She was the daughter of a flamenco dancer and a Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl, and had become Hollywood’s supreme ”Love Goddess” of the ’40s: With her long legs, sensual figure, and red hair, she had scorched the screen in such hits as You Were Never Lovelier (1942), Cover Girl (1944), and Gilda (1946). He was a prince, a wildly wealthy playboy, and the only son of the spiritual leader of millions of Muslims. Their courtship began in the most glamorous of settings when a gossip columnist introduced them at a party on the Riviera in 1948.
But their storybook romance had plot flaws. For starters, Rita Hayworth, 29, was still married to second husband Orson Welles, with whom she had a 4-year-old daughter. And 36-year-old Aly Khan was married too, with two sons. The tabloids expressed shock: Said London’s The People of the pair’s well-publicized intercontinental jaunts, ”The extravagant expeditions of this colored prince and his ‘friend’ have become an insult to decent-minded women the world over.” Columbia Studios president Harry Cohn, who had groomed Hayworth into a star, hit her with a $1.2 million lawsuit when she quit a film to gallivant around the globe with her prince.
Despite the furor, they were married in Vallauris, France, on May 27, 1949. In a brief, simple ceremony, Khan and Hayworth, stunning in an ice-blue chiffon cocktail dress, pledged eternal love in the presence of 40 guests as , the world stood by, hungry for details. Later, in the prince’s Riviera chateau, the Aga Khan, Aly’s father, presented his new daughter-in-law with an enormous emerald; Aly adorned her with diamond earrings to match her 12-carat engagement ring. The couple posed for pictures by a pool in which white carnations forming their initials floated, although the camera-shy prince wouldn’t kiss his bride. Seven months later Princess Yasmin was born; ”Seven-month babies are common in the family,” Khan said.
By 1951, Hayworth had tired of her husband’s philandering and the divorcing couple were enmeshed in a nasty custody fight, which lasted until Khan’s death in a car wreck in 1960. After two more husbands, a bout with alcoholism, and a long battle against Alzheimer’s, Hayworth died in 1987 at 68. But the Love Goddess had concluded years earlier that she had all too much in common with her most enduring creation and could never find a man who truly loved her: ”They fall in love with Gilda,” Rita Hayworth said, ”and they wake up with me.”
TIME CAPSULE May 27, 1949
Audiences hoofed it to theaters for Fred and Ginger’s The Barkleys of Broadway; John P. Marquand had reached the Point of No Return atop the best- seller list; and Vaughn Monroe’s ”Riders in the Sky” soared on the pop chart.