Helen Hayes

This 'First Lady of the American Theater' began her illustrious eight-decade-long career as a child actress on the Washington stage at age five. By age nine, Hayes had made her Broadway debut and was soon starring as ... Read more »
Born: 10/09/1900 in Washington, Washington D.C., USA


Actor (47)

MGM: When the Lion Roars 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)


Wildflowers With Helen Hayes 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)


Night of 100 Stars III 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)


Route One/U.S.A. 1989 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

The 41st Annual Tony Awards 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)


The 40th Annual Tony Awards 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)


Agatha Christie's "Murder With Mirrors" 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)


Agatha Christie's "A Caribbean Mystery" 1983 - 1984 (TV Show)


Agatha Christie's "Murder Is Easy" 1981 - 1982 (TV Show)


Broadway Plays Washington! 1981 - 1982 (TV Show)


Hawaii Five-O 1968 - 1980 (Tv Show)


Hopper's Silence 1980 (Movie)

Narration (Narrator)

Arthur Hailey's "The Moneychangers" 1976 - 1977 (TV Show)


End of Summer 1976 - 1977 (TV Show)


Candleshoe 1976 (Movie)

Lady St Edmund (Actor)

Herbie Rides Again 1974 (Movie)

Mrs Steinmetz (Actor)

One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing 1974 (Movie)

Hettie (Actor)

The Snoop Sisters 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)


Helen Hayes: Portrait of an American Actress 1973 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

The Snoop Sisters 1972 - 1973 (TV Show)


Harvey 1971 - 1972 (TV Show)


Airport 1970 (Movie)

Ada Quonsett (Actor)

The Front Page 1969 - 1970 (TV Show)


Arsenic and Old Lace 1968 - 1969 (TV Show)


Ah, Wilderness! 1958 - 1959 (TV Show)


Schlitz Playhouse of Stars 1951 - 1959 (TV Show)


Third Man on the Mountain 1959 (Movie)


The Alcoa Hour 1955 - 1957 (TV Show)


Anastasia 1956 (Movie)

Dowager Empress (Actor)

Let's Make Up 1954 (Movie)

Lady Drayton (Actor)

Main Street to Broadway 1953 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

Stage Door Canteen 1942 (Movie)


A Farewell to Arms 1931 (Movie)

Catherine Barkley (Actor)

Arrowsmith 1930 (Movie)

Leora Tozer (Actor)

A Family Upside Down (TV Show)


Another Language (Movie)

Stella Hallam (Actor)

My Son, John (Movie)

Lucille Jefferson (Actor)

The Sin of Madelon Claudet (Movie)

Madelon Claudet (Actor)

The White Sister (Movie)

Angela Chiaromonte (Actor)

Vanessa, Her Love Story (Movie)

Vanessa (Actor)

Victory at Entebbe (TV Show)



This 'First Lady of the American Theater' began her illustrious eight-decade-long career as a child actress on the Washington stage at age five. By age nine, Hayes had made her Broadway debut and was soon starring as the embodiment of sunny optimism, "Pollyanna". Around the same time, she made her film debut in the 1910 short "Jean and the Calico Cat" and appeared in other New York-produced films as a juvenile.

As a young adult, the petite, sweet-featured but plain-looking Hayes triumphed in a series of comic ingenue roles, most notably in "Dear Brutus", during the 1920s. ("I was squeezing cuteness out of my greasepaint tubes and scooping charm out of my cold cream jars", she later said.) She also proved herself a serious dramatic performer and was acclaimed for her humanized, accessible portrayals of British queens, in Maxwells Anderson's "Mary of Scotland" (1933) and--a touchstone performance--"Victoria Regina" (1935).

Hayes won an Oscar for her Hollywood debut in the weepie, "The Sin of Madelon Claudet" (1931), scripted by her husband Charles MacArthur, and was also hailed for her work in Frank Borzage's "A Farewell to Arms" (1932) and for reprising her stage role in "What Every Woman Knows" (1934) as a seemingly self-effacing, manipulative wife. Nonetheless, by 1935 MGM had given up trying to make a movie star out of her and Hayes returned to the stage for the next 15 years.

Hayes did not return to films until she was ready for character parts, beginning with her performance as the over-wrought mother of a communist son in "My Son John" (1952), followed by her moving work as the judgmental grand duchess in "Anastasia" (1956). Retiring from the stage in 1971, she found herself in demand as "cute", feisty characters, like the eccentric passenger in "Airport" (1970), a performance which netted her a second Oscar. During the same period she became a fixture in Disney films like "Herbie Rides Again" (1974) and "Candleshoe" (1977), starred opposite Mildred Natwick as mystery writers-turned-sleuths on the TV series "The Snoop Sisters" (1973-74) and even essayed the role of Agatha Christie detective Miss Marple in the 1983 made-for-TV movie "The Carribean Mystery".

Hayes was married to playwright-screenwriter Charles MacArthur from 1928 until his death in 1956; their son, James MacArthur, is an actor.


