MARGARET SULLAVAN: Child of Fate by Lawrence J. Quirk


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Brief but fine celebrity bio of a luminous actress who gave her all for art but was a child of fate. Quirk interviewed Sullavan extensively and has collected material about her for 40 years while interviewing others who worked with her. He responds to her work and womanhood with great sensitivity and gives her a revisionary biography after the sorrowful picture painted by her daughter Brooke Hayward in her autobiography Haywire. Quirk's is an exacting but evenly balanced portrayal. Sullavan's film career was limited to a mere 16 pictures, mostly tear-jerkers of varying quality. As a stage actress, she was renowned for mesmeric vibrance, total immersion in her role, and a voice throaty with haunting emotional realism. She was a fantastic mirror for any actor working with her, a great listener who lighted up at another's delivery. She was also, says Quirk, highly sexed. He quotes her separated First husband Henry Fonda's confession of abject humiliation while standing outside her window and knowing that she was making love to the great, vile, widely detested Broadway producer Jed Harris within--all to further her career. In a reverse instance, Quirk retells the famous story of Sullavan's first meeting with Harry Cohn, the womanizing head of Columbia Studios who told her he'd ""heard that she was a hot number in the sack. Sullavan rose in disgust and made for the door. 'Yes, I am good in the sack, but you're never going to find out how good; she shot back. . .'You're not young, handsome or slim enough to get me excited.' ""Sullavan's other marriages were to director William Wyler (one year) and talent agent Leland Hayward (10 years, three children). She devoted many of the best years of her life not to her art but to staying home and raising her brood. Towards the end, a variety of illnesses laid her low, caused her hospitalization in a mental hospital. The reviews of her last performances were still shimmering, but she was in agony and may have suicided on barbiturates, perhaps unwittingly. Very strong on detail of her movie performances. Gripping, too.

Pub Date: Dec. 15th, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's