Saturday, March 26, 2022

Rita Hayworth aka: Margarita Carmen Cansino

BEFORE THERE WAS RITA HAYWORTH, THERE WAS RITA CANSINO! This is a look at the films of Margarita Carmen Cansino, before her transformation into Rita Hayworth.





The Family Cansino:

Her father was Eduardo Cansino, born in Castilleja de la Cuesta, province of Seville, Andalusia, Spain. Eduardo was a Spanish dancer and when he came to the United States, he became a member of the "Ziegfeld Follies". 

His sister was Spanish dancer, Elsa Cansino, and his dancing partner, she would dance in two forgotten silent movies.


Above, Eduardo and Elsa Cansino known in the "Ziegfield Follies" as "The Cansinos".

Her half Irish, half British mother was born in Washington D.C., and was popular dancer and vaudevillian Volga Margaret Hayworth. In 1916 while appearing in the "Ziegfeld Follies", Volga met Eduardo, and in 1917, the two were married, and she became the third members of "The Cansinos".






Above, Volga Hayworth.

Margarita Carmen Cansino was born on October 17, 1918, in Brookyln, New York. She would have two younger brothers, Eduardo, Jr. and Vernon.

Her Grandfather Antonio Cansino's dancing school was located in Madrid and world renown, as was the fact he popularized the "Bolero". Father wanted daughter to follow in the family profession. He started training Margarita at the age of three-and-a-half, 

According to biographers Edward Z. Epstein and Joe Morella, 1983's, "Rita: The Life of Rita Hayworth", she is quoted as saying about this time:

I didn't like it very much ... but I didn't have the courage to tell my father, so I began taking the lessons. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, that was my girlhood.
During this period of her life, Margarita would attend dancing lessons taught by her Uncle Angel Casino in an area of "Carnegie Hall". Where he had a dancing school and practice hall.

Opposite of her father's wishes, Margarita's mother had hoped she would take up acting like her Uncle Vinton Hayworth, who sometimes used the name Jack Arnold.

On September 20, 1923, at the "Winter Garden Theatre" in New York City, the production "The Greenwich Village Follies" opened. The follies, which was a review in two-acts, ran into January 1924 for 140 performances. Among the performers were "The Cansinos".

According to the "Internet Broadway Data Base":

The Primary Organizational Members of "The Cansinos", were Eduardo, Volga, Angel, and Margarita Cansino, and not sister Elsa, but this was based upon their appearance in "The Greenwich Village Follies". As this listing is looking back in time, Margarita was listed as "Rita Cansino".

Above, is opera singer Anna Case, in a still from a 1926, 10-minute, "Vitaphone Short", from Warner Brothers, shot in New York City. The short is entitled, "La Fiesta", and behind Anna Case, "The Cansinos" danced as she sang. Some biographers have stated that 8-years-old, Margarita, was one of the dancers and this was her first on-screen performance. 

The only confirmed members of the family dancing behind Anna Case, with the "Metropolitan Opera Chorus", are Eduardo and his sister Elsa. 

As the credit billing on the short just reads: "The Cansinos", it is possible that the other members of the family also danced, but that remains unconfirmed. 

Los Angeles:

In 1927, Eduardo moved his family to Los Angeles and established a dance studio. It was his belief that with the advent of sound, the motion picture industry would need dancers. The dance studio was above my father's parents store and she told me stories about the sound of the dancing coming through their first-floor ceiling. 

In 1931, Eduardo and twelve-years old Margarita, formed an act called "The Dancing Cansinos". Margarita's hair had always been brown, but now it was dyed black to give it a more Latin appearance. Eduardo ran into problems with United States law, which prohibited his daughter from dancing in bars and nightclubs. So, the two would travel to Tijuana, Mexico, to perform.

As a result of performing, Margarita never graduated from High School and only completed the ninth grade. Below, in 1933, are Eduardo and sixteen-years-old Margarita.

