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If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth

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A beautiful actress, a gifted dancer, a fiery screen temptress linked to some of the most handsome men of her generation, Rita Hayworth seemed to live the life that dreams are made of. But the reality behind the fantasy was a harsh one. Sexually abused by her father as a young girl, Rita constantly searched for a man to save her, marrying five times. At the age of forty-tw A beautiful actress, a gifted dancer, a fiery screen temptress linked to some of the most handsome men of her generation, Rita Hayworth seemed to live the life that dreams are made of. But the reality behind the fantasy was a harsh one. Sexually abused by her father as a young girl, Rita constantly searched for a man to save her, marrying five times. At the age of forty-two, Alzheimer's disease began to ravage her mind, cutting short her career at its peak. A haunting and sympathetic tribute to the talented but insecure beauty who was created, and ultimately destroyed, by the movies. From the Paperback edition.


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A beautiful actress, a gifted dancer, a fiery screen temptress linked to some of the most handsome men of her generation, Rita Hayworth seemed to live the life that dreams are made of. But the reality behind the fantasy was a harsh one. Sexually abused by her father as a young girl, Rita constantly searched for a man to save her, marrying five times. At the age of forty-tw A beautiful actress, a gifted dancer, a fiery screen temptress linked to some of the most handsome men of her generation, Rita Hayworth seemed to live the life that dreams are made of. But the reality behind the fantasy was a harsh one. Sexually abused by her father as a young girl, Rita constantly searched for a man to save her, marrying five times. At the age of forty-two, Alzheimer's disease began to ravage her mind, cutting short her career at its peak. A haunting and sympathetic tribute to the talented but insecure beauty who was created, and ultimately destroyed, by the movies. From the Paperback edition.

30 review for If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth

  1. 4 out of 5

    Graceann

    Poor Rita Hayworth just couldn't catch a break. From the age of twelve, she seemed to careen from one torment to the next. Her father used her as a meal ticket and a punching bag, and sexually abused her as well. Unfortunately, the statistics that so many of us have seen played out here; children who are abused often grow up to form partnerships with abusers, and that's what Rita, with rare exception, did. From reading If This Was Happiness, I got new respect for Orson Welles (he was a bad husba Poor Rita Hayworth just couldn't catch a break. From the age of twelve, she seemed to careen from one torment to the next. Her father used her as a meal ticket and a punching bag, and sexually abused her as well. Unfortunately, the statistics that so many of us have seen played out here; children who are abused often grow up to form partnerships with abusers, and that's what Rita, with rare exception, did. From reading If This Was Happiness, I got new respect for Orson Welles (he was a bad husband and a worse father, but he did try, at least in the beginning, and had the good grace to be honest about his failures), and an appreciation for Prince Aly Khan (though he wasn't a faithful husband, he seemed to care about Rita, and adored both of the children). Dick Haymes, on the other hand; wow, what a piece of work (I say "work" rather than another more scatological term I'd like to use). I felt terribly sorry for Rebecca Welles, who seemed to have been forgotten most of the time in the tumult of her mother's life. Barbara Leaming interviewed Orson Welles and Hayworth's fifth husband, James Hill (who is also touchingly candid regarding his failure as a husband), along with her brother and several close friends to give us a well-rounded picture of the woman who carried the loathed title of "Love Goddess" but just wanted to be Rita. What she could have left out was the armchair-psychology that often presented itself, especially during the discussions of Rita's sexual abuse and her declining health in later years. Even in 1989, when this book was released, the link between abuse and later life choices was well-established, but we're beaten over the head with it here. If This Was Happiness is fascinating, engrossing and heartbreaking. It would have made for a much less interesting biography, but I wish the lady had had a much more contented life.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Naksed

    Read during the era of my fascination with all things Hollywood circa the glamorous, black and white years of the great dames and femme fatales of noir film. I remember how utterly sad and depressing little Margarita's life was from childhood to failed marriages culminating in a horrendous scandal over child neglect and her early onset Alzheimer's. "Men go to bed with Gilda and they wake up with me." She said wistfully of her most famous, career-defining role that was also to become the Albatros Read during the era of my fascination with all things Hollywood circa the glamorous, black and white years of the great dames and femme fatales of noir film. I remember how utterly sad and depressing little Margarita's life was from childhood to failed marriages culminating in a horrendous scandal over child neglect and her early onset Alzheimer's. "Men go to bed with Gilda and they wake up with me." She said wistfully of her most famous, career-defining role that was also to become the Albatross around her neck. Her ex, Orson Welles, confided that she told him he had been the love of her life and brought her the most happiness. He had the grace to admit that he was shitty to her and to wonder, remorsefully, at how a woman he had so mistreated could ever call that period of her life happy. "If this was happiness..." He mused. I guess it left quite an impression on me, more than two decades after I read it. A vivid illustration of the rot and sorrow behind the glitz and glamour.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    While this is a very interesting biography of Rita Hayworth, the undisputed "Love Goddess", it's not a book to read if you're depressed or looking for something light or quick. Barbara Leaming clearly does her research and puts a lot of psychology into the bios that she writes, although she has the tendency to go overboard. While the arguments about the alleged physical and sexual abuse Margarita Carmen Cansino (Hayworth's real name) endured from her father can't really be verified either way, t While this is a very interesting biography of Rita Hayworth, the undisputed "Love Goddess", it's not a book to read if you're depressed or looking for something light or quick. Barbara Leaming clearly does her research and puts a lot of psychology into the bios that she writes, although she has the tendency to go overboard. While the arguments about the alleged physical and sexual abuse Margarita Carmen Cansino (Hayworth's real name) endured from her father can't really be verified either way, the family dynamics and Rita's problems with love and trust is persuasive enough. There is no doubt that she was denied a true childhood and over-burdened with responsibility at a young age, which left her unprepared to deal with the future. The issue I have is the reliability of Orson Welles, Rita's second husband, who was known to exaggerate and lie, and who wasn't exactly a faithful husband or devoted father. Also a disappointment is the lack of friends and family member participation (both her daughters, Rebecca Welles and Princess Yasmin Khan declined to participate but wished Leaming well), although a few friends pop up here and there (most notably choreographer Hermes Pan, hairstylist Helen Hunt, actress/dancer Ann Miller and publicist Henry Rogers and his wife), costars quotes come from older sources, and there is very little insight into Hayworth's acting career. Glenn Ford, Hayworth's close confidante and occasional lover is only mentioned twice, and her parents and brothers were all deceased (as was Rita herself) so no way of clarification there. Some of it may be speculative, and I'd like to think that Hayworth's life wasn't all gloom and doom the way Leaming portrays it. I do think that we should be careful who we envy. Beauty, talent, fame and riches don't ultimately bring happiness. Rita's sad descent to then unknown Alzheimer's disease was poignant and sad, but touching in that her daughter Yasmin cared for her until her death. I think though, that despite her conflicting feelings about her career and life, she had some joy too. Not a bad book, but if you want more insight and information about Rita Hayworth's career, there are better books on the subject.

