In Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, a Novella by Stephen King that was adapted into an award winning movie, Andy Dufresne wrongfully convicted for a double murder, is sent to Shawshank State Penitentiary to serve a double life sentence.
Andy meets Red, a fellow prisoner who can get items “within reason” from the outside world. Andy asks Red to get him a rock hammer – a small implement for shaping rocks he collects from the exercise yard into sculptures. Next he asks Red for a large poster of Rita Hayworth.
Rita Hayworth died intestate in May of 1987 in New York City of complications relating to Alzheimer’s disease. She was 68 years old.
Called the “love goddess” by the press, Rita was a glamorous screen idol and one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1940s appearing in 61 films over a 37 year Career. The American Film Institute listed Rita as one of the top 25 female motion picture stars of all time in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Stars.
During World War II, her pinup pictures decorated U.S. servicemen’s quarters throughout the world, and her five marriages and romantic life meant she was often in the headlines.
In 1949, the Artists league of America voted Rita’s lips best in the world. She had a modeling contract with Max Factor to promote its Tru-Color lipsticks and Pan-Stik make-up. She was the epitome of Hollywood glamour and allure, as an actress and dancer.
Rita is probably best known for her performance as the femme fatale (her first dramatic role) in the film Gilda a 1946 American black-and-white film noir. Rita later complained that her role in Gilda in particular, lead to people misunderstanding a fairly introverted person. She remarked with some bitterness
“Men go to bed with Gilda, but wake up with me.”
Rita was married and divorced five times; She had daughters with two of her husbands, Orson Welles and the Aly Khan.
As a testament to her iconic status the fourth atomic bomb to be detonated in an atmospheric test at Bikini Atoll as part of operation crossroads was given the nickname Gilda and decorated with a photograph of Hayworth:
“We stenciled the name in two-inch black letters. Then somebody suggested we needed a picture, so we found an old copy of Esquire and cut out a movie advertisement for Gilda.”
According to Orson Welles, Rita’s husband at the time, she was furious to be depicted on the side of an atomic bomb.
Throughout her career Rita struggled with alcohol. In The Wrath of God ( her final screen appearance) made in 1972 she could not remember her lines, so her scenes were shot one line at a time.
In June 1981, a court in Los Angeles, on the recommendation of a physician who said she was disabled by chronic alcoholism, declared the actress legally unable to
“take care of her physical needs relating to health, food, clothing and shelter and requires personal assistance in her home for these needs, nor (can she) maintain bank accounts or personal records. She is unable to address any question or explanation clearly.”
Yasmin, her daughter from her third marriage to the Aly Khan, was granted conservatorship in July 1981 and moved her mother to New York City.
Despite her heavy drinking, however, it later appeared that her alcoholism might have been masking the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. 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.
People with Dementia often lack the capacity to make a valid Will. At the time Yasmin was granted conservatorship Rita was no longer capable of taking care of her self let alone of making a Will. It is important that we make our wishes known so that if we lose capacity our loved ones can make sure that they are carried out. It might be an idea to discuss yours with them today.