Profile of Helen Hayes
Name at birth: Helen Hayes Brown
Helen Hayes had a career on the stage that spanned nearly the entire 20th century, from her New York debut at the age of 9 to TV appearances when she was in her eighties. Her reputation was established on Broadway, and she is mostly known for her work on the stage, including plays such as Happy Birthday, Time Remembered and especially as Queen Victoria in Victoria Regina. Though loved in the American theater, she was less successful in the movies, with some exceptions, including The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931, written by her husband, playwright Charles MacArthur), for which she won her first Oscar. Preferring the stage and radio, Hayes worked infrequently in the movies during the '40s and '50s, and by the 1960s modern audiences knew her mostly for her TV and movie roles as mothers or little old ladies (she won another Oscar for her supporting role in 1969's Airport). She won all four major American performance awards -- Tony, Emmy, Grammy and Oscar -- and in 1986 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She has also authored best-selling autobiographical books, including A Gift of Joy (1965) and My Life in Three Acts (1990).
Because of her acting prowess, Hayes was often referred to in later years as “The First Lady of the American theater”… Hayes and MacArthur had a daughter, Mary, who died of polio in 1949, and an adopted son, James, who went on to become famous for his role as “Danno” in TV’s Hawaii Five-O (1968-79).
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