Francis Van Arnum Brown


Catherine Brown


James MacArthur Actor

Adoptive child
Born December 8, 1937 adopted by Hatyes and Charles MacArthur best remembered as Danny ("Book 'em, Danno") on long-running TV series "Hawaii Five-O" (1968-1979) married Joyce Bulifant

Charles MacArthur

married August 17, 1928 until his death April 21, 1956 met c. 1925 married despite opposition from the Catholic church as he was already married when they met

Mary MacArthur

born 1930, died of polio in 1949 was called an "Act of God" child--which the courts allowed when Hayes had to leave a play, breaking her contract, because of her pregnancy


Sacred Heart Academy

Washington , Washington D.C. 1917

Holy Cross Academy

at age 19 studied with acting coach Frances Robinson Duff and her mother Madame Duff who coached her on the set of rehearsals as well; later studied with actress Constance Collier

studied boxing, fencing and interpretive dance to enhance her onstage agility



Hospitalized for exhaustion February


Second theater (formerly the Little Theater) renamed in her honor as the Helen Hayes Theater (after the previous theater was razed to build a hotel on the site)


Retired from the stage due to an allergic reaction to stage dust


Joined the APA-Phoenix Repertory Company


Formed the Helen Hayes Repertory Company, which sponsored university tours of Shakespeare recitals


Travelled through 28 different countries throughout South America and Europe on a US State Department sponsored tour starring in "The Glass Menagerie" and "The Skin of Our Teeth"


Paris stage debut as Mrs Antrobus in "The Skin of Our Teeth"


Fulton Theater on Broadway, renamed the Helen Hayes Theater in her honor (razed in 1984 to make way for the Marriott Marquis Hotel)


Debut as a stage producer on Broadway, "Mary Rose"


TV debut in "The Late Christopher Bean" on "Pulitzer Prize Playhouse"


Returned to New York stage after daughter's death in "The Wisteria Tree"


London stage debut as Amanda Wingfield in "The Glass Menagerie" (directed by John Gielgud)


Hosted own radio program, "The Helen Hayes Theatre"


Starred on Broadway as Queen Victoria in "Victoria Regina"; toured in play through 1938


Made transition from popular stage actress to serious actress with the title role in Maxwell Anderson's "Mary of Scotland"


First major Hollywood film, "The Sin of Madelon Claudet"


Feature film debut, "The Weavers of Life"


Starred on Broadway as the title character in "Pollyanna"; toured with production through 1918


Short film debut, "Jean and the Calico Cat"


Broadway acting debut, "Old Dutch" (under the management of Lew Fields)


Professional stage debut at age five as Prince Charles in the Columbia Players production of "The Royal Family" in Washington

Raised by paternal grandmother

First appeared on stage as Pease-Blossom in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Holy Cross Academy

Triumphed on Broadway as Harriet Beecher Stowe in "Harriet"

Member of the Columbia Players' for four season; appeared in "Little Lord Fauntleroy", "The Prince Chap" and "The Prince and the Pauper" while attending Holy Cross (usually appearing in two plays a summer)

Bonus Trivia


Helen Hayes was one of eight individuals (Rita Moreno, Audrey Hepburn, John Gielgud, Richard Rodgers, Marvin Hamlisch, Mel Brooks and Mike Nichols are the others) to have won all four of the major entertainment awards (Oscar, Tony, Grammy and Emmy) in competition.


Hayes along with Rita Moreno, John Gielgud and Audrey Hepburn hold the distinction of having received each of the four major entertainment awards (Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy) in competition.


"Miss Hayes does not have personality that dazzles the public; she does not behave like a star ... but put her on the stage and raise the curtain, and something happens to the audience. She was perfectly cast when she played in Barrie's "What Every Woman Knows"--a mousy, unassertive woman who has a powerful influence on other people." --Brooks Atkinson


"I had never yearned to be an actress because I always was one. I never dreamed of a career--because I always had one. For sixty years I've heard, 'Two minutes, Miss Hayes,' and I've sprinted onto the stage. It's become a reflex. Pavlov's Actress, that's me." --Helen Hayes in her autobiography "A Gift of Joy" (1965).


[She played] "the brave wife of "Arrowsmith". Everybody got very uptight when Helen Hayes reached for that plague-soaked cigarette. It was always rewarding to watch Helen Hayes die. The death scene in "A Farewell to Arms", in which Miss Hayes played Hemingway's little war nurse, tore at your tearducts in the most untheatrical way." --John Springer ("They Had Faces Then", 1974)


She received the Drama League of New York Medal for her performance in "Victoria Regina" (1935).


Awarded the Medal of Arts from Finland.


She was given the American Exemplar Medal from the Freedom Foundation in 1978.


Received the Laetare Medal from Notre Dame University in 1979.


Presented with the Medal of Freedom Award from former President Reagan (1988).


US Mint struck a commemorative gold coin bearing her likeness (1984)


She was the president of the American National Theatre and Academy (1951-53).


Named honorary president of the American Theatre Wing.


She served as second president of the Actors Fund


She chaired the women's activities for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.


Awarded honorary L.H.D. from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York (1939) and Smith College in Elmira, New York (1940).


Received a honorary Litt.D. from Columbia University (1949) and University of Denver (1952).


She was awarded an honorary doctorate by Princeton University and St. Mary's College


Given the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Leadership Award in 1991