  4. 5 out of 5

    [Name Redacted]

    Rita Hayworth began her life molested and ended it with dementia. In-between the two she was: a reluctant actress, a self-hating sex symbol, a suffocating wife, a neglectful mother, a bewildered Princess... A deeply troubled, desperate woman. Comparing the well-documented historical facts contained in this book to the idealized, sanitized version of events presented by the writer/host of the "You Must Remember This" podcast (which inspired me to read this) has been...illuminating. The host of tha Rita Hayworth began her life molested and ended it with dementia. In-between the two she was: a reluctant actress, a self-hating sex symbol, a suffocating wife, a neglectful mother, a bewildered Princess... A deeply troubled, desperate woman. Comparing the well-documented historical facts contained in this book to the idealized, sanitized version of events presented by the writer/host of the "You Must Remember This" podcast (which inspired me to read this) has been...illuminating. The host of that show is so committed to her 3rd Wave Feminist "Men-are-always-bad-and-women-are-always-innocent" narrative that she robs Rita Hayworth of all agency, all choice, all fallibility in the furtherance of that agenda. It made me retroactively research every case "YMRT" covered because, as here, she airbrushes facts away in nearly every case to make room for her own social agenda -- which is, in its own way, equally disgusting. In reality, Rita Hayworth was obsessed with creating a stable, happy family and deeply resented Orson Welles' neglect of their daughter...yet she largely abandoned her daughters to nannies so she could go traveling the world and hooking up with various wealthy suitors. She was so desperate for love, but treated the men in her life as either sugar daddies (emphasis on "Daddies") or as chattel she owned, all while regarding her own equally-lonely children as obstacles to her "fulfillment" once they reached a certain age. Everyone was always either taking advantage of, walking away from, or making excuses for her. She wound up a 5-time divorcee who was (justifiably) estranged from one daughter and (undeservedly) doted upon by the other. What a sad, selfish life.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sonia

    Horrific book filled with numerous lies and over-exaggerations. This author is known to be a terrible autobiographer and I couldn't believe the things I was reading. There is no way on this earth that Orson would have confessed to her those things she wrote about Rita. He loved Rita more than anyone and he would have disrespected her privacy by revealing too much. Her lack of proof is amazing. All of theses conversations that Rita apparently had were based on hear-say or lies. If you are interest Horrific book filled with numerous lies and over-exaggerations. This author is known to be a terrible autobiographer and I couldn't believe the things I was reading. There is no way on this earth that Orson would have confessed to her those things she wrote about Rita. He loved Rita more than anyone and he would have disrespected her privacy by revealing too much. Her lack of proof is amazing. All of theses conversations that Rita apparently had were based on hear-say or lies. If you are interested in Rita without half the BS, please read: 1. 'Rita: The life of Rita Hayworth' - By Joe Morella & Edward Z. Epstein 2. Rita Hayworth: A Photographic Retrospective - By Caren Roberts-Frenzel (More of a photo book but there are fascinating anecdotes about Rita from someone that is an actual expert on her) 3. Rita Hayworth: Portrait of a Love Goddess - by John Kobal The reasons why these books are better is because they do not contain rubbish, they are all very similar with their information, better written and these authors CARE about Rita. They are people who are genuine fans. Please do yourself a favour and avoid this book of stupid lies and exaggerations.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joy H.

