"When you`re dead, you`re dead. No one is going to remember me when I`m dead. Oh, maybe a few friends will remember me affectionately. Being remembered is not the most important thing anyhow. It`s what you do when you are here that`s important."
I was late in coming to appreciate Susan Hayward. When I was younger I was not attracted to the turgid, soapy films that seemed to be her specialty. He movies blended into one big melodrama about a pill popping alcoholic on death row who sings an overwrought song before she dies. After revisiting Valley Of The Dolls in my 40s, I came to appreciate her stunning beauty &, her style, & her portrayals of strong determined women.
She worked as a photographer’s model in NYC before traveling to Hollywood in 1937 to audition for David Selznick for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. She was not even seriously considered, but Hayward managed to secure a contract & was given her new name by her 1st manager.
Hayward's first film appearance was as a ‘starlet at table’, in Hollywood Hotel. Hayward played many early minor roles, she later said that she “paid her dues” as a newcomer. The determined Hayward was finally had a more substantial role in Beau Geste (1939) opposite Gary Cooper.
She made a strong impression opposite John Wayne in Reap the Wild Wind (1942) & played opposite him again in The Fighting Seabees (1949). Hayward’s roles & films improved, & her popularity with the audiences increased.
Haywards performance in Smash-up: the Story of a Woman (1947) was an introduction to the type of strong willed woman she would play many times. Her portrayal of an alcoholic club singer earned Hayward an Academy Award nomination. Susan received another Oscar nomination for her work in My Foolish Heart (1950). In 1951, she starred opposite Gregory Peck in the lavish biblical epic David & Bathsheba. Her 3rd Academy Award nomination came for her role in With a Song in My Heart (1952), based upon the real life story of singer Jane Froman who persevered after being seriously injured in a plane crash. Hayward gave another outstanding performance in the bio-pic of Lillian Roth- I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955). Miss Roth, was a singing star of the 1920s & 1930s, who survived to write about her life as an alcoholic. Nominated again for the Oscar, Susan did not win that year.
Susan Hayward finally won her Oscar, & the NY Film Critics Award, & the Golden Globe for I Want To Live!. the fictionalized story of Barbara Graham, an innocent woman sentenced to die. Oddly enough, I Want To Live, I'll Cry Tomorrow, & Smash-Up are titles of chapters in my own memoir- Jockstraps & Vicodin: The Early Years. Perhaps Miss Hayward was a big influence on my early life after all.
In 1972 she was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. Speculation continues to this day about the possible cause. In 1956 she worked on the film The Conquerors which was filmed in the Utah desert. The location was 137 miles from a nuclear testing site that was fully in use at that time. Crew & cast of that movie included John Wayne, Agnes Moorehead, Dick Powell, John Hoyt, & Pedro Armendáriz. Of the 144 people involved in making this film, 91 developed cancer & 46 had died of cancer by 1972.