Sunday, July 3, 2011

ATOMIC GODDESS: RITA HAYWORTH AND THE LEGEND OF THE BIKINI BOMBSHELL

Gilda collage
UPDATE: RITA HAYWORTH ATOMIC BOMB IMAGE FOUND! GO TO THIS LINK TO SEE THE IMAGE.
“Here’s a footnote on Bikini. I don’t know what this means or even if it has meaning, but I can’t resist mention of the fact that this much can be revealed concerning the appearance of tonight’s atom bomb: It will be decorated with a photograph of sizeable likeness of the young lady named Rita Hayworth."
-- Excerpt of an Orson Welles commentary delivered on the ABC radio network on June 30, 1946


OrsonMic
“Beautiful, Deadly…Using all a woman’s weapons.”

-- Promotional text seen in the 1946 trailer for GILDA starring Rita Hayworth

Gilda-Atomique-Belgian

INTRODUCTION: TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?


The story of screen legend Rita Hayworth’s image gracing an atomic bomb has been around for over sixty years and it is, by this point, a firmly established part of the star’s official biography. Indeed, the supposed decorative honor even made it into the Love Goddess’s[1] 1987 New York Times obituary as an undisputed fact.[2]

Lo-Gilda-Headline-1

But is the tale 100% accurate? When CONELRAD first heard about the Hayworth bombshell, we could not wait to locate a photograph of it for permanent display on the front page of our website. After all, what better symbol of atomic popular culture could there possibly be? Rita Hayworth was one of the biggest female movie stars and pin-ups of the 1940s[3] and the atomic bomb was the most significant scientific and military development of the century (and, perhaps, of all time). In other words, to our ears, it was a match made in CONELRAD heaven and we desperately wanted to believe.
But in trying to track down the elusive image we discovered that the story may have been too good to be entirely true. In the course of our admittedly obsessive quest, we spent a considerable amount of time attempting to determine whether the Rita Hayworth bomb story is myth or fact or somewhere in between. The article that follows is the culmination research that took place between 2008 and 2009 with some additional reporting conducted in 2011.  We are pleased to be able to post this article (albeit a few days late) in conjunction with the 65th anniversary of the opening of Operation Crossroads.

ATOMIC PLAYBOY: ADMIRAL BLANDY’S ‘CROSSROADS’ SHOW
Lo-Atomic Blandy 
The atomic bomb that Rita Hayworth’s image allegedly adorned is the weapon detonated during the July 1, 1946 “Able” test on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The bomb was dropped from a B-29 Superfortress airplane named “Dave’s Dream” and piloted by Major Woodrow P. “Woody” Swancutt.[4] It was the fourth atomic bomb ever exploded and the first detonation ever to be reported on in real time by the media.[5] The earlier bombs of Alamogordo, New Mexico (the Trinity test), Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, of course, top secret wartime affairs.
“Operation Crossroads,” the cinematic code name for the atomic tests, was one of the biggest and most controversial news stories of 1946. From the moment that the code name, location and other details of the tests were announced by Vice Admiral William H.P. Blandy before the Senate Special Committee on Atomic Energy, Crossroads became a fixture in the media – and not always favorably. Comedian Bob Hope summed up the selection of Bikini Atoll for the tests thusly: “As soon as the war ended, we located the one spot on earth that hadn’t been touched by war and blew it to hell.” The broad purpose of the tests was to examine the impact of atomic weapons on various ship classes and the farm animals unfortunate enough to be placed on these vessels.[6]

Blandy, who was the commander of Joint Task Force One and therefore responsible for the conduct of Operation Crossroads, became so identified with the tests, that he was dubbed “the Atomic Admiral.” He also became the chief defender against charges from the scientific community and some journalists that the proposed Bikini tests were unnecessary and potentially cataclysmic.[7] These attacks on Operation Crossroads planning—some of which were outlandish—resulted in a remarkable February 21, 1946 speech by the admiral in which he mostly offered a litany of statements on what the bomb would not do:
The bomb will not kill half the fish in the sea, and poison the other half so they will kill all the people who eat fish hereafter. The bomb will not cause an earthquake or push up new mountain ranges… The bomb will not start a chain reaction in the water, converting it all to gas and letting all the ships on all the oceans drop to the bottom. It will not blow out the bottom of the sea and let all the water run down the hole. It will not destroy gravity. I am not an atomic playboy, as one of my critics labeled me, exploding these bombs to satisfy my personal whim.[8]
Admiral Blandy would repeat the hyperbolic defense over the course of the next three months.[9] A filmed record of his infamous and stiffly delivered “I am not an atomic playboy” line from the speech can be viewed today on YouTube.


Despite Blandy’s best oratorical efforts, Operation Crossroads continued to be castigated in some quarters as a “boondoggle.”[10] Even the father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, effectively resigned from the President’s Evaluation Commission for the Atomic Bomb Tests with a remarkable letter to President Truman explaining his scientific and political reservations about Bikini. Truman, in a May 1946 letter to his Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson, dismissed Oppenheimer as a “cry-baby scientist.”[11]

The esteemed physicist was not the only one whose objections to Operation Crossroads were summarily disregarded – the native population of Bikini, tragically, had little say in the matter either. The essentially forced relocation of the Bikinians to Rongerik Atoll by the U.S. military prior to the tests is perhaps best summed up by a New Yorker magazine cartoon from the period. Specifically, underneath an illustration of Bikinian leaders addressing Navy officers next to a U.S. ship, the following ironic caption appears: “The residents have voted two to one against your conducting your experiments in this vicinity.”[12]
It was in this strange political climate that over 42,000 military and scientific personnel set up shop on Bikini. And befitting the science / fireworks extravaganza that Operation Crossroads was, there were more than 175 print and broadcast reporters to cover it. Two high-level oversight bodies monitored the tests: The aforementioned President’s Evaluation Commission on the Atomic Bomb Tests and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Examination Board for Operation Crossroads.[13]

All that was needed was an opening day explosion that lived up to the unprecedented ballyhoo. A good movie star angle would not hurt either.

FISSION FIGURE: GROUND ZERO OF A MEDIA EXPLOSION

Lo-Fission Figure

Unlike some disputed stories in history, the origin of the legend of the Rita Hayworth atomic bomb is easy to pinpoint. Indeed, news coverage of the alleged decoration of the Able device with the star’s image and naming it for her latest film, GILDA, saturated the press beginning on June 29, 1946.[14] Needless to say, the timing of the first Bikini test could not have been more fortuitous for Columbia Pictures as Hayworth’s film was still in active release when the news broke.[15] However, as we shall see, not all of the accounts of the bomb naming / decoration were consistent in their detail as the story received extended play over the next several days.

The following is one of the earliest versions of the story that CONELRAD could locate. It was published in the Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail for Saturday evening, June 29, 1946:
RITA RIDES A-BOMB

KWAJALEIN (Associated Press) Scientists and engineers christened the atomic bomb “Gilda” today and three painters, working from a photograph, reproduced a likeness of actress Rita Hayworth, wearing a low-necked black evening gown…
[16]
The Los Angeles Herald Express also carried the A.P. story, but added a GILDA publicity photo of Hayworth in a black evening gown with the headline “Gilda – A-Missile Carries Likeness of Actress.”[17]
The following day, Sunday, June 30, 1946, there was a flood of news items on the Hayworth bomb. The paper of record, the New York Times, published a United Press (U.P.) dispatch headlined “Test Bomb Named ‘Gilda,’ Honoring Rita Hayworth” that added the important detail—attributed to a “scientist” named Thomas Lanahan—that “the name had been chosen because the picture [GILDA] had been making the rounds of the Kwajalein [base] theaters.”[18] The Los Angeles Times published an A.P. wire photo of Hayworth with the clever caption: “FISSION FIGURE” and the text: “This picture of Rita Hayworth, film actress, has been painted on the atomic bomb, christened Gilda, to be dropped today.”[19]
The previously mentioned Mr. Lanahan shows up again in an expanded version of the U.P. wire service story published in the June 30th edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The article is accompanied by a large GILDA publicity photo of Hayworth with the caption headline “THE PICTURE ON THE ATOM BOMB.” The full caption reads “This is the picture of Rita Hayworth, wearing the low-cut black evening gown she wore in the movie ‘Gilda’ which atomic scientists have painted on the bomb to be released at Bikini. They have named the bomb ‘Gilda.’”

The actual story, headlined “Gilda—Femme Fatale: Scientists, Engineers Christen Test A-Bomb” provides so much data that it is worth presenting here in its entirety:
KWAJALEIN, June 29 (U.P.) - The disclosure that the “able day” atom bomb is now resting inside a fenced enclosure in a restricted section of this island ends lively speculation as to the whereabouts of the world’s most powerful weapon.
The disclosure came with the surprise announcement that the serious-faced atomic scientists had named their bomb “Gilda” and painted a picture of Rita Hayworth on the bomb’s side.
The young scientists disclosed that they had just “buttoned her up” (meaning the atom bomb) when they held the christening ceremony.
Some two dozen Los Alamos scientists and Manhattan district engineers got together in the fenced and barbed-wire protected enclosure to name the bomb.
The scientists described the painting on the outside of the bomb casing as a “glowing” picture of Rita wearing the low-cut black evening gown she wore in the movie “Gilda.”
Thomas Lanahan, of Princeton, N.J., one of the atom scientists, said they named her “Gilda” because the picture currently was making the rounds of Kwajalein theaters. [transcribed text continued after image]
Lo-Rita-Philly

“Since we saw that picture we couldn’t get the bomb out of our minds. About a dozen of us agreed instantly on Gilda once we decided that the bomb should have a name.”

Most of the scientists are under 30 but are considered “very serious minded” by most observers and correspondents here.


Lanahan said there were several other suggestions for a name for the pumpkin.
“But we narrowed it down to The Outlaw, Jane Russell, and Laura, Gene Tierney, and Gilda. But most of us had seen Gilda at least 16 times and that’s no exaggeration, so there was no objection to that name. We stenciled the name in two-inch black letters. Then somebody suggested we needed a picture, so we found an old copy of ‘Esquire’[20] and cut out a movie advertisement for Gilda.

