Edythe Marrenner was born June 30, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York.
After working as a fashion model in New York, she traveled to Hollywood in 1937 to audition for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind.
Although she was not selected, she changed her name to Susan Hayward and secured a film contract, and played several small supporting roles over the next couple years.
Then in 1939, Susan was cast in “Beau Geste” opposite Gary Cooper.
During World War II, she acted with John Wayne twice, as a second lead in Reap the Wild Wind and as his leading lady in The Fighting Seabees.
Susan married actor Jess Barker and gave birth to twin sons on February 19, 1945.
By the late 1940s, the quality of her film roles had improved, and she achieved recognition for her dramatic abilities with the first of five Academy Award nominations for Best Actress for her performance as an alcoholic in the 1947 film Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman.
Susan Hayward’s career continued successfully into the 1950s and was cast by Howard Hughes opposite John Wayne again for the 1955 historical epic “The Conqueror.”
Her marriage to Jess Barker ended after ten years of marriage, reportedly surviving a suicide attempt after the divorce.
In 1957, Susan married married Floyd Eaton Chalkley, a Georgia rancher and businessman who had formerly worked as a federal agent. Though he was an unusual husband for a Hollywood movie star, the marriage was a happy one.
Then at the height of her career, Susan Hayward won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1958 for her portrayal of death row inmate Barbara Graham in “I Want to Live.”
Following her Oscar-winning performance, Susan’s film appearances became infrequent as she treasured her private life.
Then tragedy struck when her Second husband Floyd Chalkley died on January 9, 1966.
Susan Hayward went into mourning and did little acting for several years, and took up residence in Florida because she preferred not to live in her Georgia home without her husband.
She continued to act occasionally into the early 1970s, when she was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Her final film role was as Dr. Maggie Cole in the 1972 made-for-TV drama Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole. (The film was intended to be a pilot episode for a weekly television series, but because of Hayward’s cancer diagnosis and failing health the series was never produced.)
Her last public appearance was at the Academy Awards telecast in 1974 to present the Best Actress award despite being very ill. With Charlton Heston’s support she was able to present the award.
Then on March 14, 1975, Susan Hayward suffered a seizure in her Beverly Hills home and died at age 57. She was survived by her two twin sons from her first marriage with Barker.
Hayward’s funeral was held on March 16 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church in Carrollton, Georgia.
She was buried in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cemetery next to her second husband, Floyd Eaton Chalkley.
Today, there is speculation that Susan Hayward may have developed cancer from radioactive fallout from atmospheric atomic bomb tests while making The Conqueror with John Wayne.
Several production members, as well as Wayne himself, Agnes Moorehead, and Pedro Armendáriz, later succumbed to cancer and cancer-related illnesses.
For her contribution to the film industry, Susan Hayward has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6251 Hollywood Boulevard.
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