Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hayward on My Mind.

Jose here.

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?


Runs Like A Gay said...

Why don't we get films like these anymore?

Back in the 1940's and 50's there was a massive market for films with female protagonists either suffering honorably, or finding themselves spiralling into deeper and deeper levels of self-destruction. Which Susan Hayward so perfecly encapsulates.

These days there are very few movies that fit that format, and what few there are generally get ignored or undersold by the studios.

I wonder what has caused this? Would it be that these plotlines would often be thought of as anti-feminist? Or perhaps celebrity culture has led to a greater need for the characters to have a 'happy ending'.

The Pretentious Know it All said...

I really hate that Charlize Theron gets lumped in with this group of actresses. Her performance was awards-baiting on paper, yes, but it was still a phenomenal performance (and the type of performance I'm usually immune to). Despite how "easy" people claim it was for Theron (and when your biggest competition is Diane Keaton in a Nancy Meyers movie, I understand the argument), I think it's possible that in another year (let's say, the year of Winslet vs. Streep vs. Hathaway), there's no way Theron would have won. Just saying. Of course, the Witherspoon and Cotillard parallels, I agree with. They remain (for me) the third and second worst best actresses of the aughts. We all know who the worst is.


this reminds me of Rupert Everett's moment in My Best Friends' Wedding. his response to angsty suffering from his best friend (Julia Roberts) "Oh, the Susan Hayward of it all!"

Mirko S. said...

among her nominated perfs, maybe my favorite is the one in I'LL CRY TOMORROW for which she won Best Actress Prize in Cannes in 1956

anyway I'd have liked she won for WITH A SONG IN MY HEART, permitting Liz to win the first Oscar for Maggie the Cat

what a pity she hasn't received any other oscar nominations after her winning, I can't help but putting her in my 1967 supporting actress line-up for her role in THE VALLEY OF THE queer!!!

NicksFlickPicks said...

I agree with Jose throughout this piece.

I agree with Mirko re: I'll Cry Tomorrow.

I agree with Pretentious Know It All (takes one to no one) about every single thing re: Charlize Theron, except I would say the same on behalf of Cotillard. Though in a match-up between those two superlative performances, I'd vote for Theron... handily the best of the Best Actress winners in the past decade.

Trevor said...

Don't lump Marion or Charlize in with this generalizing Susan Hayward bashing. Their wins were extremely earned and should carry none of that "one-hit wonder" or "easy deglam" stigma that's attached to so many Oscar wins.

/3rtfu11 said...

She died of brain cancer at 57 - - she certainly is as tragic as the women she played.

Caroline said...

Hey! Leave Marion out of this!

Don Quixote said...

Funny, I just saw La Vie En Rose again and I really thought it was much better than the first and second time I saw it. She's still as amazing as ever.

City_Of_Lights said...

How about we stop blaming the actors and actresses and start holding AMPAS to a higher standard. Maybe then we'll get more pitch perfect performances that aren't baity, like Marisa Tomei's, and see them nominated and win!

Concerning Hayward I believe I saw my very first Hayward film last week; sometimes I think the synchronicity that this blog has with my personal viewing is freaky! A friend had a copy of White Witch Doctor, a film that's not available commercially in the US. I don't really care about how many Oscars wins or noms when I realize I've gone 30 something years on this earth and never seen one of her performances. I really liked her in a mediocre but watchable movie. Those times really produced some redheads. Off to go put some of her films on my Netflix queue.

EDDCORT said...

SUSAN IS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

BillBill said...

I haven't seen a single Susan Hayward performance in my life! I've been shamed. I do want to see "I Want to Live!" though for her Oscar win. So it's melodrama to the max, huh? Not really looking forward to that, but I'm trying.

Dame James said...

Susan Hayward was indeed hammy and she had many actorly tics that distract from her performance. But, like Norma Shearer before her, she's so fascinating to watch even when she's bad. With a Song in My Heart was the first time I became infatuated with her, even if it's one of her weakest Best Actress nominations. I'll Cry Tomorrow is her masterpiece though. How many actresses today would stoop to the disgusting, degrading depths of addiction hell that Hayward does in that movie?

par3182 said...

i've either seen one of these films or all of them...


par -- hee! so true.

everyone -- hayward's films have THE best taglines. "filmed on location... inside a woman's soul!"

you really can't beat that.

SoSueMe said...

At least Susan's films had memorable, melodramatic and deliciously shameless titles...if Tilda Swinton's Julia had been called Smash Up: The Story of a Woman, I'm convinced Tilda would have been nominated!

Notas Sobre Creación Cultural e Imaginarios Sociales said...

OMG yes Nat and SoSueMe!
The posters for these movies and the titles! They're exploitative heaven!
I love any movie title that involves an exclamation mark for that matter.