Rita Hayworth achieved fame during the 1940s as one of the era’s top stars, appearing in a total of 61 films over 37 years. The press coined the term “love goddess” to describe Hayworth after she had become the most glamorous screen idol of the 1940s. She was the top pin-up girl for GIs during World War II.
Hayworth was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1918 as Margarita Carmen Cansino, the oldest child of two dancers.
Hayworth is perhaps best known for her performance in the 1946 film noir, Gilda, opposite Glenn Ford, in which she played the femme fatale in her first major dramatic role. Fred Astaire, with whom she made two films, called her his favorite dance partner. Her greatest success was in the Technicolor musical Cover Girl (1944), with Gene Kelly. She is listed as one of the top 25 female motion picture stars of all time in the American Film Institute’s survey, AFI’s 100 Years…100 Stars.
In 1980 Hayworth was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which contributed to her death at age 68. The public disclosure and discussion of her illness drew international attention to Alzheimer’s, then a little-known disease, and helped to greatly increase public and private funding for Alzheimer’s research. The Rita Hayworth Gala, a benefit for the Alzheimer’s Association, is held annually in Chicago and New York City. The program was founded in 1985 by Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, in honor of her mother. She is the hostess for the events and a major sponsor of Alzheimer’s disease charities and awareness programs. As of March 2015, a total of more than $65 million had been raised through the events