Brooke Hayward’s object lesson in writing family memoir or just writing well

– Brooke Hayward, Bridget and Margaret Sullavan

[Bennett Cerf:] Playwright [Samuel] Taylor describes Sabrina as a “vibrant beautiful young lady in her early twenties” and persuading Maggie Sullavan, born (according to Who’s Who) in 1909, to accept the role required a bit of doing. “I’m too old to play Sabrina,” she wailed. [She was then 44.] Director Hank Potter was inclined to agree. Taylor did not. The day of decision was a scorcher last July. Taylor and Potter journeyed up to Maggie’s Connecticut house for a final powwow. They found her at the pool in a very fetching and abbreviated bathing suit, with her two daughters aged sixteen and fourteen. Sceptic Potter looked hard at the trio and asked quite seriously, “Which of you three is Maggie?” She signed for the part of Sabrina there and then.

[Brooke Hayward:] I, the greatest skeptic of all, came up on the train from Madeira to see for my own eyes. She was flawless in the play, and not a day over twenty. I sat in the second row defying her to betray her age by a mannerism, an inflection, and she did not. It was the most extraordinary illusion I have ever seen. Yet, strangely, her grace and charm and youth were real. Her performance was distinguished by one ingredient. Mother claimed no respectable performance could ever be without: honesty.

– Brooke Hayward, Haywire, Bantam Books, New York, 1978, p. 261

– Leland Hayward and Margaret Sullavan

Father’s hands were rather small-boned and slender. Mother had told us we were lucky to have inherited them from him, an opinion that had always pleased him enough to quote. Now his hand seemed like a child’s in Bill’s. He slept on.

I was reminded of the worst dream I could remember ever having had. I was six years old, and in the twenty-seven years since then nothing had equalled it in terms of sheer terror. …

I dreamed that one day an indescribably horrible monster rampaged through Brentwood, killing everyone in sight. Bridget, Bill, and I, forewarned by its dreadful roar, were able to save ourselves in The Barn. However, when we crept out in the silent aftermath, we found Emily, Elsa and Otto, and George Stearns gathered on the gravel driveway, weeping. The monster had killed Mother and Father. Then, abruptly, I was with my friends in the school cafeteria. With destruction all around us, the Red Cross had arrived and were passing out supplies and hot lunches. The food was extraordinarily delicious. It was a sort of fried chicken, succulent and delicate, quite unlike anything I had ever seen or tasted. While I was chewing on the bones, my teacher stopped by the table where we were all eating.

“Brooke,” she said. “We’ve gotten you the wrong lunch. Let me take it back and get you another.”

“Oh,” I answered, “I’m so hungry and it tastes so good.”

“But Brooke, dear, what you are eating,” she pointed out, “are your father’s hands.”

– Ibid., pp. 328-9

– James Stewart

At least my father died with his boots off. He was sixty-eight years old. There were many things, he said, that he wished he’d done or hadn’t done but, on balance, it was hard to see how he could have packed more into sixty-eight years than he did. He looked his age. And he looked tired. The last ten years had been rough: he’d pushed the machinery at stress capacity for so long it had begun to break down. “I thought it was guaranteed to last a life-time,” he commented. “I smell a bum deal here. Son of a bitch, didn’t have time to read the small print. Some lousy contract. Christ, I feel cheated.”

– Ibid., pp. 346-7

When we leaned over Father to kiss him good night, he awakened instantly as if he were afraid to miss anything.

“What’s up?” he croaked.

“Thought we’d nail down a little dinner, Pop,” said Bill.

“Good idea.” Father nodded weakly. “Let’s go to the Colony.”

“Of course – where else?”

I looked away from the tube of glucose fastened to his arm.

“No.” Father struggled to lift his head. “Let’s go home instead. Where’s Bridget?”

“She-” I hadn’t heard him mention her name in many years. “She’ll be here in a minute.”

“Please tell her to hurry up.” He sighed and turned away from our voices. “I’m tired of waiting.” Then he spoke very softly and as if he were miles away. “There’s a clock in my head. It never stops ticking, but the hands don’t move. Why does it take so long to die?”

– Ibid., p. 364-5

– Margaret Sullavan, Bridget, Bill and Brooke Hayward

Comparing Mommy Dearest and Haywire here with stills from Joan Crawford’s home movies.

– Brooke Hayward, Jane Fonda, photo Dennis Hopper

Brooke Hayward on her marriage to Dennis Hopper here, Vanity Fair article.

Brooke Hayward cited as one of the known conquests of Warrent Beatty here.