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Some of Rita's unrealized film projects

The following is information about some of the films Rita was either scheduled or asked to star in throughout her career that were either never made or made with another actress in the role that would have been Rita's.

Ramona (1936)

Rita CansinoRita, then still known as Rita Cansino, would have began making Ramona in 1935 when she was working at Fox. She was to play the heroine of the Helen Hunt Jackson tale in this Technicolor film opposite Gilbert Roland. She made color screen tests for the movie with Don Ameche. It was a big movie and might have made Rita a star long before the film that ultimately did, Blood and Sand, in 1941. Everything was set for Rita. She had already taken publicity shots for the film, been fitted for the costumes, makeup tests were done and Rita had memorized her lines. Then, shortly before filming was to begin, she was suddenly told she had been dropped from the film. During pre-production, the Fox Film Corporation had become 20th Century-Fox, and the production chief who'd given Rita the role, Winfield Sheehan, was no longer calling the shots. The new man in charge was Darryl F. Zanuck. He viewed the screen tests she had made and decided against using her in such an expensive film, so he handed the role to his personal favorite actress, Loretta Young. He then further showed that he saw no potential in Rita by dropping her from her contract. Rita was heartbroken by all this, later saying, "I cried my eyes out, but it didn't do any good." Almost 40 years later, in 1972, Rita would say of Ramona, "I think I can still recite my dialogue from memory."


Laura (1944)

Gene TierneyThis may be hard to grasp for Gene Tierney fans (like myself), but Fox studio head Darryl Zanuck actually wanted Rita to play the lead in the film noir classic, Laura. Harry Cohn refused to loan his number one star to any other studio so the part was given to Tierney. Laura is, of course, the role Gene is most often identified with. It's her trademark film and although you must admit the role was equally well suited for Rita's talents, it's difficult to imagine any another actress as Laura. Gene was magnificent in the part. The film was a great success of course, and Gene looked gorgeous in this murder mystery. Meanwhile, over at Columbia Pictures, Rita went into production of Tonight and Every Night.


The Duncan Sisters

Betty GrableThis film, which would've been made about 1946, didn't actually have a title yet before being cancelled, but it was going to be a Technicolor musical biography about a former vaudeville sister act, The Duncan Sisters. It would've starred Rita with Betty Grable as the other half of the sister act. It was planned in part to cash in on the success Betty Grable had had the previous year with The Dolly Sisters. But the idea was abandoned when the producers ran into legal trouble. It would have been produced by George Jessel and made at 20th Century-Fox. I'm certain it would have been a great success, owing to the popularity of the two pin-up queens. However, being a Fox Film, it's unlikely that Rita's boss, Harry Cohn, would have loaned her to a rival studio at the height of her fame (Gilda having been released that year). It would mean that Fox would make money off of "his" star. I personally would have loved to see this film made, as it would have co-starred Rita with another of my favorite actresses, Betty Grable.


Lorna Hansen

Bill HoldenLorna Hansen was to be made during the height of Rita's fame, about 1947. It would have been made after Down to Earth and would have starred her opposite William Holden. It was to be a costume Technicolor western set in New Orleans with Rita in the title role. Instead she opted to work with her estranged husband, Orson Welles, in The Lady from Shanghai. The film was put on hold until 1949 when they attempted to go into production again. This time it was cancelled completely when Rita departed for Europe to marry Prince Aly Khan.


Born Yesterday (1950)

Judy HollidayWhen Columbia Pictures purchased the screen rights to the Garson Kanin Broadway hit, Born Yesterday, Rita was their first choice for the lead role of Billie Dawn. It was a second chance for Rita to co-star with Bill Holden. It would have been a great opportunity for Rita to do comedy. Playing the dim-witted Billie Dawn would've been a welcome change of pace for her from the usual "Gilda" characters she was given. Alas, the role went to the actress who had played the part on Broadway, Judy Holliday. Her performance in Born Yesterday won her the "Best Actress" Oscar for 1950.


From Here to Eternity (1953)

From Here to EternityRita was offered the role of Karen in the 1953 box-office smash, From Here to Eternity. She turned it down unless it would be postponed to give her some time off after making Miss Sadie Thompson, but other reasons have also been given for her ultimately not playing the part. It was also offered to Joan Crawford, who turned it down. In the end the plum role of Karen Holmes was played by Deborah Kerr. It would have starred Rita with an all-star cast that included Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra. The movie's success single-handedly revived Frank Sinatra's career. He won "Best Supporting Actor" for his performance as Angelo Maggio and Donna Reed won "Best Supporting Actress" as Alma. The "beach scene" between Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster has become one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history.


The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

Ava Gardner in The Barefoot ContessaThe role of Maria D`Amata in The Barefoot Contessa was offered to Rita by Joseph Mankiewicz. She turned down the role because it bore too close a resemblance to her own life. The public might have taken it as her own life story rather than fiction. Indeed, the story of a Spanish girl, discovered as a dancer by a film producer, who becomes a major star and subsequently the wife of nobility does sound familiar. Other than that, there are no other similarities, but it's enough for one to see why the public might take it as a thinly veiled biography of Rita's life. Linda Darnell vied for the role but it was not offered to her. The part went to another of my favorite actresses, Ava Gardner, and co-starred Humphrey Bogart. Still, the public noticed the similarities to Rita's life. Ava later said that while some took it as the story of her own life due to a Howard Hughes-like character in the story, "...it was actually much closer to the story of Rita Hayworth." In it, Ava plays Maria Vargas, who becomes movie star Maria D`Amata and ultimately the Contessa Torlato-Favrini. From today's standpoint it's hard to imagine anyone but Ava in the part. It became her signature role. Just as Gilda was to Rita, and just as Rita was known as "The Love Goddess", Ava later said of The Barefoot Contessa's tagline, "That damn advertising line, "The World's Most Beautiful Animal", will probably follow me around until the end of time."


Joseph and His Brethren

RitaHad the ill-fated Joseph and His Brethren been made, it would have been done about late 1955, with Rita as the feminine lead. It was to be a biblical epic, in Technicolor. It was in its pre-production stages when it was abandoned. Jean Louis had already designed many of the costumes and Rita had done screen tests for prospective actors to play Joseph. Rita's husband at the time, Dick Haymes wanted to play Joseph himself. That was reportedly one of the reasons the film was shelved. It wasn't long before the marriage ended as well.


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