Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


RED: THE TEMPESTUOUS LIFE OF SUSAN HAYWARD. Robert LaGuardia and Gene Arceri. Macmillan; 1985.

Reading this book I was reminded of how grateful I am never to have been continually in the orbit of any self-absorbed and difficult movie star, as Susan Hayward is not someone I would have liked to have known personally. Hayward was a good actress who could be excellent in some roles and merely indifferent in others. According to this very readable biography, Hayward never got over the fact that her family, her mother especially, favored her sister Florence and thought she would become the star. When it didn't work out that way, Florence virtually starved while Hayward made millions and cut off all contact with her. Hayward cast off first husband, actor Jess Barker, when his career didn't reach the same level hers did, but seemed to love second husband Eaton Chalkley, who ran her career (some would suggest right into the ground) and is depicted as a racist, obsessive quasi-Catholic, heavy drinker, and possible closet queen. Hayward was nominated for Oscars several times, and finally won one for I Want to Live! As she got older, she often regretted her film choices, although she did get attention for appearing in Back Street, Where Love Has Gone, and Valley of the Dolls, among others. A funny incident has Hayward being very bitchy with Celeste Holm when the latter was going to replace her in Mame, and Hayward is generally described as being cold and distant with her co-workers. There were people who were devoted to her, however, and she made some friends without ever growing terribly close to anyone. She admitted more than once that she "wasn't a nice person." The authors include many interviews and anecdotes, and describe Hayward's final days -- an awful death due to multiple brain tumors -- in nearly excruciating detail. Hayward will be remembered as a feisty star with charisma, personality, and genuine talent, which the authors clearly have an appreciation of.

Verdict: Graphic, uncompromising look at Susan Hayward. ***1/2.


angelman66 said...

Definitely on my list - thank you for the recommendation. The bitchier and more difficult the star, the better the read! But I agree with you totally; I don't think we really want to know most of our favorite stars off the screen. They have to be pretty hard-nosed and narcisstic and ruthlessly ambitious to make it to the top of the heap!

William said...

You said it, Chris! What drives them to the top often makes them impossible to be around. More than one star has given a biographer a heart attack! But you're right that the worse they are off screen, the more fascinating the read! This book makes very good reading!