What seemed like a beautiful story wasn't what the public might have seen. Both, Hadley Hall Meares in his September 23, 2020 article for "Vanity Fair", entitled, "The Love Goddess: Rita Hayworth's Tragic Quest", and Susan Braudy in her November 19, 1989 article for "The New York Times", "What We Have Here Is A Very Sad Story", state that during Rita's marriage to her second husband, Orson Welles, Hayworth told him that during the time she was "The Dancing Cansinos" with her father, he sexually abused her, and her mother started to sleep in the same bed to stop him.

From Fox Film Production to 20th Century Fox:

According to Susan Ware in the 2005 edition of "Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Vol 5". Margarita Cansino had a "bit part" in the made in Mexico motion picture, "Cruz Diablo", released on November 28, 1934 in Mexico City. However, there is no way to verify that this was accurate, because "Extra's names" do not appear on cast listings, but the movies name does appear on lists of Rita Hayworth's motion pictures. 

While dancing with her father at "The Caliente Club" in Mexico, Margarita Cansino, was noticed by Winfield Sheehan, the head of the "Fox Film Corporation" and he had the young dancer take a screen test the following week.

Above, Winfield Sheehan.

After viewing her screen test, Margarita Carmen Cansino was signed to a six-month contract, but with one slight change. She was now billed as "Rita Cansino"!

In Barbara Leaming's biography, "If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth", published in 1989. Leaming states that Margarita's dance sequence in "Dante's Inferno" was filmed in late 1934. This is very possible, because the film's star, Spencer Tracy, went on a two-week drinking binge, was sued by "Fox" for delaying the production and destroying a complete set, and filming finally started on December 3, 1934 and ended in late January 1935.

However, Barbara Leaming adds that Cansino didn't sign a contract with "Fox Film Corporation" until February 1935, IF TRUE!

This would imply that Margarita was hired to perform the one dance in "Dante's Inferno", before Winfield Sheehan saw with her father at "The Caliente Club" in Mexico around January 1935. 

According to Susan Ware in "Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Vol 5". Margarita Casino appeared, immediately after 1934's "Cruz Diablo", in the "Warner Brothers" movie, "In Caliente", starring Dolores del Rio, Pat O'Brien, and Leo Carrillo, which was released on May 25, 1935.

Once again, I cannot verify this motion picture, because her name does not appear on the cast listings. Further, IMDb does not even mention the picture and other websites list, or don't list the film under Rita Hayworth's motion pictures. 

It should be mentioned that "In Caliente" was filmed between December 27, 1934 and March 30, 1935.When Rita Cansino was filming "Under the Pampas Moon".

On May 31, 1935 "Fox Film Corporation" merged with "20th Century Pictures" and "20th Century Fox" was born. Winfield Sheehan was thinking about casting Rita Cansino in the title role of "Ramona", based upon the 1884 novel by Helen Hunt Jackson.

Except, now, Winfield Sheehan was no longer head of the studio and he reported to "20th Century Fox" Vice-President Darryl F. Zanuck, seen below:

Zanuck informed Sheehan that he was replacing Rita Casino on "Ramona" with Lorretta Young, adding, he was not renewing Rita's contract after the six months expired.

UNDER THE PAMPAS MOON released on June 1, 1935

The picture had been made by "Fox Film Corporation", but would not be distributed by the new company.

The film's star was Warner Baxter, who had been playing "The Cisco Kid", and was now playing an Argentinian gaucho. His co-star was Ketti Gallian, a French actress born in Nice, France. 

The plot has Baxter raising a horse, Gallian and her fiancée show up, and he falls for her. The fiancée steals the horse and enters it in a race in Buenos Aires under a false name. Baxter arrives and gets his horse back, leaving Gallian with her crooked fiancée.    

The movie was described as a Musical Western and 11th billed; Rita Cansino portrayed the dancer "Carmen".

Above, Warner Baxter and 16-years-old Rita Cansino below, Rita Cansino.

CHARLIE CHAN IN EGYPT released on June 21, 1935

This motion picture was also made under "Fox Film Corporation", but would be distributed by "20th Century Fox".

This was the 8th of the 16 "Charlie Chan" detective movies starring Warner Oland in the role. In the above lobby card, Oland, lower left, is holding the hand of 4th billed, Rita Cansino, portraying the Egyptian woman "Nayda".

