Helen Hayes (1900 - 1993)

Helen Hayes
1900 - 1993
updated October 09, 2020
Helen Hayes was born on October 10, 1900 at Washington D.C.. She died on March 17, 1993 at New York at 92 years of age.

Helen Hayes MacArthur (née Brown; October 10, 1900 – March 17, 1993) was an American actress whose career spanned almost 80 years. She eventually garnered the nickname "First Lady of American Theatre" and was one of 12 people who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award (an EGOT). Hayes also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor, from President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
In 1988, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts. The annual Helen Hayes Awards, which have recognized excellence in professional theatre in greater Washington, DC, since 1984, are her namesake. In 1955, the former Fulton Theatre on 46th Street in New York City's Broadway Theater District was renamed the Helen Hayes Theatre. When that venue was torn down in 1982, the nearby Little Theatre was renamed in her honor. Helen Hayes is regarded as one of the Greatest Leading Ladies of the 20th century theatre.
Early life
Helen Hayes Brown was born in Washington, D.C., on October 10, 1900. Her mother, Catherine Estelle (née Hayes), or Essie, was an aspiring actress who worked in touring companies. Her father, Francis van Arnum Brown, worked at a number of jobs, including as a clerk at the Washington Patent Office and as a manager and salesman for a wholesale butcher. Hayes' Irish Catholic maternal grandparents emigrated from Ireland during the Irish Potato Famine.
Hayes began a stage career at an early age. She said her stage debut was as a five-year-old singer at Washington's Belasco Theatre, on Lafayette Square, across from the White House. By the age of ten, she had made a short film called Jean and the Calico Doll, but moved to Hollywood only when her husband, playwright Charles MacArthur, signed a Hollywood deal. Helen Hayes MacArthur, also known as Helen Brown in her early years, attended Dominican Academy's prestigious primary school, located on Manhattan's Upper East Side, from 1910 to 1912 during which she appeared in The Old Dutch, Little Lord Fauntleroy, as well as other performances. She attended the Academy of the Sacred Heart Convent in Washington and graduated in 1917.
In the film What Every Woman Knows (1934)
Her sound film debut was The Sin of Madelon Claudet, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She followed that with starring roles in Arrowsmith (with Ronald Colman), A Farewell to Arms (with actor Gary Cooper, whom Hayes admitted to finding extremely attractive), The White Sister (opposite Clark Gable), What Every Woman Knows (a reprise from her Broadway hit), and Vanessa: Her Love Story. However, Hayes did not prefer that medium to the stage.
Hayes eventually returned to Broadway in 1935, where for three years she played the title role in the Gilbert Miller production of Victoria Regina, with Vincent Price as Prince Albert, first at the Broadhurst Theatre and later at the Martin Beck Theatre.
In 1951, she was involved with the Broadway revival of J.M. Barrie's play Mary Rose at the ANTA Playhouse.
In 1953, she was the first-ever recipient of the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre, repeating as the winner in 1969. She returned to Hollywood in the 1950s, and her film star began to rise. She starred in My Son John (1952) and Anastasia (1956), and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as an elderly stowaway in the disaster film Airport (1970). She followed that up with several roles in Disney films such as Herbie Rides Again, One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing and Candleshoe. Her performance in Anastasia was considered a comeback—she had suspended her career for several years due to the death of her daughter Mary, and her husband's failing health.
In 1955, the Fulton Theatre was renamed for her. However, business interests in the 1980s wished to raze that theatre and four others to construct a large hotel that included the Marquis Theatre. To accomplish razing this theatre and three others, as well as the Hotel Astor, the business interests received Hayes' consent to raze the theatre named for her, though she had no ownership interest in the buildings. Parts of the original Helen Hayes Theatre on Broadway were used to construct the Shakespeare Center on the Upper Westside of Manhattan, which Hayes dedicated with Joseph Papp in 1982.[10] In 1983 the Little Theater on West 45th Street was renamed the Helen Hayes Theatre in her honor, as was a theatre in Nyack, which has since been renamed the Riverspace-Arts Center. In early 2014, the site was refurbished and styled by interior designer Dawn Hershko and reopened as the Playhouse Market, a quaint restaurant and gourmet deli.
Book written by Helen Hayes in 1971-72 with friend Anita Loos.
Hayes, who spoke with her good friend Anita Loos almost daily on the phone, remarked to her friend "I used to think New York was the most enthralling place in the world. I'll bet it still is and if I were free next summer, I would prove it." With that, she convinced her friend to embark on an exploration of all five boroughs of New York. They visited and explored the off-the-beaten track of the city; Bellevue Hospital at night, riding a tug boat hauling garbage out to sea, they went to parties, libraries, and Puerto Rican markets. They spoke to everyday people to see how they lived their lives and what made the city tick. The result of this collaborative effort was the book, "Twice Over Lightly" published in 1972.
It is unclear when or by whom Hayes was called the "First Lady of the Theatre". Her friend, actress Katharine Cornell, also held that title, and each thought the other deserved it. One critic said that Cornell played every queen as though she were a woman, whereas Hayes played every woman as though she were a queen.
Hayes was hospitalized a number of times for her asthma condition, which was aggravated by stage dust, forcing her to retire from legitimate theater in 1971, at age 71.
Her last Broadway show was a 1970 revival of Harvey, in which she co-starred with James Stewart. Clive Barnes wrote, "She epitomizes flustered charm almost as if it were a style of acting ... She is one of those actors ... where to watch how she is doing something is almost as pleasurable as what she is doing." She spent most of her last years writing and raising money for organizations that fight asthma.

