Oscar Movies: Smash Up: The Story of a Woman

Universal-International
(Walter Wanger production)

In one of her best-known “fallen women” roles, Susan Hayward plays Angelica Evans, a popular night-club singer who abruptly ends her career to marry a struggling young songwriter, Lee Bowman.

Angelica’s agent pleads with her not to give up her career, but she believes it will interfere with her family’s welfare. The couple settles down and she gives birth to a daughter. She helps him get a spot on the radio. Lee’s break comes and his popularity sprouts, but he takes away all her feeling of usefulness to him and their daughter. Already mildly addicted to drink, because of stage fright, she begins seeking refuge in the bottle.

When Lee makes it big in radio and becomes tied up with recording sessions and radio programs, to overcome her loneliness and depression, she finds solace in the bottle. Lee is too busy to notice his wife’s deterioration and disintegration.

Her misunderstanding husband sues for divorce and gets constant custody. At the divorce proceedings, he is given custody of the child. Unable to bear the separation, Angelica kidnaps the child and hides in the country. While drunk, she drops a lighted cigarette, which starts a fire. She manages to rescue the child, but is severely injured. However, at the end, both husband and wife are at her bedside at the hospital

Based on Dorothy Parker and Frank Cavett’s “original” story, adapted to the screen by John Howard Lawson, this woman’s picture (weepie) is directed with taste by Stuart Heisler and is extremely well shot by master lenser Stanley Cortez (who worked with Orson Welles and other major directors).

The “originality” of the story should be taken with skepticism since Dorothy Parker had earlier worked on th script of the classic “Star Is Born,” which tells a similar story, with a gender reversal.

“Smash-Up” could not have been made without the success of Billy Wilder’s “The Lost Weekend,” which dealt with alcoholism and won Best Picture in 1945. Even so, a lot was written at the time about the depiction on screen of an alcoholic woman, as if drinking were a male prerogative.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Actress: Susan Hayward
Original Story: Dorothy Parker and Frank Cavett

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context

This was Susan Hayward first (out of five) Best Actress nomination; she lost to Loretta Young in the comedy “The Framer’s Daughter.” Valentine Davies won the Original Story Oscar for “Miracle on 34th Street.”