Helen Hayes – First Lady of American Theatre

Day 156 of Colourisation Project – October 10

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

American actress, Helen Hayes best known for being one of two women to have received all four entertainment awards (an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony) was born this day, October 10, 1900.

Nicknamed ‘First Lady of the American Theatre,’ Hayes had a legendary career on stage and in films and television, in a career spanning almost 80 years, beginning as a child actress at age 5.

Press photograph  -  Helen Hayes  -  Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Press photograph – Helen Hayes – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Her reputation was established on Broadway in plays such as Happy Birthday, Time Remembered, Mary of Scotland (1933) and especially as Queen Victoria in Victoria Regina (1935) which ran for three years. The production continued to break box office records when Hayes took it on a tour of 43 cities in the United States. Remarkably she performed the role 969 times.

Although highly acclaimed in American theater, she was less successful in the movies, with some exceptions, including The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931), written by her husband, playwright Charles MacArthur and for which she won her first Oscar for Best Actress. As her Broadway performances continued to receive accolades Hayes worked infrequently in the movies during the ’40s and ’50s, making occasional appearances in such films as My Son John (1952) and Anastasia (1956).

By the 1960s modern audiences became familiar with her for her TV and movie roles as mothers or little old ladies. In 1969 she won her second Oscar, a Best Supporting Actress award for her supporting role in Airport. Hayes ended her acting career as Agatha Christie’s elderly sleuth Miss Marple in three well-received television movies during the early 1980s.

In 1986 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour from President Ronald Reagan and in 1988 she was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Hayes published four autobiographies: A Gift of Joy (1965), On Reflection (1968), Twice Over Lightly (1972, with Anita Loos), and My Life in Three Acts (1991) all of which were best sellers.

Hayes died on March 17, 1993 from congestive heart failure in Nyack, New York at the age of 92. As a tribute to her, the lights of Broadway went dim for one minute at 8:00 pm the day she died.

She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: for motion pictures at 6258 Hollywood Boulevard, and for radio at 6549 Hollywood Boulevard.

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“We rely upon the poets, the philosophers, and the playwrights to articulate what most of us can only feel, in joy or sorrow. They illuminate the thoughts for which we only grope; they give us the strength and balm we cannot find in ourselves. Whenever I feel my courage wavering, I rush to them. They give me the wisdom of acceptance, the will and resiliance to push on.”  –  Helen Hayes  –  A Gift of Joy

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