I could not locate how Rita Cansino's role of "Nayda" fit into the story. Which is about a missing archeologist and a cursed mummy's tomb leading to a hidden treasure.

Above the leading ladies, Rita Cansino, and Pat Paterson as "Carol Anderson".

DANTE'S INFERNO released on July 31, 1935

"Dante's Inferno" was the last feature film made by the "Fox Film Corporation" and starting with the next motion picture, they were all "20th Century Fox" productions.

The above poster was designed to get the potential audience's attention and actually only referred to a 10-minute dream sequence. The motion picture starred Spencer Tracy as "Jim Carter", who takes over a fairground show depicting "Dante's Inferno" and makes more lurid. "Carter" marries the previous owner's daughter, "Betty McWade", portrayed by Claire Trevor.

7th billed, Rita Cansino appeared as a "Dancer" in one sequence of the motion picture with 8th billed, Gary Leon as the other "Dancer".

As of this writing, the following link takes my reader to the dance number.

The next five motion pictures were filmed during the six-month contract Rita Casino had with Winfield Sheehan. Although, especially with the last two feature films, the release dates goes beyond the day she was fired by nine months.

PIERNAS DE SEDA (SILK LEGS) released on October 4, 1935 in New York City

This was a "20th Century Fox" made Spanish language motion picture for Hispanics in the United States, Mexico, and Spain. The picture was directed by Birmingham, England, born, John Boland, Jr. 

The uncredited Rita Cansino portrayed a Ballerina.

HI, GAUCHO! released October 11, 1935

Another motion picture set in Argentina with an uncredited Rita Cansino as "Dolores". However, for those fans of John Carroll, this was his first credited role.

PROFESSIONAL SOLDIER released on December 27, 1935

In the feature film, Rita Cansino portrayed an uncredited "Gypsy Girl".

Following, are two "20th Century Fox" publicity photos of Rita Cansino in 1935, and one with her father that same year.

Next, came a comedy drama, released on January 17, 1936, starring child star, Jane Withers as the title character "Paddy O'Day".

The plot is typical family drama fare, as "Paddy O'Day" comes to the United States from Ireland to unite with her mother, a cook for a wealthy family. On the ship crossing, she meets the Russian "Petrovitch" family of dancers and performs a Russian dance with them. While trying to hide the fact she has her dog with her. 

3rd billed, Rita Cansino portrays "Tamara Petrovitch", who becomes a close friend of both "Paddy" and her dog.

The drama comes from the fact that "Paddy's" mother died before the girl could reach America and there are problems caused by her not having a parent with immigration. Even though she has two aunts working for the same family her mother did. There is love story between "Tamara" and the wealthy "Roy Ford", played by Pinky Tomlin, "Paddy's" mother's employer. In the end "Tamara" marries "Roy" and the two adopt the orphaned "Paddy O'Day" for the happy ending. 

Above a signed publicity photo of Rita Cansino and below the Russian dance she does on board ship.

Below, Rita Cansino with Jane Withers.

The following motion picture was the last film "20th Century Fox" would have the name Rita Cansino on it.

HUMAN CARGO premiered in New York City on May 15, 1936

Above, Rita Cansino as "Carmen Zoro" with Claire Trevor as reporter "Bonnie Brewster". Below, Brian Donlevy as reporter "Patrick 'Packy' Campbell" with Rita Cansino.

Rival newspaper reporters "Packy Campbell" and 'Bonnie Brewster" team up to get a story about the 10,000 illegal aliens smuggled into the United States monthly. At the "500 Club" they watch Latin Dancer "Carmen Zoro's" performance, as "Packy" has "Bonnie" go up to "Carmen's" room to look for the gangster "Baretto", played by uncredited Harry Semels. "Bonnie" is cornered, but the police are summoned and kill the gangster. Both reporters want "Carmen's" story, but after mentioning the ship "The Northern Star" out of Canada. "Carmen" is shot and killed by mobster "Tony Sculla" played by Ralf Harolde.

Above left to right, Rita Cansino, Ralph Morgan as "District Attorney Carey", and Claire Trevor.

