Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman
Susan Hayward vs. Marsha Hunt


I’d never seen this one. The dvd unfortunately looked like a worn 16mm print. Not the greatest movie in the world but a significant one with Susan Hayward and deserves better. If anyone knows of a better dvd transfer than the one from Alpha Video, please comment. bowman-hayward-smash

Smash-Up is a variation on A Star is Born, only this time the man (Lee Bowman) succeeds, leaving the wife (Hayward) behind emotionally. As it begins, they’re both singers. For some unknown reason, he gets the breaks. Ken Conway is a boy singer in the Dick Haymes mold with a piano-playing songwriting partner (Eddie Albert). His wife Angie is a more dynamic performer but she’s developing a drinking problem that eventually takes over her life. Hayward is effective at conveying her desperation and sadness.


Dorothy Parker with husband in 1939

The film is nearly devoid of humor. Ironically, John Howard Lawson’s screenplay was based on a story by Dorothy Parker. The famous Parker wit must have gotten lost in the rewrite process. Lawson had other worries. A founder of the Writer’s Guild and one of the Hollywood Ten cited for contempt of Congress, he served a year in prison (see the imdb bio).

smashupstoryofawomanoptimized-marsha-hunt-susan-hayward-stuart-heisler-smashupLee Bowman fared better as a tough guy in films like Kid Glove Killer (1942), that also featured Marsha Hunt. In Smash-Up, she’s Martha, Conway’s “secretary” who’s not so secretly in love with him. Lines like “I’m terribly sorry Mrs. Conway but he can’t possibly be disturbed right now,” don’t go over well with the wife. A tipsy Angie suspects something, leading up to a powder room cat fight.

Travis Banton did the costumes. Read more about Banton at our sister site GlamAmour curated by Kimberly Truhler. Her January 19th webinar on 1940s costume design is highly recommended.