Haywire (book)

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Haywire cover.jpg
2011 Vintage Books edition
AuthorBrooke Hayward
CountryUnited States
PublisherAlfred A. Knopf, Vintage Books (March 2011)
Publication date
February 1977
Media typePrint (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages329 (Vintage Books edition)
ISBN978-0-307-73959-9 (Vintage Books edition)

Haywire (ISBN 978-0-307-73959-9) is a 1977 memoir by actress and writer Brooke Hayward (born 1937),[1] daughter of theatrical agent and producer Leland Hayward and actress Margaret Sullavan.[2] It is a #1 New York Times Best Seller[3] and was on the newspaper's list for 17 weeks.[4] In Haywire, Brooke details her experience of growing up immersed in the glamorous and extravagant lifestyle afforded by her parents’ successful Hollywood and Broadway careers and tells the story of how her privileged, beautiful family and their seemingly idyllic life fell apart.[2]

Important characters[edit]

Leland Hayward – Brooke’s father, who was a charismatic person and prominent theatrical agent and stage, film, and television producer[5] "who taught Fred Astaire how to dress and whom Katharine Hepburn called 'the most wonderful man in the world'–even after he ended their romance,"[2] who "thrived on the glamorous Hollywood scene."[6] His clients included Fred Astaire, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Ernest Hemingway, Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, Billy Wilder, Gene Kelly, Myrna Loy, Herman Mankiewicz, Gene Fowler, Gregory Peck, William Wyler, Fredric March, Boris Karloff, Lillian Hellman, Helen Hayes, Dashiell Hammett, Greta Garbo, and Katharine Hepburn. He was a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer of Call Me Madam, South Pacific, Gypsy, The Sound of Music, and Mister Roberts, among others.[7] After his marriage to Margaret Sullavan (another client) ended in 1948, and he later married Nancy "Slim" Hawks (later Lady Keith), and Pamela Digby Churchill (later Harriman).

Margaret Sullavan – Brooke's mother, who was both a Hollywood and a Broadway star, by all accounts a superb actress, and known for her husky voice and "irresistible crooked grin."[2] She performed with the University Players at Harvard, made her Broadway debut in 1926,[8] and starred in 16 films including the classics Only Yesterday (1933), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), and Back Street (1941).[9] Before Leland Hayward, she was married to actor Henry Fonda and director William Wyler. According to Brooke, she loathed Hollywood, was fanatical about her privacy, and was determined to bring up her children properly in a perfect, beautiful home. Her death at age 50 (in 1960) by barbiturate poisoning was ruled an accident.[2][6]

Brooke Hayward – Brooke, who appeared on the cover of Life magazine when she was 15,[10] became a model and actress before she wrote Haywire.[2] Her film and television credits include Mad Dog Coll, the Twilight Zone episode "The Masks," and Six Degrees of Separation.[1] She has been married to Michael Thomas, Dennis Hopper, and Peter Duchin, and now lives in Connecticut and New York.[3]

Bridget Hayward – Brooke’s younger sister. She was in and out of mental institutions in her teens, and worked at the Williamstown Theatre as an apprentice. She “succumbed to a recurrent, unexplained illness marked by epileptic seizures and bouts of severe depression” and her death at age 21 is considered to be a suicide.[2]

William (Bill) Hayward – Brooke’s younger brother. He, too, was in and out of mental institutions such as the Menninger Foundation. He produced Easy Rider in partnership with Peter Fonda and loved motorcycles for the rest of his life. He shot himself in the heart in 2008.[11]


Throughout Haywire, Hayward uses snippets of oral history from interviews she conducted with people who knew her immediate family members (several of whom were "family friends")[6] to provide outside perspectives on what they were like and on how the family operated. These contributors include:[12]

Though their contributions (of “time, memories, and love”) are not marked as quotes in the text, Hayward also acknowledges:

Introduction and Epilogue[edit]

