Helen Hayes

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Helen Hayes
Helen Hayes
BornHelen Hayes Brown
(1900-10-10)October 10, 1900
Washington, D.C.
DiedMarch 17, 1993(1993-03-17) (aged 92)
Nyack, New York
Years active1905-1985
Spouse(s)Charles MacArthur (1928-1956; his death)
ChildrenMary MacArthur (1930-1949)
James MacArthur (1937-2010) (adopted)
Academy Awards
Best Actress
1931 The Sin of Madelon Claudet
Best Supporting Actress
1970 Airport
Emmy Awards
Outstanding Lead Actress
1953 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
Tony Awards
Best Actress - Play
1947 Happy Birthday
1958 Time Remembered
Lawrence Langner Memorial Tony Award
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For other uses, see Helen Hayes (disambiguation).
Helen Hayes
Helen Hayes
BornHelen Hayes Brown
(1900-10-10)October 10, 1900
Washington, D.C.
DiedMarch 17, 1993(1993-03-17) (aged 92)
Nyack, New York
Years active1905-1985
Spouse(s)Charles MacArthur (1928-1956; his death)
ChildrenMary MacArthur (1930-1949)
James MacArthur (1937-2010) (adopted)
Academy Awards
Best Actress
1931 The Sin of Madelon Claudet
Best Supporting Actress
1970 Airport
Emmy Awards
Outstanding Lead Actress
1953 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
Tony Awards
Best Actress - Play
1947 Happy Birthday
1958 Time Remembered
Lawrence Langner Memorial Tony Award

Helen Hayes Brown (October 10, 1900 – March 17, 1993) was an American actress whose career spanned almost 80 years. She eventually garnered the nickname "First Lady of the American Theatre" and was one of twelve people who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award (an EGOT). Hayes also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor, from President Ronald Reagan in 1986.[1] In 1988, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts. The annual Helen Hayes Awards, which have recognized excellence in professional theatre in the greater Washington, D.C. area since 1984, are her namesake. In 1955 the former Fulton Theatre on 46th Street in New York City's Broadway Theater District was renamed the Helen Hayes Theatre. When that venue was torn down in 1982, the nearby Little Theatre was renamed in her honor.

Early life[edit]

Helen Hayes was born in Washington D.C. on October 10, 1900. Her mother, Catherine Estelle (née Hayes), or Essie, was an aspiring actress who worked in touring companies.[2][3] Her father, Francis van Arnum Brown, worked at a number of jobs, including as a clerk at the Washington Patent Office and as a manager and salesman for a wholesale butcher.[3][4] Hayes' Irish Catholic maternal grandparents emigrated from Ireland during the Irish Potato Famine;[5]

Hayes began a stage career at an early age. She said her stage debut was as a 5-year-old singer at Washington's Belasco Theatre (on Lafayette Square, across from the White House.)[6] By the age of ten, she had made a short film called Jean and the Calico Doll, but moved to Hollywood only when her husband, playwright Charles MacArthur, signed a Hollywood deal. She attended the Academy of the Sacred Heart Convent in Washington and graduated in 1917.[7]


In the film What Every Woman Knows (1934)

Her sound film debut was The Sin of Madelon Claudet, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She followed that with starring roles in Arrowsmith (with Myrna Loy), A Farewell to Arms (with actor Gary Cooper, whom Hayes admitted to finding extremely attractive), The White Sister (opposite Clark Gable), What Every Woman Knows (a reprise from her Broadway hit) and Vanessa: Her Love Story. However, Hayes did not prefer that medium to the stage.

Hayes eventually returned to Broadway in 1935, where for three years she played the title role in the Gilbert Miller production of Victoria Regina, with Vincent Price as Prince Albert, first at the Broadhurst Theatre and later at the Martin Beck Theatre.

In 1953, she was the first-ever recipient of the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre, repeating as the winner in 1969. She returned to Hollywood in the 1950s, and her film star began to rise. She starred in My Son John (1952) and Anastasia (1956), and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as an elderly stowaway in the disaster film Airport (1970). She followed that up with several roles in Disney films such as Herbie Rides Again, One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing and Candleshoe. Her performance in Anastasia was considered a comeback—she had suspended her career for several years due to the death of her daughter Mary, and her husband's failing health.

