Susan Hayward (June 30, 1917 March 14, 1975) was an American actress.
After working as a fashion model, Hayward traveled to Hollywood in 1937. She secured a film contract and played several small supporting roles over the next few years.
By the late 1940s, the quality of her film roles had improved, and she achieved recognition for her dramatic abilities with the first of five Academy Award nominations for Best Actress for her performance as an alcoholic in Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman (1947). Her career continued successfully through the 1950s and she received subsequent nominations for My Foolish Heart (1949), With a Song in My Heart (1952), and I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955). She finally won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of death row inmate Barbara Graham in I Want to Live! (1958).
After Hayward’s second marriage and subsequent move to Georgia, her film appearances became infrequent, although she continued acting in film and television until 1972. She died in 1975 of brain cancer.
Hayward was born Edythe Marrenner in Brooklyn, the youngest of three children born to Ellen (ne Pearson) and Walter Marrenner. Her paternal grandmother was an actress, Kate Harrigan, from County Cork, Ireland. Her mother was of Swedish descent. She had an older sister, Florence (born May 1910), and an older brother, Walter, Jr. (born December 1911).
Hayward was educated at Public School 181, and graduated from the Girls’ Commercial High School (later renamed Prospect Heights High School). According to the Erasmus Hall High School alumni page, Hayward attended that school in the mid-1930s, so she possibly attended Erasmus Hall High School before transferring to Girls’ Commercial High School. During her high school years, she acted in various school plays and was named “Most Dramatic” by her class. She graduated in June 1935.
Hayward began her career as a photographer’s model, going to Hollywood in 1937, aiming to secure the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. Although she did not win the role, Hayward found employment playing bit parts until she was cast in Beau Geste (1939) opposite Gary Cooper. During the war years, she acted with John Wayne twice, as a second lead in Reap the Wild Wind (1942) and as his leading lady in The Fighting Seabees (1944). She also starred in the film version of The Hairy Ape (1944). After the war, Hayward’s career took off when she was contracted by producer Walter Wanger for a seven-year contract at $100,000 a year. with her first film being Canyon Passage (1946).
In 1947, she received the first of five Academy Award nominations for her role as an alcoholic nightclub singer in Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman, her second film for Wanger. She continued as one of Hollywood’s most popular leading ladies in films such as Tap Roots (1948), My Foolish Heart (1949), David and Bathsheba (1951), and With a Song in My Heart (1952).
During the 1950s, she won acclaim for her dramatic performances as President Andrew Jackson‘s melancholic wife in The President’s Lady (1953); the alcoholic actress Lillian Roth in I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955), based on Roth’s best-selling autobiography of the same name, for which she received a Cannes award; and the real-life California murderer Barbara Graham in I Want to Live! (1958). Hayward’s portrayal of Graham won her the Academy Award for Best Actress. In 1959, she played the lead, Mary Sharron, in Woman Obsessed. In 1956, she was cast by Howard Hughes to play Bortai in the historical epic The Conqueror, as John Wayne’s leading lady.
Though Hayward never truly became known as a singer because she hated her own singing, she portrayed singers in several films. In I’ll Cry Tomorrow, however, though a “ghost singer” was actually recruited, her own voice is actually heard on the soundtrack. Susan Hayward performed in the musical biography of Jane Froman in the 1952 film, With a Song in My Heart, a role which won her the Golden Globe for Best Actress Comedy film. Jane Froman’s voice was dubbed as Hayward acted out the songs.
In 1961, Hayward starred as a working girl who becomes the wife of the state’s next governor (Dean Martin) and ultimately takes over that office herself in Ada. The same year, she played Rae Smith in Ross Hunter‘s lavish remake of Back Street, which also starred John Gavin and Vera Miles. In 1967, Hayward replaced Judy Garland as Helen Lawson in the film adaptation of Jacqueline Susann‘s Valley of the Dolls.
She continued to act into the early 1970s, when she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Her final film role was as Dr. Maggie Cole in the 1972 made-for-TV drama Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole. (The film was intended to be a pilot episode for a weekly television series, but because of Hayward’s cancer diagnosis and failing health, the series was never produced.) Her last public appearance was at the Academy Awards telecast in 1974 to present the Best Actress award despite being very ill. With Charlton Heston‘s support, she was able to present the award.
Hayward was married to actor Jess Barker for 10 years and they had two children, fraternal twin sons named Gregory and Timothy, born February 19, 1945. The marriage was described in Hollywood gossip columns as turbulent. They divorced in 1954. Hayward attempted suicide after the divorce. During the contentious divorce proceedings, Hayward stayed in the United States rather than join the Hong Kong location shooting for the film Soldier of Fortune. She shot her scenes with co-star Clark Gable indoors in Hollywood. A few brief, distant scenes of Gable and a Hayward double walking near landmarks in Hong Kong were combined with the indoor shots.
In 1957, Hayward married Floyd Eaton Chalkley, commonly known as Eaton Chalkley. He was a Georgia rancher and businessman who had formerly worked as a federal agent. Though he was an unusual husband for a Hollywood movie star, the marriage was a happy one. She lived with him on a farm near Carrollton, Georgia. The couple also owned property across the state line in Cleburne County, just outside Heflin, Alabama. She became a popular figure in an area that in the 1950s was off the beaten path for most celebrities. In December 1964, she and her husband were baptized Catholic by Father McGuire at SS Peter and Paul’s Roman Catholic Church on Larimer Avenue, in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh. She had met McGuire while in China and promised him that if she ever converted, he would be the one to baptize her. Chalkley died on January 9, 1966. Hayward went into mourning and did little acting for several years, and took up residence in Florida, because she preferred not to live in her Georgia home without her husband.