Rita's contract with "20th Century Fox" had ended, but she was able to get a dancing role in an "RKO Picture". 

DANCING PIRATE released May 22, 1936

Rita Cansino had just worked with the older brother Ralph and now was working with the younger brother, Frank Morgan, who in three years was "The Wizard of Oz", but now was "Mayor Dom Emillio Peerna". Second billed Morgan was the only actor remembered of the three leading actors of the movie. Charles Collins, between 1932 and 1984, only appeared on-screen 15 times. While, Budapest, Hungary, born ballerina, Steffi Duna, had 27 roles between 1932 and 1940 and ended who movie career.

Uncredited Rita Cansino was a "Specialty Dancer", but again, I couldn't locate her photo.

17-years-old Rita Cansino was a free-agent, but without an agent to get her movie roles. When it seemed her motion picture career might have just ended, she met Edward C. Judson.  Judson was an oilman turned promoter, married twice, and was as old as Eduardo Cansino and he became her manager. 

Judson was able to get Rita an interview with "Columbia Pictures" studio head and owner, Harry "King" Cohn, below, who signed her to a seven-year contract.

MEET NERO WOLFE released on July 16, 1936

The screenplay was party based upon author Rex Stout's novel of the same name and his "League of Frightened Men". The picture starred Edward Arnold as "Nero Wolfe", and Lionel Stander portrayed "Wolfe's" trusted employee and friend, "Archie Goodwin".

Above left to right front row, Edward Arnold, Lionel Stander, and Dennie Moore as "Mazie Gray". Standing behind them is John Qualen as "Olaf", all four are major characters in Stout's novels.

12th billed Rita Cansino portrayed "Maria Maringola".

Rita's one scene role was to start the detective on a case that would lead to the murder of a "Professor Edward Barlow", played by Boyd Irwin. "Maria" comes to "Nero Wolfe" to pay him to find her missing brother, "Carlo Maringola", played by the non-credited Juan Torena. "Carlo" will be found dead and the apparent murderer, but who is really behind all this?

"King" Cohn wasn't completely sold on Rita Casino and lent her out to a small independent studio. The young actress found herself in two "B" Westerns from "Poverty Row Studio", "Crescent Pictures Corporation". They had an office on Glower Street, in Hollywood, but no physical sound stages and rented stage space when needed.

REBELLION released on October 10, 1936

The motion picture starred an interesting, if only in name, "B" Western actor. Tom Keene portrayed "Captain John Carroll". He was born, George Duryea, which he used from 1923 to 1930, then he became Tom Keene, from 1930 to 1944, next, from 1944 through his final guest appearance on televisions "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet", George Duryea was Richard Powers. The name he used for director Ed Wood, Jr's, 1957, "Plan 9 from Outer Space".

Rita Cansino portrayed Keene's love interest, "Paula Castillo".

Duncan Renaldo portrayed "Ricardo Castillo". Renaldo is remembered by fans of early 1950's television portraying "The Cisco Kid", from 1950 through 1956. A piece of trivia is that Renaldo who played a majority of Hispanic roles was born in Romania. Duncan Reynaldo is the actor without a hat seen below.

The year is 1850 and California has just become a part of the United States. The so-called "Americans" have become the unauthorized law and are pushing Spanish Californians off their ranches. "Captain Carroll" is sent to stop this and unite the two cultures. He meets "Ricardo Castillo" and his sister "Paula", who, as I already mentioned, he will fall in love with. "Carroll" joins the Spanish Californians after their leader is killed and takes his place to defeat the bad "Americans" and marry "Paula Castillo". All in a very long running 62-minute "B " Western.

Above front left is Tom Keene and speaking to him is Duncan Renaldo, and below the happy ending.

Sometime in 1937, Rita Cansino and Edward C. Judson eloped and were married. I was unable to locate the exact date of their wedding, but the year is mentioned on line and in some biographies only.

"Crescent Pictures Corporation" brought their romantic leads back in:

OLD LOUISIANA released March 1, 1937

Above, Tom Keene portraying "John Colfax", and Rita Cansino portraying "Angela Gonzales". Below, third from left, with traditional villain's "black hat" and a deep blue outfit, is Robert Fiske portraying "Luke E. Gilmore".

