Actor Rita Hayworth Marries Aly Khan After Adulterous Affair Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

American film star Rita Hayworth married the Ismaili Muslim prince Aly Khan of Pakistan after a well-publicized intercontinental courtship that had begun while both of them were already married to others. Hayworth was also two months pregnant at the time of her wedding, a fact that added fuel to the already volatile scandal.

Summary of Event

The May 27, 1949, marriage of Hollywood film star Rita Hayworth to Muslim prince Aly Khan of Pakistan was the culmination of a whirlwind courtship that had begun less than two years earlier. Between film assignments and on a trip to Europe, Hayworth had attended a charity ball in Paris; also present at this benefit was Khan, who was eager to meet the beautiful film star. Soon after the ball, they were introduced at a dinner party in Cannes, France, by noted society host Elsa Maxwell. Hayworth and Khan soon began to see each other, even though Hayworth’s divorce from Orson Welles was not officially final. The prince himself was still married to Joan Yarde-Buller Guinness, with whom he had two young sons, Karim and Amyn. [kw]Actor Rita Hayworth Marries Aly Khan After Adulterous Affair (May 27, 1949) [kw]Hayworth Marries Aly Khan After Adulterous Affair, Actor Rita (May 27, 1949) Hayworth, Rita Khan, Prince Aly Islam Marriage;Aly Khan[Khan] Marriage;Rita Hayworth[Hayworth] Pakistan Hayworth, Rita Khan, Prince Aly Islam Marriage;Aly Khan[Khan] Marriage;Rita Hayworth[Hayworth] Pakistan [g]Europe;May 27, 1949: Actor Rita Hayworth Marries Aly Khan After Adulterous Affair[00840] [g]France;May 27, 1949: Actor Rita Hayworth Marries Aly Khan After Adulterous Affair[00840] [g]Pakistan;May 27, 1949: Actor Rita Hayworth Marries Aly Khan After Adulterous Affair[00840] [c]Families and children;May 27, 1949: Actor Rita Hayworth Marries Aly Khan After Adulterous Affair[00840] [c]Public morals;May 27, 1949: Actor Rita Hayworth Marries Aly Khan After Adulterous Affair[00840] [c]Religion;May 27, 1949: Actor Rita Hayworth Marries Aly Khan After Adulterous Affair[00840] [c]Royalty;May 27, 1949: Actor Rita Hayworth Marries Aly Khan After Adulterous Affair[00840] [c]Sex;May 27, 1949: Actor Rita Hayworth Marries Aly Khan After Adulterous Affair[00840] Aga Khan III Welles, Orson

Rita Hayworth and Aly Khan at their wedding in France.

(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Because Khan was an internationally known Muslim Islam leader, and because the moral climate of the late 1940’s was relatively strict, the couple had to tread carefully in their attempts to spend time together, especially in public places. Avoiding aggressive reporters proved to be impossible for the pair, as they were rushed past news writers and photographers while on a trip through Spain. The couple experienced similar ambushes by story-hungry journalists, or Paparazzi paparazzi, on visits to Mexico and Cuba.

Hayworth had moved into the prince’s chÂteau in the south of France but then returned to the United States to resume her film career. Khan followed her to Los Angeles, staying in a rented house in Brentwood, close to the studios. The couple’s overt relationship was considered sensational by the standards of the time.

Hayworth refused to take the lead role in a film assigned to her at Columbia Studios, where she was under contract, as her relationship with Khan began to take a toll on her public and professional image. Facing negative reaction from varying quarters in the United States, including a suspension from the studio, Hayworth accepted Khan’s invitation that she abandon her film career to be with him.

This decision only magnified the scandal. The press dogged the pair as they separately boarded the RMS Britannic for Great Britain. Hayworth’s public travels with a married man drew criticism and condemnation from the British press, the Roman Catholic Roman Catholic Church;and Rita Hayworth[Hayworth] Church hierarchy, and perhaps most important for the couple, Khan’s father, Aga Khan III. While in Gstaad, Switzerland, the prince received an ultimatum from his father: Either end the affair completely or marry Hayworth. Confronted with this choice, Hayworth agreed to accompany Khan to Cannes so they could meet his father and secure his permission to marry. The meeting went well; Hayworth and Aga Khan responded positively to each other. The couple announced their engagement to the press.

