Susan Hayward was born Edythe Marrener in Brooklyn, New York, on June 30, 1917. Her father was a transportation worker, and Susan lived a fairly comfortable life as a child, but the precocious little redhead had no idea of the life that awaited her. She attended public school in Brooklyn, where she graduated from a commercial high school that was intended to give students a marketable skill. She had planned on becoming a secretary, but her plans changed. She started doing some modeling work for photographers in the NYC area. By 1937, her beauty in full bloom, she went to Hollywood when the nationwide search was on for someone to play the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (1939). Although she–along with several hundred other aspiring Scarletts–lost out to Vivien Leigh, Susan was to carve her own signature in Hollywood circles. In 1937 she got a bit part in Hollywood Hotel (1937). The bit parts continued all through 1938, with Susan playing, among other things, a coed, a telephone operator and an aspiring actress. She wasn’t happy with these bit parts, but she also realized she had to “pay her dues”. In 1939 she finally landed a part with substance, playing Isobel Rivers in the hit action film Beau Geste (1939). In 1941 she played Millie Perkins in the offbeat thriller Among the Living (1941). This quirky little film showed Hollywood Susan’s considerable dramatic qualities for the first time. She then played a Southern belle in Cecil B. DeMille’s Reap the Wild Wind (1942), one of the director’s bigger successes, and once again showed her mettle as an actress. Following that movie she starred with Paulette Goddard and Fred MacMurray in The Forest Rangers (1942), playing tough gal Tana Mason. Although such films as Jack London (1943), And Now Tomorrow (1944) and Deadline at Dawn (1946) continued to showcase her talent, she still hadn’t gotten the meaty role she craved. In 1947, however, she did, and received the first of five Academy Award nominations, this one for her portrayal of Angelica Evans in Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947). She played the part to the hilt and many thought she would take home the Oscar, but she lost out to Loretta Young for The Farmer’s Daughter (1947). In 1949 Susan was nominated again for My Foolish Heart (1949) and again was up against stiff competition, but once more her hopes were dashed when Olivia de Havilland won for The Heiress (1949). Now, however, with two Oscar nominations under her belt, Susan was a force to be reckoned with. Good scripts finally started to come her way and she chose carefully because she wanted to appear in good quality productions. Her caution paid off, as she garnered yet a third nomination in 1953 for With a Song in My Heart (1952). Later that year she starred as Rachel Donaldson Robards Jackson in The President’s Lady (1953). She was superb as Andrew Jackson’s embittered wife, who dies before he was able to take office as President of the United States. After her fourth Academy Award nomination for I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955), Susan began to wonder if she would ever take home the coveted gold statue. She didn’t have much longer to wait, though. In 1958 she gave the performance of her lifetime as real-life California killer Barbara Graham in I Want to Live! (1958), who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the gas chamber. Susan was absolutely riveting in her portrayal of the doomed woman. Many film buffs consider it to be one of the finest performances of all time, and this time she was not only nominated for Best Actress, but won. After that role she appeared in about one movie a year. In 1972 she made her last theatrical film, The Revengers (1972). She had been diagnosed with cancer, and the disease finally claimed her life on March 14, 1975, in Hollywood. She was 57.
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