Energetic red-haired leading lady Susan Hayward (born Edythe Marrener) specialized in portraying gutsy women who rebound from adversity. She began working as a photographer's model while still in high school, and when open auditions were held in 1937 for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, she arrived in Hollywood with scores of other actresses. Unlike most of the others, however, she managed to become a contract player. Her roles were initially discouragingly small, although she gradually work her way up to stardom. For her role in Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947) -- the first in which she played a strong-willed, courageous woman -- Hayward received the first of her five Oscar nominations; the others were for performances in My Foolish Heart (1950), With a Song in My Heart (1952), I'll Cry Tomorrow (1956), and I Want to Live (1958), winning for the latter. Although the actress maintained her star status through the late '50s, the early '60s saw her in several unmemorable tearjerkers, and although she formally retired from films in 1964, that retirement was not a permanent one - as she later returned to the screen for a few more roles including parts in a couple of telemovies and one theatrical feature during the early 1970s. Her ten-year marriage to actor Jess Barker ended in 1954 with a bitter child-custody battle, and she died in 1975 after a two-year struggle with a brain tumor, one of several cast and crew members from 1956's The Conqueror to be stricken with cancer later in life.
Biography by Rovi
- Modeled as a teenager, appearing in The Saturday Evening Post.
- Her audition for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind resulted not in a part but in an eventual contract with Warner Bros.
- Furthered the stereotype of the "fiery redhead" by becoming famous for playing strong women who triumphed over adversity in films such as With a Song in My Heart (1952), I'll Cry Tomorrow (1956) and I Want to Live (1958), the last of which earned her an Oscar.
- Engaged in a contentious divorce and child-custody battle with first husband, actor Jess Barker.
- Died of a brain tumor.