In 1955 the Fulton Theatre was renamed for her. However, business interests in the 1980s wished to raze that theatre and four others to construct a large hotel that included the Marquis Theatre. To accomplish razing this theatre and three others, as well as the Hotel Astor, the business interests received Hayes' consent to raze the theatre named for her, even though she had no ownership interest in the buildings. Parts of the original Helen Hayes theatre on Broadway were used to construct The Shakespeare Center on the Upper Westside of Manhattan, which Hayes dedicated with Joseph Papp in 1982.[8] In 1983 the Little Theater on West 45th Street was renamed The Helen Hayes Theatre in her honor, as was a theatre in Nyack, which has since been renamed the Riverspace-Arts Center. In early 2014 the site was refurbished and styled by interior designer Dawn Hershko and reopened as The Playhouse Market a quaint restaurant and Gourmet Deli.

It is unclear when or by whom Hayes was called the "First Lady of the Theatre". Her friend, actress Katharine Cornell also held that title, and each thought that the other deserved it.[9][10] One critic said that Cornell played every Queen as though she were a woman, whereas Hayes played every woman as though she were a Queen.[9]

In 1982, with friend Lady Bird Johnson, she founded the National Wildflower Research Center, now the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas. The center protects and preserves North America's native plants and natural landscapes.[11]

The Helen Hayes Award for theater in the Washington D.C. area is named in her honor. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6220 Hollywood Blvd. Helen Hayes is also a member of the American Theatre Hall of Fame.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Hayes was a Catholic[13][14] and a pro-business Republican who attended many Republican National Conventions (including the one held in New Orleans in 1988), but she was not as politically vocal as some others (e.g., Adolphe Menjou, Ginger Rogers, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan etc.) in the Hollywood community of that time.

Hayes wrote three memoirs: A Gift of Joy, On Reflection and My Life in Three Acts. Some of the themes in these books include her return to Roman Catholicism (she had been denied communion from the Church for the length of her marriage to MacArthur, who was a divorced Protestant); and the death of her only daughter, Mary, who was an aspiring actress, from polio at the age of 19. Hayes's adopted son, James MacArthur, went on to a career in acting, starring in Hawaii Five-O on television. (Hayes herself guest starred on a 1975 episode of Hawaii Five-0, playing the aunt of MacArthur's character.)

Hayes was hospitalized a number of times for her asthma condition, which was aggravated by stage dust, forcing her to retire from legitimate theater in 1971, at age 71.[15][16]

Her last Broadway show was a 1970 revival of Harvey, in which she co-starred with James Stewart. Clive Barnes wrote "She epitomizes flustered charm almost as if it were a style of acting...She is one of those actors...where to watch how she is doing something is almost as pleasurable as what she is doing."[17] She spent most of her last years writing and raising money for organizations that fight asthma.


Hayes was a generous donor of time and money to a number of causes and organizations, including the Riverside Shakespeare Company of New York City. Along with Mildred Natwick, she became a founding member of the company's Board of Advisors in 1981.[18]

Riverside Shakespeare Company Shakespeare Center Dedication with Helen Hayes, 1982.

She was also on the board of directors for the Greater New York Council of the Girl Scouts of the USA during the early 1970s.

In 1982, Hayes dedicated Riverside's The Shakespeare Center with New York theatre producer, Joseph Papp,[19] and in 1985 returned to the New York stage in a benefit reading for the company with a reading of A Christmas Carol with the late Raul Julia, Len Cariou, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Carole Shelley, Celeste Holm and Harold Scott, directed by W. Stuart McDowell.[20] The next year Hayes performed a second benefit for the Riverside Shakespeare Company, this time at the Marquis Theatre, the construction of which had been made possible by the demolition of the Helen Hayes Theatre three years before. The production featured Rex Smith, Ossie Davis and F. Murray Abraham, produced by McDowell and directed by Robert Small, with Hayes narrating the performance.


