Hayward, Leland, 1902-1971

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1902-09-13
Death 1971-03-18
English

Biographical notes:

Theatrical, motion picture, television producer and agent, Leland Hayward was born in Nebraska City, Nebraska on September 13, 1902.

His father, Colonel William Hayward, was a well-known lawyer who would eventually become his son's personal attorney. His parents divorced several years later, both remarrying. Hayward studied at Princeton University, but dropped out after his first year. Following a brief career as a journalist in New York, his interests led him to show business. After working as a press agent and then trying to launch a career as a film producer in the mid 1920s, Hayward found his way to the business side of the industry, working as an agent seeking properties for potential stage or film production. After working at an agency, Hayward set out on his own. Hayward went on to close tremendously lucrative deals for an impressive stable of clients, including Cary Grant, James Stewart, Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and many more. By the early 1940s, Hayward had become renowned as one of the first agents to obtain the best deals for clients by shopping their services to various studios when they came to the end of their contracts. He had not forgotten his creative side, however, and began to plan his debut as a theatrical producer. After considering several properties, Hayward settled on A Bell for Adano, a serious play about an American soldier in wartime Italy. He signed his former client Fredric March to star, and in late 1944, the play opened to excellent reviews and good business. State of the Union, his second production, staged the following year, was another critical and commercial hit, and his new career was well underway. He produced Mister Roberts in 1948. The show was a hit on a new level for Hayward, becoming one of the most successful non-musical plays in the history of Broadway. The first of several collaborations with former client Henry Fonda and writer-director Joshua Logan, Mister Roberts gave Hayward the credibility and the resources to take his career wherever he chose. Hayward followed that tremendous success with Anne of the Thousand Days, a well-received drama starring Rex Harrison, but then set a new challenge for himself with South Pacific. It perfectly represented a Leland Hayward production, in that it used first class talent and production values to dramatize a serious theme. More dramas followed, some more successful than others, and then Hayward tried a different type of show. Call Me Madam was an Irving Berlin musical starring Ethel Merman, and it was far lighter in theme and tone than any previous Hayward production. A number of less well-received dramas followed, until Point of No Return, starring Fonda. The Prescott Proposals, a drama about international diplomats, was not especially successful, and Hayward was disappointed, as he had thought very highly of the play. After its failure, he devoted himself to other media for the next several years. He produced the Ford 50th Anniversary Show, a television extravaganza which used education and entertainment to relive the first half of the twentieth century. Wish You Were Here, Hayward's next production, was a lightweight musical that impressed critics less, but ran for well over a year. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Hayward was much in demand for large-scale television specials in this vein. He produced such specials as The Fabulous Fifties (1960), The Gershwin Years (1961), The Good Years (1962) and Opening Night (1963). He also produced dramatic specials, including Saturday's Children and Tonight in Samarkand (both 1962). In the mid-1950s, Hayward moved to Hollywood and concentrated his energies on motion pictures. He settled his attentions on the three properties that would define his Hollywood years: Mister Roberts (1955), The Spirit of St. Louis (1957) and The Old Man and the Sea (1958). After the completion of The Old Man and the Sea, Hayward returned to New York and his first theatrical venture in more than four years. Who Was That Lady I Saw You With? was Hayward's first farce, and it was relatively successful. After Ballets: USA, a collaboration with close friend Jerome Robbins, Hayward embarked on a tremendously successful 1959. He co-produced Gypsy with David Merrick, yielding critical raves and huge sales, and then produced The Sound of Music with Richard Halliday, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Although critics were less than delighted, the show was the greatest financial success of Hayward's career and became one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time. 1959 also saw Goodbye Charlie, a gender confusion comedy starring Lauren Bacall, but it was not a success. Hayward returned to Broadway in 1962 with A Shot in the Dark, starring William Shatner and Julie Harris. Later the same year, Hayward presented his last musical ever, Mr. President starring Robert Ryan and Nanette Fabray. Hayward's parallel lives as a producer and businessman merged at this time in an idea that would later prove visionary. Hayward devoted much time and resources in the early 1960s to developing a pay television system. In his plan, subscribers with an unscrambling device could pay on a program-by-program basis for those special presentations in which they were interested. Proposed programming would include first-run films, live Broadway shows and opera performances, educational classes and documentaries. The project got as far as a test run in Hartford, Connecticut, but went no further at that time. In 1963, he produced the television special That Was The Week That Was, which was an adaptation of a British television series. The series used songs, sketches and a news format to satirize current events. The special was a success and ran for two seasons on NBC. After Mr. President, Hayward's theatrical career faltered. He had numerous plays in various stages of development, including a long-planned musical version of Gone With the Wind, but most never came to fruition. The Mother Lover, a dark, absurdist comedy, did get to Broadway and lasted exactly one performance. Fortunately, Hayward had one last success in his career. The Trial of the Catonsville Nine was a modernist play based on the actual transcripts of the trial of a group of anti-war activists. He died during its run, on March 18, 1971.

