3 out of 4 stars
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All that glitters is not gold, and this certainly holds true as we hear rumors and accusations of late coming out of tinsel town that are getting more difficult to sweep under the tabloid rug as fodder. In his book honoring a celebrity of great star power, Arthur Wilhelm goes into detail about the behind the scenes lifestyle of a silver screen icon.
Rita Hayworth: From American Love Goddess to the Face of Alzheimer's exposes the dark truth underlying the film industry and its quest to stop at nothing when plucking an obscure talented young woman from society and transforming her into a sex symbol. The account begins with Rita's childhood where she was under the rigid commands of her father, Eduardo, to continue in the family business of Spanish dancing. At a young age, she was expected to perform with perfection, and this left little to no time for childhood games or friends. The idea of involving her in Hollywood productions came about when she was seventeen and married to a man twice her age. He realized her talent, the potential to profit significantly for himself, and he marketed her to catch the eye of agents. Her physical appearance was altered to make her Latin roots disappear, her last name was changed to her mother's maiden name Hayworth, and she became a pin-up girl to entice men, many who were fighting in the war. While she wanted to be recognized for her acting abilities, her taskmaster of an agent, Henry Cohn, was firmly set on creating an alluring female that would be known for her sex appeal.
Amidst all of her success and being modified into an American bombshell, the author details the scandals, the physical abuse and the mental torment that followed Ms. Hayworth for the duration of her life and career. Multiple marriages and two children by two different fathers was the result of looking for love with men who were not faithful leaving her heartbroken and in financial duress. Each chapter begins with the word 'AKA' which means 'also known as', and this is quite telling as she becomes someone other than herself at the behest of an owner and under contract to a money-making machine.
The author went to great lengths in retelling the life of Rita Hayworth, and his adoration for her is evident throughout the entire piece. I found myself fascinated when he wrote of her acquaintances with Orson Welles, Fred Astaire, and Frank Sinatra. Being a fan of old classics, I found it enjoyable to read about the inner circle of how stars of this era were used to raise the morale of our nation that was in the middle of a military conflict. From performing for USO troops to participating in metal drives, Rita was hands-on in bringing a small piece of diversion and entertainment during a time of great uproar. Even though she was adamantly against the war, she did her part to counter the adverse effects of it. I found the inclusion of photographs to be a nice touch as I was reading. The glamour and the beauty of that period are quite breathtaking and added to the richness of the book. I also appreciated that the author dispelled some of the rumors surrounding the late actresses advanced years, and he sheds light onto the subject of Alzheimer's disease and its far-reaching devastation on humanity.
There were no spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. However, I did find a significant flaw that may be related to formatting. On page 83, there is a paragraph detailing Rita's divorce from her first husband, Mr. Judson. This same paragraph is repeated on page 86 and 221 as if it were copied and pasted into the text at the wrong locations. Also, I did find on page 22 a rather large space between the word 'according' which is the beginning of a new sentence, and on page 256, the 'p' in Pal Joey is spaced incorrectly.
As far as content is concerned, I would only make the simple suggestion of paring down the synopsis of her films. There is a lot of useful information in this book that has been gleaned from many sources. The bibliography, the notes and the filmography at the conclusion speak to the extensive and exhaustive work that has been done to put this together. The material got slightly long for me when the author began recounting each movie, the storyline with the plot, high point, and conclusion. I would have preferred more of a teaser to allow the reader to seek out the movie for him or herself versus being told the entire story from start to finish.
I am awarding this book a 3 out of 4 stars for the author's excellent piecing together of history not only of Rita Hayworth's life but of the industry and associations she formed. I was initially going to give this four stars, but the error I found in formatting, and the spoilers of the movies, unfortunately, caused a deduction of one. I think many classic movie enthusiasts will find this book compelling and want to add it to their collections.
Rita Hayworth: From American Love Goddess to the Face of Alzheimer's
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