On November 10, 1948, Hayworth had been granted a divorce from her second husband, actor and filmmaker Orson Welles, with whom she had one daughter, Rebecca (three years old at the time of the divorce). The divorce decree would not become final until December 1. The matter of Khan’s marriage still needed to be resolved. On February 19, 1949, Khan and his wife appeared in a French court for the requisite and routine attempt at reconciliation, which failed as expected, paving the way for the final decree. That decree was granted on April 7, more than one month ahead of schedule. In the divorce agreement, Khan was granted uncontested custody of his two sons. Sandwiched between these events, in March, was the discovery that Hayworth was pregnant.

The wedding was set for May 27. Khan’s request to Paul Derignon, the mayor of Vallauris, France, to bar reporters from the town-hall civil ceremony was initially granted. However, at the last moment, the journalists were permitted to enter the back of the room where the vows were exchanged. On the following day, the couple married in a Muslim ceremony. The legitimization of the relationship appeased Aga Khan and Aly Khan’s religious followers, but the Vatican remained critical of Hayworth, a Roman Roman Catholic Church;and Rita Hayworth[Hayworth] Catholic, for marrying outside the Church. On December 28, 1949, Hayworth gave birth to a 5.5-pound girl, Princess Yasmin.

Hayworth and Khan’s marriage was short-lived. Hayworth soon tired of her new husband’s affinity for party-going, party-throwing, and extramarital relationships. In addition, she never was comfortable with the fishbowl existence that was an unavoidable part of the role of princess. Realizing that life with Khan would not provide the solitude and simplicity she desired, Hayworth took the initial steps to end the marriage. On April 28, 1951, her attorney announced to the press that she was seeking a divorce from Khan.

By May 10, Hayworth had rented a home in Glenbrook, Lake Tahoe, to begin a six-week residence requirement for those seeking a divorce in the state of Nevada. Although Hayworth could have had her final decree at the end of the six-week period because Khan failed to respond to a summons to appear in Nevada within thirty days of receipt of that summons, she allowed about eighteen months to lapse before making the divorce official. The primary reason for this delay was twofold.

First, there had been some consideration of reconciliation between Hayworth and Khan, although this attempt was mainly to avoid upsetting Aga Khan, who earlier had suffered a heart attack. Second, Hayworth was concerned about the custody and safety of daughter Yasmin, who had been the target of multiple death threats during the divorce proceedings. On November 20, 1953, after a satisfactory child visitation and financial agreement was reached, Hayworth signed the divorce papers, which granted her custody of her daughter.


The marriage of Hayworth and Khan, along with the events that immediately preceded and followed the ceremony, provides a valuable snapshot of public opinion, values, and interests during the mid-twentieth century. During the late 1940’s, people were shocked and outraged that a married woman and a married man would openly have an intimate relationship outside those respective marriages. Hayworth’s suspension from her home studio, partially attributable to her relationship with the prince, is another relic of the time. During the early twenty-first century, however, the public still relished a contentious celebrity custody battle, much as it did during the early 1950’s. At the same time, however, the social taboo against adultery has relaxed since midcentury, at least in Western culture.

On a less universal level, it can be argued that the Hayworth-Khan relationship was detrimental to the careers of both figures. Hayworth would never regain the star status she relinquished when she left Hollywood and married the prince, and while Khan was named Pakistan’s representative to the United Nations, he was bypassed for designation as imam, or Aga Khan IV, an honor that went, instead, to Khan’s eldest son, Karim, when Aga Khan III died on July 11, 1957. Pakistan Hayworth, Rita Khan, Prince Aly Islam Marriage;Aly Khan[Khan] Marriage;Rita Hayworth[Hayworth]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Leaming, Barbara. If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth. New York: Viking Press, 1989. A comprehensive biography of the actor that includes discussion of the Hayworth-Khan relationship.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McLean, Adrienne L. Being Rita Hayworth: Labor, Identity, and Hollywood Stardom. Piscataway, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2004. Full-length scholarly work that argues that Hayworth’s career exerted a major impact on her life choices.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Roberts-Frenzel, Caren. Rita Hayworth: A Photographic Retrospective. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001. Biographical narrative accompanies a collection of three hundred, mostly unpublished, color and black-and-white photographs of Hayworth.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tierney, Gene, with Mickey Hershkowitz. Self-Portrait. New York: Berkley Books, 1980. Autobiography of the actor who dated Khan after his divorce from Hayworth. Chapter 16, “The Playboy Prince,” provides an insightful perspective on Khan.

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Categories: History