From the description of Leland Hayward papers, 1920-1995 (bulk 1920-1974). (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 243664642

Leland Hayward was born September 13, 1902, in Nebraska City, Nebraska, and moved with his family to New York at age nine. Hayward became a producer, theatrical agent, and literary agent, representing artists such as Judy Garland, Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, and Ernest Hemmingway. His productions appeared on Broadway, in motion pictures, and on television.

Hayward's long-standing association with Jerome Robbins began with the musical “Call Me Madam” in 1950. His entry into the field of dance was as producer for Robbins Ballets: U.S.A. The company was formed in the Spring of 1958 to appear at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy and at the Brussels World's Fair. Its debut was supported by the Cather-wood Foundation of Philadelphia and presented in association with the International Cultural Program of the United States, administered by the American National Theatre and Academy (A.N.T.A.).

The name was chosen to identify its source and nationality. Its stated purpose was to give young artists a chance to work and develop. The company itself began with sixteen dancers in 1958 and was enlarged to 24 by 1961. The repertoire, almost entirely comprised of Robbins' works, reflected classical ballet and contemporary jazz techniques. It included Robbins' “Afternoon of a Faun,” “The Concert,” “New York Export: Opus Jazz,” “Moves,” “Interplay,” “The Cage,” “Events,” and Todd Bolender's “Games.”

In 1959 Hayward presented the company both abroad and in domestic tours. The company was inactive during 1960. Under the sponsorship of the Rebekah W. Harkness Foundation, the company of 24 dancers appeared once again at Spoleto in June 1961, followed by a three-month tour including Paris, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Copenhagen, and London, and a three-week New York season at the A.N.T.A. Theatre in October. The company ceased regular activities in 1962.

Leland Hayward died on March 18, 1971.

From the guide to the Ballets: U.S.A. records, circa 1956-1962, (The New York Public Library. Jerome Robbins Dance Division.)

Leland Hayward was born in Nebraska City, Nebraska on September 13, 1902. His father, Colonel William Hayward, was a well-known lawyer who would eventually become his son’s personal attorney. His parents divorced several years later, both remarrying. Hayward studied at Princeton University, but dropped out after his first year. Following a brief career as a journalist in New York, his interests led him to show business. After working as a press agent and then trying to launch a career as a film producer in the mid 1920s, Hayward found his way to the business side of the industry, working as an agent seeking properties for potential stage or film production. After working at an agency, Hayward set out on his own. In a story he always enjoyed telling, Hayward was dining with a nightclub owner who lamented the lack of first-class entertainment available. He said he would be willing to pay an enormous salary to an act like Fred and Adele Astaire if they would appear at his club. Hayward called the Astaires, related the offer, closed the deal and accepted his commission. Making his job sound deceptively easy, Hayward went on to close tremendously lucrative deals for an impressive stable of clients, including Cary Grant, James Stewart, Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and many more.