    Added 1/19/17. First published November 24th 1989) I listened to the unabridged audio version. Very interesting. I didn't realize what a problem-filled life Rita Hayworth had. Then she died of Alzheimer's disease. Below is the info that came with the audio version which I got from Audible.com. ================================== Author: Barbara Leaming Date: 2006 Narrator: Anna Fields Provider: Blackstone Audio, Inc. Running Time: 13 h 17 min Audible Enhanced Audio "Rita Hayworth was the epitome o Added 1/19/17. First published November 24th 1989) I listened to the unabridged audio version. Very interesting. I didn't realize what a problem-filled life Rita Hayworth had. Then she died of Alzheimer's disease. Below is the info that came with the audio version which I got from Audible.com. ================================== Author: Barbara Leaming Date: 2006 Narrator: Anna Fields Provider: Blackstone Audio, Inc. Running Time: 13 h 17 min Audible Enhanced Audio "Rita Hayworth was the epitome of 1940s glamour. A legendary "Love Goddess", she was a huge box-office star, and her sultry beauty and sensational figure made her into one of Hollywood's greatest sex-symbols: a pin-up so incendiary that GIs pasted it on to the first atom bomb ever detonated. Yet behind the smoldering image lay a tragic secret that wrecked her private life. A pathologically shy child, she was thrust at an early age into a sordid limelight as her vaudevillian father's dancing partner, and suffered sexual and physical abuse at his hands. A desperate need for protection led her into five marriages, including nuptials with Orson Welles and Prince Aly Khan. All of them resulted in exploitation and disaster, as did affairs with some of the world's most glamorous men." ================================== Rita Hayworth had 2 daughters, one by Orson Welles and one by Prince Aly Khan, with whom she had a custody fight over who should keep the daughter. Rita wouldn't give up Yasmin. Listen to a sample of the audio version here: http://www.audible.com/pd/Bios-Memoir... See more at Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rita_Ha...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    What a sad life this women lived! This book conveys that Rita lived her entire life in abuse and pain. Used by her own father, unprotected by her mother, used by Hollywood, husbands, boyfriends and the press, begs the question...was Rita ever happy? Her alcoholism and Alzheimer's would say she probably wasn't. Although... I don't like what Barbara Leaming did in this biography. She didn't seem to want to write about Rita as a person and instead chose to analyze the abuse she endured and on a smal What a sad life this women lived! This book conveys that Rita lived her entire life in abuse and pain. Used by her own father, unprotected by her mother, used by Hollywood, husbands, boyfriends and the press, begs the question...was Rita ever happy? Her alcoholism and Alzheimer's would say she probably wasn't. Although... I don't like what Barbara Leaming did in this biography. She didn't seem to want to write about Rita as a person and instead chose to analyze the abuse she endured and on a smaller level, the Alzheimer's disease she suffered from later in life. In my opinion, she didn't reveal enough details regarding Rita's life outside of the drama. More was written about Rita's legal troubles than her character, likes/dislikes, personality type, sense of humor or sensitivities. She never takes a closer look at who Rita was. It makes me think Leaming was only interested in researching and writing about the dramatic events in Rita's life rather than the person who endured them. This isn't a book about Rita Hayworth, it's a book about what took place in her life. Leaming is not one of my favorite biographers, so I might have liked reading a Rita Hayworth bio more if it was written by someone else. If you just want to know what happened in Rita's life, this is a good enough resource; but if you want that feeling of getting to know someone that often comes with reading a well-written and well-researched biography, this isn't the book for that.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    In the 1970s there was a nostalgia boom for biographies of old movie stars, but they tended to be cute or still toeing the defunct studios’ line. Then in the 1980s there was a boom in more salacious biographies of just about anyone. In the late 1980s there was also a trend in which childhood physical/sexual abuse was exposed by adult survivors. This biography combines all three of these trends, with mixed results. The author’s previous book was a biography of Orson Welles, for which she had acce In the 1970s there was a nostalgia boom for biographies of old movie stars, but they tended to be cute or still toeing the defunct studios’ line. Then in the 1980s there was a boom in more salacious biographies of just about anyone. In the late 1980s there was also a trend in which childhood physical/sexual abuse was exposed by adult survivors. This biography combines all three of these trends, with mixed results. The author’s previous book was a biography of Orson Welles, for which she had access to Welles and from whom she gained the knowledge that Rita Hayworth had admitted to him that her father had taken advantage of her sexually. This bit of information is found in no one else’s account of Rita Hayworth’s early life, and Orson Welles could be a fantabulist, so I prefer to take this revelation with a grain of salt. This author, however, makes it the keystone of her analysis of this star who is otherwise impossible to know. From the documentaries and other books I’ve researched, it does not appear that Hayworth had very many close friends. Her five marriages were not particularly amenable to social networks, despite the often social aspect of her lifestyle. Much of Hayworth’s time away from the studios and in her marriages to Welles and Prince Aly Khan are related by her secretary/companion, who ultimately becomes one of her few female peers who can speak with any authority about Hayworth’s actions and motivations. I assume that Hayworth’s divorces all included some kind of non-disclosure clauses, because none of her husbands had anything to say about her other than Welles toward the end (sadly, Khan died in a car crash in 1960). Nor does Hayworth appear to have maintained much of a relationship with her brother, although the author attempts to cite an elliptical statement by the brother in an interview decades later as further proof that abuse had occurred in Rita’s youth, though I feel the statement is so abstruse it could be open to any interpretation. This is not to say that I do not believe it. Everyone’s actions fit the profile. Whenever Rita Hayworth seems to make a decision that most of us know is wrongheaded, the author is able to frame it in the logic of an abuse victim. This happens quite often, from the start of her career and marriages up to the mid-50s when she stumbled into the worst marriage of all to Dick Haymes. Whatever she does, it’s because of her abuse – the author has her angle and she’s sticking to it! But, it does make as much sense as can be made from this lovely lady’s life. Around the time of her 1957 comeback, the blanks no longer have to be filled in with just that information. We’ve known her long enough by then to be able to imbue her with other motivations such as her desire to quit acting and her dislike of Harry Cohn. We also know how badly she wanted to have a ‘normal’ marriage with children and no career, as was perpetuated at the time. Sadly, she sounds like she was pretty cool between marriages or in the early stages of dating, but as soon as she thought someone might be marriage material, she seems to have become a different person – one who is not compatible with the man who inspired this feeling. The book spends more time on fourth husband Dick Haymes than on Welles or Khan despite their being much more famous, married to Hayworth longer, and fathers of her children. Shit floats to the top, I guess. Everything that he does becomes so infinitely complicated that it requires extensive explanation. Just boarding a plane to Hawaii becomes a legal mess that goes on for years, partly due to his request to be exempt from WWII service due to his Argentine citizenship. Hayworth’s guilt over his visiting Hawaii and her defiance to the press got her married to this guy with whom she’d already grown disenchanted. When it became somewhat clear that Harry Cohn had something to do with their legal troubles, Hayworth became even more entrenched in her marriage. I don’t think that it was merely her past abuse that caused her to identify with her abuser (she could just as easily have identified with Cohn!). At this stage in her life, after having left a life of material comfort (despite her social discomfort among Khan’s freeloading friends) and gone back to work at a job she merely tolerated, I feel that she had, by her mid-thirties, developed some sense of confidence in herself. Unfortunately, having never been confident before, she didn’t know exactly what to do with this feeling, and it came out as defiance once Harry Cohn drew the battle lines. And why didn’t Cohn ever learn? He was always insecure about not having a stable of stars, but the few he did have (Jean Arthur, then Hayworth, and then Kim Novak) always left the business quite decisively in reaction to how he treated them. Sadly, around the time that she stopped marrying and should have been able to make her own way in the world unencumbered, she started to lose her grip on reality due to Alzheimer’s. Rumor at the time was that it was her drinking, and indeed alcohol may have exacerbated the disease, but people close to her could see there was something else going on. Choreographer Hermes Pan is one friend who gives a lot of information about Hayworth from 1957 onward (and a little in the 1940s as well). He bore witness to many social disasters brought on by her worsening Alzheimer’s. It is sad that this hard-working and congenial woman (#19 on the AFI’s list of greatest female stars) never got to have a life of her own. During her childhood she had to dance with her father, and then between each of her husbands she was owned by Harry Cohn, and once she was done with all that she degenerated for 25 years. “We all just felt real bad for her,” is what a crew person said of her during one of her later movies. She needed her driver to go no more than 10 miles per hour lest she get frightened, and she had other anxieties regarding movement through spaces such as traveling in an elevator or walking down stairs, which are now known perceptual issues related to Alzheimer’s. It is especially sad that someone who was known for professionalism (before Dick Haymes at least) became increasingly erratic. She tried Broadway, was going to replace Lauren Bacall in “Applause” but had to back out when she couldn’t remember her lines. Ultimately, she finally did take up painting, which she had wanted to focus on whenever she dreamed of quitting the movies. Her painting became a therapeutic activity which sometimes helped trigger her memories and herself. The final passages, of course, go back to the abuse. Well, I guess that’s the author’s angle. I much prefer the kinds of star biographies that are written today by actual film historians who happen to be enthusiastic about their subjects, like Donald Bogle’s biography of Dorothy Dandridge. I wish I could have gotten more information about the films of Rita Hayworth, many of which get only a cursory mention.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Grace

