Margaret Brooke Sullavan was an early twentieth-century American cinema and theater actress. She began her career as a theatrical performer and quickly rose to prominence on Broadway. When film director John M. Stahl came to see one of her concerts, she received her first film opportunity. She soon signed a deal with Universal Studios, which included a clause permitting her to work on stage on occasion. She went on to work in films and on stage after that. Her first love, though, was always the stage. She had always believed that she could only enhance her skills on stage. She only appeared in seventeen films between 1933 and 1950, sixteen of which were made in the first eleven years. Despite the fact that she did not win any big honors, she left an indelible impression on each of them. She was also a loving mother who left work early to care for her young family. Her two younger children, on the other hand, grew separated from her later on, and she experienced a psychological breakdown as a result. Another of her issues was progressive hearing loss. Despite this, she continued to work on stage until she died of a barbiturates overdose.
Childhood and Adolescence
Margaret Brooke Sullavan was born in Norfolk, Virginia on May 16, 1909. Cornelius Sullavan, her father, was a wealthy stockbroker. Garland (née Brooke), her mother, was an heiress. Weedie Sullavan was her half-sister.
Margaret had muscular weakness in her legs as a kid, which prevented her from walking until she was six years old.
She was then accepted to St George School, followed by Sullins College in Bristol, Virginia.
Margaret grew up to be a tomboy, much to her parent’s dismay and enjoyed playing with children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. As a result, she received her education at Chatham Episcopal Institute in Virginia. She went on to become the student body’s president.
Margaret Sullavan graduated from high school in 1927 and relocated to Boston, Massachusetts, to live with her half-sister Weedie. She had already resolved to pursue a career as an actor. So she enrolled in dancing classes at Denishawn School of Dance and theatrical classes at E E Clive’s Copley Theatre Dramatic School.
Her parents then reduced her stipend to the bare minimum to keep her in line. Undaunted, she accepted a position as a clerk at the Harvard Cooperative Bookstore (The Coop) and settled in.
She went on to get a chorus part in ‘Close Up,’ one of Harvard Dramatic Society’s spring plays, in 1929. Charles Leatherbee and Bretaigne Windust of University Players were so impressed by her performance that they convinced her to join their company the following summer.
Margaret Sullavan’s Career
Sullavan made her professional début with Henry Fonda in ‘The Devil in the Cheese’ in the summer of 1929. She spent the majority of 1929 and 1930 with University Players.
With ‘A Modern Virgin,’ she made her Broadway debut in May 1931. She returned to University Players for a brief period after the play closed on Broadway in July 1931, before embarking on a tour with ‘A Modern Virgin.’
She appeared in a number of Broadway shows in 1932. Despite the fact that most of them were flops, critics unanimously praised her performance. Her parents saw her potential as well. They reluctantly withdrew their opposition as a result.
Sullavan grabbed the notice of John M. Stahl, who was going to make ‘Only Yesterday’ at the time while acting in ‘Dinner at Eight’ in 1933. Universal Studios then gave her a three-year, two-picture-per-year contract of $1,200 per week. Sullavan’s first picture, ‘Only Yesterday,’ was released on November 1, 1933, and featured a stipulation permitting her to return to the stage on occasion.
She was first dissatisfied with her work and desired to terminate her contract. But, seeing her promise, the corporation refused, and The New York Herald Tribune dubbed her “one of the movie personalities to watch.”
‘Little Man, What Now?’ was her second film, which was released in New York on May 1, 1934. It told a realistic narrative about a couple trying to make it in post-World War I Germany. Her performance as Emma ‘Lämmchen’ Pinneberg brought her much joy.
She then acted in four films between 1935 and 1936: ‘The Good Fairy,’ ‘So Red the Rose,’ ‘Next Time We Love,’ and ‘The Moon’s Our Home.’ They all did mediocre business, and she had to wait another two years for a big smash.
‘Three Comrades,’ a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production and her seventh feature, was released on June 2, 1938. It not only grossed a lot of money at the box office, but it also earned her an Academy Award nomination for her performance as Patricia Hollmann.
She went on to star in a number more MGM pictures after that, despite the fact that her contract with Universal Players had not yet expired. ‘The Shopworn Angel’ (1938), ‘The Shining Hour’ (1938), ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ (1940), and ‘The Mortal Storm’ (1940) are some of them (1940)
‘The Shopworn Angel,’ launched on July 15, 1938, was the most successful of them all. It had a $531,000 budget and grossed $1,042,000 at the box office.