During this period, Hayward developed a lifelong interest in aviation. During World War II, he operated a school for pilots, and after the war, he was a co-founder of Southwest Airways. Despite his full show business career, he always maintained other business interests, including aviation, oil and radio and television station ownership.

By the early 1940s, Hayward had become renowned as one of the first agents to obtain the best deals for clients by shopping their services to various studios when they came to the end of their contracts. He had not forgotten his creative side, however, and began to plan his debut as a theatrical producer. After considering several properties, Hayward settled on A Bell for Adano, a serious play about an American soldier in wartime Italy. He signed his former client, Fredric March to star, and in late 1944, the play opened to excellent reviews and good business. State of the Union, his second production, staged the following year, was another critical and commercial hit, and his new career was well underway.

After a failed third production, Portrait in Black, which Hayward decided to close in Buffalo, rather than bring an inferior show to Broadway, he produced Mister Roberts in 1948. The show was a hit on a new level for Hayward, becoming one of the most successful non-musical plays in the history of Broadway. The first of several collaborations with former client Henry Fonda and writer-director Joshua Logan, Mister Roberts gave Hayward the credibility and the resources to take his career wherever he chose. Not only a hit on Broadway, the play toured successfully for several years throughout the United States and in London.

Hayward followed that tremendous success with Anne of the Thousand Days, a well-received drama starring Rex Harrison, but then set a new challenge for himself. South Pacific was a dramatic musical with a large cast. Hayward repeated his successful Mister Roberts formula by obtaining collaborators in whom he had the utmost confidence, including Logan once again, and working closely with them in the planning stages to share his vision of the piece. South Pacific perfectly represented a Leland Hayward production, in that it used first class talent and production values to dramatize a serious theme.

More dramas followed, some more successful than others, and then Hayward tried a different type of show. Call Me Madam was an Irving Berlin musical starring Ethel Merman, and it was far lighter in theme and tone than any previous Hayward production. The show was a great success, and critics who warned it was too dependent on Miss Merman were proven wrong by its long, successful national tour. A number of less well-received dramas followed, until Point of No Return, again starring Fonda. The production was notable in that, after the initial director left the play, Hayward himself took over and had his most direct involvement with a show yet. Fonda was unhappy with the play’s ending and Hayward had much to do, both as producer and director, but in the end, the show was critically lauded and popular at the box office. Wish You Were Here, Hayward’s next production, was a lightweight musical that impressed critics less, but ran for well over a year.

The Prescott Proposals, a drama about international diplomats, was not especially successful, and Hayward was disappointed, as he had thought very highly of the play. After its failure, he devoted himself to other media for the next several years. He produced the Ford 50th Anniversary Show, a television extravaganza which used education and entertainment to relive the first half of the twentieth century. The special was enormously well-received and footage of the musical medley sung by Ethel Merman and Mary Martin on the show was shown for many years afterward. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Hayward was much in demand for large-scale television specials in this vein. His experience with big productions, as well as his good relationships with so many important stars, made him the ideal producer for such specials as The Fabulous Fifties (1960), The Gershwin Years (1961), The Good Years (1962) and Opening Night (1963). He also produced dramatic specials, including Saturday’s Children and Tonight in Samarkand (both 1962).

In the mid-1950s, Hayward moved to Hollywood and concentrated his energies on motion pictures. After some initial projects that were ultimately produced by others (such as Rear Window ) or not produced at all (such as The Girl on the Via Flaminia ), he settled his attentions on the three properties that would define his Hollywood years: Mister Roberts (1955), The Spirit of St. Louis (1957) and The Old Man and the Sea (1958). Although the latter film was the first to be put into development, personnel and production problems made it the last of the three to be filmed and released. While all three films attracted moviegoers, only Mister Roberts was deemed a financial success, as the other two films had enormously high production costs that were not offset by their moderate box office earnings. After the completion of The Old Man and the Sea, Hayward returned to New York and his first theatrical venture in more than four years.

