Feb 25, 2016

Susan Hayward, Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman

as ANGELICA "ANGIE" EVANS CONWAY

The Los Angeles Daily News called Susan Hayward's Oscar nomination for Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman "the most spontaneous nomination of the lot." That makes complete sense, given that the film comes off as extremely creaky and cheap. The B-movie quality of it all certainly doesn't help in Hayward's favor, though it's fairly obvious that she gives the part her all.


I did not like Smash-Up. I didn't like its shoddy narrative quality. This is key, because I think that any film tackling a heavy subject requires a meticulous story. Following a film like The Lost Weekend, this one simply doesn't measure up by any means. Hayward, who is very clearly young and able and ready to sink her teeth into the part, is effective enough as Angie, but I'm not so sure that she is very believable. It's hard for me to buy Hayward, so perfectly coiffed and plucked and made up and camera-ready, as one who is suffering from severe alcoholism, especially as she struts around in a blank gaze to communicate to us that she is "drunk." I think that she plays the Loving Wife aspect of Angie well enough, though the film spends a little too much time in the beginning keying in on their domestic bliss, and thus you are only witness to Hayward smiling and glowing and not particularly doing anything of note. Not until she really dives into Angie's alcoholism does the part get interesting. She is at her absolute best when conveying her rage and insecurities (the scene in which she lashes out against her husband is spectacularly done), channeling a very visceral bevy of feelings for her character. Even still, the screenplay doesn't do a very good job at effectively transitioning her character's "disease," and as such I never completely understood her motives behind her excessive drinking - she often will find herself in a situation where she gets frustrated and then starts to drink, with very little to read in between. I guess that's my problem here - overall she comes off as a superficial alcoholic, though I'm not sure that that's entirely her fault. Ultimately what prevented me from truly loving the performance was due to my belief that Hayward lacks a total sense of loss in the vice at hand. Hayward does what she does well but you don't really see her completely herself in the material in the way an alcoholic is supposed to be "lost." Hayward's alcoholic is pristinely presented, and thus this is a performance that doesn't come off as very daring, which is a disappointing result for anything involving serious addiction. As with a few of her fellow nominees (male and female) in this particular year, this is a technically good performance but not one that really, truly shook me as much as it should have.

8 comments:

  1. I thought "Smash-Up" came across as rather cheesy on all levels, from production values to screenplay to much of the acting. Hayward has her moments, but the role is so thinly drawn I found myself caring very little one way or the other about her troubles. Also, Hayward's tendency to play to the camera leads to some posing that is wrong for the character but is very "Hollywood" in its acting style. She is effective in a few scenes (the one you mentioned with her husband is very well done) but I kept thinking that I was watching a soap opera rather than a serious drama, which kept me from ever fully caring about any of these people. Hayward shows potential here, but she'd give better performances in the '50s.

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  2. I can't help agreeing about the movie, but I enjoyed her performance a little more. Susan Hayward sometimes gets on my nerves, but here she's more calm and seductive rather than hysterical and cheap.

    I'll cry Tomorrow is a better film and her performance is kind of different, I wonder what you'll think of her in it.

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  4. This one is still on my to-do list. I'll Cry Tomorrow was wonderful, and of course once seen, I Want To Live is never forgotten. I'm warned to dial-down my expectations here, but I might find some enjoyment.

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  5. Don't remember much, except the performance was a solid winner to me. :)

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  6. What is taking so long foe The Farmer's Daughter" analysis

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    Replies
    1. a full time job, but welcome

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    2. Good for you ! It is just that I am look so forward to your blog. It is such a great one. I am an Oscar buff too( my family calls me an Oscar "NUT," but that is a whole other story. Keep up the great work.

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