8 Great Rita Hayworth Movies

Rita Hayworth
Sony Pictures

She was the ultimate Hollywood bombshell, a sultry siren who sang, danced and flipped her long auburn locks into becoming a screen legend. On screen, Rita Hayworth was charismatic and oozed sex appeal, but off-screen she was admittedly shy and suffered from a number of failed marriages.

Though her career faltered in the late 1950s, she was one of the top box office draws of the 1940s. Hollywood has seen numerous unforgettable actresses in all eras, but there was no one quite like Rita Hayworth.

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Only Angels Have Wings - 1939

Only Angels Have Wings
Sony Pictures

Hayworth had her breakthrough role in this Howard Hawks romantic adventure starring Cary Grant as an airmail pilot with lots of derring-do and Jean Arthur as a stranded showgirl who falls for him. Though not one of the leads, Hayworth had a significant supporting role as the wife of an ostracized pilot (Richard Barthelmess) who tries to win Grant over, only to get spurned in favor of Arthur. The little-known Hayworth pulled the rug out from under Grant and Arthur and became a major Hollywood star.

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The Strawberry Blonde - 1941

The Strawberry Blonde
Warner Bros.

For The Strawberry Blonde, Hayworth changed her brunette hair in favor of her iconic red locks, only a few noticed since this Raoul Walsh romantic comedy was filmed in black and white. The film starred James Cagney as an early 20th-century dentist and former convict who did time for a crime he didn’t commit. Married to a former suffragette (Olivia de Havilland), he lures the man responsible for his unjust stint in the joint into the dentist’s chair with the full intention of killing him. Once again, Hayworth was a supporting player – the strawberry blonde of the title – and delivered another vibrant performance.

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Blood and Sand - 1941

Blood and Sand
20th Century Fox

Hayworth had her most productive year in 1941 and delivered one of her most sizzling performances in Blood and Sand, a beautiful melodrama starring Tyrone Power as a brash Spanish matador and Linda Darnell as his aristocratic, but faithful wife. When he meets the hot-blooded socialite played by Hayworth, the matador naturally finds his loyalties torn. Hayworth practically singed the celluloid with her sultry presence in a performance that propelled her onto the A-list and defined the rest of her career. Meanwhile, Columbia Pictures – having loaned her to 20th Century Fox for the film – made sure to hold onto their star.

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You Were Never Lovelier - 1942

You Were Never Lovelier
Columbia Pictures

Though she made her first musical with Fred Astaire the year before with You’ll Never Get Rich, Hayworth’s second outing with the famed dancer was their best. Here Hayworth was the daughter of a wealthy Argentinean nightclub owner who is pressured by her father to find an eligible husband, only to fall for Astaire’s broke American gambler. There’s not much in the way of a story, but that’s not really the point. What is worth watching are the exquisite dance numbers between Hayworth and Astaire, as her considerable skills were on full display. Sadly, this was the last picture the dynamic pair made together.

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Cover Girl - 1944

Cover Girl
Sony Pictures

Though already a star, Hayworth was launched into the stratosphere alongside partner Gene Kelly in Charles Vidor’s classic Technicolor musical. The typical plot featured Hayworth as a chorus girl working at a nightclub run by her boyfriend (Kelly) who is given the chance at stardom by a wealthy magazine editor (Otto Kruger). Of course, she pays the price by leaving Kelly behind. She manages to become both a popular cover girl and a Broadway star who nearly marries her producer (Lee Bowman), only to find her way back to Kelly in the end. Hayworth and Kelly displayed great onscreen chemistry, which helped turn Cover Girl into a commercial hit.

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Gilda - 1946

Sony Pictures

Hayworth cemented her place as a legend of the silver screen with Gilda, without a doubt her most famous film. She lit up the screen from the moment she flipped her wavy red hair into the frame and was struck by the sight of Glenn Ford. But it was audiences who were forever gobsmacked by the sultry siren’s performance, especially her nightclub striptease while singing “Put the Blame on Mame,” as she delivered her most iconic moment on screen. Hayworth’s famed hair flip was later featured in Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption (1994), while a poster of her in the film had a special place in the cell of wrongfully accused Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins).

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The Lady from Shanghai - 1947

rita hayworth lady
Sony Pictures

Director and husband Orson Welles famously ordered Hayworth to cut her auburn locks and had her dye them platinum blonde for his richly textured and some would say nearly incomprehensible film noir, The Lady of Shanghai. In true auteur fashion, Welles failed to consult Columbia head, Harry Cohn, about cutting Hayworth’s hair and infuriated the hot-tempered studio head. Adding fuel to the fire, Cohn couldn’t understand Welles’ serpentine plot and had the film extensively re-edited. The film was one of the biggest flops of Hayworth’s career, though its artistic merits have grown in stature over theirs. Despite their onscreen chemistry, Hayworth and Welles – already separated at the time of the shooting – finalized their divorce the following year.

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Affair in Trinidad - 1952

Affair to Remember
Columbia Pictures

After four years away from Hollywood due to her stormy marriage Prince Aly Khan, Hayworth made a triumphant return with this romantic spy thriller that reunited her with

Gilda co-star Glenn Ford. Hayworth once again portrayed a nightclub dancer, only this time her husband is killed by a notorious spy, though the police rule the death a suicide. With the help of her brother in law (Ford), with whom she starts to fall in love, Hayworth slowly uncovers the truth behind her husband’s strange death. Not the greatest picture in the Hayworth canon, Affair in Trinidad was a big hit and marked her return to prominence.