    When watching the old screen idols in those classic films of a long gone era, I often tend to idealize that person and the image they represent. I think that they must have had a charmed life--a sort of glittering dream. But very often, that was the farthest thing from the truth and for many of these old screen stars, was not only not the case, but the bleak, shocking opposite. Such was the case with a beautiful young woman with luminous eyes and a scarred childhood...a young Spanish dancer called When watching the old screen idols in those classic films of a long gone era, I often tend to idealize that person and the image they represent. I think that they must have had a charmed life--a sort of glittering dream. But very often, that was the farthest thing from the truth and for many of these old screen stars, was not only not the case, but the bleak, shocking opposite. Such was the case with a beautiful young woman with luminous eyes and a scarred childhood...a young Spanish dancer called Margarita Cansino who rocketed into stardom and became the glamour girl of the golden era of Hollywood, Rita Hayworth. Born into a tradition of Spanish dancers, her father Eduardo Cansino, an arrogant, imperious man, immigrated to the States where he and his sister formed a popular Spanish dance act for a while until she left by way of marriage. Dance the only thing Eduardo had really known (and really knew how to do), he put together a similar act some years later with his adolescent daughter, Rita, and therein begins so many of the emotional problems which followed and plagued her for much of her life. Just imagine for a moment, a 13 year old child thrown into seedy casinos and forced to dance for her livelihood---her choices taken away from her. What infuriated me was the ruthless exploitation of Rita by her father who was a man supposed to protect and care for his daughter but instead abused her every way imaginable; economically, physically, and most disturbingly, sexually. Denied education, lasting friendships, and the normal joy of childhood, pushed into a position of being a primary breadwinner for her family, and forced to grow up ahead of her time, a bitter image begins to form of the trap she would fall into of betrayal, adultery, abuse, and exploitation by the men who drifted in and out of her life. This pattern continues with several husbands, including her first, Eddie Judson (who was also her manager) who attempted to "pimp" her out for attention and roles and ultimately blackmails her, her second, Orson Welles, who although seemingly in love with her, constantly hurts and betrays her by his incessant adultery, and her fourth, singer/actor Dick Haymes (dubbed Mr. Evil), who spends a fortune of her money and repays her with vicious physical and verbal abuse. When reading the book, it is revealed in so many ways, that despite the glamour she gave to the audience and indeed, cinema history, through iconic films like "Gilda" and "The Lady From Shanghai", she tired of the bittersweet trappings of fame and fortune, and simply wanted a peaceful life with a loving husband. What is angering is that Rita, despite her beauty, talent, and kind heart, never seemed to be truly appreciated or really respected by the men she fell in love with. She experienced a problem of disrespect by many men throughout her life. With a particular Hollywood big-wig, she is openly insulted and even has the privacy of her dressing room invaded when he bugs it. Given all this, it's no surprise she wanted out of Hollywood. However, even though a Hollywood career was something she wanted desperately to escape from and almost achieved, specifically during her marriage to second husband and aspiring politician, Orson Welles, as a classic film fan, the elegance, complexity and grace of Ms. Hayworth's contributions to cinema is something I can't imagine not existing. In the latter part of her life, she was tragically afflicted by Alzheimer's Disease, a devastating condition that unfortunately was unknown to the majority of people of her time, and it is described in powerful detail Rita's painful struggle to come to grips with the gradual deterioration of her memory. When she passed away at age 68, she died an accomplished woman, who had lit up the screen and inspired movie-goers everywhere through her legendary film characterizations. At the same time, though, what stood out in my mind was her own perspective on her life and career--Rita truly did not want to be in the spotlights. What she longed and searched for was a simple and essential desire: to be loved. And don't we all want that?