The enclosure is floodlighted nightly and guarded both by the warlike barbed-wire entanglement and vigilant armed Marines. It is only a short distance from the “mystery ramp,” a built-up earth mound used in some manner for the loading of the bomb into the plane.
Rear Admiral W.S. Parsons, deputy task force commander, previously disclosed that once the bomb is loaded into “Dave’s Dream” on “able day” only an “arming” operation remains to be done.
That operation, whatever its nature, is done shortly after the take-off.[21]
Yet another United Press story, published in the June 30th edition of the Wisconsin State Journal described the Gilda naming ritual (note that in this iteration, the engineers and scientists perform their own art work, not the mysterious “three painters” as referenced in other stories):
Over on Kwajalein, 250 miles away, the Manhattan district engineers held a formal christening ceremony for the bomb, and called her “Gilda” because, they said, she might be as explosive and damaging as the movie siren portrayed by Rita Hayworth in the film of that name.
On the side of the bomb, above stenciled letters 2-inches wide, they painted a picture of Rita, in a daringly décolleté black gown.[22]
A July 1, 1946 dispatch from the Associated Press quoted from what was presented as an official document, but stopped short of suggesting that Hayworth’s likeness was on the bomb (Other A.P. stories and photograph captions, however, asserted that the image was on the bomb):
“GILDA,” the Hollywood name painted on the bomb, caught official fancy here, too. Today’s Operation Order included the statement that Manhattan District scientists dubbed the missile “GILDA” because Rita Hayworth’s acting in a particular picture by that name “kept us awake nights.”
Swancutt [the Dave’s Dream pilot] said his crew approved the name, but co-pilot Capt. William C. Harrison cautioned: “Let’s wait and see the detonation.”[23]
And, in the July 8, 1946 edition of Time magazine, another wrinkle was added to the tale. No longer was the Hayworth image the careful work of three artists – it was now more or less just a pin-up hastily slapped onto the bomb:
All that could be told about it [the weapon] was that it was big enough to have a foot-high picture of Cinemactress Rita Hayworth pasted on its side. The Thing was called Gilda (after Miss Hayworth’s latest movie).[24]
But undoubtedly the most poignant statement on the whole Hayworth bomb issue came from her husband, the film auteur Orson Welles. Toward the conclusion of the June 30, 1946 broadcast of Mr. Welles’ commentary program on the ABC radio network, the famed director offered the following remarks that could not have endeared him (or Hayworth) to the boosters of Operation Crossroads:

Here’s a footnote on Bikini. I don’t know what this means or even if it has meaning, but I can’t resist mention of the fact that this much can be revealed concerning the appearance of tonight’s atom bomb: It will be decorated with a photograph of sizeable likeness of the young lady named Rita Hayworth.Not long ago I watched quite another sort of young lady paint her lips with something called, over the counter, ‘the Atom Lipstick’[25] - the case of the cosmetic being fashioned according to the popular conceptions of the original war engine. I’m sure you won’t need to be told that Miss Hayworth is not one to use such a thing or hold it as anything less than a very hideous conceit. Her face is not on the atom bomb then by her own choosing, but by election of the fliers who will drop the bomb and who are clearly for business according to their tastes. In regard to their selection, I find their taste beyond reproach, but the bomb dropping itself better be worthy of the accompanying photograph.Is this, Faustus claimed of Helen of Troy, ‘the face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium?’ Well, I want a better toast, a better boast for Rebecca. I want my daughter to be able to tell her daughter that grandmother’s picture was on the last atom bomb ever to explode.[26]

Gilda-Bomb-Mushroom

FALLOUT: THE LONG HALF-LIFE OF A LEGEND


It was not just Bikini Atoll that was cursed with the lingering fallout from the Gilda bomb after July 1, 1946. Rita Hayworth had to live with the legend spawned by the bomb for the rest of her life. Like real radiation, the effects of the bomb story dissipated over the years, but as the public record reflects, it never went away entirely. And like any news story that captures the public’s imagination, it was heavily analyzed and commented upon at the time and then left mostly to history. We rejoin the legend, shortly after “A-Day” 1946, already in progress…

Orson Welles’ refreshing public dissent from the atomic hoopla, so prevalent in the media around the time of the first Bikini explosion, was mangled and regurgitated by the legendary columnist Walter Winchell in his July 5, 1946 syndicated column.[27] Winchell no doubt saw a good angle to exploit because most newspapers published the studio-fed fiction that Rita Hayworth was “honored” to have had her image on the bomb. One wire service story even quoted the star supposedly savoring her atomic tribute, “I still haven’t come down to earth.”[28] One can practically see Hayworth flipping her hair—Gilda style—while uttering this ridiculous line.

Winchell, though, presented the actress’s true emotional reaction albeit translated rather poorly from the more sophisticated Welles broadcast:
Memos of a Midnighter: Her ex-husband[29] says Rita Hayworth isn’t at all proud about the atom bomb being named for her and her film, “Gilda,” one of the best press agent tie-ups (we thawt) in history. He says it wasn’t any tie-up—that they (the engineers and scientists) really adore Rita and so christened it after her. He wished, however, their child, Rebecca, could one day say: “My mother’s name was on the very last atomic bomb!”[30]
Winchell was not the only person to laud the brilliance of the public relations coup that was the Gilda bomb. The Hollywood Reporter trumpeted the promotional victory from high atop its July 1, 1946 front page:

Lo-THR-GILDA-BOX
Gilda’s A-Bomb Probably the greatest publicity break any picture or any star ever received was Columbia’s “Gilda,” with Rita Hayworth, because of the A-Bomb plant that hit every news story yesterday and the day before and every broadcast of the Bikini happenings. This break is a cinch to add at least a million to the probable $5,000,000 domestic gross on the show.[31]
Not everyone was as impressed as Winchell and the Hollywood Reporter with the Hayworth publicity achievement, though. The writer Walter Kiernan included a wry blurb on the Gilda news as part of his July 2, 1946 column:
“This may be difficult to understand abroad but we are a very simple people and easily understood. The key to our nature is the atom bomb… First we invent the most destructive force in the world and then we paint a picture of Rita Hayworth on it.”[32]
The newspapermen of the Oxnard (California) Press Courier got so worked up over the Hayworth bomb that they devoted an entire editorial to it. It is such an interesting and insightful contemporaneous document that it is being presented here in its entirety:
GILDA
The pin-up girl reached her zenith, (or nadir), too, in the Bikini bomb blast.
It was the ultimate of something or other when Miss Rita Hayworth’s likeness (in a daringly low-cut gown) was painted on the side of the bomb that tested the endurance of the ships in mid-Pacific, and it was named “Gilda” from her new movie!
For this was a sort of token pin-up to indicate to all of the women of the world that their charm was even more devastating than that of atomic science. The stout hearts of men wear too frail an armor to withstand the charm of womanhood.
Or does one seek too far to find an explanation of the symbolic use of Miss Hayworth’s picture on the bomb? Was it rather just another reflection of the gallant man’s tendency to gallantry in going into battle? Did it serve only as a sort of evidence that modern times, terrific are the weapons, the fighting male wears upon his sleeve the guerdon of his fair lady, just as the knight of old entered into battle with some token of his lady-love flying from his lance?
Man goes about his business of destruction with the picture of some girl, any girl.
The fair face of Helen launched a thousand ships that caught the ancient world in a 10-years war, and brought about the destruction of Troy.
The fair face of Cleopatra was enough for Anthony to throw away the empire of a civilized mankind.
Is it a sharing of the sublime, or a descent into the ridiculous, that the face of Rita Hayworth should be emblazoned upon the weapon that killed the pigs of Bikini?
One doesn’t need to labor the point, but the reflective man or woman may wish, some times, that feminine beauty would prove equally as inspiring to the peacemakers as to the warriors.
Or the cynic may simply conclude, and perhaps with more accurate knowledge of the ways of the world, that Rita Hayworth’s publicity man pulled off a triumph in the field of his art when he persuaded someone to make this test of science, upon which the eyes of the world were fixed, a plug for the puny achievement of Hollywood.[33]
Less than a year after the Bikini Able test a group of artists seeking publicity for their organization attempted to leverage the Hayworth bomb legend via a truly peculiar and baseless “plant” that found its way into the trade paper, the Motion Picture Herald:

Lo-Bombed and Buried-Article
BOMBED AND BURIED

Rita Hayworth, whose face and figure was painted on the Bikini atom bomb, may be buried in effigy in Alaska. The League of Present Day Artists, New York, whose mission it is “to encourage new directions in art,” has prepared a life-sized “permantized” plastic figure of Miss Hayworth which it will ship to Task Force Frigid in Fairbanks, Alaska, with the request that the figure be buried in the snows—down to the earth—so that posterity 100 years from today can dig it up and see “what one of the most beautiful girls of 1947 looked like.”
[34]
Two years after Operation Crossroads, Hayworth’s official studio biography revisited the alleged atomic honor:
When some of her devoted GI fans – of whom she has literally millions – pasted her photograph upon the first atom bomb tested at Bikini, Rita’s picture hit the front pages of newspapers all over the world.[35]
And the legend continued to rear its head from time to time in the ensuing years: In 1970 a major profile on Hayworth in the New York Times Magazine referenced the now distant bomb story as Exhibit B (after that famous Life photo) in the case for her 1940s superstardom:
The girl with the long dark red hair whose pin-up was the most reproduced picture of a star in the history of Life magazine; whose picture adorned The Atomic Bomb (try living with that) [Emphasis in original].[36]
And no less a figure than Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. the pilot of the Enola Gay – the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima – repeated the Time magazine version of the Hayworth legend (pin-up pasted to the bomb) in his 1978 autobiography, The Tibbets Story.[37] It was, apparently, too good a story to pass up even though Tibbets, who lost the competition to pilot the Able test plane, was only peripherally involved in Operation Crossroads.[38]
Of course, most of the Rita Hayworth biographies make note of the bomb legend and present it as a fact.[39] The 1983 Joe Morella and Edward Z. Epstein book Rita: The Life of Rita Hayworth even offers a direct quote from Hayworth herself on the matter. Unfortunately, the authors provide no context for her alleged remarks (when it was said, to whom, etc.) and there are no footnotes, so it is impossible to determine the reliability of the following quote. It is being included below for the sake of completeness and because the thrust of the comment is supported by an on-the-record interview with Orson Welles contained in the next book to be examined in this article.
It was Harry Cohn’s idea to put my picture on that bomb. I was under contract, and they threatened to put me on suspension if I put up a fuss. Harry was…the Gestapo at Columbia. I hate war…That whole bomb thing made me sick to my stomach. My two brothers fought in the war; they were never the same when they came home.[40]
Barbara Leaming’s far more scholarly 1989 biography, If This Was Happiness contains a properly cited author interview with Orson Welles that leaves no doubt that (a.) Hayworth believed that the bomb legend was absolutely true and (b.) she was horrified by it. Indeed, here Welles expands on the dismay that his wife felt – a revulsion that he was only able to hint at in his 1946 radio broadcast:
“Rita used to fly into terrible rages all the time,” Welles recalled, “but the angriest was when she found out that they’d put her on the atom bomb. Rita almost went insane, she was so angry. She was so shocked by it! Rita was the kind of person that kind of thing would hurt more than anybody. She wanted to go to Washington to hold a press conference, but Harry Cohn (president of Columbia Pictures) wouldn’t let her because it would be unpatriotic.”
On the phone with Orson, Rita insisted that Cohn had himself been responsible for the Gilda-bomb, as a sick publicity stunt, but Orson tried to persuade her that it probably wasn’t so.[41]
Why Leaming omitted reference to the contemporaneous public disclosures (Welles’ broadcast and the Winchell column) of the star’s unhappiness with the bomb “honor,” is not known. In view of Hayworth’s reported fury with the Columbia Publicity department, the senior flack who decided against involving the star in a flying saucer stunt to promote her first film after GILDA, DOWN TO EARTH (1947), should be commended. Specifically, on July 9, 1947, Ben Serkowitch, advertising and publicity head for Columbia, responded to a teletype pitch that Hayworth state to the press that neither she nor her latest picture were “responsible for [UFO] phenomena despite atom bomb named for her at Bikini.” Serkovich replied: “Wouldn’t touch flying disc story. Would be fearful make Hayworth ridiculous. Story could be too much of a boomerage [sic]. Forget it.”[42]
Lo-Columbia Teletype
Outside of the expected mentions in Hayworth biographies and Cold War history tomes, many popular culture books including Otto Friedrich’s City of Nets have also noted Rita’s alleged co-starring role with an atomic bomb. The whole “atomic Rita” notion is, without a doubt, an iconic synergy that has proven irresistible to writers over the decades and helps explain why the legend persists to this day.[43]
Finally, there is the lengthy New York Times obituary for Hayworth published on May 16, 1987 that perhaps more than any single article or book solidifies the bomb story as fact. And in an unsupported leap, the author of the obituary links Hayworth’s famed 1941 Life magazine pin-up with the Bikini bomb (only he gets the date wrong on the pin-up and misstates the origin of Hayworth’s association with Life):
Her performance in “Cover Girl” with Gene Kelly in 1944, earned Miss Hayworth the attention of Life magazine, which printed a photograph of her, posed seductively in black lace, that became famous around the world as an American servicemen’s pinup. In what was intended, no doubt, as the ultimate compliment, the picture was even pasted to a test atomic bomb that was dropped on Bikini atoll in 1946.[44]
CRACKS IN THE MYTH

