Many a late night, I would run across films starring the brilliant, fiery Susan Hayward, but the first time I was introduced to her was in a film that many people would not know or ever heard of…Backstreet.
Adapted from the Fannie Hurst novel by William Ludwig and Eleanor Griffin, aspiring fashion designer Rae Smith (Susan Hayward) falls in love with department store heir Paul Saxon (John Gavin) and due to very complicated circumstances their love affair is never fully actualized.
Susan Hayward got my attention with that film, but it was her campy role in the cult classic “Valley of the Dolls” as the old Broadway diva Helen Lawson that made me fall in love with her!
Baby, those scenes with her and Patty Duke (Neely O’Hara) are to die for!!!
However…it was for her role as bad girl Barbara Graham in the riveting drama “I Want to Live” that had her taking home the gold in 1959. This victory came on her fifth nomination. Her previous noms were for “Smash Up”, “My Foolish Heart”, “With A Song in My Heart” and “I’ll Cry Tomorrow”.
Susan always played flawed characters with some major obstacle to overcome. As many other the women she portrayed were real people, she had the uncanny ability to inhabit and tap into that pain and vulnerability that made these women compelling .
After her Oscar win, she appeared in about one movie a year. In 1972 she made her last theatrical film, The Revengers. Having been diagnosed with cancer,the disease finally claimed her life on March 14, 1975, in Hollywood. She was 57.
Check out her Academy Award performance in “I Want to Live”…