Another great hit was ‘The Mortal Storm,’ which was released on June 14, 1940. She portrays a German woman who deserts her Nazi fiancé and dies while crossing the border into Austria with a ‘non-Aryan’ man. At the conclusion of the year, the picture was placed tenth in a countrywide poll conducted by Film Daily.
Sullavan was obliged to return to Universal Pictures after a legal action prompted her to do so in 1933. As a result, she released ‘Back Street’ and ‘Appointment of Love’ under the company’s brand in 1941.
Under the United Artists banner, she also directed ‘So Ends Our Night’ in 1941. It was one of the first explicitly anti-Nazi pictures made in Hollywood prior to America’s involvement in WWII.
Sullavan then returned to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for her next feature, “Cry, Havoc.” On November 23, 1943, it was released as a war picture. She plays the Head Nurse, a mother figure who watches over a group of nurses who are in bad shape.
She took a seven-year vacation from acting after ‘Cry Havoc,’ primarily to spend time with her three children, ages 6, 4, and 2. She continued to act in theatrical productions throughout her career, in between movies. She started focusing on them now. Her most noteworthy work during this time was ‘The Voice of the Turtle’ (1947-1948).
In 1950, she returned to the screen for one final picture, ‘No Sad Songs for Me.’ She played a suburban woman dying of cancer in this film. Sullavan was offered other films after the film garnered positive reviews, but she declined them all and instead focused on the stage.
In 1952, she played a suicidal housewife in the film “The Deep Blue Sea.” The next year, she starred in ‘Sabrina Fair,’ which premiered on Broadway on November 11, 1953, and played for 318 performances.
Sullavan then featured in Janus in 1955-56, which lasted for 251 performances from November 1955 to June 1956. It was her final performance on stage. Despite agreeing to star in ‘Sweet Love Remembered’ in 1959, she died before the film could be released.
One of her earliest big works, ‘The Three Comrades,’ was published in 1938. She was nominated for an Academy Award and voted the year’s best actress by the New York Film Critics Circle for this film. The picture also made a $472, 000 profit at the box office, grossing $2,043,000.
Her most important piece on stage was ‘The Voice of the Turtle’ (1947-1948). On December 8, 1943, it had its Broadway debut at the Morosco Theatre. It had 1,557 performances in total at various theaters. This makes it the 51st longest-running production on Broadway and the 9th longest-running play.
Personal History and Legacy
Sullavan married her co-star Henry Fonda on December 25, 1931. They divorced in 1933 after two months of separation.
She then married cinema director, producer, and scriptwriter William Wyler on November 25, 1934, but their marriage did not work out and they divorced on March 13, 1936.
Sullavan married her agent and producer Leland Hayward on November 5, 1937. Brook, Bridget, and William were their three children (Bill). Sullavan divorced Hayward in 1947 after discovering he was having an affair with socialite Slim Keith. Bill became a film producer and attorney while Brook became an actress.
Sullavan married Kenneth Wagg, an English investment banker, in 1950. They were married till she died in 1960.
Sullavan’s personal life began to suffer setbacks around the end of the 1940s, with her divorce from Leland Hayward being a major reason. Her two younger children had mental problems, which were exacerbated by the divorce. They had to be admitted to the hospital.
Despite the fact that she had doted on her children and given up her work to be with them, her younger children drifted away from her. They told their mother in 1955 that they would rather live with their father. She suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the hit.
Sullavan also suffered from otosclerosis, a type of hearing loss. Despite surgical treatment, the condition worsened. She began to remark in the end that she despised acting. She also had the impression that she had failed as a mother.
Sullavan came to New Haven on January 1, 1960, for a reading of her new play, “Sweet Love Remembered.” At 5 p.m., she was discovered asleep on a hotel bed in a hotel room; she was barely alive, and the playscript was found open beside her.
She was brought to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Sullavan died of an accidental overdose of barbiturates, according to the county coroner, who found no suicide note. She was later laid to rest in Lancaster, Virginia’s Saint Mary’s Whitechapel Episcopal Churchyard.
For her contributions to the motion picture industry, Sullavan has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1751 Vine Street. She was also inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1981.
Estimated Net worth
Margaret is one of the wealthiest movie actresses and one of the most well-known. Margaret Sullavan’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.