Lo-What's Wrong-Gilda 
After more than sixty years in circulation, the Rita Hayworth bomb legend is firmly entrenched in Hollywood lore. But the most sensational element of the tale—that Hayworth’s image in all its 1940s glory was rendered (or pasted) onto the atomic bombshell that was exploded over Bikini Atoll in 1946—falls apart upon the most rudimentary inspection. This is not to say that our investigation did not have its moments of renewed faith. Remember – CONELRAD wanted this story to be as true and as verifiable as Humphrey Bogart’s toupee![45]
The first crack in the armor of the legend came when the archivists and the historian at the Los Alamos National Laboratory informed us that they had no photograph or film footage of the bomb with Hayworth’s image on it.[46] The extremely helpful Los Alamos staff referred us to the Media Collections department at the Defense Threat Reduction Information Analysis Center (DRTRIAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico but this group came up empty as well.[47] The National Archives and Records Administration informed us (after a six week search) that they, too, were unable to locate photographic evidence of Hayworth on the bomb.[48]
But in a rare example of luck in the Hayworth quest, Los Alamos had also provided CONELRAD with the contact information for one of the two weaponeers[49] who armed the Able bomb onboard Dave’s Dream on July 1, 1946 – Leon D. Smith. Smith, who at 88 still performs lectures around the country, was happy to speak with us and, for a brief shining moment, provided a healthy dose of hope.

When asked if he remembered an image of Hayworth being on the Able weapon, Smith confirmed that he did. When asked if he recalled what the image looked like and where it was on the bomb, he replied: “I thought it was something very revealing. I remember it being more of an evening gown… if I look at the nose from the rear of the bomb, I thought it was in the upper left-hand quadrant – up in the front of the bomb.” Smith also confirmed to CONELRAD that he believed that the image was a painting as opposed to a pin-up photograph and that the height of the rendering was approximately 30 inches.
When asked if he knew who had originated the idea for the Hayworth theme, Smith was quite candid:
“No, I don’t, but it was very popular with us because we had been overseas and sort of starved for sex. And we had pictures of Rita overseas, so I was just delighted to see her picture on the bomb.”[50]
With a reinvigorated sense of purpose courtesy of Mr. Smith’s recollections, CONELRAD endeavored to view every available film that might contain footage of the Able bomb. As it turned out, we did not need to look any further than Netflix because they had Robert Stone’s brilliant and definitive documentary on the 1946 tests, RADIO BIKINI (1988), available for rental.
Not unlike the Zapruder film, RADIO BIKINI is an essential key to unraveling the Hayworth bomb mystery. The filmmaker, Mr. Stone, obtained all of the available footage of the weapon through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the Defense Nuclear Agency.[51] The footage, as seen in the documentary, shows the weapon being sealed by the engineers with additional shots of a calm looking fellow putting the finishing touches on what appears to be a stenciled logo of the name “Gilda.”



There is, alas, no Hayworth image to be seen in this black and white section of the film. Nor can it be seen in the color footage of the bomb emerging from a pit underneath the B-29, Dave’s Dream, where it was about to be loaded for its final send-off.


CONELRAD contacted Robert Stone to ask him if he remembered seeing any image of Hayworth in the archival research for his documentary. In his e-mail response he stated that he had not and then added the following rationale for why he doubts its existence:
The thing that makes me doubt that there was a picture of her on the bomb is that if there was I'm sure I would have found it. If I had not used it in the film I would have certainly used it for publicity. The fact that I didn't leads me to believe that no picture exists. And if no picture exits then I doubt her image was ever on the bomb because why do it if you don't photograph it? I suspect (though I could be wrong) that all they did was stencil the word GILDA on it and sign their names as shown in the film. Remember, that footage was shot as they were loading the bomb onto the plane. So if it's not there in the film then I can't imagine when they could have added her image. And why stencil her name if you were planning to also paint her or paste a photo? My sense is that this is a myth. If I were a betting man, that’s where I would place my money.[52]
Some may be surprised by the vehemence of Stone’s opinion, but he is one of two people who know the full history of the Bikini tests better than anyone else. And his archival research credentials are impeccable as anyone who has seen his documentaries (including GUERILLA: THE TAKING OF PATTY HEARST and OSWALD’S GHOST) can attest. The other person who knows Bikini A-bomb history like the back of his hand is Jonathan M. Weisgall, the author of the definitive book on the subject: Operation Crossroads: The Atomic Tests at Bikini Atoll. Weisgall, who also served as an associate producer on RADIO BIKINI, told CONELRAD in a telephone interview that he had not seen photographic evidence of the Hayworth image either.[53]
DIVING DEEPER: CROSSROADS SURVIVORS AND THE ORIGIN OF “GILDA”
With the pendulum swinging once again far away from the possibility that Hayworth’s image was on the Able bomb, CONELRAD decided to go the extra mile and track down other people who may have had direct contact with the weapon. Unfortunately, the crew members of Dave’s Dream, with the exception of Leon D. Smith, had either passed away or could not be located.[54] Besides Smith’s current recollections, the only crew testimony regarding the bomb itself that CONELRAD was able to find was in a June 30, 1946 first person Associated Press account written by Major Harold H. Wood, the bombardier for the mission. The story is notable for the reverence in which Wood and his fellow flight mates hold the weapon. But was it reverence that prevented the crew members from commenting on Rita Hayworth’s image being on the atomic bomb or was it because “she” simply was not on it? The following are excerpts from Wood’s dispatch:
I’ve just seen the atom bomb for the first time. It gives you a funny feeling. It’s quite a thrill… As Maj. Bill Adams, our navigator said, “It gives you a very respectful feeling. It’s fantastic to feel you have so much power there.” Capt. Paul Chenchar, our radar operator, took it more calmly. All he said was: “I was just curious. Now I’m satisfied.”[55]
CONELRAD had better luck locating members of the Assembly Division team[56] who were based onboard the Albemarle ship where the Able weapon resided during its final construction prior to being trucked over to the pit under the B-29 on Kwajalein Atoll as seen in RADIO BIKINI.[57] The following are the individual responses to the $64,000 question:
Assembly Team member Phil Dailey: “I remember we had ‘Gilda’ [stenciled], but I don’t remember an image.”[58]
Assembly Team member Glenn Fowler: “I was on the team that loaded the bomb and there was no Rita Hayworth on it.”[59]
Assembly Team member Bryan Arthur: “Her image was not on the (bomb) casing itself.” Arthur then goes on to state that he recalls a pin-up of Hayworth having been pasted to the white canvass that covered the bomb while it was being transported from the ship to the pit.[60] This lead is examined in greater detail under Appendix B, “Loose Ends.”
And then there is Thomas Lanahan, the “scientist” quoted in the contemporaneous United Press wire accounts of the Hayworth bomb, who provided to CONELRAD the most extensive explanation of the GILDA story that there is ever likely to be. Lanahan, it should be pointed out, is the only named source in any of the original press coverage of the Gilda bomb story.[61] Equally important to note is that Lanahan, a still sharp man of 88, disputes some of the details attributed to him in the U.P. stories as published in the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1946. In fact, Lanahan stated to CONELRAD that he does not remember speaking to any journalist regarding the Gilda bomb.


KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA  Thomas B. Lanahan with ‘Crossroads’ scrapbook, 02/21/09

Perhaps the most reliable indicator of Mr. Lanahan’s intimate knowledge of the Gilda bomb legend was his nearly immediate recognition of why he was being contacted on the telephone for an interview. In the cases of the other Crossroads veterans, a lengthier explanation of the purpose of the inquiry was, quite understandably, required before their memories surfaced. Not so with Lanahan. He chimed in almost before the question could be asked and asserted that there was no image, just the stenciled name “Gilda.” When asked if he was certain, he said without hesitation: “Absolutely, it was just a stencil.”
There is, of course, a reason the outspoken Manhattan Project engineer (he was not, as the U.P. stories cast him, a “scientist”) had “Gilda” closer in mind than the other interview subjects: it was his idea to name the bomb after the iconic Hayworth performance and he still has the actual stencil used to ink the character’s name onto the casing of the weapon.[62] When the respected Hollywood appraiser and historian Anthony Slide was asked by CONELRAD to assess the value of this truly unique Cold War artifact (the stencil), his response was priceless: “That is an impossibly weird, odd item. I wouldn’t even know how to begin to set a value on that.”[63]
Lo-gilda-stencil-1

Lanahan, who was an assistant to the head of the B Division Assembly Division, Roger S. Warner, recalled for CONELRAD how the idea for naming the bomb came about. He stated that “We saw the movie [GILDA] the night before on the island [Kwajalein] and we liked Rita.” Upon leaving the open air base theater,[64] Lanahan said that he threw out the idea of dubbing the weapon “Gilda.” His half dozen or so friends agreed with the concept, but threw out some other movie star names such as “Laura” for the Gene Tierney vehicle. But it was “Gilda” that stuck and back onboard the Albemarle Lanahan’s superiors approved the lighthearted gesture. In fact, according to Lanahan, one of his bosses held the stencil while he performed the preliminary inking onto the bomb (The stencil itself was created by a man named “Boatman” in the photographic shop onboard the ship). Lanahan does not recognize the person seen in the RADIO BIKINI footage smoothing out his ink job.[65]
CONELRAD's Bill Geerhart holds the 'Gilda' stencil
CONELRAD editor Bill Geerhart with the stencil used on the Able atomic bomb 

When asked about whether an image of Hayworth was ever even considered for the bomb, Lanahan states that the idea for the name came only a day or two before the actual detonation. He then adds: “If we had weeks, we probably would have painted something.” Lanahan also dismisses one press report that suggested that the naming of the bomb had been a “christening” ceremony that had also been referenced in the official Operation Order: “God no, it was very informal.”

