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Bronxgirl48

"Smash-Up - The Story of a Woman"

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I am dumbfounded as to why nominated Susan Hayward did not win the Oscar. She gave a tour de force performance.

 

You mean to tell me the Academy chose Loretta Young over her? Because maybe "The Farmer's Daughter" was politically post-war correct? Because maybe an actor already won two years earlier playing an alcoholic?

 

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Bronxgirl48

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Bronxgirl,

I think that a couple of factors may have swayed Academy voters in the year when this film was in competition.

 

1.) Loretta Young's role in The Farmer's Daughter was indicative of some of the postwar ideals that resonated with filmgoing audiences, and was still a rather apolitical film at the same time. Also, Miss Young had endured a long career since the silent era, enabling her to make many friends in the industry, and particularly at that time, that may have contributed to the voting.

 

2.) Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman, was said to be based on the private life of one of Hollywood's most respected and beloved citizens, Bing Crosby, and his wife Dixie. This would not endear the film to voters who were aware of this background.

 

3.) Walter Wanger, the independent producer in Hollywood of some distinction, who produced Smash Up, was hardly the calibre of Selznick, who bankrolled Farmer's Daughter. Wanger had stepped on a few toes in his dealings with the studios over the years, alienating many who might've voted for his picture.

 

He was also embroiled in a costly, ultimately disastrous production of Joan of Arc in 1948 starring Ingrid Bergman. This latter film's poor reviews and poor box office reinforced his reputation in LA as an intellectually pretentious man who deserved to be snubbed by the power brokers.

 

4.) Another overlooked aspect of Smash Up that may have contributed to it's failure to capture a prize for Susan Hayward was that, since it was independently produced, it did not receive the wide distribution possible for the major studios, which, while struggling and reorganizing in the postwar period, still held sway over much of the product presented to the American public.

 

5.) Miss Hayward, while she had been around Hollywood for over a decade at this time, still was seen as a relative newcomer by many, who would have regarded her powerful work as exemplary, but as a rather somber role, they weren't necessarily eager to give her an Oscar for the part--and, as you insightfully mentioned, it was shortly after another film (The Lost Weekend), had recently brought alcoholism to light as a subject for popular cinema.

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Thanks, Songbird2, for that fascinating overview of the SMASH-UP situation. I've long been an admirer of that film (and Susan Hayward for that matter) and always felt both she and the film deserved better than the footnote they seem to have settled for. Great post!

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Songbird is correct.

 

And in fact Wanger had trouble casting the film.

 

Crosby and Dixie had problems that everyone in Hollywood knew about, but nobody wanted them made public or discussed.

 

Of course the happy ending of SMASH-UP wasn't mirrored in real life.

 

I think Marsha Hunt and Eddie Albert also gave great performances. The big apartment set seems to have been the one that was also used in THE VELVET TOUCH.

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I'm glad that I finally got to see this movie thanks to TCM, but found a few things about it to be weak. In addition to the Hollywood issues outlined in Songbird's post, there were some casting and script problems associated with this production as well:

 

Susan Hayward's hardhitting portrayal is excellent, and rarely pulls many punches, though I found that she looked a little too beautiful throughout the movie. Pretty people may be alcoholics, but they often neglect their personal hygiene. This is often one of the first clues that something is amiss to those around them. I guess that the filmmakers just couldn't bring themselves to show such a beauty looking realistically ragged.

 

Lee Bowman, while smooth, is not compelling, or nearly as magnetic as a Crosby, Sinatra or even a Dick Haymes would've been from this period. While he does seem wrapped up in his own career, Bowman, a likable, if dull actor, was not particularly charismatic or adept at playing a character who was struggling with real problems. I've always found it odd that the movies kept trying to make him into a Don Juan type in films. I think that Bowman would've found a comfortable niche in Film Noir, if given more of an opportunity there. Being a "dreamboat" was not his m?tier, imho.

 

Humor: There isn't any--or at least not much. What break is given the audience is provided by Eddie Albert, who gave a good, down to earth character some substance, as he would also do in a later trip down to the depths with Hayward in I'll Cry Tomorrow. Susan Hayward, while a good, hardworking actress, and a great beauty, is hampered, I believe, by a lack of humor in her characterizations. Perhaps this was just because of the scripts she received, but it also seems to be a hallmark of her acting style.

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Pilgrimsoul, you have solved a mystery for me. I have tried to pinpoint for years what it was about Hayward that didn't move me, and you said it: her performances lack humor. While I don't dislike her, I could never warm to her screen persona, and now I realize why. She takes herself (and I don't mean the character) much too seriously, without a real sense of identity with the character, even though her acting is never bad. The truly skilled Hollywood star always has at least two people going onscreen, the character, and an element of him/herself, whether the audience realizes it or not. There is always, in the background, that element of "it's OK folks, it's really me in there, wink, wink." Hitchcock said this in an interview with Dick Cavett, that he always went for the big stars, especially the ones who knew how to touch an audience, so that their dangerous situations would be more real to the viewers. I could never find any of that "wink, wink" in any of Hayward's work.

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I sort of wish Susan Hayward would have won an Oscar for this... then maybe Rosalind Russell would have won for Auntie Mame!

 

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Peter64

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Then maybe I would like Susan Hayward or the movie Gigi!!!

 

Ah, but the real question is, would you have liked Susan Hayward in Gigi? ;)

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And in 1958 Susan finally wins, for "I Want to Live!" (and most poor suckers are starving to death...)

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JDB1 and Pilgrimsoul,

Good points. I've never been a fan of Susan Hayward's, although I grew up watching a lot of her movies because she's one of my mom's favorites. This might be why.

 

BTW, did anybody know that Susan Hayward and Lena Horne were born on the exact same day (June 30, 1917), and both in Brooklyn?

 

BLU

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> And in 1958 Susan finally wins, for "I Want to Live!"

> (and most poor suckers are starving to death...)

 

IMO, Hayward won based solely on what she did in her final, gas-chamber scene. And it was pretty darn harrowing and pretty darn good.

 

As for the rest of the movie, I wondered to myself, as was mentioned elsewhere about how Hayward looked "too glamorous" for some of her parts, if the real woman upon whom Hayward's character was based in "I Want to Live" was anywhere near as refined and well-dressed as Hayward made her. I doubt it. Hayward was like Hillary Brooke in the Abbott & Costello TV show - a pearl among swine.

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You want to see a perfomance that's very harrowing and pretty good... check out Eve Arden's star turn in Pandemonium (1982)!!! :-) Now THAT'S a movie that needs to be released on DVD!

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