RITA HAYWORTH: A Memoir by James Hill


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Screenwriter/producer Hill was married to star Hayworth for a while in the late 1950s (her fifth husband)--and here he offers a strange, largely unengaging memoir of their relationship. The book's first half, covering the off-and-on courtship, reads like a bad, implausible attempt at screwball comedy: Hill appeared by chance at Rita's door one day, was mistaken for a house-cleaner, kept up the pretense so he could woo her (""I just knew I wanted to look and look into those eyes""), but was interrupted by the stagey arrivals of Harry Corn (""Get your goddamn diaphragm and get your ass in my car"") and suitor Aly Khan, Then, a few years later, after Rita's divorce from Aly, they met in Paris--but Rita didn't recognize him. . . till, with help from chum Butt Lancaster, Hill arranged to sweep Rita off her feet at a ball. (Another hokey sequence involving identity mix-ups and the bursting dress of a chesty starlet named Jayne,) Eventually, however, love bloomed on her side too--and they retreated into a ""cave"" of champagne, fireplaces, and bliss. But, though marriage soon followed, the relationship was doomed. Hill wanted to revitalize Rita's career--getting her a serious role in Separate Tables (""Your one chance to be more than the Love Goddess""), pairing her with Gary Cooper in The), Came to Cordura, obsessively pushing her to reveal her comedienne talents to the world. Rita, on the other hand, preferred reading and painting and quiet--finally revealing her utter lack of interest in movie-comedy. (""In my whole life, I have never felt so let down."") And Hill, who intended to rescue her from the ""sharks,"" ends up realizing that he too was using her, that fragile-seeming Rita was really ""a giant,"" that he needed to stand on his own more (as a writer) before trying again with her. A few intriguing moviemaking details, a lot of dullish anecdotage (Rita's golfing, her housekeeper, etc.), an often-gushy, likable-yet-murky view of the star herself: not your usual star-bio by a long shot--with only intermittent appeal for the Hollywood-fan readership.

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Sohuster