Edythe Marrenner's Determination to Survive and to Excel
Peter Graves narrates this account of the life and career of Edythe Marrenner, third child to Stenographer Ellen Pearson and Coney Island Barker/Subway Lineman Walter Marrenner, in Brooklyn, New York, on June 30, 1917, "with the deck stacked against her."
During her impoverished childhood, Edythe begins her life's struggle of facing poverty and handicaps, as the family is unable to purchase new clothing for the children, while Edythe also suffers from near-sightedness, and is unable to see an automobile which strikes her in the streets one day, leaving her with a broken hip and two broken legs, and not very much probability to survive.
When the Great Depression strikes the States, beginning in 1929, the Marrenner family is already used to doing without luxuries, and manages to survive on a very limited means.
Edythe, who says that she aspires to the career path of her childhood role model, screen star and fellow Brooklynite Barbara Stanwyck, accepts the lead in her school play, "Cinderella in Flowerland," to gain social acceptance from classmates and teachers alike. Beneath her yearbook photograph, the caption reads, "One of our Prize Actresses." From here...
* Edythe applies to Walter Thomas Modeling Agency, in NYC, for which her wholesome appearance and lovely auburn hair launch her into demand for print advertising, a position which enables Edythe to serve as her family's bread-winner.
* Walter Thomas selects Edythe to appear with himself in a 1937 pictorial entitled "Model of Venice," which is spotted by Film Producer David O. Selznick, Theatrical Producer Mrs. Irene Mayer Selznick, and Director George Cukor, three important talent recognizers.
* During his nation-wide search for the perfect actress for the role, David O. Selznick personally requests Edythe to travel to Hollywood to test for the "Gone with the Wind" role of Scarlett O'Hara, for which she places well except for her thick Brookynese accent, which would not be very conducive to portraying a Southern belle of the Civil War Era.
* When suggested by film insiders that Edythe return to Brooklyn, she replies, "I think I'll stay; I like the oranges," because it is said that nobody dares to place road-blocks in the path of this determined actress.
* Warner Bros. Studio sees Edythe's film test and signs her to an acting contract, along with a new name: Susan Hayward. But her most acclaimed role with Warner Bros. at this time is on loan to Columbia, with "Beau Geste" (1939).
* Paramount Studio then signs Susan to a seven-year contract, during which time her star continues to rise in Technicolor, as she photographs well, again with her auburn hair and determination to succeed. During this period, she loses her father, marries Actor Jess Barker (1944–54), and welcomes twin sons, Timothy and Gregory Barker.
* Susan and Jess' marriage proves rocky, as they each find difficulties in unwinding from the demands of dual acting careers. Plus, while her star rises brilliantly, his is relegated into low-budget pictures.
* Film Producer Walter Wanger signs Susan to an exclusive contract, during which time, her career soars to new heights, as award nominations are bestowed upon this talented star, who's not afraid to portray non-glamorous roles for the sake of her art.
* 20th Century Fox then purchases Susan's contract, in 1948, to reach the lovely star to even greater heights and recognition.
* 1951 proves a banner year for Susan Hayward, as she alternates Technicolor with glorious Black & White film releases: with "I'd Climb the Highest Mountain" (1951), "Rawhide" (1951), "David and Bathsheba" (1951), and "I Can Get It for You Wholesale" (1951).
* 1955, Susan stars as torch singer Lillian Roth in "I'll Cry Tomorrow," for which she receives her fourth Academy Best Actress nomination. But this time she expresses disappointment for her loss, as her marriage with Barker has since crumbled, and she contemplates retiring from the screen. A much-publicized overdose follows.
* 1957, Susan marries second husband, Floyd Eaton Chalkley (1957–66) and relocates to his farm, in Carrollton, in west central Georgia, near the Alabama border. She has spoken of this move in very favorable terms, but tragedy strikes again, as Chalkley's only son loses his life in an accident, thus launching Floyd into declining health.
* Susan doesn't retire completely and returns to the screen to earn her fifth Best Actress nomination and first win for her performance in I Want to Live!" (1958).
* Susan retires to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when her health declines although she continues to act in film and on television through 1972, and fights the odds yet again to make an appearance at the 1974 Annual Academy Awards ceremonies as a presenter.
Interview Guests for this episode consist of Timothy Barker (Son), Patricia Morrison (Actress), Charlton Heston (Actor), Robert Wise (Director), Molly Haskell (Film Critic), James Robert Parish (Biographer), and Ron Nelson (Friend).
Archive footage includes Susan Hayward, Ray Milland, Ingrid Bergman, Richard Denning, Robert Preston, Paulette Goddard, John Wayne, Lee Bowman, William Lundigan, Tyrone Power, Gregory Peck, George Sanders, Dan Dailey, Thelma Ritter, William Holden, Lillian Roth, Patty Duke, Sharon Tate, Barbara Parkins, and Paul Burke.
Film Clips include a screen glimpse of Susan through the years, beginning with Susan's 1938 screen test for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind," and scenes from "Beau Geste" (1939), "Adam Had Four Sons" (1941), "Reap the Wild Wind" (1942), "Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman" (1947), "My Foolish Heart" (1949), "I'd Climb the Highest Mountain" (1951), "Rawhide" (1951), "David and Bathsheba" (1951), "I Can Get It for You Wholesale" (1951), "With a Song in My Heart" (1952), "The President's Lady" (1953), "I'll Cry Tomorrow" (1955), "I Want to Live!" (1958), and "Valley of the Dolls" (1967), as well as television clips from Foreign Press Association Awards (1952) (TV), and The 31st Annual Academy Awards (1959) (TV).
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