Hayes died on St. Patrick's Day,1993 from congestive heart failure in Nyack, New York. Lillian Gish had designated Hayes as beneficiary of her estate, but Hayes survived her by less than a month. Hayes was interred in the Oak Hill Cemetery, Nyack, New York.[21] In 2011, she was honored with a US postage stamp.[22]

Body of work[edit]

Stage and awards[edit]

1905Miss Hawke's May BallIrish Dancer
A Midsummer Night's DreamPeaseblossom
1908Babe in the WoodsBoy babe
1909Jack the Giant KillerGibson Girl, Nell Brinkley, Girl impersonators
A Royal FamilyPrince Charles Ferdinand
Children's Dancing KermessImpersonation of "The Nell Brinkley Girl"
The Prince ChapClaudia, Age 5
A Poor RelationPatch
1910Old DutchLittle Mime
The Summer WidowersPacyche Finnegan, Pinkie's playmate
1911The BarrierMolly, an Alaskan Child
Little Lord FauntleroyCedric Errol
The Never HomesFannie Hicks, Another Near Orphan
The Seven SistersKlara, the Youngest Daughter
Mary Jane's Pa
1912The June BrideThe Holder's Child
1913Flood Victim's Benefit
The Girl with Green EyesSusie, the Flower Girl
His House in OrderDerek Jesson, his son
A Royal FamilyPrince Charles Ferdinand
The Prince Chap
The Prince and the PauperTom Canty and Edward, Prince of Wales
1914The Prodigal HusbandYoung Simone
1916The DummyBeryl Meredith, the Kidnapper's Hostage
On TrialHis Daughter, Doris Strickland
1917It Pays to AdvertiseMarie, Maid at the Martins
Just a WomanHired girl
Mile-a-Minute KendallBeth
Rich Man, Poor ManLinda Hurst
Alma, Where Do You Live?Germain
Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage PatchAsia
Within the Law
PollyannaPollyanna Whittier, The Glad Girl
Dear BrutusMargaret, his daughter
1919On the Hiring LineDorothy Fessenden, his daughter
ClarenceCora Wheeler
The Golden Age
1921The WrenSeeby Olds
The Golden DaysMary Ann
1922To the LadiesElsie Beebe
No Siree!: An Anonymous Entertainment by the
Vicious Circus of the Hotel Algonquin
1923Loney LeeLoney Lee
1924We ModernsMary Sundale, their Daughter
The Dragon
She Stoops to ConquerConstance Neville
Dancing MothersCatherine (Kittens) Westcourt
QuarantineDinah Partlett
1925Caesar and CleopatraCleopatra
The Last of Mrs. CheyneyMaria
Young BloodGeorgia Bissell
1926What Every Woman KnowsMaggie Wylie
1927CoquetteNorma Besant
1928CoquetteNorma BesantLondon version
1930Mr. GilhooleyA girl
Petticoat InfluencePeggy Chalfont
1931The Good FairyLu
1933Mary of ScotlandMary Stuart
1935Caesar and CleopatraCleopatra
Victoria ReginaVictoria
1934What Every Woman Knows
1936Victoria ReginaVictoriaRevival
1938The Merchant of VenicePortia
Victoria ReginaVictoriaRevival
1939Ladies and GentlemenMiss Terry Scott
1940Twelfth NightViola
1941Candle in the WindMadeline Guest
1943HarrietHarriet Beecher Stowe
1944HarrietHarriet Beecher StoweRevival
1947Alice-Sit-By-The-FireMrs. Alice Grey
Happy BirthdayAddieTony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
1948The Glass MenagerieAmanda Wingfield
1949Good Housekeeping
1950The Wisteria TreesLucy Andree Ransdell
1952Mrs. McThingMrs. Howard V. Larue III
1955Gentleman, The QueensCatherine, Lady Macbeth, Mary and Queen Victoria
The Skin of Our TeethMrs. Antrobus
1956Lovers, Villains and FoolsNarrator, Puck and the Chorus from Henry V
The Glass MenagerieThe Mother
1958Time RememberedThe Duchess of Pont-Au-BroncTony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
1958A AdventureLulu Specer
Mid-SummerRose, the Maid
A Touch of the PoetNora Melody
1960The Cherry OrchardLyuboff Ranevskaya
The Chalk GardenMrs. Maugham
1962Shakespeare Revisited: A Program for Two Players
1964Good Morning Miss DoveMiss Lucerna Dove
The White HouseAbigail Adams, Dolley Madison, Edith Wilson, Julia Grant, Leonora Clayton, Mary Todd Lincoln, Mrs. Benjamin Harrison, Mrs. Franklin Pierce, Mrs. Grover Cleveland, Mrs. James G. Blaine, Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Rachel Jackson
1965Helen Hayes' Tour of the Far East
1966The Circle
The School for ScandalMrs. Candour
Right You Are If You Think You AreSignora Frola
We Comrades ThreeMother
You Can't Take It With YouOlga
1967The Show-OffMrs. FisherTony Award's Vernon Rice-Drama Desk Award
1968The Show-OffMrs. Fisherreturn engagement
1969The Front PageMrs. Grant
1970HarveyVeta Louise SimmonsNominated - Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
1971Long Day's Journey Into NightMary Cavan Tyrone
1980Tony Award's Lawrence Langner Memorial Award

