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Helen Hayes
What Every Woman Knows 1934.JPG
from What Every Woman Knows (1934)
Helen Hayes Brown

(1900-10-10)October 10, 1900
Died March 17, 1993(1993-03-17) (aged 92)
New York, United States
Occupation Actress
Years active 1917–1985
Charles MacArthur
(m. 1928⁠–⁠1956)
(his death)

Helen Hayes Brown (October 10, 1900 – March 17, 1993) was an American actress. Her career lasted for almost 70 years. Known as the "First Lady of the American Theatre", she is one of only thirteen people to win all four main American entertainment awards - Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Hayes also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1986, the National Medal of Arts in 1988 and was awarded at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1981. Two Broadway theaters are named after her.

Early life

Helen Hayes was born in Washington D.C. on October 10, 1890. She was an only child. Her mother, Catherine Estelle Hayes, was an actress of Irish ancestry. Her father, Francis van Arnum Brown, was a meat salesman.

Helen was an accomplished child. She went to a dancing school and sang very well. She began a stage career at the age of five, pushed by her mother. She also took her mother's maiden name as her stage name. By the age of ten, she had made a short movie. In 1917 Helen graduated from the Academy of the Sacred Heart Convent in Washington.


Her first sound movie The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931) brought her Academy Award for Best Actress. The part she played in it was written by her husband, Charles MacArthur. Among her other successful movies of that time were Arrowsmith (1931), A Farewell to Arms (1932), What Every Woman Knows (1934).

Hayes liked working in theatre. Her most famous performance on Broadway was the role of Queen Victoria in a play Victoria Regina (1938). She played leading parts in Coquette (1928) and Mary Of Scotland (1933) as well. Harvey (1970) became her last hit on stage. Helen had to retire from theatre because of her asthma condition.

She continued her work in movies. Hayes won her second Academy Award in 1970 for Airport. This time for Supporting role. During the later part of her career she was often in series and movies made for television. She successfully portrayed legendary character Miss Marple in several movies in 80s.

Personal life

Riverside Shakespeare Company Shakespeare Center Dedication with Helen Hayes, 1982.

Helen Hayes met her husband, Charles MacArthur, a playwright, in 1927. They married in August of 1928. They had a daughter, Mary, born in 1930. She became involved in acting, but, sadly, died from polio at the age of 19. It was a great tragedy for them. In 1938 Helen and Charles adopted a son, James MacArthur, who grew up to be an actor.

Charles MacArthur died in 1956. He had many years of illness and grief caused by his daughter's untimely death. Hayes never married again.

She published four autobiographies: A Gift of Joy (1965), On Reflection (1968), Twice Over Lightly (1972), and My Life in Three Acts (1990).


Helen Hayes died on March 17, 1993 from heart failure in the hospital of Nyack, New York. She was 92. She was buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery, next to her husband and daughter.


Year Title Role Notes
1917 The Weavers of Life Peggy
1928 The Dancing Town (leading role) short film
1931 The Sin of Madelon Claudet Madelon Claudet Academy Award for Best Actress
Arrowsmith Leora Arrowsmith
1932 A Farewell to Arms Catherine Barkley
The Son-Daughter Lian Wha 'Star Blossom'
1933 The White Sister Angela Chiaromonte
Another Language Stella 'Stell' Hallam
Night Flight Madame Fabian
1934 Crime Without Passion Extra in hotel lobby (uncredited)
What Every Woman Knows Maggie Wylie
1935 Vanessa: Her Love Story Vanessa Paris
1938 Hollywood Goes to Town Herself Short film
1943 Stage Door Canteen Herself
1952 My Son John Lucille Jefferson
1953 Main Street to Broadway Herself
1956 Anastasia Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
1959 Third Man on the Mountain Tourist uncredited
1961 The Challenge of Ideas Herself - Narrator Short movie, documentary
1969 Arsenic and Old Lace Abby Brewster TV movie
1970 Airport Ada Quonsett Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1971 Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate Sophie Tate Curtis TV movie; Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
1972 Harvey Veta Louise Simmons TV movie
1974 Herbie Rides Again Mrs. Steinmetz Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in Musical or Comedy
1975 One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing Hettie
1976 Victory at Entebbe Etta Grossman-Wise TV movie
1977 Candleshoe Lady St.Edmund
1978 A Family Upside Down Emma Long TV movie; Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
1982 Murder Is Easy Lavinia Fullerton TV movie
1983 A Caribbean Mystery Miss Jane Marple TV movie
1985 Murder with Mirrors Miss Jane Marple TV movie

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