Susan Hayward

Susan Hayward
Susan Hayward

“It is easier for a man.   For women to have a long career in films requires superhuman energy, guts and determination.   The longest surviving ladies usually betray in their performances something of their off screen battles: impossible not to believe  that Joan Crawford had not browbeaten producers the same way she harried her leading men.   Susan Hayward was a small-scale Crawford.   The final effect is less of domination than of pugnacity.   Ability is not lacking, though it did not have the individuality of Bette Davis at her peak.   Like Crawford, and to a lesser degree Barbara  Stanwyck, Hayward was an entirely predictable actress.   It was the aggressive, meaty roles of these actresses that she tried to inherit and in the 50’s she had the field to herself.   She was lucky.   Fans with a faiblesse for the grand manner liked her, but of she is at her peak in “I’ll Cry To-Morrow (she won an acting award at Cannes for it) she still is not good.   Whenever she is on screen with Jo Van Fleet – playing her screen mother – you do not notice her.   She is colourless in a plastic part, wrapped in cellophane.   Whereas Van Fleet, if not exactly flesh and blood, at least does her job in an interesting way (for instance no reference is made to their being Jewish, but Van Fleet’s intonation and mannerisms suggest it).   Later in the film, Hayward has to play an alcoholic – admittedly without help from either script or direction – and she just cannot supply what they lack.   Davis, Stanwyck and even Crawford were given equally difficult tasks – their villainesses – but they could always suggest some motivation for their actions” – David Shipman – “The Great Movie Stars – The International Years” (1972).

 

TCM overview:

Pretty, exuberant leading lady who began her Hollywood career in 1937 as a bit player and was a star by the mid-1940s. Talented and tempestuous, with a penchant for playing ripe melodrama with all the stops out, Hayward reached her peak in the early 1950s in such enjoyably sudsy vehicles as “My Foolish Heart” (1950), “With a Song in My Heart” (1952) and “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” (1955). She was often cast as the brassy, defiant heroine, as in her Oscar-winning role “I Want to Live!” (1958), where she splendidly played the real-life Barbara Graham, a woman who was wrongly sentenced to death. Hayward’s stardom petered out by the mid-60s, but she continued playing occasional leads and character roles (including a part as a past-her-prime film star in the abysmal “Valley of the Dolls” 1969) on film and TV until shortly before her death of a brain tumor in 1975.

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