Today is the birthday of Margarita Carmen Cansino, a.k.a Rita Hayworth (1918-1987). A third generation member of a family of professional Spanish dancers, Rita began taking lessons at age three and was dancing with her parents in vaudeville by age 6. Her first film appearance (in a short) was at age 8. By age 13 was she a proper member of the family act, dancing in nightclubs and similar venues on both sides of the Mexican border. She began performing regularly in feature films under her real name in the mid 30s. It was under Harry Cohn’s supervision at Columbia that she dyed her hair, had electrolysis on her forehead, and changed her name to Rita Hayworth, moving away from the Latin persona that had previously governed her show business identity (and happened to be her real one).
Here she is in her first film appearance as an adult (actually 16 years old), in the film Dante’s Inferno:
To find out more about vaudeville, including family acts and dance acts like the Dancing Cansinos, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.