Lo-AtomSplitter-Diploma A lighthearted souvenir from Thomas B. Lanahan’s time on ‘Crossroads’

Lanahan does not try to explain how a simple stencil inscription snowballed into a major news story worthy of radio comment from Orson Welles. When asked to conjecture, he laughs and says simply: “I can’t answer that.” Lanahan does allow that the press was not above getting creative with their stories.[66] There were, as pointed out earlier in this article, 175 print and broadcast reporters all starved for news on Operation Crossroads—an atmosphere that apparently produced its share of journalistic shenanigans. In its July 15, 1946 edition Time magazine reported on some of the reportorial malfeasance that occurred:
Some of the boys, anxious to get their stories moving ahead of their rivals, wrote “eye-witnessers” in advance. One even faked an “interview” with Bombardier Harold H. Wood, the man who dropped the bomb. (“It was like dropping a cherry on a frosted flake.”) And to make it authentic, the reporter added a personal detail: “I was thrown against the bulkhead and my typewriter knocked off the table by the jarring blast.” When the bomb actually did fall, the reporter hustled off to make sure his first story had not been sent. The A-blast had not even been felt aboard the ship.[67]
If someone was willing to fake an interview with the bombardier, the brazen embellishment of the Hayworth story begins to sound more plausible. As for the insinuation in some of the subsequent reporting[68] that Hayworth’s studio might have had some involvement in the origin of the Gilda bomb, Lanahan is unequivocal: “Oh, God, no. Absolutely none.”[69]
With all of this additional evidence and testimony, CONELRAD decided that it was time to check back in with the Dave’s Dream weaponeer, Leon D. Smith. After mailing screen print-outs of the Gilda weapon from RADIO BIKINI to him and advising him of the recollections of the surviving members of the assembly team, Mr. Smith’s memory remained unchanged: “I remember it so clearly,” he told us in a follow-up telephone interview. Mr. Smith stands by his original statements of having seen the image of Hayworth on the Able weapon.[70]

As the Hayworth investigation was winding down in February of 2009, Thomas Lanahan invited CONELRAD’s Bill Geerhart to his Pleasanton, California home to review his career scrapbooks. On February 21, 2009 Geerhart did just that and was impressed with the many other documented accomplishments of the man who named the fourth atomic bomb, “Gilda.” On one page of one of the decades-spanning scrapbooks there is Lanahan’s Manhattan Project service certificate, on another there is a photo of him standing next to J. Robert Oppenheimer, on another there is a letter of thanks from NASA for his engineering work on the Apollo 11 mission (work performed with a company he was employed with after leaving Los Alamos, S. Blickman). On another page there is a photograph of Lanahan and his wife attending an inaugural ball for President John F. Kennedy.

Lo-Lanahan-Oppie

Yet even with all these accomplishments under his belt, Thomas Lanahan has never forgotten the “Gilda” stunt. “Over the years, he talked about it all the time,” says Lanahan’s childhood friend and Operation Crossroads colleague, William Jamieson.[71] It is a testament to the enduring star power of Rita Hayworth that she rates so high on the resume of a man who worked on two of the biggest projects of the 20th Century: Manhattan and Apollo.

As it turned out, the reviews of the performance of the “Gilda” bomb were not as kind as the ones afforded to GILDA, the motion picture.[72] The bomb was dropped off course of its target and the observers were stationed so far away that the explosion did not live up to its massively hyped advance billing.[73] The Washington Post made the criticism personal with this article headline from July 3, 1946: “Big Let-Down, What Was Wrong with Gilda?”[74] And, according to a United Press dispatch, Russian observer Professor Simon Alexandrov was unimpressed with the Able explosion, too: He “shrugged his shoulders and pointed to the rapidly rising, brilliantly colored cloud and said, ‘Not so much.’”[75]
Lo-Bikini Variety Review

The Hollywood trade paper Variety panned the radio coverage if not the test itself in classic, succinct fashion on the front page of its July 3, 1946 edition: “ZZZ-ZZZ-Pffffz-Zzzz, ZZZ-Pfffz-ZZ-ZzzzZ, ZZZ-Pffffff-PFFF-ZZZ.”[76]
Lo-Atomic Suicide

A 23-year-old registered nurse in Los Angeles was—tragically—more impressed than Variety with the broadcast reportage. Indeed, the Los Angeles Times reported in its July 1, 1946 edition that Susanah Gregory was so “depressed by the radio accounts of the atomic bomb test at Bikini yesterday [that she] leaped to her death from the top of the 13 story apartment building at 626 S. Rampart Blvd…”[77]
The second Operation Crossroads test, “Baker,” was a far more spectacular detonation, but the nickname for that bomb, “Helen of Bikini” lacked the lightening-in-a-bottle inspiration of “Gilda.” It also lacked the novelty of being the first live, media-covered test. In an odd career parallel to the diminished interest in the “Helen” / Baker test, Rita Hayworth never again had a film role as memorable as “Gilda.”[78] In fact, the actress became so identified with the iconic character that she is said to have once remarked “Men fell in love with ‘Gilda,’ but they woke up with me.”[79]

There will never be another GILDA.[80]
Rita-Gilda-Folkie

APPENDIX A: CONCLUSIONS

Gilda-Bomb-PrepareforTransport

  1. Based on the government released film footage of the Able weapon contained in the documentary RADIO BIKINI and the majority eyewitness testimony regarding the appearance of the bomb, it is CONELRAD’s opinion that Rita Hayworth’s likeness was not on the Able weapon detonated over Bikini Lagoon at exactly 34 seconds after 9:00 A.M. Bikini Local Time on July 1, 1946 (approximately 5:01 P.M., June 30, 1946 Eastern Standard Time).[81] It is CONELRAD’s opinion that the erroneous detail about the Hayworth image being on the bomb may have been the result of misinformation or gossip from an Operation Crossroads source or the result of a reporter trying to spice up the existing (and true) “Gilda” bomb naming story to ensure better “play.” It is also possible, but unlikely, that a Hayworth pin-up was pasted to the canvas tarp covering the weapon during its transport from the assembly ship to the pit under the B-29 (see Appendix B, item number 1, below). If this was the case, it becomes easier to understand how the facts became twisted to the point that in the published stories Hayworth’s image winds up on the bomb itself. CONELRAD did not uncover any photographic evidence to support Operation Crossroads Assembly Team member Bryan Arthur’s recollection that an image of Hayworth was pasted to the tarp covering the weapon.

  2. Based on the RADIO BIKINI film footage that CONELRAD has posted on YouTube (see bibliography), the contemporaneous press coverage, and the current interviews conducted for this article, it is CONELRAD’s opinion that the bomb was named “Gilda” after the iconic Rita Hayworth role in the film of the same name.

  3. Based on all of the facts gathered during this investigation, CONELRAD has determined that Thomas B. Lanahan III is the man responsible for naming the Able bomb “Gilda” and for facilitating the stenciling of the name onto the weapon.
APPENDIX B: LOOSE ENDS

Bomb-Transport-2

1. RE: The possibility that the Hayworth image was on the white canvass covering the Able weapon during its truck transport from the Albemarle ship to the pit beneath the B-29 Superfortress airplane, Dave’s Dream:

There is no visible image of Hayworth on the white tarp covering the Able weapon as seen in the film footage contained in the documentary RADIO BIKINI. However, this footage depicts only one side of the covered weapon. Additionally, in a footnote to a footnote to history, Operation Crossroads staff members Thomas Lanahan, Phil Dailey and Glenn Fowler all confirmed to CONELRAD that there was a “dummy run” of a decoy bomb to throw the media and others off of the transport and loading of the real Able weapon.[82]

The filmmaker Robert Stone confirmed to CONELRAD that the footage of the tarp-covered bomb transport as seen in his 1988 documentary, RADIO BIKINI, is that of the actual weapon. Stone also confirmed that newsreel footage of the decoy charade exists. CONELRAD has located some of this film and has posted it on YouTube. This staged footage stands in stark contrast to the declassified filmed record in RADIO BIKINI. For one thing, there are no armed MPs seen in the actual, surprisingly casual transport footage (there are armed MPs in the staged footage). For another, the newsreel footage and accompanying narration present a woefully unconvincing record of the transport of an “atomic bomb.” It depicts two men—filmed from behind—wheeling what appears to be a small object toward the B-29. Considering the actual size of the weapon, it is clear that the men are transporting something other than an atomic bomb (perhaps a case of beer?). But then again, this was one year after World War II, a time when the appearance of the atomic bomb was still a tightly controlled secret.


Newspaper accounts from this period also reported that the Able weapon was, for a time, housed in a “heavily guarded barbed wire compound” on the island of Kwajalein. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a photograph of Marines guarding an “A-Bomb Bunk before blast” in its July 1, 1946 edition. At least one newspaper article reported that the bomb was behind a “canvass-covered area on the island.”[83] In his book, Operation Crossroads: The Atomic Tests at Bikini Atoll, Jonathan M. Weisgall describes “a group of Quonset huts and a cement vault that housed the device.” However, the declassified film of the bomb’s transport and loading contained in RADIO BIKINI and interviews conducted for this article contradict the notion that the Able weapon was housed temporarily in such an structure.[84]

Was there a reason other than security that such a ruse was perpetrated? Robert Stone offered CONELRAD his opinion:
I would assume that the real bomb was loaded out of site the day before or very early in the a.m. The whole show was a big PR stunt so if it enhanced the drama to convince the press that the bomb was being loaded before their eyes behind a shroud just hours before the test, well so much the better. Covering it up like that also enhanced the sense of secrecy, of conveying the feeling that the U.S. had something so novel and mysterious that it could not even be seen. It also may have been meant to give the impression that we had a bunch of these weapons and that they could be rolled out and loaded on to bombers at a moment’s notice, something that was not actually the case.[85]
While it is unlikely that an image of Hayworth was pasted on the white canvass covering the Able weapon or the white canvass divider (or “shroud”) put up next to the B-29 for the benefit of the staged newsreel footage, we are leaving this possibility open in the hopes that someone will come forward with additional information.

2. RE: Whether all sources for photographs of the Able weapon have been exhausted:

In addition to the Los Alamos National Laboratory archives, the National Archives and Records Administration and the Defense Threat Reduction Information Analysis Center referenced in the main article, CONELRAD contacted the Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico because this entity maintains its own photographic archive. On May 12, 2009 we received a response from a representative from the Sandia Corporate Archives: “We have reviewed the negatives, photographs, and images we have of Dave’s Dream and the weapon loading procedure. There are a few photographs that show the tarp, but we see no images of any kind on it. It is just a plain white tarp.” See Robert Stone’s response above regarding the “shroud” (aka “tarp”) and click here to see a sample photograph showing the white tarp next to the Dave’s Dream B-29 from the Sandia Corporate Archives. In a follow-up telephone call with the Sandia representative, it was confirmed that their archives have no photographs of the Able weapon itself.[86]


During the course of interviewing the Operation Crossroads veterans for this article we asked if any had taken and / or kept snapshots of the weapon for their personal collections. Each man stated they had not taken photos of the weapon and had no photos of the weapon. CONELRAD also contacted the daughter of Los Alamos National Laboratory photographer Berlyn B. Brixner (1911 - ). Kathleen Brixner asked her father about Operation Crossroads and the Able weapon but he responded to her that other than attending the tests at Bikini, he does not recall much of substance related to the event.[87]

CONELRAD identified one other possible source for photography of the Able weapon: The Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. On February 12, 2009 we submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to this organization for any photographs of the Able bomb. We will amend this article to reflect the outcome of this request.
3. RE: Whether the Able test “Operation Order” was located by CONELRAD for this article. According to a July 1, 1949 Associated Press dispatch quoted in the main article (and below for convenience), this allegedly “official” order contained a remarkably lighthearted explanation for the naming of the weapon.
“Gilda,” the Hollywood name painted on the bomb, caught official fancy here, too. Today’s operation order included the statement that Manhattan District scientists dubbed the missile “Gilda” because Rita Hayworth’s acting in a picture by that name “kept us awake nights.”[88]
On February 10, 2009 CONELRAD filed a request with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) seeking to locate a copy of the Operation Order. In a letter dated February 25, 2009, a NARA representative informed CONELRAD that a search of their files found that they likely do not have such a document. The NARA representative then referred us to the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA). We submitted a request for a search of their records on March 2, 2009. A representative from AFHRA responded to CONELRAD’s inquiry in a letter dated March 10, 2009 stating that while they do have over a thousand pages related to the Able and Baker tests, they “do not have the staff to hand search this for an unofficial request.” An offer was included with the letter to purchase microfilm of the documents. CONELRAD may pursue this lead at a later date.

