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From: "Jean Rice" <>
Subject: [IGW] Helen HAYES (1900-1993) -- The "First Lady of Theater."
Date: Sat, 1 Feb 2003 12:39:25 -0800


BIO: At the age of five, Helen HAYES (1900-1993) began an acting career that spanned much of the century and led to her being called the "First Lady of Theater." A native of Washington, D. C., she made her Broadway debut at the age of 10. In 1918, she won high praise for her role in "Dear Brutus" and from then on her fame grew steadily. In 1928 she married the playwright Charles MacARTHUR. Helen became a leading player in works by Shaw, O'Neill, and Shakespeare. Many critics consider the role of Queen Victoria in the play "Victoria Regina" (1935) her greatest success. Some of her other leading roles were in "What Every Woman Knows" (1926), "Coquette" (1927), "Mary of Scotland" (1933), "The Glass Menagerie" (1948); "The Wisteria Trees (1955), and "A Touch of the Poet" (1958). She made several radio and television appearances. In 1955, the Fulton Theater in NY was renamed the Helen Hayes Theater in her honor.

Ms. Hayes would win roles in several of Eugene O'NEILL's plays. At one point, Helen received a telegram from the playwright when she appeared in a live performance of "The Straw" on her nationally broadcast radio program. As was the custom in radio days, the performance was aired twice, once for the East Coast audience and once for the West. Between shows, Helen Hayes received this telegram from Eugene: "It is seldom that a playwright has the privilege of hearing his character realized exactly as he had imagined it. Tonight, you have given me that." Later in her career, after O'Neill's death, Ms. Hayes would take the stage role of Mary Tyrone in "Long Day's Journey Into Night," which became her final appearance on Broadway.

Helen Hayes (who took the maiden name of her mother) was a child prodigy pushed onstage by her mother, Catherine Hayes Brown. Catherine was the daughter of Famine immigrants who rejected Catholicism and heritage in the pursuit of American glamour and success. Catherine married a man named Francis Van Arnum BROWN, whose slightly better-off family had come to America in the 18th century and whose parents were greatly disapproving of their son's marriage to an Irish "scamp." The marriage failed - Catherine harbored dreams of becoming an actress and putting what she saw as the drudgery of domestic life to a meat salesman. She eventually found her way into small-time show business for awhile, but it was through her daughter Helen that her dreams would be realized and Catherine could bury the past and find the better life that she yearned for.

Helen's own upbringing was scarred by the legacy of her impoverished and alcoholic Irish immigrant grandfather, Patrick Hayes, although he died before she was born. His tyranny at home apparently drove his children into early marriages to get out of the house and the drinking habit was passed on to some of children. Patrick Hayes's unforgiving demeanor and dark moods ( no doubt made all the darker by an accident that left him blind in one eye) had sent him further into the false comfort of alcohol which subsequently helped to shorten his life. There was another side to Patrick, however. His job with the government had paid for a small house and allowed him the time to indulge in his favorite hobby - Shakespeare. In fact, Patrick Hayes hoped one day to translate the Bard's works into Irish, an indication that theatrical blood ran in the Hayes family.

A versatile actress on stage and screen, Helen HAYES' work in Hollywood earned her two Oscars -- for as best actress in her first film, "The Sin of Madelon Claudet," and as best supporting actress in the 1970 film "Airport."


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