Today is the anniversary of Susan Hayward's birth (she would've turned 93). Browsing through her filmography it struck me how conflicted I am regarding her acting. Despite her extreme beauty (what did they feed these women back then?) I find her acting slightly hammy sometimes and rather inexpressive on different occasions.
Hayward was nominated for five Best Actress Oscars and perhaps the reason for my slight discontent with her is that in a way, she created the "easy way to an Oscar nod". Let's take a look at the characters that got her Oscar's attention and the reasons why AMPAS couldn't resist to nominate her:
1946 Angelica 'Angie'/'Angel' Evans Conway in Smash-Up, The Story of a Woman
Angelica is a club singer who marries a rising performer, gives up her career and becomes an alcoholic. The plot is loosely based on the life of Dixie Lee, Bing Crosby's first wife.
(AMPAS buttons it pushed: alcoholism, deglam, suffering wife, performer, semi biopic)
1949 Eloise Winters in My Foolish Heart
Eloise is a wife reflecting on the twists her life has taken. Based on J.D. Salinger's short story Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut.
(AMPAS buttons it pushed: suffering wife, decade spanning drama, famous song, literary pedigree)
1952 Jane Froman in With a Song in My Heart
Real life singer Froman had a terrific career in film and song, until she was almost killed in a plane crash in 1943. She overcame adversity in every possible way and went on to have a fruitful life and career (Froman even outlived Hayward).
(AMPAS buttons it pushed: famous song, decade spanning drama, deglam, biopic, overcoming tragedy)
1955 Lillian Roth in I'll Cry Tomorrow
Roth was a real life Broadway star who overcame her mother's domineering and becomes an alcoholic after the death of her fiancé.
(AMPAS buttons it pushed: do I really have to point them out at this point?)
1958 Barbara Graham in I Want to Live! (pictured left)
Real life prostitute, drug addict and manipulative Barbara Graham gets convicted for murder and executed.
(AMPAS buttons it pushed: biopic, murder, jail, decade spanning drama, deglam)
Hayward finally got her Oscar for this role and was never nominated afterward. So now do you see my point? Hayward was great at this sort of campy melodramatic, fictionalized biopics but her career can't help but leave a bittersweet aftertaste.
Perhaps we wouldn't have instant wins for the Reeses, Marions and Charlizes if it weren't for Hayward. Or maybe I'm just rambling. What's your take on this?