Stream Leading Ladies (When There Were Leading Ladies) X: Hedy Lamarr and Susan Hayward

Hedy Lamarr

Algiers 1938 A remake of the successful 1937 French film Pépé le Moko which derived its plot from the Henri La Barthe novel. Directed by John Cromwell. An evocative classic. After his last great robbery, the infamous Pépé (Charles Boyer) escaped from France to Algiers where he continues to “conduct business” from the Casbah/old, native quarter of the city. Its warren-like structure makes it easy to hide and denizens protect him as if he were Robin Hood.

Inspector Slimane (Joseph Calleia) has the thief on his bucket list but, both respectful of his skill and wary of difficulty in capture, takes his time until pressured by outside officials. Visiting socialite Gaby (Hedy Lamarr in her film debut), intrigued by his reputation and that of the Casbah, arranges to meet Pépé. Both are captivated. The hero’s Algerian mistress Ines (Sigrid Gurie) is jealous and vengeful. Walls close in.

“The first version of the script was rejected by the Breen Office because the leading ladies were both portrayed as `kept women,’ and because of references to prostitution, the promiscuity of the lead character, and his suicide at the end of the film. The latter was directed to be changed to his being shot instead of killing himself.” Wickipedia. Free with Amazon Prime.

H.M. Pulham Esquire 1941 Based on the novel by John P. Marquand. Directed by King Vidor. An old valentine to marital understanding. H.M. Pulham (Robert Young) is a conservative Boston businessman with a passionless life by which one might set a watch. His wife, Kay (Ruth Hussy), fits right in. Organizing a twenty-five-year college reunion triggers memories of being drawn out of the staid, wealthy background that dictates his behavior.

Once, briefly, he had an interesting job, independence, an openness to experience and a burgeoning relationship with Marvin Myles -a woman (Hedy Lamarr, especially good here) who brought out the best in him. H.M. grows restless with his routine and unsuccessfully tries to get his wife to break out of it. At this point, he receives a message that Marvin is in town and would love to see him. Fate works in curious ways. With Charles Coburn and Fay Holden as his parents and Van Heflin doing his usual fine job. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Experiment Perilous  1944 Based on a novel by Margaret Carpenter. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. Classic noir. 1903. On a train to New York, low key, affable psychiatrist Dr. Huntington Bailey (George Brent) meets a nice old lady (Olive Blakeney) fearful of a storm outside. They keep each other company. She somewhat anxiously tells the sympathetic stranger that after many years away, she’s going home to her brother Nick (Paul Lukas) and his young wife Allida (Hedy Lamarr).

Having reached her destination, the woman dies. Bailey then meets the couple and finds himself immediately suspicious of Nick’s treatment of Allida. The husband virtually keeps his wife prisoner and asks Bailey’s help in declaring her crazy. The doctor is, however, smitten and determined to rescue her. Violence ensues. There are casualties. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Dishonored Lady 1947 Based on the play by Edward Sheldon and Margaret Ayer. Directed by Robert Stephenson. Madeleine Damien (Hedy Lamarr), the beautiful fashion editor of Boulevard Magazine, has had it with her high pressured job and simultaneously being pursued by three men: boss Victor Kranish (Paul Cavanaugh), wealthy advertiser Felix Courtland (John Loder), and Jack Garet (William Lundigan), an employee of Courtland’s who’s blackmailing Madeleine about her past.

A suicide attempt leads Madeleine to psychiatrist Richard Caleb (Morris Carnovsky) and the decision to start fresh where no one knows her. She moves to a small town, takes up painting, and meets neighbor David Cousins (Dennis O’Keefe) who has no idea who she is/was. They fall in love. First Courtland, then Garet find her. Suddenly she’s under suspicion for murder.

The Hays Office insisted that two affairs – one in Mexico and the other in New York – might be “overloading” the picture, and also objected to the “night of sordid passion.” These things were, of course, rectified.  Free with Amazon Prime.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story can be found in Stream Films of Remarkable Women III

Susan Hayward

The Hairy Ape 1944 Based on the play by Eugene O’Neill. Directed by Alfred Santell. Proud ship stoker Hank Smith (William Bendix) is a simple, bull of a man with little education. His life is nonetheless satisfying. Forced to leave Lisbon for political reasons, selfish rich girl Mildred Douglas (Susan Hayward) and her smart, altruistic friend, Helen Parker (Dorothy Comingore), are among a very few passengers having to make do traveling to New York by freighter. (They women know one another since school days, but it’s unfathomable why Helen should keep company with Mildred.)