It's 1803, just prior to the "Louisiana Purchase" being finalized. "Luke Gilmore" is smuggling guns into St. Louis so his men can make him the governor of the new territory. Sent by "President Thomas Jefferson", played by Allan Cavan, is "John Colfax". Who will discover the smuggled guns, take down "Gilmore", while romancing "Angela Gonzales"!

Rita Cansino, next, found herself lent out and appearing in a major "Republic Pictures" "B" Western series.

HIT THE SADDLE released March 3, 1937

As the above poster indicates, this was a "Three Mesquiteers" feature film. Over the 51 thrilling motion pictures of the series and with a minimal of character change. "The Three Mesquiteers" would be played by Robert Livingston, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, Max Terhune, Ralph Byrd, John Wayne, Duncan Renaldo, Raymond Hatton, Bob Steele, Tom Tyler, Rufe Davis, and even "Mouseketeer" Jimmy Dodd.

My article, "An Overview of 'THE THREE MESQUITEERS': A Classic 'B' Western Series". may be read at:

In this movie "The Three Mesquiteers" were played by:

Robert Livingston as "Stony Brooke". 

Ray "Crash" Corrigan as "Tucson Smith".

Max Terhune
as "Lullaby Joslin" 

Rita Cansino portrayed "Rita, a saloon singer".

Above left to right, Max Terhune, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, and Rita Cansino. Below left to right, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, Robert Livingston, and Rita Cansino.

Above left to right, Max Terhune, Sammy McKim portraying "Tim Miller, the Sheriff's son", and Rita Cansino.

This was typical "Three Mesquiteers" fare with the expected subplot of "Stony" falling for a girl, getting into trouble over it, and "Tuscon" and "Lullaby" bailing "Stony" out. In this film, he's planning a marriage to sexy gold digger "Rita", and it's up to "Tucson" to break it up and reveal what she's really after, the "Mesquiteer's" very profitable horse ranch. 

While, the main plot has "Rance McGowan", played by J.P. McGowan, wanting the Government wild horse sanctuary closed down so he can capture and sell the horses being protected. "Rance" is using one of his own horses, painted like a certain pinto, a wild horse seen by the horse ranchers as the leader of the mustangs. So, his gang's theft of horses in the sanctuary will be blamed on the pinto, but the "Three Mesquiteers" will, naturally, stop his plans.

I've come to the final film in the career of Rita Cansino.

TROUBLE IN TEXAS released on March 6, 1937

The picture was made by another "Poverty Row", long forgotten, motion picture company, "Boots and Saddles Pictures".

Tex Ritter portrayed "Tex Masters". Ritter was, of course, a singing cowboy and this picture included him singing four songs. In 1952, his voice would be heard behind the opening credit sequence singing "The Ballad of High Noon" in the Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly picture, "High Noon".

Rita Cansino had third billing behind Tex Ritter and his horse "White Flash". She portrayed undercover policewoman "Carmen Serano". 

Rodeo Stars are being killed with poison needles and the mistake made was to kill "Tex Masters" brother. Now, "Tex" is teaming up with undercover policewoman "Carmen Serano".

Harry Cohn thought the young actress had screen personality, but the name "Rita Cansino" sounded "Too Spanish" and he thought it would turn off most "American" audiences with her in a leading role. Although, he had no plans, yet, to give her a starring role, but with help from her husband, over the objections of Rita's father, Rita Cansino dropped her last name. She now took her mother's maiden name, which had that strong British-Irish-American sounding ancestry behind it. Next, "King" Cohn ordered the hair stylist to use electrolysis to raise the young actress's hairline and eliminate, again, that Spanish look. Lastly, he had Rita's natural hair color died to a dark red for her next motion picture.

CRIMINALS OF THE AIR released on April 30, 1937

What is not showing on the above American poster is the name of the third billed actor.

Above, Marc Lawrence as "Blast Reardon" and portraying "Rita Owens" was RITA HAYWORTH, but that's another story.

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