Hi all: Last week I attended an event at the Academy Theater honoring the 100th birthday of Barbara Stanwyck. Little did I know that Susan would be mentioned. As it turned out, Nolan Miller, the costume designer, was among those who shared their memories about Barbara with Robert Osborne, who moderated the event. Nolan told a wonderful anecdote about Susan and Barbara meeting and becoming friends. He said they first got acquainted when Susan took over the TV role in “Heat of Anger” for Barbara when she became ill. He said he was the one who went over to Susan’s house to ask if she would step in for Barbara. She jumped at it, and the first thing she asked was, “What will I wear?” She then told him she was thrilled to do it because she had been a fan of Barbara’s since childhood. She mentioned that when she was young she tried to emulate Barbara in every way, even trying to walk and dress like her. She so admired Barbara’s tailored suits that she started wearing them too.
Their first and only meeting came later when Susan was ill. One day Barbara planned to visit the Getty Museum in a special tour before the official opening, and Nolan told Susan. She right away asked whether she could join them and so it was arranged that Susan and her nurse would tour the museum with Barbara and Nolan. He said the two Brooklyn gals bonded immediately and by the end of the afternoon Barbara was pushing Susan in her wheelchair. At one point during that day Nolan watched the two talking intently in one of the galleries and marveled at how close they had become in one short meeting. It made him wonder why they had never met before. Later Barbara told him that although she had always admired Susan, she was too shy to approach her at the studio because she was always surrounded by people. (Go figure.)
I wish I could fully convey the tone of his conversation because you could tell how much he admired these two women, and his warm reminiscences were a testament to their good taste in befriending him. When he told of visiting Susan and chatting with her in her living room, he was as natural talking about her as we would be of a dear friend. As for me, I will not soon forget the image of Barbara pushing Susan in her wheelchair.
I hope I have given you a bit of the flavor of that evening, for it indeed was a big thrill for me to hear him talk about Susan in such a loving way.
Many thanks for sharing that wonderful anecdote Jill. I envy you the proximity to someone who knew these women so well and on such good terms. It is their recollections that tend to provide the human face and personal details of stars of the Golden Age.
Today, with the Studio controlled star system gone and living in the post 1960's cinema verite era - stars are more celebs whose personal lives and utterances and doings are brandished in print and film globally. They are demystified and made 'just like you and me' as it were, other than being more talented, more rich, more beautiful or whatever.
But in the era when Stanywck and Hayward glittered on the A list of stars, we the public only rarely were permitted to have a glimpse into their feelings and personal lives.
I think Barbara was approx 10 years Susan's senior, and that coupled with what we assume was the tough, independant Stanwyck persona, makes the item about 'being too shy to approach Susan at the Studio' very interesting.
As a mental exercise it is diverting to recast each in some of the other's roles. How successful this would have turned out is a deeply personal response of course. What one person thinks...
Again - thanks for posting.
I've read Barbara Stanwyck could not bear to watch herself on screen, per Frank Capra. So to me it's entirely possible she was too shy to meet Susan Hayward.
Recasting each other's roles, to be honest it's hard to imagine Susan in The Lady Eve, except in the early romantic sequences.
On the other hand it's hard for me to see Barbara pulling off I'll Cry Tomorrow, especially the scene where Susan collapses in front of the Asian establishment and comes to enough to tell them to call her mother.
It's funny you mentioned that scene in I'll Cry Tomorrow. It is my favorite scene in the movie. Susan is brilliant. You can actually feel her pain.
She blew me away in that film.
Can't believe that is not on dvd yet.
Thank you so much for sharing this with us Jill - it makes fascinating reading and more pages for my Scrapbooks on Susan Hayward.
You are so fortunate to be living in Los Angeles and able to attend functions of this sort. We will have to wait another ten years before, hopefully, Susan will be honoured in like manner.
Jill, thank you for sharing this. You are indeed fortunate to be able to live close to these wonderful events that take place.
I would have loved to have been there to hear Nolan Miller speak about Susan Hayward and Barbara Stanwyck. I think Barbara was about 10 years older than Susan,and I had read that Susan had much pride in and admiration of Barbara Stanwyck since she was a Brooklyn girl who had made good.
I always remember Nolan Miller as the designer of Susan's gown that she wore at her last public appearance, the Academny Awards, and I think that she was also buried in this same gown.
I had never heard that Barbara Stanwwyck was shy, and of course, we have all read of Susan's shyness. It must be a sort of piece of the puzzle that makes an actress great or any performer great for that matter. Many of them have been very shy as themselves but can step out of their shyness when on the stage or in front of a camera.
Great story, Jill.. thanks!
Kerry, I am so glad you enjoyed my comments about that evening. And I appreciated your astute observations about the old star system and mystique surrounding the stars then. How true that was.
Yes, it is difficult to equate shyness with Stanwyck, yet Nolan Miller insisted that beneath the so-called tough exterior, she was a "marshmellow." He also mentioned that every time she had to attend a public event, she would break out in a rash and have to call her dermatologist. I thought that remark was a riot. I also liked the anecdote from Robert Osborne. He said the first time he interviewed her, as he was leaving her house, she said, "Remember one thing, when you write your story -- I don't walk on water." I thought that was a wonderful thing for her to say, lest he get too carried away with his admiration for her.