Who Was That Lady I Saw You With? was Hayward’s first farce, and it was relatively successful. After Ballets: USA, a collaboration with close friend Jerome Robbins, Hayward embarked on a tremendously successful 1959. He co-produced Gypsy with David Merrick, yielding critical raves and huge sales, and then produced The Sound of Music with Richard Halliday, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Although critics were less than delighted, the show was the greatest financial success of Hayward’s career and became one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time. 1959 also saw Goodbye Charlie, a gender confusion comedy starring Lauren Bacall, but it was not a success.

After producing some of the aforementioned television specials, Hayward returned to Broadway in 1962 with A Shot in the Dark, starring William Shatner and Julie Harris. His longest-running non-musical since Mister Roberts, the play was an English-language version of a French farce. Later the same year, Hayward presented his last musical ever, Mr. President starring Robert Ryan and Nanette Fabray. The Irving Berlin musical was not well-reviewed but an almost unprecedented advance sale made it a profitable venture.

Hayward’s parallel lives as a producer and businessman merged at this time in an idea that would later prove visionary. Hayward devoted much time and resources in the early 1960s to developing a pay television system. In his plan, subscribers with an unscrambling device could pay on a program-by-program basis for those special presentations in which they were interested. Proposed programming would include first-run films, live Broadway shows and opera performances, educational classes and documentaries. The project got as far as a test run in Hartford, Connecticut, but went no further at that time.

Although Leland Hayward had tremendous success producing television specials, none of his series ideas had ever been sold. In 1963, however, he produced a special which was an adaptation of a British television series. The series used songs, sketches and a news format to satirize current events. The special was a success and NBC bought the idea as a series. That Was The Week That Was ran for two seasons, but it proved to be much more difficult to do on a weekly basis than for a one-time special. Producers and writers came and went, disagreeing with Hayward, and each other, about the direction of the show. The time pressure, always an issue in weekly series, was magnified by the necessity of keeping the show current. News had to be reflected in the scripts within days, or even hours, of being reported. Strong reviews and ratings were encouraging, but political satire is notorious for being a difficult medium with which to please a large audience. The critics and the viewers began to turn away, especially in the show’s second season, when paid political programming resulted in numerous pre-emptions of the show. Thirty-minute commercials sponsored by the Republican Party replaced That Was The Week That Was for several weeks leading up to the 1964 election, and the ratings never recovered.

After Mr. President, Hayward’s theatrical career faltered. He had numerous plays in various stages of development, including a long-planned musical version of Gone With the Wind, but most never came to fruition. A few got as far as Boston, but never arrived in New York. The Mother Lover, a dark, absurdist comedy, did get to Broadway and lasted exactly one performance. Fortunately, Hayward had one last success in his career. The Trial of the Catonsville Nine was a modernist play based on the actual transcripts of the trial of a group of anti-war activists. Hayward believed in the play, if not necessarily its politics, and despite being in ill-health, produced it as a workshop in Los Angeles and then brought it to New York. He died during its run, on March 18, 1971.

Hayward married five times. His first wife was Lola Inez Gibbs, whom he remarried after their first divorce. Margaret Sullavan, his second wife, was the mother of his three children, Brooke, Bridget and William. Nancy “Slim” Hawks was the mother of his stepdaughter, Kitty Hawks, and Pamela Digby Churchill, to whom he was married at the time of his death, was the mother of his stepson, Winston S. Churchill.

From the guide to the Leland Hayward papers, 1920-1995, 1920-1974, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

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Subjects:

  • Motion picture industry--California--Los Angeles
  • Theatrical productions--New York (State)--New York--20th century
  • Manuscripts--Collections
  • Musical theater
  • Television specials
  • Motion picture industry
  • Theater
  • Theatrical productions--20th century
  • Theater--New York (State)--New York
  • Musical theater--New York (State)--New York

Occupations:

  • Theatrical producers and directors--United States
  • Theatrical agents

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • California--Los Angeles (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)