Before her Catholic baptism, Hayward was a proponent of astrology. She particularly relied on the advice of Carroll Righter, who called himself “the Gregarious Aquarius” and the self-proclaimed “Astrologer to the Stars”, who informed her that the optimum time to sign a film contract was exactly 2:47 am, causing her to set her alarm for 2:45 so she could be sure to obey his instructions. Hayward was a lifelong registered Republican, who endorsed Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and appeared at the 1953 Republican Rally.
Hayward was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1973. On March 14, 1975, she suffered a seizure in her Beverly Hills home and died at the age of 57. She was survived by her two sons from her marriage with Barker. A funeral service was held on March 16 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church in Carrollton, Georgia, Hayward’s body was buried in the church’s cemetery.
Hayward may have developed cancer from radioactive fallout from atmospheric atomic bomb tests while making The Conqueror with John Wayne in St. George, Utah. Several production members, as well as Wayne himself, Agnes Moorehead, Pedro Armendriz, and its director Dick Powell, later succumbed to cancer and cancer-related illnesses. The cast and crew totaled 220 people. By the end of 1980, as ascertained by People, 91 of them had developed some form of cancer and 46 had died of the disease.
Susan Hayward has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6251 Hollywood Boulevard.
|1937||Hollywood Hotel||Starlet at table||Uncredited|
|1938||The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse||Patient||Scenes deleted|
|The Sisters||Telephone operator||Uncredited|
|Girls on Probation||Gloria Adams|
|Comet Over Broadway||Amateur Actress||Uncredited|
|Campus Cinderella||Co-Ed||Short subject|
|1939||Beau Geste||Isobel Rivers|
|Our Leading Citizen||Judith Schofield|
|$1,000 a Touchdown||Betty McGlen|
|1941||Adam Had Four Sons||Hester Stoddard|
|Sis Hopkins||Carol Hopkins|
|Among the Living||Millie Pickens|
|1942||Reap the Wild Wind||Cousin Drusilla Alston|
|The Forest Rangers||Tana ‘Butch’ Mason|
|I Married a Witch||Estelle Masterson|
|Star Spangled Rhythm||Herself – Genevieve in Priorities Skit|
|A Letter from Bataan||Mrs. Mary Lewis|
|1943||Young and Willing||Kate Benson|
|Hit Parade of 1943||Jill Wright|
|Jack London||Charmian Kittredge|
|1944||The Fighting Seabees||Constance Chesley|
|The Hairy Ape||Mildred Douglas|
|And Now Tomorrow||Janice Blair|
|Skirmish on the Home Front||Molly Miller||Short subject|
|1946||Deadline at Dawn||June Goffe|
|Canyon Passage||Lucy Overmire|
|1947||Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman||Angelica ‘Angie’/’Angel’ Evans Conway||NominatedAcademy Award for Best Actress|
|They Won’t Believe Me||Verna Carlson|
|The Lost Moment||Tina Bordereau|
|1948||Tap Roots||Morna Dabney|
|The Saxon Charm||Janet Busch|
|House of Strangers||Irene Bennett|
|My Foolish Heart||Eloise Winters||NominatedAcademy Award for Best Actress|
|1951||Screen Snapshots: Hopalong in Hoppy Land||Herself||Short subject|
|I’d Climb the Highest Mountain||Mary Elizabeth Eden Thompson|
|I Can Get It for You Wholesale||Harriet Boyd|
|David and Bathsheba||Bathsheba|
|1952||With a Song in My Heart||Jane Froman|
|The Snows of Kilimanjaro||Helen|
|The Lusty Men||Louise Merritt|
|1953||The President’s Lady||Rachel Donelson|
|White Witch Doctor||Ellen Burton|
|1954||Demetrius and the Gladiators||Messalina|
|Garden of Evil||Leah Fuller|
|1955||Untamed||Katie O’Neill (Kildare) (Van Riebeck)|
|Soldier of Fortune||Mrs. Jane Hoyt|
|I’ll Cry Tomorrow||Lillian Roth|
|1957||Top Secret Affair||Dorothy ‘Dottie’ Peale|
|1958||I Want to Live!||Barbara Graham||
|1959||Thunder in the Sun||Gabrielle Dauphin|
|Woman Obsessed||Mary Sharron|
|1961||The Marriage-Go-Round||Content Delville|
|Back Street||Rae Smith|
|1962||I Thank a Fool||Christine Allison|
|1963||Stolen Hours||Laura Pember|
|1964||Where Love Has Gone||Valerie Hayden Miller|
|1967||The Honey Pot||Mrs. Lone Star Crockett Sheridan|
|Valley of the Dolls||Helen Lawson|
|1972||The Revengers||Elizabeth Reilly|
|Heat of Anger||Jessie Fitzgerald||TV movie|
|Say Goodbye Maggie Cole||Dr. Maggie Cole||TV movie|
Box office rankings
For a number of years, exhibitors voted Hayward among the most popular stars in the country:
- 1951 – 19th (US)
- 1952 – 9th (US)
- 1953 – 9th (US)
- 1954 – 14th (US)
- 1955 – 19th (US)
- 1956 – 13th (US)
- 1959 – 10th (US)
- 1961 – 19th (US)