl, August/September, 2021 issue. No matter where I went or what a did, someone would be there with a copy of Celebration. I forgot how many issues I autographed! I heard from people that I hadn't been in contact with for some time. Even my pastor, Robert Jeffress, dropped me a note. "I was in Tom Thumb, and there you were on the cover!" I didn't know that the clergy went to the grocery store, but Robert was there!
Now, this was not the first time I was on the cover of Celebration. I reaped the benefits as a celebrity when I appeared on the cover of the first Celebration Magazine, 10 years ago! It was then that Debra Saxon decided to create this fabulous periodical and invite me to write a column. I've been writing YOU KNOW YOU'RE OLD WHEN.....ever since. I've altered my thinking because the reading audience for CELEBRATION is younger than I am--the Boomers! However, I'm going back to the 40s with this particular column, because I wanted to once again thank Debra for making me a Cover Girl, and this Rita Hayworth movie came to mind as a perfect one to recall for my big THANK YOU.
Rita Hayworth, born in 1918, was a big, big Hollywood star in the 40's, termed as THE LOVE GODDESS, by the press, and considered the number one pin up girl of the GIs during World War II.
The movie COVER GIRL was a lush musical made in 1944, during the height of Rita's popularity. She and Gene Kelly danced all over the screen and into my heart. That's why I remember so well every scene of the movie! The music was written by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, so we all went out singing the great tunes, especially LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY! If you wish to sing and dance in the privacy of your own home, you can get COVER GIRL on YouTube free!
Our girl, Rita, was born in New York, oldest child of two dancers with the Ziegfeld Follies. Her father, Spanish, and her mother, Irish, taught her how to dance before she could stand! At age five she was on Broadway, and at age eight, she was featured in a short film, LA FIESTA, made by Warner Brothers.
The family moved to Hollywood where her father opened a dance studio and taught such stars as James Cagney and Jean Harlow. Rita had it made. At sixteen, she danced in a sequence of Spencer Tracy's movie, DANTES INFERNO, 1935. Then Harry Cohn signed her and featured her with Fred Astaire in YOU'LL NEVER GET RICH, a big budget film that really made her a Hollywood star. In 1970, Rita remembered, "I loved dancing with Fred, but there was Gene Kelly in COVER GIRL, my favorite film."
Rita was married five times. I remember her marriages to singer, Dick Haymes, and then to the great actor/writer Orson Welles. But the union that fascinated all of us was with the Muslim Prince, Aly Kahn. She really was ready to give up her stardom for a royal palace! Then to top it all--she had a baby princess! We all followed her every move! She was royalty before Grace Kelly!
But the whole royal splendor collapsed, and Rita was back in Hollywood where she made some memorable films as SALOME with Charles Laughton and MISS SADIE THOMPSON with Jose Ferrer.
Then came Television! She appeared with Carol Burnett on The Carol Burnett Show and also with Lily Tomlin on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in. This was in 1971.
However, ten years later, it was obvious she was struggling with health issues. She attended an affair given by the Reagans for Frank Sinatra, who when he came to speak to her, realized she didn't know him. She began to cry. She was still beautiful, but suffering from alzheimers which led to her death at 68 years. Her family let it be known that she had the disease, thus helping in the public funding for research.
Well, there you have it--brief scope of the movie, COVER GIRL, and Rita! For the next column I'll return to the 50s!