The high-water mark of Julie Haydon's career was her touching performance as Laura, the gentle, reclusive daughter, in the original production of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie.
Haydon was educated at Gordon Girls' School in Hollywood. Appearances in local productions of The Lower Depths and Hamlet led to an RKO contract and such films as Symphony of Six Million, Thirteen Women, The Conquerors (all 1932), Son of the Border, Lucky Devils (both 1933), Their Big Moment and The Age of Innocence (both 1934). Her RKO assignments even included providing Fay Wray's screams for King Kong (1933).
Haydon played Titania in Max Reinhardt's Hollywood Bowl production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1934), and made her Broadway debut in Bright Star (1935). That same year Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur invited Noel Coward to play a womanising publisher in their independent production The Scoundrel, to be filmed at Paramount's studio in Astoria, Long Island. Although Coward accepted the role on the assurance that MacArthur's wife Helen Hayes would be acting opposite him, contractual problems forced her to withdraw. "Finally, after much trial and error," wrote Coward, "Julie Haydon walked into the office, read the part sensitively and was engaged." She played Cora Moore, a romantic young poetess who is seduced by Anthony Mallare (Coward), only to be callously abandoned by him. Hecht and MacArthur's dialogue was appropriately Cowardesque: "Tony, don't you want my love?" "Not when it's handed to me on a platter, like the head of John the Baptist."
Haydon returned to the Hollywood studios for The Longest Night and A Son Comes Home (both 1936), and the first Andy Hardy film, A Family Affair (1937), in which she played Joan, the elder of Andy's two sisters. When MGM decided to develop a Hardy Family series, the character of Joan was eliminated.
Returning to the stage, Haydon acted in Paul Vincent Carroll's Shadow and Substance (1938) and in two plays by William Saroyan: The Time of Your Life (1939) and Hello Out There (1942). Next came The Glass Menagerie (1945), in which the veteran star Laurette Taylor received the most praise for her comeback performance as the former Southern belle Amanda Wingfield. Haydon too earned glowing reviews, John Mason Brown writing: "Miss Haydon plays now, as she has always played, in self-created moon
l ight. She plays, however, with a new richness to her voice, and a new variety."
In 1947, after two plays which, between them, ran only 44 performances, Haydon turned her back on Broadway. She married the critic George Jean Nathan, and wrote books and magazine articles. For 10 years she was "actress-in-residence" at the College of StTeresa, Winona, Minnesota. After Nathan's death, she toured universities in shows based on the writings of her husband. She appeared in theatres all across America in plays by O'Neill, Coward, Chekhov, Fry, Gi
r audoux, Shaw and Shakespeare.
In 1980 Julie Haydon returned to New York in a revival of The Glass Menagerie, playing Amanda Wingfield, the mother of the girl she had portrayed so exquisitely 35 years before.
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