HELEN HAYES Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Helen Hayes                                                                             
Birth name: Helen Hayes Brown                                                                 
Born: 10 October 1900 Washington, D.C., U.S.                                                   
Died: 17 March 1993 Nyack, New York, U.S.                                                     
Helen Hayes (October 10, 1900 – March 17, 1993) was a two-time Academy Award-winning         
American actress whose successful and award-winning career spanned almost 70                   
years. She eventually garnered the nickname "First Lady of the American Theater",             
and was one of the nine people who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a                 
Tony Award.                                                                                   
Hayes was born Helen Hayes Brown in Washington, D.C. 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. Her                       
mother, Catherine Estella Hayes, was an aspiring actress who worked in                         
touring companies. Hayes' Irish Catholic maternal grandparents immigrated                     
from Ireland during the Irish Potato Famine. She began a stage career at an                   
early age. By the age of ten, she had made a short film called Jean and the                   
Calico Doll, but only moved to Hollywood when her husband, playwright Charles                 
MacArthur, signed a Hollywood deal.                                                           
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 Myrna Loy), A Farewell to Arms (with actor Gary Cooper whom                   
Hayes admitted to finding extremely attractive), The White Sister, What Every                 
Woman Knows (a reprise from her Broadway hit), and Vanessa: Her Love Story.                   
However, she never became a fan favorite and Hayes did not prefer the 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 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. Anastasia was considered               
a comeback having not acted for several years due to her daughter, Mary's death               
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 Astor Hotel, the business interests received Hayes'                     
consent to raze the theatre named for her, even though she had no ownership                   
interest in the buildings. As a result in 1983, the Little Theater on West 45th               
Street was re-named The Helen Hayes Theatre in her honor; as was a theatre in                 
Nyack, which has since been re-named the Riverspace-Arts Center.                               
The Helen Hayes Award for theater in the Washington D.C. area is named in her                 
honor. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6220 Hollywood Blvd.                   
Hayes was a Catholic and a pro-business Republican who attended many                           
Republican National Conventions (including the one held in New Orleans in 1988),               
but she was not as far-right as certain others (e.g., Adolphe Menjou, Ginger                   
Rogers, John Wayne, etc.) in the Hollywood community of that time.                             
Hayes wrote three memoirs: A Gift of Joy, On Reflection and My Life in Three                   
Acts. Some of the themes in these books include her return to Roman Catholicism               
after having been denied communion from the Church for the length of her                       
marriage to MacArthur, who was a Protestant and a divorcé, and the death of her               
only daughter Mary, who was an aspiring actress, from polio at the age of 19.                 
Hayes's adopted son, James MacArthur, went on to a career in acting also,                     
starring in Hawaii Five-O on television. (Hayes herself guest starred on a 1975               
episode of Hawaii Five-0, playing MacArthur's character's aunt.)                               
Hayes was hospitalized a number of times for her asthma condition, which was                   
aggravated by stage dust, forcing her to retire from legitimate theater. Her                   
last Broadway show was a revival of Harvey in which she co-starred with James                 
Stewart in 1970. She spent most of her last years writing and raising money for               
organizations that fight asthma.                                                               
Hayes died on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1993 from congestive heart failure in               
Nyack, New York, aged 92, not long after the death of her friend, Lillian Gish,               
with whom she had been friends for many decades. Gish made Hayes the beneficiary               
of her estate, but Hayes only survived her by a month. Hayes was interred in the               
Oak Hill Cemetery, Nyack, New York.