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Helen Hayes Obituary

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Helen Hayes, the diminutive and demure grande dame of the American theater, whose 87 years of stage, film and television performances—as tots, ingenues, queens, nuns and matriarchs—earned her the enduring affection of four generations, died Wednesday. She was 92.
She had been brought to Nyack Hospital in that New York City suburb and admitted March 8 for treatment of congestive heart failure. Her family was with her when she died, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Miss Hayes' twin careers entranced her public. Her acting brought her two Academy Awards and Broadway's highest acclaim—a theater named for her. And then there was her exemplary personal life, as wife, mother, Catholic and a dedicated volunteer for medical research and the elderly, a civic campaign she embarked on after her only daughter, Mary, died of polio at age 19.
Perhaps the last of America's great ladies of the stage, the Washington-born actress, who stood 5-feet-nothing and once described herself to a magazine as "a little Irish biddy," also managed, without tiger skins or tantrums, to outlast and usually out-act Hollywood's ferociously slinky glamour queens on their own film turf.
Offstage, Miss Hayes' life was every bit as ladylike—although not always such smooth sailing—as her conduct in front of audiences. It was an appeal she was at a loss to explain, except, she wrote once, "I sometimes think that I am the triumph of the familiar over the exotic."
And it may have been that familiarity that enabled her to become one of the very few actors or actresses to cross comfortably between film and stage, although she always preferred the latter.
With her disciplined stage technique and personal uprightness (she once lost an alphabet game among New York's 1920s literati because she did not know swear words), she was never entirely at ease in Hollywood, whose star system and "arrogance" she came to loathe, especially after the less-than-kind treatment accorded her husband, writer and playwright Charles MacArthur. She nonetheless made more than a score of movies and beat Hollywood at its own game, winning Oscars almost 40 years apart: as best actress in her first major film role, "The Sin of Madelon Claudet," in 1932, and as best supporting actress in "Airport" in 1970. They ranged from Margaret in "Dear Brutus" by Sir James M. Barrie and Amanda in Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie," to playing Harriet Beecher Stowe, Cleopatra in George Bernard Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra," Volumnia in Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" and Mrs. Antrobus in "The Skin of Our Teeth." With her daughter, Mary, she performed in "Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire" and "Good Housekeeping"—during which Mary caught the cold that turned out to be polio.One of her most memorable stage roles was "Victoria Regina" (a part she acted 969 times, and of which, years later, seeing tapes of her national tour, she remarked scornfully, "Phony, totally overdone . . . all those Shrine auditoriums where you worked so hard to reach the balcony"). The other was as another queen, the doomed "Mary of Scotland," a role Miss Hayes believed tested her true talent—whether a sprightly 5-foot Irishwoman could convincingly portray the tall, romantic, tragic Scots queen. "I became" she said, "the tallest 5-foot woman in the world."
She turned zealously to movies and television, bringing to them all (a "Love Boat" episode with her son, actor James MacArthur, a documentary on aging, "The Snoop Sisters" with Mildred Natwick, even a Walt Disney trifle like "Herbie Rides Again") the stage dignity even those minor roles could not impede.
Miss Hayes also never stopped learning her craft or being critical of herself. She studied voice and took acting classes of varying value (in one, students imitated seals sunning on the ice, and a fat woman rolled over on her). Even her aging, fat French poodle taught Miss Hayes something. As she watched him loll on the floor and lap up his owners' kind words, Miss Hayes decided that was exactly how her Queen Victoria should respond to Prime Minister Disraeli's high-flown flattery.
Radio Performance"I had learned to be an actress," Miss Hayes wrote. "I never learned to be a star."
She did give it a half-hearted try. Her friend, actress Lynne Fontanne, scolded her for not being glamorous and doggedly dyed Miss Hayes' hair blond. "My indifference to style has driven friends crazy," she confessed in one of her autobiographies. "It earned me the reputation at 24 of being dowdy."
She became the great and good lady, as the imperious Russian dowager empress, Ingrid Bergman's aunt in "Anastasia," a role she took as therapy within months of her husband's death in 1956. She added bits of mischief in the comic fantasy "Mrs. McThing," and years later polished her conniving, fuddled old-lady act as a stowaway in "Airport," a role that earned her the second Oscar. Whit Bissell, Jacqueline Bisset and Helen Hayes in "Airport." (Universal Pictures)
In 1928, Hayes and her husband bought their 21-room, white Victorian house in Nyack overlooking the Hudson River.
Successive birthdays brought old friends and new honors to the house, where she lived for more than 60 years—honors like the "Helen Hayes Rose," a yellow blossom with a touch of pink, now planted in the garden at the Actors' Fund Home in Englewood, N.J., another of her charities. The first Helen Hayes Theater was razed, but another was named for her. Theater, she admitted in 1987, is "a little sickly in New York." Even reminders of age delighted her. When grandson Charles saw her 1933 film "The White Sister," he told classmate John Gable, "I saw your father kissing my grandma the other night."
Educated in Catholic schools partly because her mother was terrified of the vaccinations required by public schools, Miss Hayes shared her mother's religion and her devouring interest in theater—her mother's means of escaping a humdrum life. Miss Hayes' "only rebellion and a most unlikely change of script" was her marriage to the wayward, hard-drinking, quicksilver, witty, divorced journalist-playwright MacArthur, who with Ben Hecht co-authored "The Front Page."
It was a marriage of opposites that the acidulous critic Alexander Woollcott likened to "hang(ing) some chintz curtains on the lip of Vesuvius and call(ing) it home."
The 28-year-marriage that ended with MacArthur's death was a warp and woof of contradictions that made the fabric of their lives together so strong. "He saw the woman lurking in the girl," she wrote. "It was Charlie who gave my life reality, who handed me my sovereignty, the identity that completed my education as an actress and began it as a woman." It was a marriage "crammed with abysmal moments and glorious hours."
On MacArthur's arm, she entered the glittering orbit of his friends, the wits of New York, among whom even asking for the correct time demanded a cutting bon mot in reply.
After howls of protests that good-time Charlie was being stolen away by a shy little actress, they came to like her—if only because they needed someone who listened.
The story of their first meeting has become a poignant piece of Americana.
Party Incident. It was at a party and Irving Berlin was playing the piano with one finger. "The most beautiful young man" Miss Hayes said she had ever seen, walked up and asked, "Do you want a peanut?" As MacArthur poured them into her trembling hands, he added, "I wish they were emeralds."
(Over the years that line dogged them everywhere—including a 10th-anniversary dinner where a bowl of green-tinted peanuts was set at their table. It all so depressed MacArthur that, returning from World War II, he dumped a bag of emeralds in her lap and announced: "I wish they were peanuts.")
At another party, determined to impress her husband's clever friends, she took a deep breath and declared, "Anyone who wants my piano is willing to it," and after a profound pause, playwright George S. Kaufman, who had co-authored "To the Ladies" for Miss Hayes, said, "That's very seldom of you, Helen."

