Rita Hayworth was an American film actress and dancer who attained fame during the 1940s not only as one of the era’s top stars, but also as a great sex symbol, most notably in Gilda. She appeared in 61 films over 37 years and is listed as one of the American Film Institute’s Greatest Stars of All Time.
Born Margarita Carmen Cansino in Brooklyn, New York City, she was the daughter of flamenco dancer Eduardo Cansino, Sr., who was himself a Sephardic Jewish Spaniard from Castilleja de la Cuesta, and Ziegfeld girl Volga Hayworth who was of Irish and English descent. She was raised as a Roman Catholic. Her father wanted her to become a dancer while her mother hoped she would become an actress. Her grandfather, Antonio Cansino, was the most renowned exponent in his day of Spain’s classical dances; he made the bolero famous. His dancing school in Madrid was world famous. He gave Hayworth her first instruction in dancing.
“I didn’t like it very much,” revealed Hayworth, “but I didn’t have the courage to tell my father, so I began taking the lessons. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, that was my girlhood.”
“From the time I was three and a half,” Hayworth said, “. . as soon as I could stand on my own feet, I was given dance lessons.” She attended dance classes every day for a few years in a Carnegie Hall complex under the instruction of her uncle Angel Cansino.