Filmography and awards[edit]

1910Jean and the Calico Dollthough 'unconfirmed' and the film is lost, Hayes would have been nine years old when appearing in this film with canine Vitagraph star Jean
1917The Weavers of LifePeggy
1928The Dancing Townshort subject
1931ArrowsmithLeora Arrowsmith
The Sin of Madelon ClaudetMadelon ClaudetAcademy Award for Best Actress
1932A Farewell to ArmsCatherine Barkley
The Son-DaughterLian Wha 'Star Blossom'
1933The White SisterAngela Chiaromonte
Another LanguageStella 'Stell' Hallam
Night FlightMadame Fabian
1934Crime Without PassionExtra in hotel lobbyUncredited
What Every Woman KnowsMaggie Wylie
1935Vanessa: Her Love StoryVanessa Paris
1938Hollywood Goes to TownHerself, uncreditedshort subject
1943Stage Door CanteenHerself
1952My Son JohnLucille Jefferson
1953Main Street to BroadwayHerself
1956AnastasiaDowager Empress Maria FeodorovnaNominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
1959Third Man on the MountainTouristUncredited
1961The Challenge of IdeasNarratorshort subject
1970AirportAda QuonsettAcademy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1974Herbie Rides AgainMrs. SteinmetzNominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1975One of Our Dinosaurs is MissingHettie
1977CandleshoeLady St. Edmund

Television appearances and awards[edit]

1950Showtime, U.S.A.Episode #1.1
The Prudential Family PlayhouseThe Barretts of Wimpole Street
Pulitzer Prize PlayhouseMary, Queen of ScotsThe Late Christopher Bean
1951Pulitzer Prize PlayhouseMary, Queen of ScotsMary of Scotland
Schlitz Playhouse of StarsDark Fleece
Schlitz Playhouse of StarsThe Lucky Touch
Schlitz Playhouse of StarsNot a Chance
Robert Montgomery PresentsQueen VictoriaVictoria Regina
Nominated — Emmy Award for Best Actress (nonspecific role)
1952OmnibusThe Twelve Pound Look
Nominated — Emmy Award for Best Actress (nonspecific role)
1953OmnibusThe Happy Journey
OmnibusMom and Leo
Christmas with the Stars
Medallion TheatreHarriet Beecher Stowe"Battle Hymn"
Emmy Award for Best Actress (nonspecific role)
1954The United States Steel HourMrs. AustinWelcome Home
The Best of BroadwayFanny CavendishThe Royal Family
The Motorola Television HourFrances ParrySide by Side
1955Producers' ShowcaseMrs. AntrobusThe Skin of Our Teeth
The Best of BroadwayAbby BrewsterArsenic and Old Lace
1956OmnibusDear Brutus
OmnibusThe Christmas Tie
1957The Alcoa HourMrs. Gilling and the Skyscraper
Nominated - Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
Playhouse 9Sister TheresaFour Women in Black
1958OmnibusMrs. McThing
The United States Steel HourMother SeraphimOne Red Rose for Christmas
Nominated - Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
1959Hallmark Hall of FameEssieAh, Wilderness!
Play of the WeekMadame RanevskayaThe Cherry Orchard
1960The Bell Telephone HourBaroness Nadedja von MeckThe Music of Romance
Play of the WeekMadame RanevskayaThe Velvet Glove
Dow Hour of Great MysteriesThe Bat
1961Michael ShayneMurder Round My Wrist
1963The ChristophersWhat One Bootmaker Did
1967TarzanMrs. WilsonThe Pride of the Lioness
1969Arsenic and Old LaceAbby Brewster
1970The Front PageNarrator
1971Do Not Fold, Spindle, or MutilateSophie Tate CurtisNominated - Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
1972HarveyVeta Louise Simmons
Here's LucyMrs. Kathleen BradyLucy and the Little Old Lady
Ghost StoryMiss GildenAlter-Ego
1973–1974The Snoop SistersErnesta SnoopNominated - Emmy Award for Best Lead Actress in a Limited Series
1975Hawaii Five-OAunt ClaraRetire in Sunny Hawaii - Forever
Nominated - Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series
1976Arthur Hailey's the MoneychangersDr. McCartneyminiseries
Victory at EntebbeEtta Grossman-Wise
1978A Family Upside DownEmma LongNominated - Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
1980The Love BoatAgatha Winslow1 episode
1982Love, SidneyMrs. ClovisPro and Cons
Murder is EasyLavinia Fullerton
1983A Caribbean MysteryMiss Marple
1984Highway to HeavenEstelle Wicks
1985Murder with MirrorsMiss Marple