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ulla

    I have no words. Can't imagine how she survived so many years! I have no words. Can't imagine how she survived so many years!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This is a hard read, emotionally. What a tragic life. Poor, poor Rita! She is like the poster child for the saying "Money doesn't buy happiness." Neither does fame or beauty. She had all three but was lacking in what is most important to be happy in life- love and close connections with others. Oh sure, she had many men desire her physically but none of them wanted HER. Her famous comment "Men go to bed with Gilda but wake up with me." hits the nail on the head - the men in her life were drawn t This is a hard read, emotionally. What a tragic life. Poor, poor Rita! She is like the poster child for the saying "Money doesn't buy happiness." Neither does fame or beauty. She had all three but was lacking in what is most important to be happy in life- love and close connections with others. Oh sure, she had many men desire her physically but none of them wanted HER. Her famous comment "Men go to bed with Gilda but wake up with me." hits the nail on the head - the men in her life were drawn to a fictional character, not a flesh & bones human being. The book starts off with her miserable childhood. Her alcoholic neglectful mother. Her narcissistic father who sexually molested her. Her lack of schooling - her evil parents - and I use that term loosely here - pulled Rita out of school when she was only in the 6th grade so she could go work nights at casinos in Tijuana. Yikes! Rita wasn't allowed to play with neighborhood children & was only allowed to sit on the porch and watch her younger brothers play with other kids. Such a heartbreaking image. Being signed with Columbia Pictures didn't save her. Harry Cohn was basically a monster to her because she wouldn't have sex with him. I thought the story the actress Ann Miller is quoted as saying is so telling of Cohn's treatment of women. Ann says that Cohn was always a perfect gentleman with her, very kind. If someone swore around Ann, Cohn would scold them for talking that way in front of a lady. Ann was from a well-adjusted, middle class home and her mother was her chaperone. Rita was perceived as by Cohn as trash, as a slut and he treated her accordingly. A very Madonna/Whore concept of women. It didn't help that Rita, attempting to escape her father's abuse, had turned to a shady middle aged conman for rescue. He saw a situation ripe for the plucking and married Rita when she was a teenager. Her first husband was a controlling monster who pretty much pimped Rita out in order to find "success". I was hoping the story would take a turn for the better when Rita met husband #2, Orson Welles, but alas, it was not meant to be. The sad part is that this marriage is the highlight of her life - the pinnacle of her happiness. That's not saying much. His photo should be next to the word self-absorbed in the dictionary. She completely sublimated all her personality to support Orson and that behavior irritated him & turned him off. Rita became angry & weepy & clingy at his irritation. Orson started sleeping around - A LOT - because Rita was such an emotional trainwreck. I was exhausted just reading about the hysterical scenes she began. I can't imagine actually being a part of the scene. Orson was wrong to cheat on her but man, Rita did not seem like a pleasant person to be married to. Husband #3, the Aly Khan, was all wrong from the get-go. I could not wrap my head around why Rita would start anything with him. It was just one unpleasantness after another and a drag to read about. Again, he certainly had his flaws but Rita seemed to exacerbate them by her responses. Like throwing water on a gas fire. The way they used their daughter Princess Yasmin as a weapon against each other was nightmarish. Maybe that custody battle is better than what happened with Becky, Rita's daughter with Orson? Becky was flat out abandoned by Orson. She was also frequently abandoned by Rita. Rita couldn't even hire one nanny to be a consistent mother figure for her daughters. Instead there was a succession of random nurses & governesses & babysitters who never lasted very long. Husband #4 was the worst of the bunch - and that is saying something! Well done, Dick Haymes! You win at being the number one monster out of Rita's 5 husbands. The chapters covering their marriage were painful to read. I had to force myself to pick up the book. One horrid thing after another. Reading about this marriage is like being repeatedly hit on the head with a 2x4. Husband #5 was like a saint, coming on the heels of Dick Haymes. However, he still used & manipulated Rita. Those chapters were more along the lines of "sigh, seriously, again?" than the Haymes chapters that caused me to exclaim out loud several times because what I was reading was so crazy and terrible. The end of the book deals with Rita suffering from early onset Alzheimers. Unfortunately, back then no one really knew about that disease so everyone just wrote of Rita as a drunk and/or crazy. One sad story piled on top of another. Finally she gets a diagnosis. Then she dies. I googled her two children, Becky and Yasmin, hoping to end on a happier note. What was I thinking? I swear, someone put a curse on this family. Becky is dead. She died at 59, estranged from her family and struggling financially. She had one child, a son, that she secretly gave up for adoption. Ok, maybe this adopted son escaped! Nope. There is a documentary about him finding out as an adult who his bio grandparents are. Marc, the grandson, struggled in school & at the age of 21 was in a horrible car accident that left him brain damaged. He is a dead ringer for Orson Welles. Oh, and dead. He died in 2010 at the age of 44. He left behind 3 kids. God only knows what horrible fates await them. Yasmin is still alive. She had one kid who committed suicide at age 25. He was in & out of drug rehabs & HIV positive. I'm just waiting for something bad to happen to Yasmin. You know, just to complete the circle of doom that surrounds this family.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Beth Ann

    Though heavy-handed in explaining the psychology of abuse and its aftermath, Leaming's book is notable for having dropped the bombshell that Rita Hayworth was a survivor. Twenty-years later that revelation is so much accepted as fact that it's become part of Hayworth's permanent narrative. The main two things that anyone superficially acquainted with Hayworth can recite was that she was abused and that she was given a makeover that emphasized her Anglo-Irish heritage over her Spanish heritage. Th Though heavy-handed in explaining the psychology of abuse and its aftermath, Leaming's book is notable for having dropped the bombshell that Rita Hayworth was a survivor. Twenty-years later that revelation is so much accepted as fact that it's become part of Hayworth's permanent narrative. The main two things that anyone superficially acquainted with Hayworth can recite was that she was abused and that she was given a makeover that emphasized her Anglo-Irish heritage over her Spanish heritage. Those writing of the latter tend to emphasize the loss of her identity imposed by Hollywood, completely ignoring Hayworth's agency and ambition in agreeing to transform herself. I wish there had been an interview with her indicating how she felt about the makeover. While there are troubling ethnic implications (Columbia was right; the public embraced a Hayworth over a Cansino), stars perceived as "fully" white in America also had hairline electrolysis to open up their faces more for the camera, like Marilyn Monroe. I'm interested in learning whether Hayworth hoped that the transformation would give her a fresh start as she attempted to leave behind the abused little girl she was and looking like a new woman with a new career away from her dysfunctional family. She could leave her family, but that didn't mean she didn't recreate some aspects of it. Another sad revelation of Leaming's is that Hayworth was never as invested in her career long-term as she was in having someone to love and be loved by, but Hayworth was terrible at picking husbands. The two best briefly were Orson Welles and Prince Aly Khan. Welles could only temporarily abstain from being self-absorbed, and Khan--while loving and supportive of Hayworth and fatherly to both of Hayworth's children--could not be monogamous and wasn't interested in trying.Hayworth partnered with increasingly unlikable users and even put her children in danger in the process. The use of happiness in the title is ironic. According to this biography, Rita Hayworth was only ever briefly happy. This book tells the tragedy of Hayworth. If you want to learn why people like Noel Coward and Ann Miller enjoyed being her friends, you're going to have to find in-depth coverage of her positive moments and friendships elsewhere. This isn't a career biography either, although it supplies reasons for why Hayworth made certain often disastrous career choices I'm like any fan wishing things could've been different for "The Love Goddess," and as a reader I wish her pathology hadn't been used to mainly emphasize the tragic elements of her life. Leaming seems to argue that the trajectory of Hayworth's life was set due to her abuse and capped by her development of Alzheimer's. While Hayworth was robbed of her later years when she might have developed herself more and found peace by the disease, I can't embrace such fatalism. It's too literary a device in telling the story of a women who was real, who has already had so many fantasies projected onto her. I want to know more about the woman in a way that restores her humanity. This book emphasizes the warts over all, and it leaves me wanting to read another book more compassionate and less clinical about the woman. #ClassicFilmReading #FirstImpressions

