Profiles in Dementia: Rita Hayworth (1918 – 1987)

Rita Hayworth Alzheimer's Disease Alcohol-Related DementiaRita Hayworth was an American actress whose career peaked in the 1940’s as Columbia Pictures’ most lucrative female lead, with a career that included 61 movies over a 37-year span.

One of Hayworth’s most acclaimed performances was in 1946’s Gilda, starring opposite leading man Glenn Ford. Hayworth also starred in two movies with Fred Astaire, who said she was his favorite dancing partner on screen.

However, fame and fortune could not stave off Hayworth’s personal demons, one of which was alcoholism.

By the late 1950’s, Hayworth’s chronic abuse of alcohol had ravaged the beauty of her younger years and had aged her considerably, making her no longer as attractive to Columbia as a leading lady even though she wasn’t 40 years old yet.

Alcoholism also created havoc in Hayworth’s personal life – she married and divorced five times (to men who in their own rights were not good choices).

By the 1970’s, when Hayworth was in her mid-50’s, the ravages of years of alcohol abuse began to also affect her brain. From 1972 until her death 1987, Hayworth’s cognitive impairment, memory loss, and repetitive outrageous behavior were what kept her name in the news headlines.

Rita Hayworth as an older womanHayworth died in February 1987 at the age of 68. Although she was the first public face of Alzheimer’s Disease (then a relatively-unheard-of form of dementia), there is absolutely no doubt that Hayworth also had alcohol-related dementia (also in 1987, mixed dementias and the many types of dementia were relatively unheard of as well), which probably hastened both her neurological decline and her death.

6 thoughts on “Profiles in Dementia: Rita Hayworth (1918 – 1987)

  1. Rita Hayworth was one of my favorite actresses. She was a beautiful woman in appearance. It is sad to see what alcohol can lead to. Sad to see what people do to themselves in their lives.

  2. It’s such a tragedy when addiction takes a life any life. It’s also tragic that there is often help there but some people just never access that help or there life is cut short. I’m an alcholic who chooses not to drink but at its peak was given a year to live. Sobriety is possible I’m living proof of it. You just have to want it and maybe hit rock bottom. To anyone reading this I send you all the luck and love in the world if your life has been affected by any addiction.

    • Thank you, Julie, so much for your comment and perspective. I so agree with you that it is a tragedy when addiction of any kind, including alcoholism, takes a life. I am so thankful that you have chosen to fight the addiction of alcohol.

      I also know, intimately, the gradual damage that alcoholism, unchecked, brings. It’s like watching a train wreck, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, in motion and being able to to do nothing to stop it. The pain and the sorrow of that inability takes a toll on the person watching. All the love, care, and concern in the world can’t stop it and that is soul-searing.

      Thankfully, you’ve been able to overcome the inevitable train wreck. Thank you for maybe helping someone else avoid it too. I appreciate that and I appreciate your investment and interest in that.

  3. She was a incredible dancer and her beauty was unmatched.
    Apparently her father had sex with her when they did traveling shows called “The dancing Cansino’s”.
    Her alcoholism might have stemmed from that time

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