The 2011 paperback edition includes an introduction by Hayward’s family and personal friend Buck Henry – actor, director, and Oscar-nominated screenwriter (The Graduate)[15] – and an epilogue by the author, both of which are dated May 2010. Henry introduces Leland and his "crazy kids," while Hayward’s epilogue discusses the years since Haywire was first published, thanks Henry for urging her to finish writing it, and, most notably, covers her brother William’s death (he shot himself in the heart in 2008).[16] The "epilogue is remarkable for its uninflected tone. She offers nothing remotely consoling about redemption or overcoming adversity. And that is one of the most bracing and strangely affirming aspects of this book."[17]


Within a month of its publication, Haywire was “heading for what appears to be a huge commercial success.”[6] It became a #1 New York Times Best Seller[3] and was on the list for 17 weeks.[4] The New York Times Book Review described it as "a Hollywood childhood memoir, a glowing tapestry spun with equal parts of gold and pain. As a book it is an absolute beauty – a Hollywood beauty, to be precise – with all the charm that term implies, the deceptive simplicity, the complex hidden machinery and, above all, the terrible cost."[2] Critics commented that the book, though published when Brooke was 39, deals mostly with her life up to her very early twenties and is mostly silent on her personal tragedies (the most evident of which were her failed marriages) that occurred in the intervening years.[6] The new epilogue addresses this issue, albeit briefly.

Another New York Times reviewer wrote that one of Haywire’s themes contributed to a 1970s trend: "'Survival,' as opposed to action and creativity, seems to be the dominant motif in much of 70’s popular culture, especially in some books… Brooke Hayward’s childhood, described in 'Haywire,' has been discussed as if it had been the domestic equivalent of an Iranian torture chamber."[18]


Haywire inspired a Warner Bros. made-for-TV movie by the same name. First aired in 1980, it was directed by Michael Tuchner and starred Lee Remick, Jason Robards, and Deborah Raffin.[19] The film was produced by Brooke’s younger brother, Bill Hayward.[11] A New York Times TV writer made note of its non-chronological “ambitious time scheme” and called it “an exceptionally fine-tuned television drama.”[20]


  1. ^ a b "Brooke Hayward". IMDb. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Gould, Lois (6 March 1977), "A star-crossed childhood", The New York Times, p. 290, retrieved 7 February 2011
  3. ^ a b c "Biography for Brooke Hayward". IMDb. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Best Sellers", The New York Times, p. 190, 17 July 1977
  5. ^ "Leland Hayward". IMDb. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e Klemesrud, Judy (9 March 1977), "Something Has Gone Haywire", The New York Times, pp. C1 (47)
  7. ^ "Leland Hayward". IBDb. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  8. ^ "Margaret Sullavan". IBDb. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  9. ^ "Margaret Sullavan". IMDb. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  10. ^ Clarke, Gerald (28 March 1977). "Books: Elegy from a Hollywood Graveyard". Time.
  11. ^ a b "William Hayward". IMDb. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  12. ^ Note: Contributors are listed in parenthesis under the most formal name that Hayward uses for them in the book (i.e., Hayward never lists Joshua Logan as such, so here he is “Josh,” while Henry Fonda is sometimes referred to simply as “Hank” but also mentioned under his full, more recognizable name).
  13. ^ "Biography for Herman J. Mankiewicz". IMDb. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  14. ^ "Biography for Paul Osborn". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  15. ^ "Buck Henry". IMDb. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  16. ^ "Haywire by Brooke Hayward". Random House. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  17. ^ Brown, Liz (24 February 2011). "Family glitz and dysfunction in "Haywire"". Newsday. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  18. ^ Marcus, Greil (5 June 1977), "Pop Culture: The Style of the 70's", The New York Times, pp. 44 (BR6)
  19. ^ "Haywire (TV 1980)". IMDb. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  20. ^ Maslin, Janet (14 May 1980), "TV: 'Haywire,' Brooke Hayward's Account of Her Family", The New York Times, pp. C27

External links[edit]