Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on September 3, 2015
Susan Hayward is TCM’s Star of the Month. Films she appeared in will be airing every Thursday evening throughout the month of September.
I didn’t know much about TCM’s current Star of the Month so I decided to delve into her past recently and was somewhat surprised by the way Susan Hayward had been portrayed (and ignored) by the media since her death in 1975. Nicknamed the “Divine Bitch” following the release of a similarly titled biography, the four-time Academy Award nominated actress didn’t make a lot of friends in Hollywood and is rarely described in flattering terms by studio executives and costars so the general picture we have of her seems somewhat skewed. I’m a firm believer that there are usually two-sides to every story so I decided to explore newspaper and movie magazine archives in an effort to learn more about the redheaded screen siren in her own words without the opinions of her biographers and colleagues getting in the way. In the process I discovered a complex woman whose turbulent real life was often more sensational than the fictional lives of the characters she portrayed.
There’s no doubt that Hayward’s Brooklyn upbringing by a hard-drinking father and neglectful mother toughened her up at an early age. I know from firsthand experience that living in poverty can put a chip on your shoulder and Hayward never forgot where she came from or how hard it was to overcome her humble beginnings. When she arrived in Hollywood with a wave of other actresses eager to get the prime role of Scarlet O’Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND (1939), she quickly discovered that success wasn’t going to be easy. Hayward refused to play casting couch games and had to fight hard to win good roles, which didn’t endure her to many producers or directors. Despite her thorny relationship with studio bigwigs, the public loved her. By 1950 Hayward was one of the most popular stars in Hollywood and after being nominated for Best Actress three times, she finally took home a hard-earned Oscar for her performance in the true crime drama I WANT TO LIVE! (1958).
After her Academy Award win, Hayward reportedly didn’t work as hard or as often and preferred life on her Georgia ranch as the mother of twin boys and the wife of her second husband, a successful businessman and former FBI agent named Floyd Eaton Chalkley. She may not have won the role of Georgia born Scarlet O’Hara but there must have some satisfaction in becoming a successful landowner in the same state as the fictional heroine she once longed to play. The tough Brooklyn dame who took on Hollywood passed away in 1975 following a long battle with cancer but she left behind plenty of movies that will be airing on TCM every Thursday throughout the month of September. I’m looking forward to playing catch-up with her filmography myself since I’ve only seen a handful of the movies she appeared in and after reading up on Hayward I gained new admiration for her professionalism in an industry that often rewards celebrity and personality rather than talent and skill. Hayward may have been many things to many people but she was undoubtedly a consummate actress who cared deeply about her craft. She also had a lot to say so I’ll get out of the way and let her take over now.
On her early life:
On acting & Hollywood:
On her temperament & tumultuous relationships with colleagues:
On raising her children:
Emotions? Susan has them:
What she likes:
On death, retirement and her deep-seated fear of . . . cows?!
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