It should be noted, however, that based on the no-nonsense content of the Joint Task Force One Operation Order, it is highly unlikely that a frivolous activity such as naming the bomb “Gilda” would have made it into an official document. Alan B. Carr, the Laboratory Historian of Los Alamos confirmed to CONELRAD in a February 10, 2009 e-mail that of the Operation Orders that he has seen (Los Alamos does not have the Able Operation Order), the inclusion of the trivia about “Gilda” would have been a major departure from the technical nature of these types of documents. The content of the Joint Task Force One Operation Order supports Mr. Carr’s assessment and casts doubt on the Associated Press’s account. It is possible the A.P. was reporting on a “gag” Operation Order produced by the fun-loving Manhattan District engineers and scientists.


4. RE: Whether Rita Hayworth’s true displeasure with the bomb “honor” was referenced in her FBI file:

CONELRAD consulted with Adrienne L. McLean, the author of Being Rita Hayworth: Labor, Identity, and Hollywood Stardom on this question. McLean re-reviewed her 207 page copy of Hayworth’s FBI file and found no reference to the bomb. CONELRAD did not review Orson Welles’ FBI file, but we may do so in the future. If any mention is made of his (or his wife’s) opposition to the bomb, we will update this article.

5. RE: The identity of the person who named the second Operation Crossroads bomb (for Test Baker) “Helen of Bikini.”
This question was asked of the Operation Crossroads veterans interviewed by CONELRAD for this article and no one knew the identity. Author Jonathan M. Weisgall provides some additional detail of the “Helen” art work in his definitive history Operation Crossroads: The Atomic Tests at Bikini Atoll:
Someone had anonymously scrawled the words “Helen of Bikini” on the side of the Baker bomb, and the name stuck. It was discovered when President Truman’s evaluation commission, headed by Senator (Carl A.) Hatch, made its final inspection of the bomb. Bradley Dewey, another member of the board, suggested the name Moby Dick, so that observers could shout “Thar she blows!” but he was voted down. Senator Hatch, not to be outdone by the anonymous Kilroy, got in a plug for Los Alamos and his home state by chalking the words “Made in New Mexico” on the outside of the watertight caisson holding the bomb.
6. RE: Whether President Truman’s Evaluation Commission or the Joint Chiefs of Staff Evaluation Board made note of the appearance of the Able (aka Gilda) weapon:

CONELRAD attempted to research the notes of these two committees at the National Archives and Records Administration, but many of the files remain classified. If and when CONELRAD is able to review these files via Freedom of Information Act requests or other means, we will update this article.

It should be noted here that the physical appearance of the Able weapon and the whole “Gilda” legend was ignored by the official historian of Operation Crossroads, William A. Shurcliff (1909-2006). Shurcliff wrote two books on the tests: “Bombs at Bikini: The Official Report of Operation Crossroads” (1947) and “Operation Crossroads, the Official Pictorial Record (1946) and there is not a single mention of Rita Hayworth or “Gilda.”

7. RE: Whether the “Gilda” bomb legend is dramatized in the 1983 television movie biopic, Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess starring Lynda Carter.

In the interest of thoroughness (and morbid curiosity), CONELRAD viewed this film and, unfortunately, the bomb legend did not make the cut (but Michael Lerner’s ferocious portrayal of Columbia Pictures mogul Harry Cohn was worth the price of the rental). It should be noted that the source material for the screenplay of this movie, John Kobal’s 1977 biography Rita Hayworth: The Time, the Place, the Woman does include an account of the bomb legend.

8. RE: Whether the late comedic actress Gilda Rader (1946-1989) was named after the 1946 Rita Hayworth film, GILDA:

Gilda Radner, who was born on June 28, 1946 (during the original theatrical run of the film GILDA and just a few days before the July 1, 1946 detonation of the atomic bomb of the same name), confirmed in her autobiography, It’s Always Something, that she was indeed named for the Hayworth role. Specifically, on page 92 of the book she writes “I was named after my grandmother whose name began with ‘G,’ but GILDA came directly from the movie with Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth.”
RE: Whether the bikini bathing suit was inspired by the Operation Crossroads tests at Bikini.

Fashion designer Louis Reard introduced the “Bikini” swimsuit in France on July 5, 1946 – four days after the first Operation Crossroads atomic test at Bikini Atoll. Reard never stated why he chose the name, but he was a competitor to another French two-piece swimwear designer, Jacques Heim, who called his creation “atome.” The name “bikini,” of course, stuck.[89]

APPENDIX C: GILDA FILM REVIEW EXCERPTS

Brightened-Hayworth-Shawshank-2
GILDA, Rita Hayworth’s most famous film, is today recognized as a classic, but when it was released in 1946 it was much more of a popular hit than it was a critical darling.[90] As author Gene Ringgold put it, “It was the film which the returned GIs took their wives and sweethearts to see.”[91] According to a 1947 Variety ranking of the 60 top grossing films of 1946, GILDA came in at number 20 with a take of $3,750,000 at the box office.[92] And Hayworth’s post-Bikini Atoll star power was such that the film was re-titled LA VEDETTE ATOMIQUE (The Atomic Star) in France.[93] Ms. Hayworth’s GILDA-era magic is best known to today’s generation from the 1994 film adaptation of Stephen King’s short novel Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION). There is probably no better representation of Hayworth’s mass-audience appeal than the look on the prisoners’ faces—particularly the expressions of Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins—appreciating the famous GILDA hair toss scene.

Brightened-Hayworth-Shawshank-1

In addition to its immediate popular acclaim, GILDA also received, along with a few pans, its fair share of positive notices from the press. The following then is a comprehensive sampling of the original critical reaction to GILDA. From these review excerpts—positive and negative—it is apparent that Rita Hayworth was a performer who registered with reviewers regardless of their overall opinion of the film. Indeed, Ms. Hayworth may have had her biggest impact on the curmudgeonly and Victorian Bosley Crowther of the New York Times which is as good a place as any to start:
“Miss Hayworth, who plays in this picture her first straight dramatic role, gives little evidence of a talent that should be commended or encouraged. She wears many gowns of shimmering luster and tosses her tawny hair in glamorous style, but her manner of playing a worldly woman is distinctly five-and-dime. A couple of times she sings song numbers, with little distinction and wiggles through a few dance numbers that are nothing short of crude.”
-- Bosley Crowther, “The Screen; Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford Stars of ‘Gilda’ at Music Hall,” New York Times, March 15, 1946
Brightened-Hayworth-Shawshank-Poster-3
“However, it stacks up as a lavish, spectacular show that is enough to attract audiences in these days of easy come, easy go.”
-- Norman Lusk, “Gilda’ Baffles Critics; Showy Values Conceded,” Los Angeles Times, March 26, 1946
“After seeing the preview of ‘Gilda,’ I’d say Rita Hayworth need not depend upon her beauty or dancing for pictures. She displayed real dramatic ability.”
-- Hedda Hopper, “Looking at Hollywood (column),” Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1946
“Practically all the s.a. [sex appeal] habiliments of the femme fatale have been mustered for ‘Gilda,’ and when things get trite and frequently far-fetched, somehow, at the drop of a shoulder strap, there is always Rita Hayworth to excite the filmgoer. When story interest lags, she’s certain to shrug a bare shoulder, toss her tawny head in an intimately revealing close-up, or saunter teasingly through the celluloid. She dissipates the theories, if any, that sex has its shortcomings as a popular commodity. Miss Hayworth will do business.”
-- Kahn., “Gilda,” Variety review, March 20, 1946
“’Gilda’ (Columbia) is the result of ambrosial Rita Hayworth's desire to prove that she can act. She proves it fully as well as the next Hollywood girl (unless that girl happens to have specific talent for acting), but mainly, as always before, she proves that she is such a looker that nothing else much matters.”
-- “The New Pictures,” Time magazine, April 1, 1946
“Rita Hayworth, going heavily dramatic for the first time in ‘Gilda,’ proves herself a smarter show woman. For how this glorious pin-up does emote in this one! What a glittering gamut of drama she reveals plus much of her beautiful self while also singing and dancing! The result is an exciting, glamorous, rich, ruddy melodrama—and if its plot is most incredible at times, you will be more than willing to ignore it while concentrating on the star… Rita flounces, and Rita flirts, and Rita rumbas, and all the time she tries to give Glenn the impression that she’s mighty wicked.”
-- Ruth Waterbury, “Rita at Peak in ‘Gilda,’” Los Angeles Examiner, April 27, 1946
“Rita Hayworth, brilliantly effective as a siren in satin, and Glenn Ford, firmly competent as a minor cardsharp, swept into big league intrigue by force of association, turn in tip-top performances in the Virginia Van Upp production of a sumptuously sordid story about crime, major and minor, in Buenos Aires.”
-- William R. Weaver, “Gilda,” Review, Motion Picture Herald, March 16, 1946
“It’s a whizzer, this one—just the sort of movie, spelled capital MOVIE – that can’t miss, because it’s got nearly everything including two songs and a solo dance by Miss Hayworth, one gown that she wears without shoulder straps and a gaucho ensemble with black tights…Make no mistake about it—‘Gilda’ will click.”
-- Edwin Schallert, “Guilt Gilds Lily in ‘Gilda,’ but All the Gilt’s Not Gold,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 1946
“Miss Hayworth was rather unlucky in her first straight dramatic piece, but she does sing ‘Put the Blame on Mame,’ a good torchy number, just to show she still has the flare for this sort of thing; and she wears some beautiful clothes beautifully.”
-- Philip T. Hartung, “A Well-Dressed Dud,” The Commonweal, April 5, 1946
“Miss Hayworth does what one might expect in the title role of the tramp. But she never makes the character stand up with the perilous and dynamic quality that it demanded.”
-- Howard Barnes, New York Herald Tribune. Review quoted from pp. 162-163 of Gene Ringgold, The Legend and Career of a Love Goddess (Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1974).
“Therefore it is my special pleasure to be able to tell you that in GILDA it is done very well, written with skill, a nice feeling for restraint, and constructed with enough urbanity to make you clean forget for minutes at a time that the proceedings are largely nonsense.”
-- John Maynard, New York Journal-American. Review quoted from pp. 162-163 of Gene Ringgold, The Legend and Career of a Love Goddess (Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1974).
“The characters of the drama are interesting and well enough played and although the story has all the elements of high-class trash, director Charles Vidor and his experienced players have given it considerable holding power, by keeping the audience in suspense from one dramatic shift to another.”
-- New York Daily News by Kate Cameron (who gave the film three and ½ stars). Review quoted from pp. 162-163 of Gene Ringgold, The Legend and Career of a Love Goddess (Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1974).
“With all the possibilities for excitement the movie travels too slowly from one near climax to another, always on the verge of exploding, but never coming out with an honest thrill – except when Miss Hayworth is on screen.
In strapless evening gowns which just barely contain her, Miss Hayworth wiggles through violent emotions…Opulent is the one special word for GILDA.”
-- Louise Levitas, New York PM. Review quoted from pp. 162-163 of Gene Ringgold, The Legend and Career of a Love Goddess (Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1974).
APPENDIX D: MEMBERS OF THE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEES

As mentioned in the main article, there were two official committees assembled to witness the Operation Crossroads tests. The following are the names of the committees and their membership. This information is drawn from the official history of Operation Crossroads: “Bombs at Bikini: The Official Record of Operation Crossroads: Prepared Under the Direction of the Commander of Joint Task Force One” (New York: Wm. H. Wise & Co., Inc., 1947) by William A. Shurcliff, Historian of Joint Task Force One, pp. 182-183.

