Actress. She is best remembered for her roles in the movies "I'll Cry Tomorrow" (1955) and "I Want to Live!" (1958). Born Edythe Marrener in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest daughter of three children in a poor, transportation worker family, she attended public school in Brooklyn and graduated from a commercial high school, intending on becoming a secretary, but changed her plans when offered a job as a model for local photographers. When Hollywood began a nationwide, highly publicized search for a beauty to play the role of Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind" (1939), she came to Hollywood, but lost the role to Vivien Leigh. She began with a bit role in "Hollywood Hotel" (1937), paying her dues in numerous small parts in minor films, until she landed the role of Isobel Rivers in "Beau Geste" (1940), a role that got her noticed. In 1941, she played a grasping tart, Millie Perkins, in "Among the Living" proving the she could play dramatic roles, quickly followed by "Reap the Wild Wind" (1942), which made her a star. Although good roles continued to follow, she did not receive an Oscar nomination until 1947, for her role of ‘Angelica' in "Smash-Up." She got a second Oscar nomination in 1949 for "My Foolish Heart." In 1958, she finally got her Oscar, on her fifth nomination, for her role as condemned murderess ‘Barbara Graham', in "I Want to Live" (1958). After that role, she continued to appear in movies about once a year, making her last appearance in "The Revengers" (1972). A two pack-a-day smoker with a taste for drinking, she was diagnosed with brain cancer shortly after finishing filming on "The Revengers," and after a three year struggle with the disease, died in her home in Hollywood. She is buried next to her rancher husband, Floyd Eaton Chalkley, who died of hepatitis in 1966, at Carrollton, Georgia, where they had spent many happy years together. After her death, it was revealed that a number of people who had worked on "The Conqueror" (1956) on location near St. George, Utah, had died of cancer, leading to speculation that exposure to radioactivity near the atomic test sites had caused their deaths. All of the lead actors (John Wayne, Agnes Moorehead, John Hoyt, Susan Hayward), and much of the crew including the director, Dick Powell, all died of cancer. It was never proven conclusively.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson