Twenty-year-old photographer’s model Susan Hayward headed to Hollywood in 1937. Her goal was to land the coveted role of “Scarlett O’Hara” in the big-screen adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel Gone with the Wind. She lost the role to Vivien Leigh, but was cast in bit parts until her breakout role opposite Gary Cooper in Beau Geste in 1939.
Susan blossomed into a well-respected actress, garnering five Academy Award nominations and winning in 1958 for her portrayal of California murderer Barbara Graham in I Want to Live!
In 1955, Susan appeared alongside John Wayne in Howard Hughes‘ The Conqueror, an ill-conceived tale of Genghis Khan. The picture was partly filmed in the Utah desert amid fallout from nearby atomic bomb testing. Ninety-one members of the cast and crew of the film, including stars Wayne, Agnes Moorehead, Pedro Armendáriz, and director Dick Powell all contracted some form of cancer. Forty-six of them, including Susan Hayward, died of the disease. (Armendáriz took his own life upon receiving the diagnosis.)’
Susan’s last public appearance was on the 1974 televised Academy Awards presentation. Aided by Charlton Heston, she awarded the Best Actress Oscar to Glenda Jackson. Susan Hayward passed away eleven months later at age 57.