I thought you might be interested in the following snippets from an article by Emmy Eckhardt who was Susan's hairdresser on the set of her pictures for at least eight years. It was written after DEMETRIUS & THE GLADIATORS. I found it a fascinating insight into Susan's personality and believe you will too!
"If you expect me to tell you, in a few thousand well-chosen words, what Susan Hayward is really like, perhaps you'd better not read any further. Even after eight years as Susan's hairdresser, I still can't paint a full-dress portrait of this complex, unpredictable lady from Brooklyn who is one of the most exciting personalities in Hollywood. But I can tell you what I have learned about Susan.
Yes, I get in her hair; sometimes quite literally. Susan is outspoken; so am I. We say what we think and the first time I met her, as hairdresser on her picture CANYON PASSAGE, back in August, 1945, she decided immediately she wasn't going to like me. My reaction to her was almost identical. We were polite, but woman-like, we watched each other warily. It was "Miss Hayward this" and "Mrs. Eckhardt that." We didn't battle but we did argue. There were weeks and weeks of it, or so it seemed and then suddenly I found myself admiring her; her honesty, her intense desire for perfection, her talent and unsuspected humor that bubbles up at the most surprising moments. Before long we were laughing at the same things.
At the time Susan signed her current contract with Fox, she personally inserted a clause which gave her the right to keep her hair long without any demand to have it cut. Yet when Susan was asked to portray the role of Jane Froman the surprising Miss Hayward actually suggested that her hair be shortened four inches. She felt it would be better for the picture. "I know I didn't have to" said Susan roguishly, "but it was nice to make the gesture." It is completely untrue that Susan sobbed silently as her locks were being snipped. How did Jess and the twins like it I asked Susan the next day. "All the boys said was 'let's get the dog shaved for the summer too'"
Actually, I don't know any big star less eager for flattery or less impressed by it than Susan. Compliment Susan and she becomes almost completely poker-faced. I know Susan has been called a human icicle, but that's plain silly. Susan is simply amazingly honest. She doesn't like sweet people; she prefers individuals who are tart on occasion. She needs no yes-men around her. Susan can be contrary as she herself has said.
The Susan Hayward I know is not a girl who makes friends readily. Unlike some other stars, she does not become buddy-buddy with people within ten minutes and forget them a half hour later. Her few friendships are solid and lasting. Only those really close to Susan know what an impish sense of fun she has and on location she is the ideal trouper, never complaining, always taking hardships in stride even in the most rugged surroundings. If there is a lake near by, she'll go fishing in her free time, sitting for hours in a boat. I remember when we were in Georgia for I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN" - Susan had a lot of fun with me because the cottage where we stayed had a porch on the side, away from all the activity on the street and when we sat there in the evening, I couldn't see anything that was going on. Susan kidded me endlessly about my frustration.
Susan really went out her way to make friends of all the natives in that tiny backwoods location. Because it was a small place, the film developing facilities were meager and there were few photographs available of Susan and her co-star, Bill Lundigan. One day, a farm boy, feeling the shortage was overheard by Susan saying "I bet I could get five dollars for a picture of
Miss Hayward and Mr. Lundigan!" "You can!" said Susan to the boy's astonishment, "Then let's shoot one."
When we were in New York filming I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE, we made a nostalgic pilgrimage to the scenes of her childhood. She was both guide and companion - so gay and so different from the withdrawn, self-contained actress visitors sometimes glimpse on the sound stage.
Susan will forever remain herself - an always feminine, always human being quite unlike anyone else I have ever met. She's a woman with a warm and understanding heart - this Susan Hayward. I'm lucky she lets me get in her hair."
I certainly had fun 'eavesdropping' on the observations and stories that Mrs. Emmy Eckhardt so kindly shared with us about Susan Hayward!!
She confirmed that the best way to bring out Susan's spirited personality was to be yourself--and you'd both come to know and enjoy one another. Bit by bit, in 'real' life (versus fans and idolatry), we become more and more naturally aware of each other, as our friendships solidify by just being ourseles!
Growing up near Susan's neck of the woods, I know that most New Yorkers love to quip and banter and tease. And the more we laugh--the easier it becomes to develop a friendship. In fact, that is how I always knew who my best friends were--we didn't worry about what we were saying, because we were too busy laughing so much with one another!
