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.


3 Responses to “Susan Hayward ~ I Want to Live”

  1. homyra jeedy Says:

    I loved her so muchand never forget her play in I want to live. She was very strong woman.

  2. Ms Susan Hayward’s performance in “I Want to Live” caused my conviction: If I could not, as a jailer, eliminate a convict’s life, how on earth could I ask someone else to do this for me? She made you know in your heart this should never have occurred. She made you look at the penal system humanly. Because of this pivotal movie and the strong, sensitive performance of Ms Hayward’s my life was re-molded. I am against capital punishment. She also opened my eyes to acting. I have become a Theatre teacher. Ms Hayward acting ability & professionalism quickly made her one of my two favorite actors; the other being Bette Davis. These two women helped forge Hollywood. Thank you, Susan Hayward! It’s been a privilege ‘knowing’ you!

  3. Francesca Says:

    As a black-belt abolitionist of the death penalty, I, too, was deeply influenced by I Want to Live. I was 14 years old at the time, lived in a backwater town in Texas, and didn’t need an ethics professor to explain why this didn’t make any sense. However, my first taste of the death penalty was from California, also. Caryl Chessman was executed in California and as I read the news reports about the upcoming execution, I asked my mother what the death penalty meant. I also know that whatever she told me screamed DEAD WRONG, but what did I know? I’m still fighting the good fight, and as a Texan, I am humiliated by the ease with which we carry out these executions. Hang in there. As a teacher, you have more influence than you will ever know.

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