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Rita Hayworth: Pin-Up Girl

Who’s Your Valentine Pin-Up Girl: Betty Grable or Rita Hayworth?

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The Classic Connoisseur’s Guide to the Best Films & Stars

Betty Grable on nose of B-17

Betty Grable as Nose Art on the B-17 Flying Fortress, Sentimental Journey

Who’s your type? Rita or Betty? Last month I talked about how World War II affected Hollywood and vice versa. Sticking with that time period, let’s look at two stars whose posters helped to bolster the morale of the troops. They were the pin-up girls on Valentine’s days during the 1940s.

Lonely soldiers and sailors, far from their homes and sweethearts, had a chance to fantasize about the beautiful ladies of Hollywood through the craze of pin-up posters. Airmen painted girls on the nose of their bombers, a la the figureheads on ancient ships.

The one pictured right is a re-named, re-painted, restored B-17 Super Fortress that presently resides in Mesa, Arizona. The “Sentimental Journey” has toured the country, and the Commemorative Air Force got permission from Grable’s widower, Harry James to use her image on this restoration.

Betty Grable Pin up poster

Betty Grable, 20th Century Fox star, in 1943

Some liked the wholesome, happy, blond Betty Grable.

Grable supposedly had the perfect legs — legs which were insured by Lloyds of London for a million bucks. And Hugh Hefner once told an interviewer that he got the idea of starting Playboy from seeing Betty Grable. (Esquire had beaten him to the game of sexy girls with their girly art that was so popular that they supplied ad-free magazines to the servicemen in World War II.)

Here’s a number that shows off the million-dollar legs from 1941. Appropriately, this is one of those World War II patriotic films — “A Yank in the RAF.”

Others preferred Ava Gardner, Veronica Lake, Jane Russell, or the sultry, sexy, red-head, Rita Hayworth. Among sailors, Rita was known as “the redhead we would most like to be ship-wrecked with.”

Rita Hayworth pin-up picture

Rita Hayworth pin-up in her negligee.

Hayworth’s most remembered movie is “Gilda.” The personality of the character became grafted on the real-life Rita, despite the fact that she was actually quiet and shy.

The graceful and sexy dancing  in ‘Gilda’ came naturally, as her father was a professional dancer in their native Spain before the family moved to Hollywood. However the voice is dubbed by someone else.

Not only did “Gilda” make Rita a sex goddess, the following number (from the original film) crops up in “Shawshank Redemption,” where a Rita poster plays an important role.

And so, black-haired Margarita Casino became the red-haired sex goddess of Hollywood, Rita Hayworth.

If you want to know more about the fascinating life of a sex goddess, watch the Rita Hayworth biography on YouTube.

So who’s your valentine? Rita Hayworth or Betty Grable?

Vera Marie Badertscher

Vera Marie Badertscher first went to the movies at the Duncan Theater in Killbuck, Ohio, when her grandmother was selling tickets. Now she watches Netflix and TV movie channels more often than movies in theaters, but she loves to rediscover old favorites. When she’s not at the movies, she’s reading and traveling and writing at A Traveler’s Library and Ancestors In Aprons. Follow her on Twitter at @pen4hire.

Vera Marie Badertscher has written posts on Reel Life With Jane.


  1. Jane Boursaw

    Oh boy. That’s a tough one. Betty Grable is adorable, but for sexy and sultry, I’d have to go with Rita Hayworth. If I, uh, leaned that way.
    Jane Boursaw recently posted…Pop Culture Daily: Taylor Lautner, K.D. Lang, Grammy Fashion MemoMy Profile

  2. Of course the red head would pick the red head!
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted…Forbidden Romance for Medieval QueenMy Profile

  3. MyKidsEatSquid

    I’d forgotten about the role Rita Hayworth plays in Shawshank Redemption. Are there any modern stars that remind you of her?
    MyKidsEatSquid recently posted…Beef gorgonzola slidersMy Profile

  4. Gosh, has the concept of glamour girls changed over the years!
    Irene S. Levine recently posted…Friendship by the Book: Surviving Female FriendshipsMy Profile

  5. What a smart column!

  6. Alexandra

    This was great. But, tell me, how on earth does Rita manage to prance around like that without a “wardrobe malfunction”?
    Alexandra recently posted…We’ve Moved!My Profile

  7. Too young to remember any of these women as pin up girls, but I do remember Jane Russell doing bra commercials in the late 1960s and 70s.
    Living Large recently posted…Sunday Meals at Our Little HouseMy Profile

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