Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Girl Week 2017 - Ada, a guest post by Joel

It's Day 2 of Girl Week 2017 and Joel is taking the wheel.

Directed by Daniel Mann.

1961. Not Rated, 109 minutes.
Susan Hayward
Dean Martin
Wilfrid Hyde-White
Ralph Meeker
Connie Sawyer
Martin Balsam
Frank Maxwell
Ford Rainey

Ada Dallas (Susan Hayward), a girl from "the wrong side of the tracks" working in a roadside honkytonk makes the acquaintance of Bo Gillis (Dean Martin), an amiable yokel being used by Sylvester Marin’s (Wilfrid Hyde-White) political machine to capture the governor's mansion. Taken with each other Ada and Bo elope much to the displeasure of Sylvester but Bo is still elected.

When Ada discovers Bo is being manipulated as a stooge she urges him to fight back and take charge. Bo, too easy going for his own good tells Ada “You must have been a tough little girl” without missing a beat Ada shoots back “I’m a tough BIG one!” When the Lieutenant Governor resigns Ada, ambitious and thinking she’s helping Bo, has herself appointed without his knowledge. He reacts negatively but when an attempt is made on Bo’s life and she assumes power the honest Ada immediately strides right in and gets down to business. Fireworks follow. Hayward’s Ada is no one’s fool or patsy but an incredibly strong woman who makes things happen and plows down anyone in her way.

A star vehicle, to be sure, slanted Susan's way much more than Dean's even though he gets a moment here and there. Spotlighted in a way stars never are today Susan commands the screen. Notice that she is surrounded only by colors that flatter her, the rooms she finds herself in are almost exclusively white or a soft green to highlight her flame colored hair. Even the roadhouse where she starts the story has that high class sheen that is a hallmark of the studio era.

Hayward, one of the most self-assured of all actresses, owns the film and while the other performers do their best only Wilfred Hyde-White stands out as the reptilian political operator who crosses swords with Susie. When these two pros square off their wrangles are a treat, although Susan gets a couple of other chances on her own to rip apart the unsuspecting when she discovers malfeasance.

A few interesting side notes. Connie Sawyer, the actress playing Susan's madam Alice Sweet, known as the oldest working actress in Hollywood, is still alive at 105 and until very recently was appearing in small parts.

The other note is more somber. As she entered the end of her cancer struggle, caused by exposure to nuclear fallout during the shooting of The Conqueror near a Nevada testing site that also lead to the death of over 40% of the cast and crew including John Wayne and Agnes Moorehead, Susan Hayward's friends arranged for her to see any of her films that she wished and she selected this much to their surprise. In hindsight though it's easy to see why. Every effort is made to make her look her best. Its set in the South which had been her home for many years during her happy second marriage and her part is tailor made to many of her strengths as a take charge dame.

Yesterday, we had a couple of wonderful bloggers join us for Girl Week 2017 (plus a post from your host):

You can also check out other guest posts by Joel:


  1. Great post, Joel! I haven't seen this film nor did I know that about The Conqueror. I'll be doing a bit of IMDb reading now.

    1. Yes, he certainly taught me a thing or two with this one.

  2. Looks great as always Dell!! Thanks for letting me participate. So glad you started with this one it's a fun old melodrama with one tough customer at its center.

    Susan Hayward is a big favorite of mine, one of my top ten favorites actually, and one of the classic actresses most in need of rediscovery in my opinion.

    Thanks Brittani! The movie is worth tracking down for a prime example of old Hollywood style filmmaking and a true STAR vehicle.

    The Conqueror on the other hand is beyond awful (John Wayne! plays Genghis Khan and that should tell you all you need to know) so its even more terrible that it cost all those people their lives for a piece of garbage. It's considered one of the worst movies of all time and I can't argue with that.

    1. As always, it's my pleasure, and the week isn't even close to being over.

      I can honestly say I'm one who needs to see her work. Looking over her imdb page reveals I've seen absolutely nothing she was in. Sad.

      I knew Wayne had died of cancer and once played Genghis Khan, but I had no idea the two things were in any way related. That's insane.

      Thanks for contributing, Joel.

    2. NEVER seen a Susan Hayward picture!!!! Ack...Ouch...EEK!! The pain!!! Well that must be corrected, hopefully sooner rather than later.

      Like all great stars-she was a huge one in the late 40's, THE dramatic star in the 20th Century Fox 50’s stable and racked up five lead Best Actress nominations before finally winning on her last nod-she has a mixed filmography with many middling films (Soldier of Fortune, Garden of Evil) and some real dogs (White Witch Doctor, The Conqueror, Thunder in the Sun) mixed in among the gems.

      Thanks to her forceful personality she often specialized in melodrama which coupled with the studio’s love of exclamation points in both her film titles and hyperbole in her poster advertisements (a prime example is the headline for I’ll Cry Tomorrow “Film on Location….Inside a Woman’s Soul!”) lead to a bit of a reputation as a queen of anguish. As Rupert Everett said in My Best Friend’s Wedding when Julia Roberts was feeling down at the end of the film “Oh, the misery, the exquisite tragedy...the Susan Hayward of it all.”

      These are her best films and any would be a good place to start though honestly I think either The Lusty Men or Deadline at Dawn are the best introductions. The ones with an * are particularly worthwhile.

      Deadline at Dawn*-Fantastic moody noir set in the span of a few hours.

      The Lusty Men*-Spare rodeo drama about dreams-both hopeful and dashed-with near career best performances by Susan, Robert Mitchum and Arthur Kennedy directed by Nicolas Ray.

