Helen Hayes' 87 years of stage, film and television performances — as tots, ingenues, queens, nuns and matriarchs — earned her the enduring affection of four generations.
The diminutive and demure grande dame of the American theater, Miss Hayes' twin careers entranced her public. Her acting brought her two Academy Awards and Broadway's highest acclaim — a theater named for her.
Perhaps the last of America's great ladies of the stage, the Washington-born actress, who stood 5-feet-nothing and once described herself to a magazine as "a little Irish biddy," also managed, without tiger skins or tantrums, to outlast and usually out-act Hollywood's ferociously slinky glamour queens on their own film turf.
In between the films was the stage work that really mattered to her. From her professional debut at age 5 in "The Prince Chap" (well attended by her father's Elks club and her mother's bridge group) to a Broadway career that began four years later with "Old Dutch," Hayes snagged some of the best roles the theater could offer.
They included Margaret in "Dear Brutus" by Sir James M. Barrie, Amanda in Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie," playing Harriet Beecher Stowe, Cleopatra in George Bernard Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra," Volumnia in Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" and Mrs. Antrobus in "The Skin of Our Teeth." With her daughter, Mary, she performed in "Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire" and "Good Housekeeping" — during which Mary caught the cold that turned out to be polio.
Her radio performances, which began in 1930, included the two-year run of "Helen Hayes Theatre," a nursing recruiting show during World War II and other dramatic programs.
She received three Tonys, two Oscars and an Emmy, and in 1980 she was selected one of 10 American artists to be commemorated on a gold medallion issued by the Treasury Department.
|1931||Best Actress||The Sin of Madelon Claudet||Win|
|1970||Best Supporting Actress||Airport||Win|