Susan Hayward ~ I Want to Live
Susan Hayward was born Edythe Marrenner in Brooklyn, New York to Walter Marrenner and Ellen Pearson. Her maternal grandparents were from Sweden. She 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. Her screen name was chosen by her management because it was “as close to Rita Hayworth as we can get away with.”
Although she did not win the role of Scarlett O’Hara, Hayward found employment playing bit parts until she was cast in Beau Geste (1939) opposite Gary Cooper. During the war years, she played leading lady to John Wayne twice, in Reap the Wild Wind (1942) and The Fighting Seabees (1944). She also starred in the film version of The Hairy Ape (1944). Later in 1955, she was cast by Howard Hughes to play Bortai in the historical epic The Conqueror, again opposite John Wayne.
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.
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. She replaced the fired Judy Garland as Helen Lawson in the 1968 film adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls.
Susan’s personality was usually described as cold, icy, and aloof. She did not like socializing with crowds. She disliked homosexuals and effeminate men. Her taste in love ran strictly to the masculine, and both of her husbands were rugged Southerners. She loved sport fishing, and owned three ocean going boats for that purpose. Movie directors enjoyed Susan’s professionalism and her high standards. She was considered easy to work with, but she was not chummy after the cameras stopped. Hayward died at age 57 on March 14, 1975, of pneumonia-related complications of her brain cancer, having survived considerably longer than doctors had originally predicted.