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Margaret Sullavan was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1909 to a wealthy family. She graduated from a fancy boarding school, but afterwards moved to Boston to study dance and drama, and her parents cut her off. In 1929 she joined the University Players on Cape Cod, and she starred in a play opposite four year older Henry Fonda, who shared her birthday. She stayed with the group for most of three seasons, and she married Fonda in 1931, but they were only married a few months. She made her Broadway debut in 1931, and starred in four plays, but all flopped (although she got good notices in all). In 1933 she finally signed a Hollywood contract (she had turned them down several times), and her first movie was Only Yesterday. The following year she made Little Man, What Now? and she also married director William Wyler. Her next movie was The Good Fairy, directed by her husband, from a brilliant script by Preston Sturges. After two more movies she was paired with then unknown James Stewart in Next Time We Love, and they would make four movies together, including the classic The Shop Around the Corner, directed by Ernst Lubitsch from a brilliant script by Samson Raphaelson. Her marriage to Wyler had ended after a year and a half (there were rumors she had an affair with James Stewart), and in 1936 she had married producer Leland Hayward, with whom she had three children, the oldest of which was Brooke Hayward, who in 1977 wrote a book, Haywire, detailing the craziness of her childhood in general, and her mother in particular! Sullavan made a total of 15 movies by 1943, including Three Comrades (nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for this film), but then she quit movies to raise her family and to act on the stage. In 1950 she returned to make No Sad Songs for Me, about a dying woman who picks out a new wife and mother for her husband and daughter! In 1949 she had divorced Hayward, and she married an English investment banker. But in 1955 her two youngest children told her they wanted to live with their father, and Sullavan had a nervous breakdown. She spent time in an institution, as did her two younger children. She died in 1960 at the age of 50 from an overdose of sleeping pills, which could have been a suicide attempt, but was ruled accidental by the county coroner, and her younger daughter took her own life just 11 months later. Margaret Sullavan was a wonderful stage actress who appeared in 16 memorable movies. Her personal demons clearly contributed to her acting ability, but caused her to have an extremely troubled private life that greatly affected everyone around her. I highly recommend seeing any of her movies, but especially The Shop Around the Corner or The Good Fairy.
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