Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

People We Like: ''The Brooklyn Bernhardt'

When I was about 10, I walked into a Sunday afternoon matinee of a revived 1949 meller TULSA and was immediately struck by that feisty redhead Susan Hayward - so it was a must to keep up with her '50s and '60s movies. With that red hair Susan (like Maureen O'Hara) was made for Cinemascope and Technicolor...
Susan's career had several major phases - the ingenue of the '40s (THE LOST MOMENT a version of Henry James' "The Aspern Papers" being a nice discovery recently) giving way to those star-making roles in SMASH-UP and MY FOOLISH HEART. Then for the first half of the '50s she was 20th Century Fox's reigning adventure lady teamed with Tyrone Power twice (he has that immortal line in UNTAMED: "I can't believe it, you Katie out here in Africa fighting Zulus"!) and also with Cooper, Mitchum, Peck and finally Gable (she had tested for GWTW...). DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS is an enjoyably bad biblical now and THE CONQUEROR re-uniting her with Wayne was certainly a misfire - pity it had to be shot near those atomic testing sites in Utah... She is in her element sparring with George Sanders in the 1950 I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE, and in Nick Ray's THE LUSTY MEN.

Her 3 big acting roles though were as Jane Froman in that lush Fox '52 musical bio WITH A SONG IN MY HEART (where Thelma Ritter as ever scores as Clancy, the nurse from Flatbush, and there is that young Robert Wagner); her Lillian Roth in I'LL CRY TOMORROW where she holds her own with the formidable Jo Van Fleet - and finally - that Oscar-winning performance as Barbara Graham on her way to the gas chamber in Robert Wise's still sensational I WANT TO LIVE. How we loved those when we were young and impressionable - and they still work today. It was then perhaps the usual story - after the best actress win there is nothing as good - Susan, always the no nonsense trouper, had remarried and moved to Georgia and perhaps began to take it easy. There was a routine western THUNDER IN THE SUN done as a favour to old Brooklyn pal Jeff Chandler, and the first of her next phase, those melodramas (or sudsers) WOMAN OBSESSED with Stephen Boyd - I saw it as a kid but its never surfaced anywhere (in the UK at any rate) since. THE MARRIAGE GO-ROUND wasn't much good but nice to finally see recently, good to see her with James Mason - if only they had better material.

The early '60s saw her in the lush BACK STREET - a perfect Ross Hunter confection where she has John Gavin, ADA as the reformed hooker with Dean Martin, I THANK A FOOL another delirious farrago set in England and Ireland interestingly teamed with Peter Finch - and my personal favourite: STOLEN HOURS in '63 that remake of Bette's DARK VICTORY, relocated to London and Cornwall, with Michael Craig. One could say her last starring role was as Bette's daughter in that kitsch classic WHERE LOVE HAS GONE (that variation on the Lana Turner scandal). She had a smaller role in Mankiewicz's THE HONEYPOT set in Venice - she was terrific in her few scenes as the wealthy Lone Star Crockett with Rex Harrison, and Maggie Smith as her nurse - her husband though died and Mankiewicz released her early. Then of course she replaced Judy Garland as that barracuda Helen Lawson and had the best scenes in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS - her legendary catfight in the ladies room with Neely O'Hara (Patty Duke) being the highlight, with her line "I'll go out the way I came in" ...

There were a few telemovies where she still sparkled (I like SAY GOODBYE MAGGIE COLE) and it must have been terrific to see her MAME in Las Vegas. 1974 saw her final appearance, on the arm of Charlton Heston, presenting the best actress award, as the ailing Susan made her exit. She died in March 1975, aged 56 (as was Lee Remick, who also died too young). The biography "RED - The Tempestous life of Susan Hayward" covers her story and "The Films of Susan Hayward" is full of terrific portraits from every stage of her career. She would have been a formidable old lady...


  1. Oh, how I love Susie's Brooklyn baritone! "Gimme a fountain pen - not one of those lousy BAWWWWWWL-points!"

  2. "look, they drummed you out of hollywood so you come crawling back to Broadway - well broadway doesn't go for booze and dope .. now out of my way I have a man waiting for me"...

    "that must be a change from the fags you usually get stuck with"

    "at least I didn't have to marry one..."