As luck would have it, Helen’s old beau Tony Lazar  (John Loder) is an officer on the ship. Knowing Helen is attached to the lieutenant doesn’t stop bored, predatory Mildred from exerting femme fatale qualities. Tony falls fast. Included in her attempts to generate excitement is an illicit visit to the boiler room where, for a moment, she’s face to face with Hank. They both freeze. “Don’t touch me you hairy ape!” she screams running off. (A doctor then attends.)

The incident is dismissed by Mildred but takes volatile root in Hank. Consequences are tragic. Bendix is marvelous, more primal than other actors I’ve seen in the role. Hayward is perfectly despicable. Free with Amazon Prime.

I’ll Cry Tomorrow 1955 Adapted from Lillian Roth’s 1954 autobiography. Directed by Daniel Mann. A biography of Lillian Roth (a heroine whose trajectory is much like those of With a Song in My Heart AND Smash-Up). For 20 years, domineering stage mother Katie Silverman Roth (Jo Van Fleet) pushed and prodded daughter Lillian (Susan Hayward) into the successful musical career she herself was forced to give up to raise a family.

Despite Katie’s efforts to keep her away, lonely Lillian discovers childhood friend David (Ray Danton) is in a local hospital, visits, and subsequently falls in love. David is an entertainment lawyer. He helps her career, but is resented by Katie who’s lost some over control of her daughter’s professional life. When David suddenly dies, Lillian despairs, rebels, and becomes an alcoholic. There’s another man, but he only exacerbates things. Formulaic. Hayward sings for the first time on film. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Top Secret Affair 1957 Loosely adapted from the novel Melville Goodwin, U.S.A. by John P. Marquand. Directed by H.C. Potter. Not, as often listed, a comedy. Dorothy “Dottie” Peale (Susan Hayward) has inherited her family’s media empire. She’s accustomed to getting her way. When her pick for a governmental committee – “daddy’s best friend”- is ignored in favor of military hero General Melville A. “Ironpants” Goodwin (Kirk Douglas, in spectacular shape), Dottie invites him to her Long Island estate promising a cover story while in fact intending to get dirt for a smear campaign.

Peale Enterprise Employees enlisted in their boss’s effort are photographer Laszlo “Lotzie” Kovach (Michael Fox) and quick, wry right hand man Phil Bentley (Paul Stewart). Goodwin is accompanied by over-anxious Col. Homer W. Gooch, public information officer (Jim Backus with a dreadfully affected accent).

The general rigidly lives and breathes army but, rather than the obtuse character Dottie anticipates, gleans she may not be on the level. After a night on the town under false pretenses, Dottie gets very drunk and the unlikely pair come together, then apart, then together for credible reasons. Characters are written much better than one might expect. Hollywood avoided novel for years because of the touchy premise of a married general’s affair. They rewrote him as single. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Ada 1961 Based on the novel by Wirt Williams. Directed by Daniel Mann. A surprisingly appealing political drama. Guitar playing, God-fearing innocent Bo Gillis (Dean Martin – very good) is hand picked by party boss Sylvester Marin (Wilfred Hyde-White – think House of Cards oily) to front his political machine. After two terms as sheriff, Bo runs for governor in constant surprise of what he’s doing.

During what turns out to be a dirty campaign, Bo meets party girl Ada (Susan Hayward) who despite apparent sophistication, comes from sharecroppers. Ada is much smarter and more ambitious than the candidate, but they share common experience/ language. Over three weeks of intermittent time together, Bo falls in love. Ada warns him she’ll be a public handicap, but grasping at a leg up agrees to a quiet wedding. Bo wins the office. Sylvester unsuccessfully tries to break up his marriage.

Ada works her way into visibility by charm and threat. All the new governor seems to do, however, is to sign unintelligible papers shoved under his nose. His wife tells him he must stand up to his supposed mentor. A trusted Lieutenant Governor is strong-armed out, a bomb goes off, blackmail is attempted, backroom dealings increase. Questioning Ada’s loyalty becomes the crux of issues. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Top photo of Susan Hayward, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

About Alix Cohen (920 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of nine New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.