      The President's Lady*-Biography of Andrew Jackson (Charlton Heston) and his wife Rachel (Hayward) whose lives were haunted by scandal because of a misunderstanding over her first marriage.

      They Won't Believe Me*-The normally genial Robert Young gets a chance to stretch his boundaries somewhat as a near total bastard who is involved with three women (Susie, Jane Greer and Rita Johnson) who finds himself on trial for murder.

      I’ll Cry Tomorrow-Biography of singing star Lillian Roth (though Susan performs the musical numbers herself) whose life fell apart due to her a crippling addiction to alcohol leading to a life on skid row until she dragged herself back.

      Rawhide-Tough little Western hostage drama set at a stagecoach way station with Tyrone Power.

      Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman-Her first Oscar nomination playing a woman who gives up her singing career for marriage and slips into alcoholism.

      I Want to Live!-Story of convicted murderess Barbara Graham’s fight against her death penalty conviction. Her Oscar winner.

      With a Song in My Heart-Another bio of a singer, this time Jane Froman who survived a catastrophic plane crash during WWII in which among other injuries her leg was nearly severed. The film chronicles her struggles to recover. Another nominated performance.

      Among the Living-Sort of a psychological horror noir pastiche of identical twins, one a respected business man the other his insane brother (both Albert Dekker) who escapes and terrorizes the town including a saucy young girl (Susan) who catches his eye.

      I Married a Witch*-Great comedy with Veronica Lake (never better) as a witch who before she and her father are burned at the stake and their spirits trapped in a tree placed a curse on her accuser (Fredric March) that he and his descendant’s would marry the wrong woman. Three hundred years later they are freed and set out to make mischief for the latest descendant (also March)-Susan plays the shrew he plans to marry showing the curse is working. This one is delightful.

    3. Those are her best but these are worth watching if the chance presents itself.

      Ada-Of course!

      Our Leading Citizen-A recent discovery, and tough to find, very political film about an overambitious industrialist who through his avarice attempts to crush a workers revolt in a once peaceful town.

      I’d Climb the Highest Mountain-Quiet film about a circuit preacher and his wife.

      Canyon Passage-Decent Western nothing special but beautiful color and a good cast.

      The Lost Moment-Venice set psychological drama about an author searching through an old mansion for a vanished poet’s letters and the poet’s now 100 year old paramour (an impressively made up Agnes Moorehead) and her cold niece who hold the key to the mystery. Not for everyone…Susan herself hated it and always referred to it as “The Lost Hour and a Half”

      House of Strangers-Family drama starring Edward G. Robinson as a hard man in conflict with his sons.

      I Can Get It for You Wholesale-Susan’s a madly ambitious designer willing to step on anyone to get to the top.

      Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole-Research doctor (Susan) is suddenly widowed and to help deal with her grief goes to work in a slum clinic alongside a gruff physician befriending a young girl with leukemia whose house she shares. This was one of only two TV movies she made (the other “Heat of Anger” is a decent film as well) and her last work as an actress. It did very well in the ratings and was slated to go to series but her brain tumor diagnosis forced her retirement.

      I only have one film of hers yet to see, what sounds like a goofy trifle called $1000 a Touchdown with Joe E. Brown & Martha Raye which despite my desire to complete her filmography I’m thinking is not an essential!

      Okay so I got carried away…but I hope you get to see some or all. Would love to hear what you think!

    4. Thanks for the guide. I do plan on seeing at least a couple of these sooner rather than later.

    5. Dell I meant to comment and forget. It's great that you found pictures that illustrated what I was saying about how the filmmakers made sure Susan was only in surroundings and wardrobe that complimented her coloring and features especially considering the dearth of choices.

      I wouldn't say its a lost art but rarely do films and stars today get that sort of focus except perhaps in period pieces. Pretty much from the 30's though the 60's when New Cinema came in what stars wore and how they were presented was a huge portion of the machinery of their films and myth building. Now the goal seems to look real and like every other Joe Blow on the block.

      It puts me in mind of what Joan Crawford said "If you want to see the girl next door go next door! I'm a Movie Star!!"

  3. The great Susan Hayward who knew how to chew the scenery, spit it out and look gorgeous! I have not seen this film and have added it to my list to see. I don't have Netflix or TCM so I hope to see it one day. I consider her one of the beauties because she was also quite sure of herself but not a schemer like Joan Fontaine in later roles. I agree about the Conqueror even though I want to see it because it is so bad. Even though they were all smokers and Wayner was a heavy, heavy smoker, Too many people from that set, died from various cancers and many others contracted cancer so it is not a coincidence. This past year, I was watching a show and this man was at the site where they filmed this movie and the radiation was still present.

    1. Unless you have a high tolerance for excruciating awfulness spare yourself The Conqueror. It's truly a disaster. I missed that show where they returned to the site of filming but I can't say I'm surprised they found the radiation.

      As you can tell I am likewise a Susan Hayward fan and she was quite a beauty and a tough survivor. Born into abject poverty she worked hard for her success refining a native talent without benefit of training and force of personality, enduring a very bad first marriage to a wife beater (ironically her father was a carnival barker by profession and her first husband's last name was Barker) finally finding success in both her career and a happy second marriage only to have her husband die suddenly and then just as she was resuming her career being felled by the brain tumor (though she survived longer than anyone had up to that point with her type of malignancy according to her doctors by sheer determination).

  4. This sounds terrific. And I'm definitely interested in politics, so that's a bonus. Great review!

    1. Thanks again Steph!

      Since you mentioned being interested in politics I'd point towards two of her other films, Our Leading Citizen about a town torn by factions, though it might be difficult to locate, and The President's Lady about Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel which shows that dirty politics and mudslinging are nothing new.