Monday, July 10, 2017

LIZ SMITH: High Camp

Susan Hayward, drink in hand, backed by a well-stocked bar, is about to give Marsha Hunt a piece of her mind — and plenty more! — in “Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman.”
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Susan Hayward’s Fans Remind Us — It’s Her Centennial Too! ... Make an Appointment with “War Paint” ... and John Oliver, HBO’s Brit, Protecting American Values and Democracy.

“LIZ, VERY nice centennial tribute to Lena Horne. Have there been any irate e-mails, etc. that Susan Hayward wasn't recognized, as it was the 100th anniversary of her birth also on June 30th? Just asking. There are some fiercely loyal Hayward fans out there!” 

That was reader Mark Kirby. And as a matter of fact, within the congratulatory mail of our remembrance of Lena, a there were a few Hayward fans, who mentioned — in  a nice, non-brutal way — that the flame-hair Oscar-winner was also celebrating her hundredth.

We’re big fans of Hayward here.  She was gorgeous, unique and — to us — underrated. 

So, to appease Miss Hayward’s fans, we are going to repeat a bit of a column we did on the star a couple of years ago when Turner Classic Movies honored her as its Star of Month. 

Here goes. This is for you, Susie and all those who have not forgotten.
Susan Hayward as Barbara Graham in “I Want to Live!”
“I NEED a drink. I need a drink now!!!!”

That was Susan Hayward, in one of the defining roles of her career, as singer Lillian Roth in “I’ll Cry Tomorrow.”
Susan Hayward in "I'll Cry Tomorrow."
Hayward was Oscar nominated for that performance in 1955 — her fourth nomination — but she wouldn’t win the prize until 1958, for an equally intense portrayal of another real-life woman, convicted murderer Barbara Graham, in “I Want to Live!” (Who can forget Susan waiting to die, and refusing to take off her high-heels — “No dice, I look better with ‘em on!”)
I received a lovely note from Susan Hayward’s godson, Jim Warren, who let me know that the flame-haired Brooklyn-born movie star had finally been selected by Turner Classic Movies as a Star of the Month, for September. Jim conveyed some sweet, personal memories of Miss Hayward who was known to be extremely private, but warm and earthy once she let her guard down.

With her Oscar for " I Want to Live," 1958
And, in Hollywood, she was respected as one of the industry’s great professionals. (She never balked at an assignment from her studios — she did her job and always worked toward something bigger and better. When she finally won the Academy Award, producer Walter Wanger remarked: “Thank goodness, we can all relax now, Susie has her Oscar!”)

But somehow, Susan — who died at age 57, battling brain cancer — never quite gained the appropriate mythic stature of other stars. This has always seemed odd to me. But I don’t think she was fully appreciated even in her lifetime.

Maybe Susan Hayward was just ... too much. Too much fire, too much strength, too raw. Aside from her beauty, which was considerable, she also had spectacular, unique mannerisms that should have made her immortal. The way she spoke — achingly emotional to super snarly in seconds — the way those nostrils flared from that stubborn retrousse nose, the toss of her tawny mane of hair. But most of all, that incredible walk. With perfect posture, it was a delicious cross between a strut and a bounce — absolute authority and absolute sex. Even from a great distance, you knew Susan Hayward was arriving. She could sing and dance. There was little she couldn’t do, except perhaps light comedy. Hayward was too emphatic for that. But she gave it a try, and was compelling in her efforts.
Hayward struts through "Sing, You Sinners!" in "I'll Cry Tomorrow."
AMONG our favorite Hayward efforts: “Adam Had Four Sons” (being bad to saintly Ingrid Bergman) ... ”Reap the Wild Wind” ... I Married a Witch” ... ”The Hairy Ape” ... Deadline at Dawn” ... ”Smash Up: The Story of a Woman” (Her first alkie role) ... ”My Foolish Heart” (a great tearjerker) ... ”The Lost Moment” ... ”House of Strangers” (a sizzling face-off with Edward G. Robinson) ... ”I Can Get It For You Wholesale” (a strong woman constrained by idiot men) ... ”The President’s Lady” ... ”Demetrius and the Gladiators” (as the wickedest woman in Rome) ... ”The Conqueror” (Just for her belly-baring sword dance) ... the aforementioned “I Want to Live” and “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” and “Where Love Has Gone” in which she played a fictionalized version of Lana Turner, embroiled in the death of a sleazy lover. This one is also notable for pitting Miss Hayward against Bette Davis. They did not get along in the film, or in real life, but they are electric in the movie, bitching each other constantly.
"Now, now girls." — Director Dmytryk on the set of “Where Love Has Gone” with Davis and Hayward.
Susan: “When you’re dying of thirst, you drink from a mudhole.”
Bette: “You have devoted your life to mud and filth.”
Susan: “Only to get even with you.”
Bette: “Blaming me for your problems will not make you a better person.”
Susan: “Telling you the truth has already made me a better person!”

Well, it’s so high camp it’s in another universe.
BUT not even this can compare to Susan’s glorified cameo in “Valley of the Dolls” which includes the infamous wig-snatching powder room scene with Patty Duke. “VOTD” was a movie about people on drugs that appeared to have been made by people on drugs! Miss Hayward gave it a touch of class.
Susan Hayward was valiant to the end, making a glorious final appearance at the 1975 Oscars, looking a bit frail, but so glamorous, every inch her image, that fans and even the industry dismissed the rumors that she was on her deathbed. Perhaps that is the reason why her legend never gelled properly. Great fighters are never expected to lose.

Thanks, Mark Kirby — and others! — for reminding us of this glorious giant.
HEY THERE, fans of fashion and Broadway musicals.  Maybe before you know it, the producers of the Patti LuPone/Christine Ebersole show, “War Paint” at the Nederlander, will announce its closing date.  Audiences are nuts about this one.  Many go in expecting one thing, and come out having experienced something else.  Be alert. Make your plans now while everybody behind the scenes, counting the box-office receipts still seems reasonably content.
“War Paint” — in its tale of the rivalry between cosmetics queens Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden — shows us a lot of how fashion evolved over the decades, thanks in no small part to the efforts of costume and wig designers Catherine Zuber and David Brian.  But this is more than a shallow peek at hemlines, hats and the machinations of bottling creams to firm the jaw line and foundation to hide every flaw.  The show is truly divine, and surprising, in what it tells us about the history of women and the things they won, what they lost, what they valued.  There is a universality beyond the story of Helena and Elizabeth, and how they pulled themselves up the ladder, by mascara, rouge and oh-so-touchable skin. Grit and intelligence mixed with paint and powder.
LAST WEEK, before we left for a brief “recess,” we recommended a few things to read and watch that might give you pause, over the celebrations of our country’s liberty and ideals of democracy.  I left this one out.  I mention it now because I consider it perhaps the best bit of investigative journalism I’ve seen in a while — the most terrifying, too. 

I do mean HBO’s John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” segment on the encroaching power and methods of the right-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group.
While FOX News and Breitbart are openly conservative (just as MSNBC is unabashedly liberal) Sinclair is another kettle of influence, and altogether more insidious.  It is too complicated to explain properly here, but I urge you to find this compelling 18 minutes — On Demand, on YouTube, etc.

Mr. Oliver, the British born comic/commentator did his American patriotic duty with this.  Watch, learn; be prepared. Don’t let it happen.  Because, as the great and prescient writer Sinclair Lewis noted; it Can happen here!
Contact Liz here.