Friday, December 5, 2008

Coming Soon: The Susan Hayward Craze of 2009

I’m rushing this entry out because I Want to Live! is on Turner Classic Movies this morning, but my Susan Hayward obsession has been building for quite some time. When Jonas Nordin's great post on Lillian Roth went up last month, I knew I had to get my own entry going. Whereas Dana Andrews, the subject of this blog's previous post, was praised for his acting subtlety, Hayward is his stylistic opposite, but oh-so appealing for her brassy, over-the-top performances. Anyone looking for subtlety in a Susan Hayward performance had better look elsewhere!

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.

I Want to Smile: Hayward in a photo shoot for LIFE magazine, 1949.


  1. if you love Katharine Hepburn and who doesn't, I wanted to let you know that in 2009, The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center and Theater will be opening in Hepburn's beloved town of Old Saybrook, Connecticut. As a member of the Board of Trustees, we would love it if you would link to us on your site!
    I will post a blog about your site on ours.
    Go to for all things Hepburn and construction updates.
    Thanks so much!

  2. I knew you cared for her deeply - No! Loved her but I never felt anything for her except 'she was cute and over the top.' Now it's 'There's one more doll I'll never meet.' The pics are wonderful.

  3. Ann: I'll be happy to link the site---done! Thanks for your kind words regarding Hollywood Dreamland.

    Cosanoir: Susan Hayward *moves* me! I love those tough dames with the vulnerable side.

  4. C. K., great posts on both Hayward and Andrews. I love those tough dames too. They make such fascinating movie characters. I thought Hawyard should have gotten an Oscar for "Smash-Up." It was a sort of inverted version of "A Star Is Born" (he gets famous, she hits the bottle) and like "Star" was co-written by Dorothy Parker.

    Have you seen Hayward and Andrews together in "My Foolish Heart" (1949)? They're both excellent; she's perhaps just a wee bit mature for the flashback part of the role but still convincing both as a naive college student and (naturally) as an angry alcoholic a few years later. He's just as good as the wise-cracking, romantic love of her life, very different from the dour man (Kent Smith) she marries (unhappily). She got an Oscar nomination; Andrews didn't. The movie is based on a Salinger story ("Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut"), but the events in the story are used only as a framing device. Most of the plot is made up. Besides Hayward and Andrews, the movie has Jesse Royce Landis as her mother and a lovely, Oscar-nominated theme song by Victor Young.

  5. I haven't seen many Susan Hayward movies, so I'll be catching up on her filmography this upcoming year! There's a paucity of decent DVD releases out there, but I've got "I'll Cry Tomorrow" on order. I'm also aching for a decent--make that "any"-- Susan Hayward biography.

    In the meantime, I've been obsessively listening to Susan the singer on the "I'll Cry Tomorrow" soundtrack...for someone who wasn't a professional singer, she sure had a great voice.


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