Haydon, Julie (1910–1994)

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Haydon, Julie (1910–1994)

American actress who created the part of Laura in The Glass Menagerie. Born Donella Lightfoot Donaldson on June 10, 1910, in Oak Park, Illinois; died of abdominal cancer on December 24, 1994, in La Crosse, Wisconsin; daughter of Orren Madison (an editor and publisher) and Ella Marguerite (Horton)Donaldson (a musician and music critic); attended Gordon School for Girls, Hollywood, California; married George Jean Nathan (a drama critic) on June 19, 1955 (died, April 8, 1958); no children.

In a career dominated by a handful of memorable stage roles, Julie Haydon is perhaps best remembered for her sensitive portrayal of the vulnerable Laura, whose life is focused on her collection of glass figurines, in Tennessee Williams' autobiographical drama The Glass Menagerie (1945). A "memory play," The Glass Menagerie revolutionized the American theater with its expressionistic staging.

Haydon was born in 1910 in Oak Park, Illinois, but grew up in Hollywood, where before launching her acting career, she worked as a sketcher for a costume designer. Her stage debut was as the maid in a West Coast production of Mrs. Bumpstead-Leigh (1929), and during the 1930s, she played minor roles in the movies. (Haydon also dubbed the screaming for Fay Wray in 1933's King Kong.) She made her New York stage debut as Hope Blake in Bright Star (1935). Before playing Laura in the world premiere of Williams' play, Haydon distinguished herself as yet another maid in Shadow and Substance (1938), and as Kitty Duval, the thoughtful streetwalker, in William Saroyan's Pulitzer Prizewinning play, The Time of Your Life (1939).

In 1955, Haydon married drama critic George Jean Nathan, who was 28 years her senior. After his death in 1958, she toured, performing readings from his works. During the 1960s and 1970s, Haydon toured again in The Glass Menagerie, this time as Amanda (the mother), originally played by Laurette Taylor . Julie Haydon died of abdominal cancer on December 24, 1994.

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