  13. 5 out of 5

    John P

    I love the dancing sequences with Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth. After seeing these in her two films with Astaire, and after seeing a few of her other movies, I decided to borrow this biography from our local library. The details in her biography, however, were unexpected. Her screen persona is radically different from her private self, so much so that it's as if she had a split personality. Seriously split. Then, as the book revealed the ongoing litany of abuse, poor decisions, and tragedy, it I love the dancing sequences with Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth. After seeing these in her two films with Astaire, and after seeing a few of her other movies, I decided to borrow this biography from our local library. The details in her biography, however, were unexpected. Her screen persona is radically different from her private self, so much so that it's as if she had a split personality. Seriously split. Then, as the book revealed the ongoing litany of abuse, poor decisions, and tragedy, it was almost enough to make me stop reading. I would much prefer to dwell with the illusion she projects on the screen than have to understand the harsh reality of her life and sad end. But continue I did, and at the end of the day would tentatively recommend this work to anyone interested in Rita, Orson Welles (one of her 5 husbands) and the strange life of one of Hollywood's brightest stars.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Helen Robare

    Great book, sad life. I liked this book so much that I bought two copies of it (not at the same time but when the first one became too used to read again). Yes, it was a depressing book because Rita did not have a good life. She was famous but what went on behind closed doors from her childhood on is very brutal. I'm glad her second daughter was there to care for her when her disease began to spiral out of control. Such a sad life despite all the wealth and fame. The author writing the books has Great book, sad life. I liked this book so much that I bought two copies of it (not at the same time but when the first one became too used to read again). Yes, it was a depressing book because Rita did not have a good life. She was famous but what went on behind closed doors from her childhood on is very brutal. I'm glad her second daughter was there to care for her when her disease began to spiral out of control. Such a sad life despite all the wealth and fame. The author writing the books has a good writing style which made this book very readable. For anyone who is a fan of the "golden age" actors/actresses, you HAVE to read this book!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    What a very sad life she lived all the way til the end. Before you read about these stars you see them as their characters but it's always a shock to read what life was really like for them. Very interesting read. What a very sad life she lived all the way til the end. Before you read about these stars you see them as their characters but it's always a shock to read what life was really like for them. Very interesting read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laini

    Learned lots I didn't know! For all her glamour, Rita was a neurotic mess, clinging to men who were really bad for her. And all this because of the incest that occurred, thanks to her narcissistic father. An excellent read that explains many of the bad decisions she made. Learned lots I didn't know! For all her glamour, Rita was a neurotic mess, clinging to men who were really bad for her. And all this because of the incest that occurred, thanks to her narcissistic father. An excellent read that explains many of the bad decisions she made.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    One of the best Hollywood biographies I've read in a long time. Rita's life was not an easy one and Barbara Leaming captures the troubled woman behind the star image with great sensitivity. One of the best Hollywood biographies I've read in a long time. Rita's life was not an easy one and Barbara Leaming captures the troubled woman behind the star image with great sensitivity.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Hoppe

    I am sorry that I always dismissed Rita Hayworth as a dissolute alcoholic. That was very unfair of me. For while she has never been one of my favorite actresses, she worked hard and had a reputation for professionalism until Alzheimer's -- not drink -- practically incapacitated her by the time she was 55. This is a compassionate portrait of a miserable life. The title comes from Orson Welles. When told that Rita regarded their failed relationship as the happiest time of her life, he said, "If th I am sorry that I always dismissed Rita Hayworth as a dissolute alcoholic. That was very unfair of me. For while she has never been one of my favorite actresses, she worked hard and had a reputation for professionalism until Alzheimer's -- not drink -- practically incapacitated her by the time she was 55. This is a compassionate portrait of a miserable life. The title comes from Orson Welles. When told that Rita regarded their failed relationship as the happiest time of her life, he said, "If this was happiness, imagine what the rest of her life had been!" The story begins with exploitation and incest and ends with her sitting in an armchair, mumbling to herself. Along the way, there are five husbands -- including a bona fide prince. More than 25 films, including Gilda and Pal Joey. She was such a beloved pin up that the soldiers painted her image on the nose of the atomic bomb dropped on Bikini Atoll in 1946, and she's practically a character in 1994's Shawshank Redemption. There were also two daughters. Rita was, by any measure, a terrible mother. Perhaps that wasn't her fault, considering her own childhood. But it makes Yasmin Khan's devotion to her mother at the end even more touching. (One certainly couldn't blame Rebecca Welles for not racing to her ailing mother's side, as Rita not only didn't attend Rebecca's wedding, she never once set foot in Becky's home in Tacoma.) Rita, it seems, was always too busy trying to please the demanding men in her life to concentrate much on her daughters. How I wish I could have convinced her to flip her focus to her girls and not the men! The book is respectful and discreet about the sex, which I appreciated. I just wish there had been more of Rita the actress and artist within the pages. If she lives on, it's as an actress and a dancer. I believe her craft deserved more attention.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Deodand

