RED: The Tempestuous Life of Susan Hayward by Robert & Gene Arceri LaGuardia

RED: The Tempestuous Life of Susan Hayward

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The third and most thoroughly researched Hayward bio, this is pretty much the book Hayward deserves: feeling, fair, yet stinging. Born Edythe Marrener to a rock-bottom Brooklyn family, Hayward early felt inferior to older sister Florence, whom her mother was grooming for stardom. Indeed, young Florence became the family heroine, a $200-a-week chorine during the Depression. When Susan's star at last rose, her hatred for her sister remained to Susan's dying day, and in her will the millionairess left her sister adrift in welfare. That iciness is central to almost everyone's experience of Hayward. She remained a virgin until her middle 20s. It was a rare picture on which she showed her fellow workers any kind of conviviality; more likely she would turn on her heel at scene's end, march to her trailer, keep her door shut even through lunch. For perhaps the first half of her career she was plagued by not feeling her lines. This may have come about in part by her early vocal training, in which her nasal, wheedling Brooklynese was lowered to an extremely self-controlled dark mezzo. This self-control extended to her strange twisted walk and body-play--or ""choreography""--during a scene, which in turn may have stemmed from overcoming a crippling childhood accident: doctors said she would never walk again, and indeed one leg was left shorter than the other. Her shotgun marriage to Jess Barker was one long cat fight. Only in her second did she at last warm up, to Eaton Chalkey, but even he saw it as only an act. ""When is the acting going to stop?"" guilt-ridden Chalkey asked his priest, before drinking himself to death. Despite having played damaged women in her best vehicles--and surviving a suicide try while filming I'll Cry Tomorrow--Hayward herself became an alcoholic, and her last years as a drunk with lung cancer and brain tumor were blackly prefigured in a half-dozen of her roles. Completely a studio product, it's questionable that Hayward ever made a great movie, though she did give blazing performances amid synthetic surroundings and at last achieved artistic ease in slipping into her scenes. Despite the love and care the authors give to this life, she remains a bitch narcissist even during her most grueling illness.

Pub Date: June 28th, 1985
Publisher: Macmillan