President’s Evaluation Commission for the Atomic Bomb Tests:
Chairman: Sen. Carl A. Hatch (New Mexico)
Karl T. Compton*
Bradley Dewey*
Sen. Leverett Saltonstall (Mass)
Rep. Chet Holifield (CA)
Rep. Walter G. Andrews (NY)
Edward Condon
Fred Sears
William S. Newell

Joint Chiefs of Staff Examination Board for Operation Crossroads:
Chairman: Karl T. Compton*
Bradley Dewey (Compton’s Deputy)*
Major General Thomas F. Farrell (formerly with the Manhattan Project)
Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell
Lt. Gen. Lewis G. Brereton
Vice Admiral John H. Hoover
Rear Admiral Ralph A. Ofstie
* Served on both committees

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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CONELRAD would like to thank the people who helped make this article as thorough as it is. First and foremost a sincere tip of the hat is in order to the surviving members of Operation Crossroads. Their willingness to share their recollections of the Able test was essential to understanding the truth about the Gilda bomb story. Specifically: Thomas Lanahan, Leon D. Smith, Phil Dailey, Glenn Fowler, Bryan Arthur and William Jamieson. Of this group, special thanks are due to Mr. Lanahan for his hospitality and for opening his records to Bill Geerhart for review.

CONELRAD would also like to thank Alan B. Carr, the Laboratory Historian of Los Alamos and Dan Comstock of the Los Alamos Records Management, Media Services and Operations Group. Thanks, too, to Byron Ristvet and Herbert Hoppe of the Defense Threat Reduction Information Analysis Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And thanks to Myra L. O’Canna and the staff at the Sandia Corporate Archives, also in Albuquerque, for taking the time to research their photographic holdings for any evidence of the elusive Rita Hayworth image.

CONELRAD is indebted to the fine folks at Wellesnet for their online preservation of the remarkable 1946 Orson Welles Bikini radio commentary. It is only because of Wellesnet that this historic audio can be heard from the comfort of one’s own home rather than the Paley Center for Media in New York or Beverly Hills. We have presented the relevant “Bikini” excerpt of the Welles commentary in this article, but it is definitely worth your time to listen to the entire fifteen minute broadcast. It is a fascinating example of early atomic age dissent.

Thanks to Adrienne L. McLean, the author of Being Rita Hayworth: Labor, Identity, and Hollywood Stardom, for her assistance in reviewing the Hayworth FBI file.


Thanks to independent researcher Terry Arbegust for allowing CONELRAD to hear his 1994 interview with Lt. Robert Glen, Dave’s Dream’s flight engineer. Terry conducted a very thorough interview with particular emphasis on the “Gilda” legend.
And, finally, special thanks to filmmaker Robert Stone and author Jonathan M. Weisgall for their invaluable guidance in this obsessive research quest. This article would not exist if it were not for their earlier research. Therefore, if this article has inspired you to learn more about Operation Crossroads, we urge you to view Stone’s RADIO BIKINI and read Weisgall’s Operation Crossroads: The Atomic Tests at Bikini Atoll.

If you wish to learn more about Rita Hayworth, we recommend Barbara Leaming’s If This Was Happiness, Adrienne L. McLean’s Being Rita Hayworth: Labor, Identity, and Hollywood Stardom and the online resource Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess.

Lo-Warner-to-Lanahan-Ltr
BIBLIOGRAPHY

The following are the reference works CONELRAD relied upon in researching this article.

BOOKS

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005) by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin
Being Rita Hayworth: Labor, Identity and Hollywood Stardom (New Brunswick, New Jersey, 2004) by Adrienne L. McLean
Bombs at Bikini: The Official Record of Operation Crossroads: Prepared Under the Direction of the Commander of Joint Task Force One (New York: Wm. H. Wise & Co., Inc., 1947) by William A. Shurcliff, Historian of Joint Task Force One
City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940’s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997) by Otto Friedrich
Dark City: The Los World of Film Noir (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998) by Eddie Muller
The Films of Rita Hayworth: The Legend and Career of a Love Goddess (Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1974) by Gene Ringgold*
If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth (New York: Viking, 1989) by Barbara Leaming*
It’s Always Something (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989) by Gilda Radner
King Cohn: The Life and Times of Harry Cohn (New York: Putnam, 1967) by Bob Thomas
Merchant Prince of Poverty Row: Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures (University Press of Kentucky, 1993) by Bernard F. Dick
Operation Crossroads: The Atomic Tests at Bikini Atoll (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994) by Jonathan M. Weisgall
Operation Crossroads: The Official Pictorial Record (New York: Wm. H. Wise & Co., Inc., 1946) by the Office of the Historian (William A. Shurcliff), Joint Task Force One
Rita: The Life of Rita Hayworth (New York: Delacorte Press, 1983) by Joe Morella and Edward Z. Epstein*
Rita Hayworth: A Memoir (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983) by James Hill
Rita Hayworth: A Photographic Retrospective (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001) by Caren Roberts-Frenzel*
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (published in the collection Different Seasons) (New York: Viking, 1982) by Stephen King
Rita Hayworth: Pyramid History of the Movies (New York: Pyramid Publications, 1976) by Gerald Peary
Rita Hayworth: The Time, the Place, the Woman (London: W.H. Allen, 1977) by John Kobal*
Screen Goddesses (New York: Exeter Books, 1984) by Tom Hutchinson
The Tibbets Story (New York: Stein & Day Publishers, 1978) by Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. with Clair Stebbins and Harry Franken

* Indicates biographical works on Rita Hayworth that present the Bikini atomic bomb legend (the image or pasted-on-pin-up version) as fact. Barbara Leaming’s biography relied on her own interview with Orson Welles for the bomb story, so it should not be viewed in the same light as the other biographies that simply regurgitate the legend from press accounts. Leaming’s book is the best, most reliable work on the life of Rita Hayworth.

FILM / VIDEO
AMERICA’s ATOMIC BOMB TESTS VOLUME 1: THE EARLY TESTS, TRINITY AND OPERATION CROSSROADS (VHS) (1997)
OPERATION CROSSROADS, Newsreel Footage (1946)
(see Online Resources, below, for URLs)
OPERATION CROSSROADS PARTS 1 and 2 (1946)
Jam Handy Organization
(see Online Resources, below, for URLs)
RADIO BIKINI (1988)
Directed by Robert Stone
RITA (TV Documentary) (2003)
Directed by Elaina Archer
RITA HAYWORTH: THE LOVE GODDESS (TV Biopic starring Lynda Carter) (1983)
Directed by James Goldstone
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)
Directed by Frank Darabont
NOTE: CONELAD could not secure a copy of Arthur Barron’s documentary “Rita Hayworth: Dancing into a Dream” (1990), but we were told by a source who has seen it that the bomb legend is mentioned only in passing.

NEWSPAPERS / MAGAZINES

“11 to Leave to Witness Atom Tests,” Daily Capital News (Jefferson City, Missouri), June 21, 1946 by Associated Press
“A-Bomb Named Gilda,” Del Rio (Texas) News-Herald, June 30, 1946 by Associated Press
“The All-American Love Goddess,” Time magazine, May 25, 1987 by Gerald Clarke
“America Through Soviet Eyes,” Public Opinion Quarterly, No. 1, Spring 1947 (page 34) by Alexander Dallin
Associated Press Dispatches: June 30, 1946 and July 1, 1946 [courtesy of the AP Library]
“Atom-Bomb Blast Sinks 2 Ships, Damages 17,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 1, 1946
“Atom Bombing Disappoints, Observers Say,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 1, 1946 by United Press
“Atomic Bomb is Christened ‘Gilda,’ Port Arthur News, June 30, 1946 by Associated Press
“Big Let-Down: What Was Wrong with Gilda,” Washington Post, July 3, 1946 by Ernest K. Lindley
“Bombed and Buried,” Motion Picture Herald, April 12, 1947
“Cameras Record Historic Atom Bomb Test at Bikini,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 1, 1946
“Clear Ships for Bomb Test,” Oelwein (Iowa) Daily Register, June 29, 1946 by Associated Press
“The Cult of the Love Goddess in America,” Life magazine, November 10, 1947 by Winthrop Sargeant
“Fission Figure,” Los Angeles Times, June 30, 1946 by Associated Press
“Gilda,” (Editorial) Oxnard (California) Press-Courier, July 1, 1946
“Gilda: A-Missile Carries Likeness of Actress,” Los Angeles Herald-Express, June 29, 1946 by Associated Press
“Gilda’ Baffles Critics; Showy Values Conceded,” Los Angeles Times, March 26, 1946 by Norbert Lusk
“Gilda” capsule review, Village Voice, June 15, 1982 by Carrie Rickey
“Gilda’ Due Here Friday,” Los Angeles Times, April 22, 1946
“Gilda—Femme Fatale: Scientists, Engineers Christen Test A-Bomb,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 30, 1946 by United Press
GILDA movie advertisement, Reno (Nevada) Evening Gazette, July 1, 1946
GILDA movie advertisement, Evening Observer (Dunkirk, New York), July 1, 1946
“Gilda” review, Motion Picture Herald by William R. Weaver, March 16, 1946
“Gilda” review, Variety, March 20, 1946 by Kahn.
“Gilda’s A-Bomb,” Hollywood Reporter, July 1, 1946
“Guilt Gilds Lily in ‘Gilda,’ but Allthe Gilt’s Not Gold,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 1946 by Edwin Schallert
“Half a Loaf Tale No Good,” Lima (Ohio) News, July 2, 1946 by Walter Kiernan
“Heavy Bomb Guard,” Syracuse Herald-American, June 30, 1946 by United Press
“Hedda Hopper Looking at Hollywood (column), Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1946 by Hedda Hopper
“Helen of Bikini,” Time, August 5, 1946
“Hollywood News” Column, Indiana Evening Gazette, July 3, 1946 by Associated Press
“In the News” Column, Hollywood Citizen-News, July 1, 1946
“The Lyons Den” Column, Amarillo (Texas) Sunday News-Globe, July 7, 1946 by Leonard Lyons
“Multiple-Picture Deal Between Columbia & ICC,” Variety, August 5, 1975
“The New Pictures,” Time magazine, April 1, 1946
“Nurse, Gloomy Over A-Bomb, Leaps to Death,” Los Angeles Times, July 1, 1946
“Only Shift in Weather Could Stop It,” Wisconsin State Journal, June 30, 1946
“Physicist William Shurcliff; Advocated for Public Interest” (Obituary), Washington Post, June 28, 2006 by Adam Bernstein
“A Radio Review,” Variety, July 3, 1946
Rebecca Welles’ death (news of), Chicago Sun-Times, October 27, 2004, by Michael Sneed (column).
“Report from Bikini,” Time, July 15, 1946
“Rita at Peak in ‘Gilda,’ Los Angeles Examiner, April 27, 1946, by Ruth Waterbury
“Rita Hayworth Dead at 68; Love Goddess of the 1940s,” Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York) May 16, 1987 (Obituary mentions bomb story as fact) by Associated Press
“Rita Hayworth, 68, Dies in N.Y., COL’s Shining Light of the ‘40s,” Variety, May 20, 1987 by Todd McCarthy
“Rita Hayworth: Don’t Put the Blame on Me, Boys” New York Times Magazine, October 25, 1970 by John Hallowell
Rita Hayworth, Life magazine, August 11, 1946, photography by Bob Landry. This is the issue that featured the hugely popular pin-up shot of Hayworth in black lace sitting on a bed. The cover of the magazine featured another Landry shot of Hayworth eating a hamburger on the beach in Santa Monica, California. The original text that ran across the pin-up photo in the magazine read: “Rita Hayworth rises from bit parts into a triple-threat song and dance star.” The pin-up version of the photograph plays a crucial role in the Stephen King short novel Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and the 1994 film adaptation THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.
“Rita Hayworth, ‘Love Goddess of ‘40s, Dies,” Los Angeles Times, May 16, 1987 by Gerald Faris (Obituary mentions bomb story as fact).
“Rita Hayworth, Movie Legend, Dies,” New York Times, May 16, 1987 by Albin Krebs (Obituary mentions bomb story as fact).
“Rita Hayworth Thrilled by Atomic Bomb Honor,” Port Arthur News June 30, 1946 by Associated Press
“Rita Honored by Namesake,” Big Spring (Texas) Herald, June 30, 1946 by Associated Press
“Rita Rides A-Bomb,” Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail, June 29, 1946 by Associated Press
“Rita Rides With A-Bomb,” New York Daily News, June 30, 1946 by Associated Press
“The Screen; Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford Stars of ‘Gilda’ at Music Hall,” New York Times, March 15, 1946 by Bosley Crowther
“Test,” Washington Post, July 1, 1946 by Gerald G. Gross
“Test Bomb Named ‘Gilda,’ Honoring Rita Hayworth, New York Times, June 30, 1946 by the United Press
“Test for Mankind,” Time magazine, July 8, 1946
Walter Winchell Column, Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail (and Syndicated), July 5, 1946 by Walter Winchell
“Weather Favorable at Bikini; Bomb to Be Dropped Today,” Washington Post, June 30, 1946 by Associated Press
“A Well-Dressed Dud,” the Commonweal, April 5, 1946 by Philip T. Hartung

