Oscar Movies: I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955)–Susan Hayward as Alcoholic Lillian Roth in Hollywood Biopic

Susan Hayward was determined to get an Oscar ever since she made her debut. When she was defeated at her nomination for “Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman,” she tried to take it with a sense of humor. But the loss made her even more committed: “I’ll be nominated for an Oscar again. Maybe the next year. Maybe I’ll have to wait until the fifties. But I intend to win some day. That’s my goal.”

Hayward received her fourth Best Actress nomination for the biopic, “I’ll Cry Tomorrow,” playing singer Lillian Roth, her rise to fame as well as descent into despair and alcoholism.

Directed by Daniel Mann, the screenplay by Helen Deutsch and Jay Richard Kennedy is based on Roth’s memoirs. In a realistic a manner, the film recounts Roth’s rise to fame, her precipitous fall, and finally her tearful comeback.  Fearing censorship, this is a fictionalized version. For example, only two of Roth’s eight husbands are portrayed in the film.

The tale’s central and most emotional chapters depict Roth’s  self-destruction and abuse of Roth by her domineering “stage mother” (Jo Van Fleet) and the pressures of fame and fortune on her career and personal life. The decline into the depths of squalor and despair continues until she pulls herself together with the help of Alcoholics-Anonymous representative Burt McGuire (Eddie Albert).  The story concludes in on upbeat note, with a testimonial staged in Roth’s honor on the TV series This is Your Life

Having been personally coached by the real Lillian Roth, Hayward embodies the singer’s unique style.  Though Hayward did not win an Oscar for her performance, she did receive the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Fest

After winning the 1958 Best Actress for “I Want to Live!” at her fifth nomination and following years of hard work, vet producer Walter Wanger commented: “Thank heaven, now we can all relax. Suzie got what she’s been chasing for twenty years.”

Hayward herself was convinced that she now had everything she had ever wanted in life. “I used to make pictures for Academy Awards,” she confessed, “but I’m not concerned about winning Oscars anymore. I’m not retiring, but now I’ll act for the joy of it and for the money.”

While Hayward’s story is by no means unique, it attests to a process known in sociology as displacement of goals. The Oscar was originally designed as a local gesture by Hollywood’s artists to honor film achievements. The award was really an afterthought on the Academy’s agenda, barely mentioned in the 1927 statement of goals. No one could have anticipated that the Oscar would become such a “sacred” end in its own right. It’s no secret that artists set out consciously to make an “Oscar-winning” film, and give an Oscar-caliber” performance.”


Oscar Nominations: 4


Actress: Susan Hayward

Cinematography (b/w): Arthur E. Arling

Art Direction (b/w): Cedric Gibbons and and Malcolm Brown; Edwin B. Willis and Hugh B. Blunt

Costume Design (b/w): Helen Rose


Oscar Awards: 1


Costume Design


Oscar Context:


The winner of the Best Actress Oscar was Anna Magnani for The Rose Tattoo, which also won Art Direction and Cinematography for James Wong Howe.