The terms “hubba-hubba” and “va-va-va-voom” may not have been invented for Rita Hayworth, but they should have been. The actress has been given a loving (and overdue) tribute here. If the coffee-table book, with emphasis on photos and not text, offers a superficial look at a complex life, it wasn’t intended to be anything more than that. It succeeds nicely at its modest aims.
The book consists of 300 rarely seen photos (only 10 in color), with captions that range from 10 to 300 words; included are family snapshots, studio PR glossies and news-service photos that catch the star in many moods: sexy Rita, hardworking Rita, maternal Rita.
As movie-star lives go, Hayworth had more fireworks than most, including five marriages (among them Orson Welles and Prince Aly Khan). Born Margarita Carmen Cansino, she made her professional debut at 13 with her family’s traveling dance troupe.
Described more than once in the book as “painfully shy,” she ended up a major World War II pinup (dubbed Hollywood’s “love goddess”), a great song-and-dance woman and a respected actress in 60 films.
In 1981, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, before that disease was widely known; her slurring words and forgetfulness made everyone assume it was simply a drinking problem.
The book is clearly the work of an admirer. Press material says Roberts-Franzel has 5,000 photos of Hayworth in her personal collection. She founded a fan club for the actress and sends out bimonthly newsletter.
That adulation has some shortcomings: Hayworth seems to have no flaws. A caption says that the actress in 1942 had “a complete nervous breakdown but she was soon back at work.” No more explanation.
Given her goals, the author does as well as anyone could, but no single photo can capture Hayworth’s magic. She has to be seen in action, because her she conveyed so many moods simultaneously. When she played a seductive slut, she was somehow elegant. As a musical-comedy hoofer, she was surprisingly erotic. As a scheming vixen, she was vulnerable.The book includes 13 shots from the 1946 release “Gilda.” The photos are good, but none can match her famous “Put the Blame on Mame” number — two of the most sensual minutes in all of film because Hayworth exudes raw sex, with a touch of humor: she seemed amused by her animal powers.
For those who don’t know Hayworth’s work, this is a good introduction. And for devotees, it’s a handsomely produced scrapbook. Either way, people are advised to read up — but then go rent “Gilda.” Va-va-va-voom!