As I side note, I once met a gal who worked in Stanwyck's doctor's office and she had to pay personal calls to her house (fame has privileges). She had nothing but wonderful things to say about her and Stanwyck even gave her one of her dresses. Wow. I was jealous.
Yes, I feel very fortunate to be able to attend these events -- one of the perks of living in L.A. Thanks for reminding me that I should not get blase about it all because sometimes I do. Plus, there are usually so many going on all the time that it can be an embarrassment of riches!
I have been attending the double bills of Stanwyck films being shown each week as part of her centennial celebration and that has been a real thrill. Along with Susan, she is one of my all-time favorites.
Again, thanks for your appreciative comments.
Trish, I appreciate your comments. It's always nice to get such great feedback. I wasn't sure if anyone would be interested. I should have known better. Glad you can add it to your scrapbooks.
Yes, most times I feel fortunate to be living in L.A. and able to attend these events. But it takes someone like you to remind me to be grateful!
Let's hope that the Academy sees fit to honor Susan in this way. But you never know. They have their favorites and who knows if Susan is one of them.
Ginger, I am so happy you liked my little commentary.
It certainly is great to be able to attend these events. I think the people feel freer to talk, too, than if they were being interviewed on TV. I love that part of it. How I wish you could have been there because I know you would have thoroughly enjoyed him talking so warmly about Barbara and Susan. The fact that he even showed up for this event is testimony to his great affection for them.
I had forgotten (or maybe didn't know) that Nolan designed Susan's Oscar dress. That was a nice tidbit to add to the Susan lore.
Jill, Please share any of your stories of these events you go to, and they don't necessarily have to be about Susan, although that's always special for us!
Well, you never know, I might make it to an event out there one of these days...got an extra bedroom?... LOL.. just kidding! ha
I live in LA and would love to attend events like the one you mentioned. If you ever hear about another one, could you let us know in advance? That would be awesome.
Thanks so much,
Ginger, thanks for the go-ahead to share other stories about these events. I wasn't sure if you wanted us to discuss non-Susan topics on this board.
As it turns out, I was eager to tell you about seeing Lillian on screen for the first time. She appeared with Barbara Stanwyck in the film I saw last Friday night, "Ladies They Talk About" (1933). It was one of the first women's prison films and she played one of Barbara's jail buddies. She had some nice screen time and sang one number.
I don't know whether it was just me focusing on her, but I do believe she stole those scenes from Barbara (or Barbara let her steal them!) because my eyes were riveted on her. She displayed an engaging personality with a wide-open smile and a cute dimple in her cheek. Let's just say, she lit up the screen.
I purposely went to see this film just to see her, and it was well worth it. The film itself was a hoot, with a lot of great character women playing the jailbirds and their matrons.
Then on Saturday night I saw another Stanwyck double feature -- both from the '50s -- a time I can really identify with. Pat Crowley was in the audience for the second film "There's Always Tomorrow," in which she had a supporting part. I don't know if you know her. But she looks quite fit and attractive at 60-something.
Anyway, that's all from under Hedda's hat! Ha.
I think Lillian Roth had that certain star-quality.
Not too long ago I saw Madam Satan on TCM, a rather bizarre Cecil B. DeMille concoction of romantic comedy and disaster film, from 1930. She played the supporting part of a homewrecker, but did it in such a cute and vivacious way you tended to forget the female lead, Kay Johnson.
Jill, you should have a special thread of your own here entitled "Hedda's Hat."...!
Really, that was the first time you had seen Lillian on film? I've seen that particular film, "Ladies They Talk About" on Turner Classic movies. Lillian was a wonderful actress and singer and she sparkled on film. The first film I actually saw her in was entitled "Madam Satan" and I marveled at her onscreen persona... yes,she just lights up the screen for sure...and she was so funny. She was very good at drama too. "Ladies" was one of those pre-code films wasn't it? ..and Stanwyck had all that blonde hair..oh, she was a tough cookie.. LOL loved it.. !!
I do vaguely remember Pat Crowley.
Oh, you are so lucky!!
I didn't know there was another L.A. person on the board. Greetings, fellow denizen!
I certainly will let you know about upcoming events. In the meantime, you just have to log on to oscars.org to get info on the Academy events and get on the mailing list. You can also see photos from past events, which are always fun to look at.
The other venues include the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, UCLA Film screenings at the Billy Wilder Theater and LACMA'S Bing Theater. All have ongoing screenings, which you can find out about in the L.A. Weekly.
What part of L.A.? I love in West Los Angeles.
Ginger, you read my mind. I was thinking the same thing that I should have my own Hedda column/thread. I also thought of another title, "Dispatches from Hollywood."
I don't know how I missed seeing Lillian on film, but not having TCM probably accounts for it. Her films are not generally shown at the various screenings around town, unless they are connected with a big star, as this film was.
I don't think "Ladies They Talk About" was pre-code; at least there wasn't anything risque about it. Another film in the Stanwyck series, "Baby Face," was labeled pre-code, and supposedly it has quite a few "racy" scenes. I did not see that film. Am not much of a fan of early Stanwyck for some reason. I like her films of the '40s and '50s.