Susan Hayward (1917-1975) has now entered that rarified company of my other beloved redheads: Myrna Loy and Katharine Hepburn. Loy dazzled me in the 1930s with her Nora Charles sophistication, cool elegance, and unflappable demeanor. While Hepburn’s independence, determination, and keen mind enchanted me in the 1940s (and onward!), Susan Hayward is that 1950s woman that appeals to me because of her penchant for giving her all onscreen.
There was a time when I believed that the 1950s was a decade devoid of great actresses and that the Eisenhower era’s film stars could be neatly divided into the empty beauty and the dull, mousy homemaker. The era’s other notable stars, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor were fine actresses, but they didn’t “grab me” like my 1930s & 1940s favorites, and for years they were the exceptions to my “the 1950s were bad for women” phase. So let me officially declare my fascination for Susan Hayward. She’s obviously the right choice, as she possesses everything I like in my favorite 1930s & 1940s dames. Hayward embodied all the great attributes: tough yet vulnerable, a great beauty, at least I think so—I’m uncertain what the consensus is on her looks—her great, husky voice, and she gave her all in every movie she ever did. She toiled in Hollywood for ten years until her breakthrough year of 1947, when she received an Oscar nomination for Smash up: the Story of a Woman. Hayward was a favorite of her peers, receiving five Best Actress nominations from 1947-1958, finally winning for 1958’s I Want to Live! But it was not Hayward’s well-known movies that made me realize she was great. A little puff of fluff from 1957 called Top Secret Affair, co-starring another intensely-burning actor, Kirk Douglas. The two leads are fun to watch and seeing Hayward in a not-so intense mode opened me up to seeing her in her more familiar territory.
However, I wasn't truly sold on All Things Susan Hayward until I got the soundtrack to I’ll Cry Tomorrow. Originally, I bought the score for composer Alex North’s wonderful underscore and despite the presence of Hayward’s vocals. But what sealed the deal for me was hearing Hayward's beautiful, after-hours vocal (accompanied by Jazz quartet) on I’ll Cry Tomorrow’s title cut. (A review of the score is forthcoming). I knew then that Susan Hayward would figure prominently in my film-watching future. I've only watched a handful of her movies, so the upcoming year will find me dedicating a lot of time to her. I look forward to exploring this great actress’ filmography.