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Also Known As: Helen Hayes Brown Died: March 17, 1993
Born: October 10, 1900 Cause of Death: heart failure
Birth Place: Washington, Washington D.C., USA Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

This 'First Lady of the American Theater' began her illustrious eight-decade-long career as a child actress on the Washington stage at age five. By age nine, Hayes had made her Broadway debut and was soon starring as the embodiment of sunny optimism, "Pollyanna". Around the same time, she made her film debut in the 1910 short "Jean and the Calico Cat" and appeared in other New York-produced films as a juvenile. As a young adult, the petite, sweet-featured but plain-looking Hayes triumphed in a series of comic ingenue roles, most notably in "Dear Brutus", during the 1920s. ("I was squeezing cuteness out of my greasepaint tubes and scooping charm out of my cold cream jars", she later said.) She also proved herself a serious dramatic performer and was acclaimed for her humanized, accessible portrayals of British queens, in Maxwells Anderson's "Mary of Scotland" (1933) and--a touchstone performance--"Victoria Regina" (1935). Hayes won an Oscar for her Hollywood debut in the weepie, "The Sin of Madelon Claudet" (1931), scripted by her husband Charles MacArthur, and was also hailed for her work in Frank Borzage's "A Farewell to Arms" (1932) and for reprising her stage role in "What Every Woman Knows"...

This 'First Lady of the American Theater' began her illustrious eight-decade-long career as a child actress on the Washington stage at age five. By age nine, Hayes had made her Broadway debut and was soon starring as the embodiment of sunny optimism, "Pollyanna". Around the same time, she made her film debut in the 1910 short "Jean and the Calico Cat" and appeared in other New York-produced films as a juvenile.

As a young adult, the petite, sweet-featured but plain-looking Hayes triumphed in a series of comic ingenue roles, most notably in "Dear Brutus", during the 1920s. ("I was squeezing cuteness out of my greasepaint tubes and scooping charm out of my cold cream jars", she later said.) She also proved herself a serious dramatic performer and was acclaimed for her humanized, accessible portrayals of British queens, in Maxwells Anderson's "Mary of Scotland" (1933) and--a touchstone performance--"Victoria Regina" (1935).

Hayes won an Oscar for her Hollywood debut in the weepie, "The Sin of Madelon Claudet" (1931), scripted by her husband Charles MacArthur, and was also hailed for her work in Frank Borzage's "A Farewell to Arms" (1932) and for reprising her stage role in "What Every Woman Knows" (1934) as a seemingly self-effacing, manipulative wife. Nonetheless, by 1935 MGM had given up trying to make a movie star out of her and Hayes returned to the stage for the next 15 years.

Hayes did not return to films until she was ready for character parts, beginning with her performance as the over-wrought mother of a communist son in "My Son John" (1952), followed by her moving work as the judgmental grand duchess in "Anastasia" (1956). Retiring from the stage in 1971, she found herself in demand as "cute", feisty characters, like the eccentric passenger in "Airport" (1970), a performance which netted her a second Oscar. During the same period she became a fixture in Disney films like "Herbie Rides Again" (1974) and "Candleshoe" (1977), starred opposite Mildred Natwick as mystery writers-turned-sleuths on the TV series "The Snoop Sisters" (1973-74) and even essayed the role of Agatha Christie detective Miss Marple in the 1983 made-for-TV movie "The Carribean Mystery".

