Susan Hayward was born June 30, 1917 as Edythe Marrener in Brooklyn, New York, USA. She was the youngest of three children and was overshadowed in her mother's affections by her sister which left lifelong scars.
At the age of six, she was hit by a car while crossing the street. Her recovery took more than a year and left her with a distinctive ambulatory style.
Edythe appeared in an elementary school production of "Cinderella in Flowerland" with friend Ira Grossel, who was renamed Jeff Chandler when he came to Hollywood.
After high school she began her career as a photographer's model in New York City. She was brought to Hollywood in 1937 to test for the part of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. The screen test led to bit parts, a name change and a Warner Brothers contract in 1938. Susan's first film for Warner Brothers was as an extra in The Sisters. Her contract was dropped after six months and she signed a seven year contract with Paramount.
She portrayed Isobel Rivers in the huge hit Beau Geste in 1939. She learned early on to lobby for more demanding roles than ingenue and received critical notice for her part in 1941's Among the Living. After playing second female leads for several years, she starred in 1944's The Fighting Seabees and The Hairy Ape. Her break out role for which she earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination was 1947's Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman portraying an alcoholic. She earned her second Oscar nomination for her role in 1949's My Foolish Heart. Now an established star, she chose her projects carefully. She was again Oscar-nominated and again a runner-up for her portrayal of courageous singer Jane Froman in With a Song in My Heart in 1952. Hayward was a smash as alcoholic singer Lillian Roth in 1955's I'll Cry Tomorrow but again did not win the Academy Award.
During the filming of I'll Cry Tomorrow, Susan reportedly became very depressed over her failed marriage and took an overdose of sleeping pills. She called her mother just before she fell asleep and said, "Don't worry, you'll be taken care of." Her mother notified the police and Susan received the emergency treatment and follow-up she needed. She gave the performance of a lifetime in 1958's I Want to Live! and was rewarded for it with the coveted Best Actress Oscar.
After making I Want To Live!, Susan formed her own production company, Carrollton Productions. Her company's first film was Thunder in the Sun with Jeff Chandler. She appeared in approximately one movie a year, mostly undistinguished critically, though very popular with audiences. Back Street was one of the top-grossing films of 1961.
The loss of her husband Eaton Chalkley on January 9, 1966 was devastating. In 1972, she was diagnosed with multiple inoperable brain tumors and given a few months to live. Her will to live was just as strong as her will to achieve success as an actress. She survived two and a half years. In 1974, Susan was invited by the AMPAS to present the Best Actress Award. Susan was determined not to disappoint her fans. Her doctor gave her a shot of dilantin, an anti-seizure medication, so that she could get out on stage on the arm of Charlton Heston. Nolan Miller designed a marvelous green-sequined gown to hide her emaciated body, and she wore a lovely wig. She looked gorgeous. However, shortly after reaching her waiting limousine, she suffered a seizure. Susan finally passing away on March 14, 1975. She was buried in the green-sequined gown beside second husband Floyd Eaton Chalkley in Carrollton, Georgia and her marker reads, "Mrs. F. E. Chalkley."
Floyd Eaton Chalkley (February 8, 1957 - January 9, 1966) (his death)
Jess Barker (July 24, 1944 - August 18, 1954) (divorced); twin sons, Timothy and Gregory, February 19, 1945.
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