I visited publicist Tom Miller in Mexico on the set of “The Wrath of God,” Rita Hayworth’s last completed movie, I assume the one on which Mr. Langella had the brief affair with her (not his only affair on the film). One evening we had a nightcap with Rita. (Rita’s idea of a nightcap was a vodka and tonic to which she kept adding vodka to keep the glass filled and flavored. Tom decided thought she was drinking to give herself an excuse for not remembering, for already, as he saw in retrospect, there were signs of encroaching Alzheimer’s.)
Tom staged some of the last glamor shots taken of her , but they were never used because MGM threw the film away. (It wasn’t all that great, but what Ralph Nelson film ever was? But it wasn’t all that bad either. And what with her and Mitchum in their latter years and Frank Langella playing Rita’s son (!), it really deserves a decent video release.)
One night in Mexico City Tom dined out with Rita, and when they got back to her hotel,they discovered the Mexican equivalent of the Oscars being presented in one of the meeting halls. Rita was tuned on. “Let’s go!” Rita said. Tom replied, “Rita, we don’t have an invitation!” She looked at him and said, “But I am Rita Hayworth!” Tom said, “So you are.” He spoke to an attendant at the door, who ran up the MC, who announced to the crowd the presence of a surprise guest. She went up on the stage to a standing ovation. I wish someone would discover footage of that moment.
Theater Talkback: Frank Langella Telling Tales
BY CHARLES ISHERWOOD
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