Other awards[edit]

In 1983, Hayes received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reagan, Ronald."Ronald Reagan: Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom - May 12, 1986" presidency.ucsb.edu, May 12, 1986, accessed August 27, 2011
  2. ^ "The Official Website of Helen Hayes: Biography" Helen Hayes.com, accessed August 27, 2011
  3. ^ a b "Biography of Helen Hayes" Kennedy-Center.org, accessed August 27, 2011
  4. ^ "The Theatre:Helen Millennial" Time Magazine, December 30, 1935.
  5. ^ Rice, Jean."Helen Hayes (1900-1993),The First Lady [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CEFDF123DF93BA25750C0A965958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=2 "Helen Hayes, Flower of the Stage, Dies at 92"The New York Times (requires registration), March 18, 1993
  6. ^ Evely, Douglas E., Dickson, Paul, and Ackerman, S.J."The White House Neighborhood"On This Spot: Pinpointing the Past in Washington D.C. (2008), Capital Books, ISBN 1-933102-70-5, p.166
  7. ^ "Helen Hayes" biography.yourdictionary.com, accessed August 27, 2011
  8. ^ O'Haire, Patricia. "Dickens lends the Bard a Hand," The New York Daily News, September 13, 1982
  9. ^ a b Mosel, p.unknown
  10. ^ "The Theatre: Great Katharine"Time Magazine, April 3, 1939
  11. ^ "About Us, History" Wildflower.org, accessed August 27, 2011
  12. ^ "Members of the American Theater Hall of Fame". Retrieved February 5, 2014. 
  13. ^ Hayes, Helen. My Life in Three Acts. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: San Diego, CA, 1990, p.unknown
  14. ^ Hevesi, Dennis. "Helen Hayes Is Remembered in Church She Loved", The New York Times, March 21, 1993, p.45
  15. ^ Anderson, Ruth Nathan. "Helen Hayes Discovers She's Allergic to Dust," Boca Raton News, November 23, 1980
  16. ^ "Helen Hayes Biography" britannica.com, accessed August 27, 2011
  17. ^ Barnes, Clive. "Stage:Unseen White Rabbit Returns:James Stewart Stars in Phoenix's 'Harvey'", The New York Times, February 25, 1970, p.41
  18. ^ O'Haire, Patricia. "Dickens lends the Bard a Hand," The New York Daily News, Sept 13, 1982
  19. ^ Brochure of the Riverside Shakespeare Company, 1982, p. 3.
  20. ^ Tomasson, Robert E. "Helping Those Who Help;Scrooge's Return", The New York Times, November 24, 1985, p.78
  21. ^ Pace, Eric."Helen Hayes, Flower of the Stage, Dies at 92"The New York Times (requires registration), March 18, 1993
  22. ^ "Helen Hayes Postage Stamp" beyondtheperf.com, April 25, 2011, accessed August 27, 2011
  23. ^ a b "Helen Hayes Credits, Broadway" Internet Broadway Database, accessed August 27, 2011
  24. ^ "About Helen Hayes - Theater (Official site)" Helen Hayes.com, accessed August 27, 2011
  25. ^ http://www.jeffersonawards.org/pastwinners/national


External links[edit]