|Source: Lloyd Laney|
I believe what made Susan Hayward such a great actress was how real she was which allowed to her seem like she wasn't acting. She almost had this "I have nothing to lose attitude so I might as well do things my way." Which I guess is understandable because of how she grew up and was raised. Coming from an immigrant community in a very poor part of New York. And was taught very young or perhaps just learned herself that if she's going to accomplish anything in life because of how she's starting out she's going to have to earn everything and work very hard. Because nothing will be given to her.
Sort of reminds me of how Richard Nixon started out in life coming from a very poor part of Southern California and yet he is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in his early thirties and the U.S. Senate just two years later, Vice President of the United States by 39 and never had to worry about money the rest of his life. People appreciate things more in life when they earn them because they know what it's like not to have much and don't want to go back there. Which I believe is what kept Susan going for as long as she was able to and literally becoming not just one of the best actresses of her generation, but ever.
Not to get too political especially in piece about Classic Hollywood but Susan Hayward represents exactly what American exceptionalism is. That no matter your race, ethnicity, gender, how you were raised and the income level of your parents, if you have real talent, skills, and a strong work-ethic, you'll make it in America. Susan Hayward's lack of a start in life and having nothing to start off with and her father never making enough money for his family to live well and they always being in poverty, only made Susan work harder and be able to accomplish more on her own. Because she hated poverty so much that we was going to work as hard and be as successful as she possibly can.
Susan was finally able to finally enjoy life instead of worrying about will she have enough food to eat that day or will she homeless and other things that most Americans who don't live in poverty take for granted everyday. I believe Susan's upbringing and how real and honest she was contributed to her being the great actress that she was. Because she knew too well what poverty and going without was like and when she was acting it was like she wasn't acting or pretending at all, because of how real she was.
I believe Susan Hayward was one of the first great dramatic comedic actresses. And what I mean by that is not someone who can do both drama and comedy well someone like a Sally Field today who is still one of the funniest people in Hollywood and has still has great comedic timing, but who is also a very good if not great dramatic actress. But Susan was someone who brought comedy to her dramatic roles and could combine both genres into one role and be dramatic and funny at the same time. The movie I'll Cry Tomorrow where she plays a great but alcoholic actress, is an excellent example of that. Where she was cracking wisecracks with the perfect timing as she was playing a drunk with a really bad case of alcoholism.
Susan was so real as an actress and had a knack for playing women who were struggling and did that so well, because she wasn't playing. She knew exactly what it was like to struggle in life and would take those parts and literally turn into the women she was playing, because she knew exactly what it was like to struggle in life. Which is what I believe made her a great actress. Which I believe is also what lead to Susan's downfall and why she dies in 1975 in her late fifties because everything in life was such a struggle for her and she didn't take enough time to actually enjoy what she accomplished in life.