An Interview with:
Rita Hayworth: A Photographic Retrospective author,
Caren Roberts-Frenzel

front cover     Back cover
Front and Back cover of Caren's book

Caren Roberts-Frenzel is the author of the fabulous new book, Rita Hayworth: A Photographic Retrospective. It is the first book about Rita to be published in thirteen years, and the first ever "life in pictures" type book about her. It offers a behind the scenes look at the life of the legendary actress through photographs (some famous, but most rarely seen) and text that give us a glimpse of Rita's whirlwind life in and out of the spotlight. The book illustrates Rita's entire life: from dancing days in Mexico, to her time as a real life princess, through to her difficult later years and battle with Alzheimer's Disease.

Caren also runs the Rita Hayworth fan club and has appeared on the E! television special, "Mysteries and Scandals: Rita Hayworth". Recently she was kind enough to grant the Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess site an exclusive interview. Her insights into Rita's life and career are intriguingly refreshing, so I know you'll enjoy reading this interview almost as much as I enjoyed conducting it.

I know you had trouble finding a publisher for your book, when really there are still so many Rita Hayworth fans out there (as evidenced by this site and the fact that your new book about her was published 14 years after her death). She has become a real icon, with so many young fans (like myself). What do you think makes Rita special...what makes her stand the test of time?

publicity shot of Rita as Gilda. Found on page 13 Actually, the last American book on Rita was published in 1989, so there was quite a stretch of time there with nothing on Rita. Unlike Marilyn, Rita does not have a book published about her every other month! (Of course, I love that there are so many books out on MM!) But I think Rita stands the test of time, first, because of her beauty. You can look at the cover of my book, or any photo of Rita for that matter, and no matter what era you lived in, she's still stunning. She'll still be stunning in 3002! I firmly believe that. No one can touch her in Hollywood today (okay, so I'm a little biased but I really don't think anyone is as beautiful). Add to that the fact that she could act, dance and sing (although her voice was dubbed in films, she had a nice voice and could have sung her own songs with voice training), and you have the triple threat that few Hollywood actresses have today. But I also think she brings people back to a more innocent time, and that's appealing. She didn't have a gimmick that has worn with time, or an unusual look such as Jean Harlow that seems dated (sorry, Harlow fans!). She was just an ordinary girl who happened to have just the right amount of vulnerability, sexual appeal, and beauty, and she seemed approachable. Both women and men liked her - she was non-threatening. These are just some of the reasons that I think she still appeals to people all over the world. Plus, watching her perform makes you smile, and hopefully, smiling will always stand the test of time!

You are proof of the fact that Rita has an extraordinarily timeless appeal, having been born well after she was in her prime. How did you come to love classic films and the stars of Rita’s time?

I happened to see an old movie on television when I was about 9. It was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and I thought Marilyn Monroe was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I started to watch as many old movies as I could (staying up into the wee hours of the morning, since there were no VCRs then)! I fell in love with the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films and used to tape the songs with my little cassette recorder. It was such a fantasy world and pure escapism for me.

How did Rita Hayworth come into the picture for you?

'I'm Old Fashioned' Rita Hayworth was not my first favorite (sacrilege)! with Fred AstaireShe quickly became one of my favorites, though, along with the aforementioned Marilyn, Fred, Ginger, and also Vera-Ellen. Rita’s films, at that time, were not shown on television very often. I finally got to see her in all of her glory when I watched a Fred Astaire documentary that highlighted the "I'm Old Fashioned" number from "You Were Never Lovelier." I had never seen such grace and beauty on the screen, and their chemistry was electric. I watched the number dozens of times, and that's when I began to have a strong interest in Rita. It's still my favorite number of Rita's!

As you've just mentioned, besides Rita you are a big fan of many other stars, how did you pick Rita as the topic for your first book?

After a few years, I found that I was more interested in Rita than in anyone else. It intrigued me that she was so different in real life than from any of the characters that she played on the screen. I became much more interested in her personal life than in her movie career. When she became ill in 1976 and it made headlines all over the world, I actually wrote her a "get well" fan letter. I suppose that vulnerability intrigued me as well. Later, when I had children I identified with her love of motherhood and family. I've also never heard a negative word spoken about her - she was a nice person, which isn't all that common in the jaded movie business. So there are a lot of different reasons why she appeals to me.

What was it like finding a publisher for your book?

Finding a publisher for my book was a great challenge! But I really thought that I had something new and different to offer Rita fans. I had always wanted to buy a "life in pictures" book on Rita, and since there wasn't one, I thought I'd create one myself. Unfortunately, publishers either thought that it would be too expensive to produce or that people wouldn't know who Rita Hayworth was. I totally disagreed with the latter reason! In fact, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., the publisher who did publish my book, rejected it first for that reason. After convincing them otherwise (for about two years!), I was able to change their minds. And I've received such wonderful letters and emails from Rita fans that all the work to get it published has been worthwhile.

It definitely was worthwhile! How long was the book in the making?

I started writing it when I was pregnant with my daughter (when it was published she was just turning seven years old)! But because I had always had this book in the back of my mind, I would buy photos that I thought would be good for this book. I was doing that about 15 years ago!

Did you have trouble finding the pictures used in your book? I know many were from your own collection, where where did the rest come from?

I have been collecting photos of Rita for over 20 years. It isn't always easy to find them, but it was easier back in the days before collecting movie memorabilia became a popular hobby. It wasn't so competitive. Luckily, I bought a lot of my photos when I was younger and they were cheaper. About 80% of the photos in my book are from my personal collection, and the other 20% are from different archives in New York and Los Angeles, various personal photographers, and other research facilities.

What was the best part of putting your book together?

Well, the most enjoyable part of putting the book together was picking out the photos. When I would visit the various archives, my job was to go through hundreds and hundreds of photos of Rita. Tough job, huh? The tough part was knowing that I couldn't take them home with me! I loved every second of looking through those photos. It was so hard to choose! She never took a bad picture. But I get the same enjoyment out of looking at my own collection, still, after all of these years!

My interview with Caren went on for quite a while so I have divided it into the following sections. Just click on a topic below to continue reading...

- Page 1: A little background/The book
- Page 2: Caren's amazing collection
- Page 3: Speculations on what might have been
- Page 4: Favorites, E! and meeting a Princess

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