After working as a fashion model in New York, Hayward travelled to Hollywood in 1937 when open auditions were held for the leading role in Gone With the Wind (1939). Although she was not selected, she secured a film contract, and played several small supporting roles over the next few years. 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 Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman (1947). Her career continued successfully through the 1950s and she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of death row inmate Barbara Graham in I Want to Live! (1958).
By this time, Hayward was married and living in Georgia and her film appearances became infrequent, although she continued acting in film and television until 1972. She died in 1975 following a long battle with brain cancer.
Early life and careerHayward was born Edythe Marrenner in Brooklyn, New York to Walter Marrenner and Ellen Pearson. Her paternal grandmother was an actress, Kate Harrigan, from County Cork, Ireland. Her maternal grandparents were from Sweden. She began her career as a photographer's model, going to Hollywood in 1937, aiming to secure the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind.
Although she did not win the role, Hayward found employment playing bit parts until she was cast in Beau Geste (1939) opposite Gary Cooper. During the war years, she played leading lady to John Wayne twice, in Reap the Wild Wind (1942) and The Fighting Seabees (1944). She also starred in the film version of The Hairy Ape (1944). Later in 1955, she was cast by Howard Hughes to play Bortai in the historical epic The Conqueror, again opposite John Wayne.
Tap Roots (1948), My Foolish Heart (1949), David and Bathsheba (1951), and With a Song in My Heart (1952).
In 1947, she received the first of five Academy Award nominations for her role as an alcoholic nightclub singer in Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman.
During the 1950s she won acclaim for her dramatic performances as President Andrew Jackson's melancholic wife in The President's Lady (1953); the alcoholic actress Lillian Roth in I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955), based on Roth's best-selling autobiography of the same name, for which she received a Cannes award; and the real-life California murderer Barbara Graham in I Want to Live! (1958). Hayward's portrayal of Graham won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.
In 1961, Hayward starred as a working girl who becomes the wife of the state's next governor (Dean Martin) and ultimately takes over that office herself in Ada (film). She replaced Judy Garland as Helen Lawson in the 1967 film adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls.
She received good reviews for her performance in a Las Vegas production of Mame, but left the production. She was replaced by Celeste Holm.
She continued to act 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 1973 Academy Awards telecast to present the Best Actress award, despite the fact that she was very ill. With Charlton Heston supporting her, she was able to present the award.
Personal lifeHayward was married to actor Jess Barker for 10 years, and they had two children, fraternal twin sons on February 19, 1945. The marriage was described in Hollywood gossip columns as turbulent. They divorced in 1954. During the contentious divorce proceedings, Hayward felt it necessary to stay in the United States and not join the Hong Kong location shooting for the film Soldier of Fortune. She shot her scenes with co-star Clark Gable indoors in Hollywood. A few brief, distant scenes of Gable and a Hayward double walking near landmarks in Hong Kong were combined with the indoor shots.
In 1957, Hayward married 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. She lived with him in Carrollton, Georgia, becoming a popular figure in a state that in the 1950s was off the beaten path for most celebrities. In December 1964, she and her husband were baptized Catholic at SS Peter and Paul's Roman Catholic Church on Larimar Avenue, in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh, by one Father McGuire. She had met McGuire while in China and promised him that if she ever converted, he would be the one to baptize her. Chalkley died in 1966. 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 late husband.
Hayward died at age 57 on March 14, 1975, of pneumonia-related complications of brain cancer, having survived considerably longer than doctors had predicted. There is speculation that she may have been affected by 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 Armendariz, later succumbed to cancer and cancer-related illnesses. She was survived by her two sons from the marriage with Barker. Hayward was cremated and buried beside Chalkley at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church in Carrollton.
Hayward has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6251 Hollywood Boulevard.
|1937||Hollywood Hotel||Starlet at table||uncredited|
|1938||The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse||Patient||scenes deleted|
|1938||The Sisters||Telephone operator||uncredited|
|1938||Girls on Probation||Gloria Adams|
|1938||Comet Over Broadway||Amateur Actress||uncredited|
|1938||Campus Cinderella||Co-Ed||Short subject|
|1939||Beau Geste||Isobel Rivers|
|1939||Our Leading Citizen||Judith Schofield|
|1939||$1000 a Touchdown||Betty McGlen|
|1941||Adam Had Four Sons||Hester Stoddard|
|1941||Sis Hopkins||Carol Hopkins|
|1941||Among the Living||Millie Pickens|
|1942||Reap the Wild Wind||Cousin Drusilla Alston|
|1942||The Forest Rangers||Tana 'Butch' Mason|
|1942||I Married a Witch||Estelle Masterson|
|1942||Star Spangled Rhythm||Herself - Genevieve in Priorities Skit|
|1942||A Letter from Bataan||Mrs. Mary Lewis|
|1943||Young and Willing||Kate Benson|
|1943||Hit Parade of 1943||Jill Wright|
|1943||Jack London||Charmian Kittredge|
|1944||The Fighting Seabees||Constance Chesley|
|1944||The Hairy Ape||Mildred Douglas|
|1944||And Now Tomorrow||Janice Blair|
|1944||Skirmish on the Home Front||Molly Miller||Short subject|
|1946||Deadline at Dawn||June Goth|
|1946||Canyon Passage||Lucy Overmire|
|1947||Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman||Angelica 'Angie'/'Angel' Evans Conway||Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actress|
|12947||They Won't Believe Me||Verna Carlson|
|1947||The Lost Moment||Tina Bordereau|
|1948||Tap Roots||Morna Dabney|
|1948||The Saxon Charm||Janet Busch|
|1949||House of Strangers||Irene Bennett|
|1949||My Foolish Heart||Eloise Winters||Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actress|
|1951||Screen Snapshots: Hopalong in Hoppy Land||Herself||Short subject|
|1951||I'd Climb the Highest Mountain||Mary Elizabeth Eden Thompson|
|1951||I Can Get It for You Wholesale||Harriet Boyd|
|1951||David and Bathsheba||Bathsheba|
|1952||With a Song in My Heart||Jane Froman|
|1952||The Snows of Kilimanjaro||Helen|
|1952||The Lusty Men||Louise Merritt|
|1953||The President's Lady||Rachel Donaldson|
|1953||White Witch Doctor||Ellen Burton|
|1954||Demetrius and the Gladiators||Messalina|
|1954||Garden of Evil||Leah Fuller|
|1955||Untamed||Katie O'Neill (Kildare) (Van Riebeck)|
|1955||Soldier of Fortune||Mrs. Jane Hoyt|
|1955||I'll Cry Tomorrow||Lillian Roth|| |
|1957||Top Secret Affair||Dorothy 'Dottie' Peale|
|1958||I Want to Live!||Barbara Graham|
|1959||Thunder in the Sun||Gabrielle Dauphin|
|1959||Woman Obsessed||Mary Sharron|
|1961||The Marriage-Go-Round||Content Delville|
|1961||Back Street||Rae Smith|
|1962||I Thank a Fool||Christine Allison|
|1963||Stolen Hours||Laura Pember|
|1964||Where Love Has Gone||Valerie Hayden Miller|
|1967||The Honey Pot||Mrs. Sheridan|
|1967||Valley of the Dolls||Helen Lawson|
|1972||The Revengers||Elizabeth Reilly|
|1972||Heat of Anger||Jessie Fitzgerald||TV movie|
|1972||Say Goodbye Maggie Cole||Dr. Maggie Cole||TV movie|