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1900 - 1993 World Events

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In 1900, in the year that Helen Hayes was born, Carrie Chapman Catt succeeded Susan B. Anthony as the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. NAWSA was created by Anthony in 1890 in order to fight for the right of women to vote in the United States. Membership in NAWSA began at 7,000 and in the decades of the struggle - women didn't get the right to vote until 1920 - membership rose to 2 million.

In 1925, by the time she was 25 years old, on November 28th, radio station WSM broadcast the Grand Ole Opry for the first time. Originally airing as “The WSM Barn Dance”, the Opry (a local term for "opera") was dedicated to honoring country music and in its history has featured the biggest stars and acts in country music.

In 1933, at the age of 33 years old, Helen was alive when on March 4th, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the 32nd President of the United States. He was elected four times (equaled by no other President) and guided the United States through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War 2. His wife was his cousin Eleanor Roosevelt (Teddy Roosevelt's niece) who President Truman called "First Lady of the World". Some of the major programs that survive from his presidency are the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Wagner Act (The National Labor Relations Act of 1935) , the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Social Security.

In 1956, at the age of 56 years old, Helen was alive when on May 20th, the U.S. tested the first hydrogen bomb dropped from a plane over Bikini Atoll. Previously, hydrogen bombs had only been tested on the ground. The Atomic Age moved forward.

In 1993, in the year of Helen Hayes's passing, on January 20th, William J. Clinton became the 42nd President of the United States. He beat incumbent George H.W. Bush who was seeking his second term. Clinton won 43.01% of the popular vote to Bush's 37.45%. An independent candidate, Ross Perot, won 18.91% - the most votes for an independent candidate since Teddy Roosevelt's run for President in 1912.

Other Biographies

Other Helen Hayeses

Aug 4, 1913 - Feb 24, 2001

Other Hayeses

Aug 18, 1948 - Unknown
Apr 30 - Unknown
Dec 31, 1988 - Unknown
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1812 - Aug 4, 1893
Unknown - Unknown
1910 - Unknown
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Jul 23, 1966 - Unknown
Sep 12, 1924 - Apr 7, 1989
Nov 29, 1959 - Unknown
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1864 - Mar 13, 1930
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1865 - 1926
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Other Bios

Unknown - Unknown
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1940 - 1944
1940 - 1944
Jul 21, 1941 - Feb 18, 1943
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Jan 31, 1890 - Jun 10, 1971
Oct 30, 1886 - Aug 19, 1949
Feb 17, 1892 - c. May 1950
Oct 31, 1894 - Jun 2, 1966
Oct 14, 1900 - Jun 29, 1973
Mar 14, 1878 - Jan 11, 1927
Jul 31, 1880 - Jun 10, 1959
Jul 31, 1880 - Jun 10, 1959
Oct 31, 1884 - Aug 18, 1944
Unknown - Unknown
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