I so glad that Mrs. Emmy Eckhardt had time to develope that rapport with Susan. And to share it with us.
Every one of us has her own or his own quirks--and it is those very quirks that often make our friendships so special and so long-lasting.
Thanks so much, Trish, for sharing these stories!!
WOW... ....What an amazing article you have given us, Trish..and I am so glad that these points were made by someone who actually knew her well. It now makes me feel much better about my meeting/seeing her backstage at the Joey Bishop Show. For these many years, I have felt badly about what I said..and how it must have been taken, but now I no longer feel that way.
Yes...I would totally agree that Susan was not one to snuggle up to compliments as much as if you were to be 'real' and outspoken.
I too..am a complex, complicated person and probably another reason 'why' I was so drawn to her performances..and real life (as much as I might have known about it, which is not much, since I was just 'a fan'.
But in telling my story about the Joey Bishop experience, there is one thing I have always 'left out' of that story. True..I had stood there in 'awe' of standing next to her in that hallway and unable to speak what I really wanted to say, because I knew 'that guy' who had just been in her dressing room, I knew, had already told her..what a great actress he thought she was, etc...(because we heard that while sitting on those stairs, trying to listen to their conversation..until Susan saw us and told him to close the door.)
So...I just stood there..admiring her and unable to speak to her!
Then...I watched 'the thing' of her avoiding any contact with idiot, Don Rickles..and he gave me the 'look' of 'Boy is she a cold one.' as he went to leave.
I was trying to get up the nerve to speak to her then, but hesitated, because I did know she was in a wonderful, smiling mood, just before Rickles had tried to approach her and she shunned him, by not even turning around.
Then I realized I had waited too long, because all of a sudden this couple came down the hall and asked if she was ready. She went to get her wrap from the dressing room and as she came by us (Jo Anne and I)..Jo Anne knew, by that time, I was never going to 'open my mouth to say anything to her', so she asked her to sign this piece of paper she had found. They had actually started to walk down the hallway when Jo Anne did this, but Susan stopped, smiling and told her 'sure'..and turned to sign the paper against the wall. WELL...this irritated the 'woman' that was there to pick her up and she gave some kind of 'annoying sound'. I turned and gave 'the woman' a dagger-stare that stopped her dead in her tracks! I was upset and a little angry, because it had not bothered Susan, but 'did bother' this 'grey-haired woman'.
That is when I got the 'nerve' to finally speak..and said..."Miss Hayward, I am so sorry about the bad reviews on "Back Street"...a stupid thing to say, but I was also upset at 'that woman' and it just came out that way!
She turned and said...coldly "Thank You"...and then they continued down the long hallways to the waiting limo. We followed them all the way out to the waiting crowd and limo. Susan signed only two autographs before getting in the limo..and then it was like she was staring over at me! I figured I had brought back 'unpleasant memories'..and that hurt me.
I must admit..I was still upset with 'that woman' and have always been/will always be I guess...because once Susan stopped to sign the paper and I could see how 'happy' she still was, I did want to speak to her, but what came out was the 'wrong thing' because my mood had changed with the actions of 'that woman'.
I don't know 'the woman's' name, but she and her husband were the ones who got Susan to do MAME in Las Vegas, because she and her husband were on interviews, after that about the MAME-thing...and telling Susan that she would have a great chance at the movie role if she did this Vegas production. I have seen them on other interviews, so I know they must have been close friends with Susan. The man was fine..just...'that woman'...
NOW...I have finally told the entire story of how 'MY FOOLISH MOUTH' said what it did..and had I held back my 'temper' I would have said something much different, because it was not said to be mean toward Susan..it was just something that came to my mind at the time. I happen to LOVE..."BACK STREET" and did feel the critics were unkind to her, on one of her greatest performances. I know so many friends who became 'Susan fans' after seeing that fine film.
Soooo...maybe Susan would have liked me, too, because...like herself, I do show my true feelings and don't hold back! (sorry..we all have our faults)
One more thing..I would like to make clear...Susan had her back to us, signing the paper, when I gave 'that woman' the dagger-stare, so Susan never knew anything about that...only what I said to her...