Hayes was married to playwright-screenwriter Charles MacArthur from 1928 until his death in 1956; their son, James MacArthur, is an actor.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Route One/U.S.A. (1991) Herself
3.
 Agatha Christie's Murder With Mirrors (1985) Miss Jane Marple
4.
 Agatha Christie's A Caribbean Mystery (1983) Miss Jane Marple
5.
 Agatha Christie's Murder Is Easy (1982) Lavinia Fullerton
6.
 Hopper's Silence (1981) Narration
7.
 Family Upside Down, A (1978) Emma Long
8.
 Candleshoe (1977) Lady St Edmund
9.
 Victory at Entebbe (1976) Mrs Wise
10.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised by paternal grandmother
:
First appeared on stage as Pease-Blossom in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Holy Cross Academy
1905:
Professional stage debut at age five as Prince Charles in the Columbia Players production of "The Royal Family" in Washington
:
Member of the Columbia Players' for four season; appeared in "Little Lord Fauntleroy", "The Prince Chap" and "The Prince and the Pauper" while attending Holy Cross (usually appearing in two plays a summer)
1909:
Broadway acting debut, "Old Dutch" (under the management of Lew Fields)
1910:
Short film debut, "Jean and the Calico Cat"
1916:
Starred on Broadway as the title character in "Pollyanna"; toured with production through 1918
1917:
Feature film debut, "The Weavers of Life"
1931:
First major Hollywood film, "The Sin of Madelon Claudet"
1933:
Made transition from popular stage actress to serious actress with the title role in Maxwell Anderson's "Mary of Scotland"
1935:
Starred on Broadway as Queen Victoria in "Victoria Regina"; toured in play through 1938
1940:
Hosted own radio program, "The Helen Hayes Theatre"
:
Triumphed on Broadway as Harriet Beecher Stowe in "Harriet"
1948:
London stage debut as Amanda Wingfield in "The Glass Menagerie" (directed by John Gielgud)
1950:
Returned to New York stage after daughter's death in "The Wisteria Tree"
1950:
TV debut in "The Late Christopher Bean" on "Pulitzer Prize Playhouse"
1951:
Debut as a stage producer on Broadway, "Mary Rose"
1955:
Paris stage debut as Mrs Antrobus in "The Skin of Our Teeth"
1955:
Fulton Theater on Broadway, renamed the Helen Hayes Theater in her honor (razed in 1984 to make way for the Marriott Marquis Hotel)
1961:
Travelled through 28 different countries throughout South America and Europe on a US State Department sponsored tour starring in "The Glass Menagerie" and "The Skin of Our Teeth"
1964:
Formed the Helen Hayes Repertory Company, which sponsored university tours of Shakespeare recitals
1966:
Joined the APA-Phoenix Repertory Company
1971:
Retired from the stage due to an allergic reaction to stage dust
1984:
Second theater (formerly the Little Theater) renamed in her honor as the Helen Hayes Theater (after the previous theater was razed to build a hotel on the site)
1992:
Hospitalized for exhaustion February
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Holy Cross Academy: -
Sacred Heart Academy: Washington , Washington D.C. - 1917

Notes

Helen Hayes was one of eight individuals (Rita Moreno, Audrey Hepburn, John Gielgud, Richard Rodgers, Marvin Hamlisch, Mel Brooks and Mike Nichols are the others) to have won all four of the major entertainment awards (Oscar, Tony, Grammy and Emmy) in competition.

Hayes along with Rita Moreno, John Gielgud and Audrey Hepburn hold the distinction of having received each of the four major entertainment awards (Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy) in competition.

"Miss Hayes does not have personality that dazzles the public; she does not behave like a star ... but put her on the stage and raise the curtain, and something happens to the audience. She was perfectly cast when she played in Barrie's "What Every Woman Knows"--a mousy, unassertive woman who has a powerful influence on other people." --Brooks Atkinson

"I had never yearned to be an actress because I always was one. I never dreamed of a career--because I always had one. For sixty years I've heard, 'Two minutes, Miss Hayes,' and I've sprinted onto the stage. It's become a reflex. Pavlov's Actress, that's me." --Helen Hayes in her autobiography "A Gift of Joy" (1965).

[She played] "the brave wife of "Arrowsmith". Everybody got very uptight when Helen Hayes reached for that plague-soaked cigarette. It was always rewarding to watch Helen Hayes die. The death scene in "A Farewell to Arms", in which Miss Hayes played Hemingway's little war nurse, tore at your tearducts in the most untheatrical way." --John Springer ("They Had Faces Then", 1974)

She received the Drama League of New York Medal for her performance in "Victoria Regina" (1935).

Awarded the Medal of Arts from Finland.

She was given the American Exemplar Medal from the Freedom Foundation in 1978.

Received the Laetare Medal from Notre Dame University in 1979.

Presented with the Medal of Freedom Award from former President Reagan (1988).

US Mint struck a commemorative gold coin bearing her likeness (1984)

She was the president of the American National Theatre and Academy (1951-53).

Named honorary president of the American Theatre Wing.

She served as second president of the Actors Fund

She chaired the women's activities for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.

Awarded honorary L.H.D. from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York (1939) and Smith College in Elmira, New York (1940).

Received a honorary Litt.D. from Columbia University (1949) and University of Denver (1952).

She was awarded an honorary doctorate by Princeton University and St. Mary's College

Given the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Leadership Award in 1991

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Charles MacArthur. Playwright, screenwriter. Married August 17, 1928 until his death April 21, 1956; met c. 1925; married despite opposition from the Catholic church as he was already married when they met.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Francis Van Arnum Brown. Traveling salesman.
mother:
Catherine Estell Brown. Stock company actor.
daughter:
Mary MacArthur. Born 1930, died of polio in 1949; was called an "Act of God" child--which the courts allowed when Hayes had to leave a play, breaking her contract, because of her pregnancy.
son:
James MacArthur. Actor. Born December 8, 1937; adopted with Charles MacArthur; best remembered as Danny ("Book 'em, Danno") in long-running TV series "Hawaii Five-O" (1968-79); married Joyce Bulifant.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"A Gift of Joy"
"On Reflection"
"Twice Over Lightly"
"Our Best Years"
"Loving Life"
"Where Truth Lies"
"My Life in Three Acts"
"Helen Hayes: First Lady of the American Theatre" Doubleday
"Helen Hayes: Portrait of an American Actress"
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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