ONLINE AUDIO RESOURCES

Orson Welles ABC Radio Network Commentary:
Audio hosted by Wellesnet.com (Visit and support Wellesnet!)
Originally broadcast: June 30, 1946
http://ia360620.us.archive.org/1/items/1946OrsonWellesCommentaries/460630_Bikini_Atomic_Test_64kb.mp3
The Welles audio is also available at the Paley Center for Media in New York and Beverly Hills and it is documented in their online catalog. The catalog is where CONELRAD first discovered the existence of the broadcast.
NOTE: A slideshow version of the Hayworth-specific excerpt from the Welles broadcast is available on CONELRAD’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssTpumBZ9yc

“Rita Hayworth”
NPR, Morning Edition
Originally broadcast: May 2, 2002
http://www.npr.org/programs/morning/features/patc/hayworth/index.html

ONLINE VIDEO RESOURCES

‘GILDA’ ATOMIC BOMB ASSEMBLY FOOTAGE FROM ‘RADIO BIKINI’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgPxOjwD0ss

‘GILDA’ ATOMIC BOMB TRANSPORT / LOADING FOOTAGE FROM ‘RADIO BIKINI’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lDljaU1Spc

OPERATION CROSSROADS, Universal Newsreel Footage (1946):
http://www.archive.org/details/1946-07-01_Operations_Crossroads_Underway

OPERATION CROSSROADS, Unidentified Newsreel Footage that features scenes from the decoy bomb run (1946):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBxC_lzddKg

OPERATION CROSSROADS PART 1 (1946)
Jam Handy Organization
http://www.archive.org/details/Operatio1946

OPERATION CROSSROADS PART 2 (1946)
Jam Handy Organization
http://www.archive.org/details/Operatio1946_2

ONLINE RESOURCES (GENERAL)

American Film Institute Online Catalog (membership required): GILDA Entry (Accessed at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California)
A history of Bikini Atoll with frequent updates on the status of the displaced native population
http://www.bikiniatoll.com/

Sandia National Laboratories Z Division, Photographic History Exhibit
http://www.sandia.gov/recordsmgmt/zdiv.html

STUDIO MATERIAL (Accessed at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California and the Inventory of Columbia Pictures records, 1929-1974, University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center)

Rita Hayworth biography, Columbia Studios, Hollywood, California, dated January 6, 1948, Lou Smith, Director of Publicity
Columbia Publicity Teletype correspondence, July 9, 1947.

UPDATE: RITA HAYWORTH ATOMIC BOMB IMAGE FOUND! GO TO THIS LINK TO SEE THE IMAGE.