    My main interest in this book was to figure out what Rita's deal was. Plain-janes of the world are wondering why a woman born with as much power as Rita had, for such beauty is power, lived a sad life. That's what people say when they see her - "That's Rita Hayworth. She was gorgeous but she had a sad life." It seems to me, through reading this book and others, that she was born about twenty years too soon. Twenty years would've brought the feminist revolution to her in her prime instead of her s My main interest in this book was to figure out what Rita's deal was. Plain-janes of the world are wondering why a woman born with as much power as Rita had, for such beauty is power, lived a sad life. That's what people say when they see her - "That's Rita Hayworth. She was gorgeous but she had a sad life." It seems to me, through reading this book and others, that she was born about twenty years too soon. Twenty years would've brought the feminist revolution to her in her prime instead of her slide into dementia. Perhaps she wouldn't have been a victim of child labour or incest. Perhaps she would've been able to stand on her own two feet instead of marrying the world's most famous assholes as a crutch. As it is, she was like a living version of her most famous photo. Every man wanted to have her, and after they did, they instantly ran into the arms of other women. Every man Leaming spoke to mentions that something inside of Rita was broken. Leaming attributes this to the circumstances of her childhood but I wonder if something was organically wrong in addition to that. Twenty years would've also worn some of the stigma off of psychological treatment, which Rita clearly needed. No one ever helped her with that, either. Leaming did a good job with this book. I felt that occasionally she interjected too much psychoanalysis but it wasn't a problem. It's a fast read. Anyone who enjoys biography should try to find a copy of this book; it's out of print and rarely found in libraries so you may have to do as I did and buy it through online resellers.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Russell J. Sanders

    I’ve long felt Rita Hayworth was the most beautiful of all the old Hollywood stars. After I grew bored of an incredibly bad video biography of her, I searched to find a book about her. I came up with Barbara Leaming’s If This Was Happiness: The Biography of Rita Hayworth. I’m so glad I did. I knew so little about her life, but I had loved her performances all my life, particularly those in Pal Joey and Down to Earth. There she was, gorgeous, elegant, and letter perfect. She seemed to do her acti I’ve long felt Rita Hayworth was the most beautiful of all the old Hollywood stars. After I grew bored of an incredibly bad video biography of her, I searched to find a book about her. I came up with Barbara Leaming’s If This Was Happiness: The Biography of Rita Hayworth. I’m so glad I did. I knew so little about her life, but I had loved her performances all my life, particularly those in Pal Joey and Down to Earth. There she was, gorgeous, elegant, and letter perfect. She seemed to do her acting and dancing with total ease. And that, having read this bio now, was an amazing feat. Poor Rita was a victim her entire life, from the control and abuse of her father to her stormy marriages to the final crushing blow, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in an era when little was known about the disease. In fact, initially, because the disease was so obscure, her erratic behavior was attributed to alcoholism. Leaming’s meticulously researched work informs us about the afflictions in Rita’s life, and it gives us great detail about the mess she made of it. She was her own worst enemy long before the dementia set in. But we find that all the bad and crazy behavior stemmed, as Leaming makes clear, from her relationship with her father. And yet—until her thinking process was taken away—she was the consummate professional. When she walked onto a soundstage to begin filming, she was letter perfect, totally prepared, and ready to wow her audiences as she did me many times. She has been dead now since 1987, but after having read this book, I weep for her.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Francesca

    Profound book. Profoundly sad. Profound investigation of unhappiness. The thesis that runs through this book is how the physical, emotional, and incestuous abuse that Hayworth's father inflicted in her teen years stamped the rest of her life. Rita Hayworth was naturally shy and introverted, but was forced to dance from the age of 12 to earn money for her family. She traveled on the road with her father to perform alluring Spanish dances with him as a partner. To make matters worse, she was expect Profound book. Profoundly sad. Profound investigation of unhappiness. The thesis that runs through this book is how the physical, emotional, and incestuous abuse that Hayworth's father inflicted in her teen years stamped the rest of her life. Rita Hayworth was naturally shy and introverted, but was forced to dance from the age of 12 to earn money for her family. She traveled on the road with her father to perform alluring Spanish dances with him as a partner. To make matters worse, she was expected to take care of her father's sexual needs in her mother's absence. The rest of her life was a quest for love, safety--to be taken care of. She sought out controlling, often abusive men, yet eventually would rebel against them by cutting them out of her life. She felt that she had to be a highly sexualized love goddess onscreen, while constantly wanting to escape Hollywood. There was no solace for her in the end, because she developed Alzheimer's disease at a relatively young age. (I listened to the audio version of this book.)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Pros: Well told story of another Hollywood woman who attracted awful men into her life, starting with her father. Heartbreaking on so many levels. Well written and appreciate the research that went into this story. Felt that the author was fair in retelling Rita's life and sympathetic, too, towards her and the circumstances. Including pictures of her life at all stages was fantastic. Would so love to have a cup of tea with Rita and wished that she found self confidence within herself and not be Pros: Well told story of another Hollywood woman who attracted awful men into her life, starting with her father. Heartbreaking on so many levels. Well written and appreciate the research that went into this story. Felt that the author was fair in retelling Rita's life and sympathetic, too, towards her and the circumstances. Including pictures of her life at all stages was fantastic. Would so love to have a cup of tea with Rita and wished that she found self confidence within herself and not be drawn to men who wanted to be not with her, but her celebrity persona (including Orson Wells). Although Maureen O'Hara had a couple of dud husbands, she did find the love of her life at the end and would want that for Rita, too. Cons: Nothing Art cover: 5 out of 5 Beautiful!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This biography of Rita Hayworth was interesting reading, although certainly very depressing. Abused by her father, mistreated in some way or another by all of her husbands, Rita was a very passive participant in her own life. The book does not go into her movie roles in much detail but mainly stays focused on her turbulent personal life. If you want to know much about how she liked working with Fred Astaire in their two films together, for example, you'll need to look elsewhere. Rita suffered fr This biography of Rita Hayworth was interesting reading, although certainly very depressing. Abused by her father, mistreated in some way or another by all of her husbands, Rita was a very passive participant in her own life. The book does not go into her movie roles in much detail but mainly stays focused on her turbulent personal life. If you want to know much about how she liked working with Fred Astaire in their two films together, for example, you'll need to look elsewhere. Rita suffered from Alzheimer's disease when it was not yet widely known and unfortunately, no one seemed to notice her increasing dementia for many years before it was diagnosed.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Trey

