The final installment of my long-winded tribute to Susan Hayward!
After her triumph with "I Want to Live!" Susie seemed content to be "Mrs Eaton Chalkley" and spent most of her time on their ranch in Georgia. They both loved fishing and they spent a great deal of time on their boats. She got offers for various roles but it seemed as if she had hit a peak with her Oscar win and never had as much enthusiasm for her work again. "Where love has Gone" released in 1964, was the last film where she reigned as a superstar. At the end of 1965 she was in Italy filming "The Honey Pot" when her husband was stricken with the Hepatitus that he'd developed because of contaminated blood in an earlier operation. He died on Jan 6th 1966. A devastated Susie, always the professional, managed to get back to Italy a few days later and finish filming. Afterwards she went into seclusion for a year. She came out of retirement to replace Judy Garland in "Valley of the Dolls", a film totally blasted by the critics but a huge money-maker anyway. In mid-1968 she was offered the part of "Mame" in Las Vegas, her one and only crack at legitimate stage work, but after only 2 months she had to back out under doctors orders because of a throat ailment. Back to work in 1971 she had a cameo role in "The Revengers", a sort of "Wild Bunch" knockoff starring William Holden. Susie's few scenes with him are the best part of the film. She made one more film, a TV movie called "Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole" which was a weirdly prophetic title as Susie would never work as an actress again. She had been diagnosed with multiple inoperable brain tumors and was having blackouts and convulsive siezures. Susie was a fighter all her life and this final chapter of it would be no different. She agreeed to attend the 1974 Academy Awards as a presenter alongside Charlton Heston. She was introduced by David Niven who said "Mr Heston has created many miracles-just illusions on the screen. But in presenting our next award he brings with him not an illusion, but the real thing-Miss Susan Hayward!" Susie had to lean heavily on Heston and the camera men respectfully avoided close ups. Frank Westmore had spent hours with her that day making her up as she had lost all of her beautiful red hair and was very thin and pale. She had asked for him specifically because she wanted "Only a Westmore" to get her ready for the show that night. Westmore said he was never more proud of his craftmanship than what he was able to do for her that day. Till the end she maintained she would beat her illness and many friends and former associates visited with her including Garbo! Finally on March 14th 1975 Susie passed away after a siezure at her home. She was only 56 years old. Back in the early 1950's the portrait painter Peter Fairchild included Susie in a group of 4 beautiful women (along with Ava Gardner, Lana Turner and Lizabeth Scott) saying these were the only ones left in Hollywood since Garbo. Susie's response to this was: "It was kind of Mr Fairchild, but physical beauty comes by the grace of god and your parents. It's what you achieve on your own that counts". I'd say little Edythe Merrener achieved quite a bit in her far too-short life!