[1] Hayworth earned the nickname “The Love Goddess” from a Life magazine cover story: Winthrop Sargeant, “The Cult of the Love Goddess in America,” Life magazine, November 10, 1947.
[2] Albin Krebs, “Rita Hayworth, Movie Legend, Dies,” New York Times, May 16, 1987. The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times also repeated the bomb story in their obituaries for the star. See bibliography.
[3] Todd McCarthy, “Rita Hayworth, 68, Dies in N.Y., Col’s Shining Light of the ‘40s,” Variety, May 20, 1987. McCarthy writes that Hayworth was second only to Betty Grable in terms of World War II pin-up supremacy.
[4] Jonathan M. Weisgall, Operation Crossroads: The Atomic Tests at Bikini Atoll (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1994), p. 180. The B-29, Dave’s Dream, was named in honor of Captain Dave Semple who died during pilot test flight competition for the Able mission.
[5] Ibid., p. 1. On page 16 Weisgall also notes that “by June 1946 the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile consisted of exactly nine bombs, two of which were not operational.”
[6] Ibid., p. 32 (Blandy reveals test site and code name of operation); P. 8 (Operation Crossroads as major news event); p. 33 (Bob Hope reference); pp. 30-31 (broad purpose of tests); p.120 (animals used at Operation Crossroads). Note: See also pages 257-260 of this book for a discussion of the cancellation of the third Crossroads test “Charlie” which was to be a deep underwater test.
[7] Ibid., p. 45 (Atomic Admiral reference); pp. 63-64 (chief defender reference).
[8] Ibid., p. 64.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid. p. 86
[11] Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (New York: Knopf, 2005), pp. 349-350.
[12] Weisgall, Operation Crossroads, p. 108.
[13] Ibid, p. 1 (number of journalists and staff); p. 93 (President’s Evaluation Commission); p. 288 (Joint Chiefs of Staff Evaluation Board).
[14] Please see the newspaper / magazine section of the bibliography that accompanies this article for a full listing of the press coverage of the Rita Hayworth atomic bomb story.
[15] GILDA movie advertisements, Emporia (Kansas) Gazette, July 1, 1946 and the Evening Observer (Dunkirk, New York), July 1, 1946. Per the online American Film Institute Catalog, GILDA was produced between September 4, 1945 and December 10, 1945 and had its New York premiere on March 14, 1946. In the news item “Gilda’s A-Bomb,” Hollywood Reporter, July 1, 1946, the trade paper estimated that the atomic bomb publicity would add “at least another million” to GILDA’s box office returns.
[16] Associated Press, “Rita Rides A-Bomb,” Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail, June 29, 1946.
[17] Associated Press, “Gilda: A-Missile Carries Likeness of Actress,” Los Angeles Herald-Express, June 29, 1946.
[18] United Press, “Test Bomb Named ‘Gilda,’ Honoring Rita Hayworth,” New York Times, June 30, 1946.
[19] AP Wirephoto, “Fission Figure,” Los Angeles Times, June 30, 1946.
[20] CONELRAD reviewed Esquire magazine issues from January 1946 through October 1946 and none had an advertisement for the movie GILDA.
[21] United Press, “GILDA—Femme Fatale: Scientists, Engineers Christen Test A-Bomb,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 30, 1946.
[22] United Press, “Only Shift in Weather Could Stop It,” Wisconsin State Journal, June 30, 1946.
[23] Associated Press Dispatch A45FX, July 1, 1946.
[24] “Test for Mankind,” Time magazine, July 8, 1946.
[25] The only reference CONELRAD could find to “atom lipstick” was in an article (“America Through Soviet Eyes by Alexander Dallin, Public Opinion Quarterly, No. 1, Spring 1947, page 34) that cited a Pravda article from December 11, 1946 decrying America’s “sickly passion for the atom bomb.” According to Public Opinion Quarterly, the Pravda article noted the commercial existence of “atomic lipstick” in American drug stores.
[26] Orson Welles ABC Radio Network Commentary, June 30, 1946. Rebecca Welles, the daughter of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth died of cancer on October 17, 2004: Michael Sneed (column), Chicago Sun-Times, October 27, 2004.
[27] Walter Winchell column, Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail (and syndicated), July 5, 1946.
[28] Associated Press, “Rita Honored by Namesake,” Big Spring (Texas) Herald, June 30, 1946 and Associated Press, “Rita Hayworth Thrilled by Atomic Bomb Honor,” Port Arthur News, June 30, 1946.
[29] It is clear from the context of Winchell’s reference that the “ex-husband” is supposed to be Welles, but per Leaming, If This Was Happiness, p. 171, Welles and Hayworth were not legally divorced until December 1, 1948.
[30] Walter Winchell column, Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail (and syndicated), July 5, 1946.
[31] “Gilda’s A-Bomb,” Hollywood Reporter, July1, 1946.
[32] Walter Kiernan, “Half a Loaf Tale No Good,” Lima (Ohio) News, July 2, 1946.
[33] “Gilda,” editorial, Oxnard (California) Press Courier, July 1, 1946.
[34] “Bombed and Buried,” Motion Picture Herald, April 12, 1947. CONELRAD could find no evidence that this art project ever took place.
[35] Rita Hayworth Biography, Columbia Studios, January 6, 1948, Lou Smith Director of Publicity
[36] John Hallowell, “Rita Hayworth: Don’t Put the Blame on Me, Boys,” New York Times Magazine, October 25, 1970.
[37] Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. with Clair Stebbins and Harry Franken, The Tibbets Story (New York: Stein & Day Publishers, 1978), p. 251.
[38] Weisgall, Operation Crossroads, p. 128.
[39] Hayworth biographies that reference the bomb story as fact are identified by an asterisk in the bibliography.
[40] Joe Morella and Edward Z. Epstein, Rita: the Life of Rita Hayworth (New York: Delacorte Press, 1983), pp. 97-98. Rita Hayworth: the Time, the Place, the Woman by John Kobal (London: W.H. Allen, 1977) is another biography that references the bomb story (pp. 138-139).
[41] Barbara Leaming, If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth (New York: Viking, 1989), pp. 129-130. CONELRAD could find no evidence that Harry Cohn had anything to do with the bomb story.
[42] July 9, 1947, Columbia Publicity Teletype. Found in file, “Flying Saucers, I Love Trouble, July 1947,” Box 6, Folder 3, Inventory of Columbia Pictures records, 1929-1974, University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.
[43] In addition to City of Nets, see Eddie Muller’s Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), p. 98. Other examples can be found in a Google Books query.
[44] Albin Krebs, “Rita Hayworth, Movie Legend, Dies,” New York Times, May 16, 1987. Krebs is mistaken about the year of Hayworth’s iconic black lace photo in Life magazine. The Bob Landry photograph appeared inside the August 11, 1941 issue. Krebs is also mistaken when he states in the obituary that it was the film “Cover Girl” that brought Ms. Hayworth to Life’s attention. She was actually filming “You’ll Never Get Rich” with Fred Astaire in 1941 when Landry took the famous shot. And this was not even Hayworth’s first Life cover. Her first cover (of five during her lifetime) for Life was the July 15, 1940 issue. Presumably, the New York Times obituary for Krebs himself is more accurate (see “Albin Krebs, 73, Obituary Writer,” June 4, 2002). For more on the history of the photograph refer to Susan Stamberg’s May 13, 2002 NPR report. Trivia note: Per page 41 of Operation Crossroads: The Official Pictorial Record (New York: Wise, 1946), the versatile Bob Landry photographed the Bikini atomic tests for Life magazine.
[45] Bogart’s wig wearing has been documented in many of the actor’s biographies, but most notably in A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax’s exhaustive book Bogart (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1997), p. 468.
[46] E-mail to Bill Geerhart from Dan Comstock of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Records Management, Media Services and Operations Group, July 17, 2008.
[47] E-mail to Bill Geerhart from Herbert Hoppe, contractor with Defense Threat Reduction Information Analysis Center, July 21, 2008.
[48] National Archives and Records and Administration response to Bill Geerhart, August 27, 2008.
[49] Smith’s role as weaponeer is documented in several books on Operation Crossroads including page 104 of Bombs at Bikini (New York: Wise, 1947) by William A. Shurcliff. The other weaponeer for the Able test, Ensign David Leonard Anderson, died on March 3, 1996 per his obituary in the Almy Family Newsletter (issue 90, April 1997).
[50] Interview with Leon D. Smith
[51] E-mail to Bill Geerhart from Robert Stone, February 27, 2009.
[52] E-mail to Bill Geerhart from Robert Stone, August 25, 2008.
[53] Telephone interview with Jonathan M. Weisgall, July 3, 2008.
[54] The names of the members of the Dave’s Dream crew were found in the official history of Operation Crossroads, Bombs at Bikini (New York: Wise, 1947) by William A. Shurcliff, p. 104, and contemporaneous newspaper articles. Of the 14 members, 11 were confirmed as deceased, 2 could not be found and the likely sole surviving crew member, Leon D. Smith, was interviewed for this article.
[55] Major Harold H. Wood, Associated Press dispatch, June 30, 1946.
[56] Using an Operation Crossroads organizational chart and photo identifications from a Sandia National Laboratories archive picture, CONELRAD was able to track down five surviving Z Division Assembly Group members. Z Division was the ordinance and assembly arm of Los Alamos and dispatched many of its members to assist with the Operation Crossroads tests. Of the five, Phil Dailey, Bryan Arthur and Glenn Fowler were in good enough health to be able to speak with CONELRAD’s Bill Geerhart. Their interviews are cited throughout this article. For more on Z Division see the Sandia history page devoted to them.
[57] Weisgall, Operation Crossroads, pp. 136-137. During interviews for this article Thomas B. Lanahan and Leon D. Smith also confirmed to Bill Geerhart that the Able device was assembled on the Albemarle.
[58] Telephone interview with Phil Dailey conduced by Bill Geerhart, February 12, 2009.
[59] Telephone interview with Glenn Fowler conduced by Bill Geerhart, February 12, 2009.
[60] Telephone interview with Bryan Arthur conduced by Bill Geerhart, February 12, 2009.
[61] CONELRAD reviewed many different articles as listed in the bibliography for this article and Thomas B. Lanahan is the only named source for the published Rita Hayworth / bomb stories.
[62] Lanahan located the “Gilda” stencil approximately two months after Bill Geerhart’s initial interviews with him. He had previously stated he thought that he had given it to a collector in Colorado in the nineties. But Lanahan, who is in the process of moving, called Geerhart on April 27, 2009 to say that he had found the stencil sitting in a drawer “mixed in with a bunch of pictures.”
[63] Telephone interview with Anthony Slide conducted by Bill Geerhart on 05/07/2009.
[64] The existence of an outdoor base theater was supported in interviews with Crossroads staff members Bryan Arthur (telephone interview with Bill Geerhart, February 19, 2009) and Glenn Fowler (telephone interview with Bill Geerhart, February 19, 2009). CONELRAD could not independently verify whether the film GILDA played at the base theater, but given Rita Hayworth’s loyal military fan base, it is not unreasonable to believe that it was shown during this period.
[65] When asked in a May 4, 2009 follow-up interview whether it was possible that the person in the government film footage was responsible for painting over the small gaps in the stencil lettering as seen in the final rendering of “GILDA” on the weapon, Lanahan stated to Bill Geerhart that he knew of no other explanation. These filled-in gaps in the letters are the only easily identified difference between Lanahan’s stencil and the final rendering as seen on the weapon. Lanahan identified the creator of the stencil in a July 30, 2009 in-person interview with Geerhart.
[66] Telephone interview with Thomas B. Lanahan conducted by Bill Geerhart, February 9, 2009.
[67] “Report from Bikini,” Time magazine, July 15, 1946.
[68] An example of the insinuation regarding studio influence is contained in the A.P. “Hollywood News” gossip column as published in the July 3, 1946 edition of the Indiana (Pennsylvania) Evening Gazette: “The studio ‘happened’ to send a flock of Rita Hayworth portraits to Kwajalein recently, which may help explain what happened.”
[69] Telephone interview with Thomas B. Lanahan conducted by Bill Geerhart, February 9, 2009. Independent researcher Terry Arbegust interviewed Lt. Robert Glenn, flight engineer of Dave’s Dream, on June 9, 1994 contradicts Lanahan’s assertion that he was the person who had the initial idea to name the bomb for the Rita Hayworth film. Glenn states to Arbegust that it was Dave’s Dream pilot Woodrow Swampcutt who had the idea. Glenn also states in his interview that the crew planned to go to Hollywood to discuss the concept with Hayworth and her representatives, but they were turned down. This latter contention strains credulity given the other facts that are known about Welles’ and Hayworth’s reaction to the Bomb naming. It is also unlikely that the crew would have been given permission to undertake such a frivolous “mission” in the middle of their deployment. And if Glenn, who at one point in his interview cites memory issues, is unreliable on this latter point, perhaps his entire recollection should be judged accordingly. Arbegust was kind enough to share his taped telephone interview with Glenn with CONELRAD.
CONELRAD attempted to review Columbia’s archives to determine what if any studio involvement there was in the naming of the Able bomb “Gilda,” but we were told by a reliable source that the studio’s archives, save for legal documents, were destroyed in the 1970s. Contrary to what our source stated, some percentage of Columbia’s production files do survive in the Inventory of Columbia Pictures Records, 1929-1974 at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming. However, there are no files pertaining directly to a publicity campaign to stage the Gilda Bomb story. It is worth noting that neither of the Harry Cohn biographies asserts that the mogul had anything to do with the Bikini P.R. triumph. In fact, neither book mentions Bikini at all. See Bob Thomas, King Cohn: The Life and Times of Harry Cohn (New York: Putnam, 1967) and Bernard F. Dick, Merchant Prince of Poverty Row (University Press of Kentucky, 1993).
[70] Telephone interview with Leon D. Smith conducted by Bill Geerhart, February 19, 2009.
[71] Telephone interview with William Jamieson conducted by Bill Geerhart, February 26, 2009. Jamieson’s participation in Operation Crossroads was confirmed through an organizational chart from the tests and a captioned photograph of the Crossroads staff from 1946.
[72] GILDA was a popular hit upon its 1946 release while the newspaper reviews were more mixed. It is now generally regarded as a classic. See “Appendix C: GILDA Film Review Excerpts” for a comprehensive sampling of the original reviews.
[73] Weisgall, Operation Crossroads, pp. 186-187.
[74] Ernest K. Lindley, “The Big Let-Down: What Was Wrong with Gilda?,” Washington Post, July 3, 1946.
[75] Murray Moler of United Press, “Atom Bombing Disappoints, Observers Say,” Salt Lake (Utah) Tribune, July 1, 1946.
[76] Rose, “A Radio Review: Atom Bomb Test,” Variety, July 3, 1946.
[77] “Nurse Gloomy Over A-Bomb, Leaps to Death, Los Angeles Times, July 1, 1946.
[78] See “Helen of Bikini,” Time magazine, August 5, 1946 for an account of the diminished interest in the second atomic bomb test at Bikini. While Hayworth did have some notable roles after GILDA, her golden era peaked with GILDA. All of the obituaries cited in the bibliography reference the 1940s as Hayworth’s prime decade.
[79] For a brief examination of the famous Hayworth quote see McLean, Being Rita Hayworth, p. 1.
[80] Thankfully, a proposed plan to remake GILDA in a contemporary setting never got off the ground. The plan was announced in “Multiple-Picture Deal Between Columbia & ICC,” Variety, August 5, 1975.
[81] Detonation times derived from the official history of Operation Crossroads: Bombs at Bikini (New York: Wise, 1947) by William A. Shurcliff, p. 104.
[82] In-person interview with Thomas B. Lanahan conducted by Bill Geerhart on February 21, 2009 (Lanahan stated in his interview that the order to execute the bomb decoy ruse came from Assembly Division Head, Roger S. Warner); Lanahan’s account was supported by two members of the Assembly Division: Telephone interview with Phil Dailey conducted by Bill Geerhart on February 26, 2009 (Daily asserted that the real bomb transfer and the decoy run were conducted simultaneously while Lanahan stated that the real bomb transfer occurred earlier than the decoy run); telephone interview with Glenn Fowler conducted by Bill Geerhart on February 26, 2009. Fowler noted that “dummy” or decoy runs were “common practice.”
[83] Charles H. McMurtry, “Weather Favorable at Bikini; Bomb to be Dropped Today,” Washington Post via Associated Press, June 30, 1946.
[84] In addition to the declassified footage depicting a direct transfer of the Able weapon from the ship to the pit under the B-29, Thomas B. Lanahan, Phil Dailey and Glenn Fowler confirmed that the Able device was moved directly to the pit and not to the interim marine-guarded, fenced-in bunker as reported on in the contemporaneous press coverage. In-person interview with Thomas B. Lanahan conducted by Bill Geerhart on February 21, 2009; telephone interview with Phil Dailey conducted by Bill Geerhart on February 26, 2009; telephone interview with Glenn Fowler conducted by Bill Geerhart on February 26, 2009.
[85] E-mail from Robert Stone to Bill Geerhart, February 27, 2009. For information on size of the U.S. atomic arsenal in 1946 see page 16 of Weisgall’s Operation Crossroads that notes that “by June 1946 the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile consisted of exactly nine bombs, two of which were not operational.”
[86] E-mail from Myra O’Canna of the Sandia Corporate Archives to Bill Geerhart, May 12, 2009 with follow-up telephone conversation to confirm that the Archives does not have photographs of the Able weapon.
[87] Telephone interview with Kathleen Brixner conducted by Bill Geerhart, February 23, 2009.
[88] Associated Press dispatch A45FX, July 1, 1946.
[89] Weisgall, Operation Crossroads, pp. 263-264.
[90] In addition to GILDA being prominently mentioned in most, if not all, of Hayworth’s obituaries, it was among the 400 films nominated for the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest American Movies.
[91] Gene Ringgold, The Films of Rita Hayworth: The Legend and Career of a Love Goddess (Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1974), p. 158.
[92] “60 Top Grossers of 1946,” Variety, January 8, 1947
[93] Carrie Rickey, “Gilda” capsule review, Village Voice, June 15, 1982. The clip file envelope for GILDA at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library also notes the “AKA” title for the film as LA VEDETTE ATOMIQUE.

1 comment:

peacenik said...

I view your blog daily. And, I am sure there are many of us, who grew up during the cold war, that find your work utterly compelling. It is remarkably and painstakingly researched, and wonderfully written.

Thank you, for all your posts.