SUSAN HAYWARD: Portrait of a Survivor by Beverly Linet

SUSAN HAYWARD: Portrait of a Survivor

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Standard star-bio treatment for likably gritty Susan, nÉe Edythe Marrener from Brooklyn--who, according to Linet (Ladd), was ""born to poverty and bred to insecurity"": dad was a philandering subway worker, ma preached the evils of sex, and Edythe was teased because of an odd walk (result of a street accident). Nonetheless, the red-haired beauty quickly succeeded as a Manhattan model, and a magazine feature led to a 1937 Selznick screen test, a brief Warner Bros. contract, and then years of frustration at Paramount: B-movies, third billing, loan-outs to other studios. Love-life, too, was unsatisfactory: marriage to her first lover, actor Jess Barker (""an overwhelming physical attraction. . . blinded them to their psychological incompatability""), revealed Susan's frigidity--her mother ""had done her job all too well."" And, despite the birth of twins, there'd be a breakup when Jess' career flopped while Susan's soared: thanks to Waiter Wanger and then Darryl Zanuck (who soon preferred Marilyn M.), she became ""the queen of Twentieth Century-Fox,"" Oscarnominated for roles as alcoholics, unwed mothers, and other sufferers. Divorce, custody trial, affair with Howard Hughes, suicide attempt, a bit of over-publicized promiscuity--so ""Susan promised herself her future life would be different,"" married an ex-FBI millionaire from Georgia, and semi-retired. . . till hubby #2, who turned out to be something of a con-man, died. Then: loneliness, conversion to Catholicism--""with the help of prayer and scotch, she endured her nights""--and a modest comeback. But by 1972 Susan was dying, courageously, of cancer (along with the other three stars of a 1954 film made in a Utah atomic-testing area!); and Linet milks the terminal illness for all the usual effects. The rest is usual too, with well-researched but under-edited interviews, quotes from fan-mag articles, lots of padding and gossip-column-style speculation. Still, though lacking any particular insight into the woman or the actress, it's inoffensive--and perfectly okay for fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1980
Publisher: Atheneum