This page covers the years 1917-1938
Susan Hayward was born Edythe Marrener at 3507 Church Avenue, in Brooklyn, New York, on June 30th, 1917. Her family lived in a tenement section of Brooklyn. She was the third child of Walter and Ellen (Pearson) Marrenner. Her sister Florence was seven and her brother Walter, Jr. (Wally) was five years old at the time. Edythe's family nicknamed her "E". When she entered public school, the children teased her and called her "Red" and "Pepper-Pot".
In 1923, when Edythe was only 6 years old, she was hit by a car while crossing the street. She was crippled for more than a year as a result of the accident.
She first became interested in acting when she appeared in an elementary school production of "Cinderella In Flowerland." She was 10 years old at the time. A fellow schoolmate, Ira Grossel, (who later became known as actor Jeff Chandler), appeared in the play with her.
Edythe graduated from Girls Commercial High School in Brooklyn,
(later known as Prospects Heights High) in 1935. An English teacher there, by the name of Eleanor O'Grady, helped her to get into high school plays, and convinced her that she had a lot of talent. When Susan was 15, she appeared as a 28-year-old woman in a Brooklyn Masonic Lodge production.
In June, 1935 Susan took a job in a handkerchief factory in Manhattan making cloth designs. In August of that year, she started auditioning for Broadway productions and tried to get herself an agent.
In the following year, she had saved enough money to quit the handkerchief factory, and enroll in the Feagin School of Dramatic Arts at Rockefeller Center. Not very long afterwards, however, she decided to try and become a model. She was signed on at the Walter Thornton Agency. Susan's timing was perfect. Technicolor was just beginning to be used and she and her beautiful red hair took to technicolor photography like a fish does to water. Soon she was earning $35.00 per day. She also dropped the double "n" from her last name.
In 1937, the Saturday Evening Post decided to run a story on Walter Thornton's agency. The article was entitled "The Merchant Of Venice". The article included quite a few pictures of Edythe Marrener. The article appeared in the November 1, 1937 issue.
A week later, Edythe received a call from Kay Brown, producer David O. Selznick's talent scout in New York. At that time Selznick was conducting a nation wide search for a "Scarlet O'Hara/Gone With The Wind". After Kay Brown's call, Edythe met with George Cukor,
Irene Selznick, and David Selznick in New York. She was offered a trip to Hollywood to screen test for the picture.
Cukor conducted her test in December, 1937. Four weeks later she learned that she had failed the test. Selznick's office advised her to return to New York. Susan's answer was, in effect, "I think I'll stay..I like the oranges."
Cukor, believing that she had possiblities, recommended her to an independent agent, Ben Medford. He specialized in developing pretty girls into starlets.
The following March, Susan's father, Walter Marrener, died. Susan was not able to attend his funeral because she didn't have the finances to get back to Brooklyn.
Biography continued...1938-1943 click "Next"
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