Susan Hayward is one of a small group of actresses including Maureen O’Hara, Olivia de Havilland and Virginia Mayo who I was always aware of at a young age. It had little to do with their good looks on camera but more in tune with the fact that they frequently appeared on screen opposite the movie heroes of my childhood. With Olivia it was Errol, Maureen it was Duke, Mayo and Kaye, which brings us to Susan who I didn’t identify immediately with a specific co-star. She just kept appearing in male oriented films I wanted to catch on the late show. Earliest memory I have of Miss Hayward? Probably an afternoon television showing of the 1954 western Garden Of Evil that starred both Gary Cooper and Richard Widmark.

Susan more than holds her own on screen opposite the pair of western stalwarts and I’d soon discover she was a first rate actress, more than willing to tangle with any leading man of her era. I quickly became a fan of the fiery redhead on screen as she sparred with the likes of Tyrone Power, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Jeff Chandler and Clark Gable among many others. Always giving as good as she got slugging it out in the trenches as if she was just another one of the boys. But of course she wasn’t “one of the boys” but a beautiful leading lady from Hollywood’s yesteryear who left us far too early in 1975 at just 57 years of age.

Once I caught on to her films and began to hunt them down I’d see her Oscar winning role in I Want To Live! which only confirmed that she could carry a film on her own without the big named co-star to compete with. Thankfully a good majority of her films are available to see today and after a quick check I see that I have 44 of her 64 IMDB credits here on the shelf at Mike’s Take.  Guess I’ll have to hunt those 20 other titles down.

Talking tough to kickstart the images…. “For five thousand dollars, I’m not afraid of anything, not even death!”

Ready for her close-up under Mr. DeMille’s tutelage.

No way this Italian poster is a 1943 vintage when the film originally came out. Judging by the image of Susan and Bill this looks like a rerelease from about 1955. Still, it’s a beautiful rendition.

Susan was a perfect fit for these tales of Noir and murder seen here opposite Robert Young and Jane Greer.

“I was a good girl once.”

I’ve always loved the western Rawhide. Ty: “Are you afraid of coyotes?” Susan: “Yeah, the kind with boots on.”

Flirting with the Academy for her role as Jane Froman.

“Jeff, can you hand me a towel?”

“We admire a magnificent animal who fights. Why not a man who fights ?”

Flirting again with Oscar on awards night.

If you know the story behind the movie then what happened off screen proved more tragic then what Howard Hughes released into movie houses. “Yes, he captured me – but he cannot tame me.”

and the Oscar goes to ….. Susan Hayward!

Dean : “You must have been a tough little girl.” Susan : “I’m a tough big one too.”

Susan would make a handful of movies through the 1960’s and end her career after appearing once again opposite William Holden in 1972’s The Revengers. After hunting around the vault here at Mike’s Take I’ve located a poster that frequent visitors should not be too surprised to see in my collection. It’s a 1957 copy of Top Secret Affair. A fun screwball comedy that cast tough guy Kirk Douglas opposite an equally tough Susan. Give it a look if you get the chance as well as any title featured above. If I missed a personal favorite shout it out in the comments section below.

If nothing else let’s all remember just how dynamic Susan Hayward could be on screen mixing beauty with a toughness that made her one of the premiere actresses of her era.