Only In Indiana: A true Hollywood Valentine's Day story!

A makeup case belonging to Rita Hayworth is part of an exhibit at IU.
Published:
Updated:

How important is a makeup case? If the woman who owned it just happened to be one of the greatest actresses of all time, it can be as important as a script and as revealing.

A Valentine's Day love story exclusive between two Hollywood legends that was hidden away in a makeup case.

"RH" - the initials tell you very little but the makeup case reveals a lot.

The bottom compartment tells us what was on her face. The top hidden compartment tells us what was on her heart.

It belonged to Rita Hayworth.

She was known for her sultry voice and flowing red hair. Over 70 years ago, she was the toast of Hollywood. She was also in love.

"Rita Hayworth was a bigger star than Orson Welles at this time. After Citizen Kane did not do well at the box office. I think the media was very surprised that Rita fell in love with him. They tagged them 'Beauty and the Beast'," Craig Simpson is the manuscript archivist at the Lilly Library.

They were married in September 1943. The very next month, he wrote to her from New York. "You are my life. My very life. Hurry up the sun. Make the days shorter until we meet."

The letters are part of the "100 years of Orson Welles" display at the Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington, but as you might expect, the collection includes so much more than letters.

"This is a watercolor sketch Orson Welles did for Rita Hayworth and he did a few of these. First of all, Welles is a very gifted artist. A very gifted sketch and watercolor artist. 'This is the devil of black despair who visits me often only where my baby isn't. I've painted him blue to match my mood without you'," Simpson said.

There is the sketch I call "Two Hearts" with the inscription, 'Dearest little loved one. I love you more tonight than ever. Really, really even more.'

"Oh my gosh. Gloom. Oh, that is great. Self portrait of your husband. Is that all there is of that? I need to be careful here. I love that." That is the honest reaction I had as I opened the folder containing the Orson Welles sketch entitled Gloom.

"That is interesting. He has himself walking with a cane even when he was a young man," Simpson observed.

I can see why she kept that one I added.

He was known for "War of the Worlds" and "Citizen Kane," but these letters and sketches reveal another side of him.

"For being a public person, Orson Welles was always in the public spotlight. He was actually a very private person. There were many contradictions about his personal life, so being able to read his letters to her gives us a little window insight into the man and what he was really like," Simpson added.

Like this note from November 1, 1943.

"The late traffic yawns on the street below. The wind whistles. The rain drips. Look I can't even write. Technically could that be rain? Sweet one. I can't live without you. Your Boy." I was talking about the water smudges on the letter. Some believe them to be tears. I wondered if since he referred to rain, if they could actually be rain drops.

The marriage lasted less than four years. The two only acted together once in "The Lady from Shanghai." Welles wanted her to be a blonde for this role. She hoped it would rekindle their marriage. It didn't. The marriage ended the same time the move shoot did.

She would be married and divorced five times in all, but the two always remained friends. Welles would continue to visit her right up to her death from Alzheimer's complications in 1987.

That was when the letters and sketches were discovered, right where she had left them for over 40 years - tucked away in the top compartment of her makeup case.

"100 years of Orson Welles" runs until May 20 at the Lilly Library at IU.