    What I learned from this memoir is that Hollywood hasn't changed much. Celebrities, they're just like us! But celebrities are really just like other celebrities. Stars still sleep with, marry, and divorce one another on the reg. The studios still want to control stars as much as possible; they are frantic to publicize you when you're hot, and no help whatsoever when you need a hand. The paparazzi is still a nightmare. As a woman's looks fade, so too do her opportunities for roles. Ultimately, th What I learned from this memoir is that Hollywood hasn't changed much. Celebrities, they're just like us! But celebrities are really just like other celebrities. Stars still sleep with, marry, and divorce one another on the reg. The studios still want to control stars as much as possible; they are frantic to publicize you when you're hot, and no help whatsoever when you need a hand. The paparazzi is still a nightmare. As a woman's looks fade, so too do her opportunities for roles. Ultimately, this is another sad story of a public figure who appeared to have everything, but privately lived a very painful life.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Straightforward recounting of the sad, tumultuous life of a naive, trusting woman victimized again and again by men she thought loved her. Who knows what kind of success she could have had if they had left her alone to reach her full potential? Author was pretty heavy-handed about the psychology of abuse, but it does explain all the boneheaded decisions she made about men. Would have liked to know that Rebecca came out of this mess intact. She, maybe even more than her mother, paid the biggest p Straightforward recounting of the sad, tumultuous life of a naive, trusting woman victimized again and again by men she thought loved her. Who knows what kind of success she could have had if they had left her alone to reach her full potential? Author was pretty heavy-handed about the psychology of abuse, but it does explain all the boneheaded decisions she made about men. Would have liked to know that Rebecca came out of this mess intact. She, maybe even more than her mother, paid the biggest price for Hayworth's damaged emotions. Huge props to her daughter Yasmin for taking care of her at the end of her life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Rita Hayworth was styled the Love Goddess, the most beautiful woman in the world, but her personal life was quite tragic. She suffered childhood abuse, made at least two very unfortunate marriages (out of a total of five) and lived for well over 15 years with undiagnosed Alzheimer's disease, which must have been horrific. Leaming is sometimes a bit too psychoanalytical in her writing, but succeeds in bringing out the contrast between Hayworth's public and private persona and how she struggled, l Rita Hayworth was styled the Love Goddess, the most beautiful woman in the world, but her personal life was quite tragic. She suffered childhood abuse, made at least two very unfortunate marriages (out of a total of five) and lived for well over 15 years with undiagnosed Alzheimer's disease, which must have been horrific. Leaming is sometimes a bit too psychoanalytical in her writing, but succeeds in bringing out the contrast between Hayworth's public and private persona and how she struggled, like other sex symbols before and after her, with the attention and the limitations of a status that she never asked for.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Merriam

    A solid and entertaining biography that unfortunately does not paint a flattering picture of the subject. Occasionally I doubted some of the information Orson Welles contributed, like how Rita supposedly asked if they could get back together before she married Aly. Some people also doubt that she was actually molested by her father, but since I read in Rita Hayworth: A Photographic Retrospective that she was not on speaking terms with her father when he died, I'm willing to believe it. What surpr A solid and entertaining biography that unfortunately does not paint a flattering picture of the subject. Occasionally I doubted some of the information Orson Welles contributed, like how Rita supposedly asked if they could get back together before she married Aly. Some people also doubt that she was actually molested by her father, but since I read in Rita Hayworth: A Photographic Retrospective that she was not on speaking terms with her father when he died, I'm willing to believe it. What surprised me most is the bad decisions Rita made and the overall dysfunction of her life and how it affected her children. It felt like such a waste.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Emily Cullen

    4.5 stars "If this was happiness," said Orson Welles, one of Rita Hayworth's five husbands, "imagine what the rest of her life had been." From a painful childhood to a death from Alzheimer's disease, with husbands, affairs and trying to escape her "Goddess" image in between, Leaming draws on interviews, medical records, trial transcripts and other sources for a very good biography of Miss Hayworth. The author claims some things that many do not but she does make a good case for them. A good read 4.5 stars "If this was happiness," said Orson Welles, one of Rita Hayworth's five husbands, "imagine what the rest of her life had been." From a painful childhood to a death from Alzheimer's disease, with husbands, affairs and trying to escape her "Goddess" image in between, Leaming draws on interviews, medical records, trial transcripts and other sources for a very good biography of Miss Hayworth. The author claims some things that many do not but she does make a good case for them. A good read with good pictures and a fascinating look at the life of one of Hollywood's biggest superstars of the day.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Well-researched and well-written, but a little disappointing that its focus is almost entirely on the abuse and sadness Rita suffered throughout her life and her legal troubles. It took me a year and a half to finish this book because it was so depressing that I rarely felt like reading it. It was a pretty interesting book nonetheless, and it's always nice to read biographies about Old Hollywood stars that use real sources and interviews with people that actually knew the subject. Well-researched and well-written, but a little disappointing that its focus is almost entirely on the abuse and sadness Rita suffered throughout her life and her legal troubles. It took me a year and a half to finish this book because it was so depressing that I rarely felt like reading it. It was a pretty interesting book nonetheless, and it's always nice to read biographies about Old Hollywood stars that use real sources and interviews with people that actually knew the subject.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Schoenhofen

    Such a heartbreaking account of the life of the very beautiful and talented Rita Hayworth. It was sad to read through some of the terrible decisions Rita made that ultimately caused her so much pain such as a couple of her marriages. I find that Rita Hayworth is one of the most underrated Hollywood movie stars in comparison to many of her contemporaries.

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