Every actress has her dream stage role shortlist…usually it’s something like this: Juliet – Romeo & Juliet, Maggie – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Lady MacBeth – MacBeth, Christine – Phantom of the Opera, Abigail – The Crucible, and so on…
The great actresses of Classic Hollywood had their “vinspired” roles too…and these stage roles were arguably even more important to actresses back in the day, as film work was much less prestigious than stage credentials. Sure, they had Shakespeare, but without Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Andrew Lloyd Weber, and the rest of our distinguished playwrights around, what roles did these ladies have to lust after?
Hedvig. From Ibsen’s The Wild Duck.
Hedvig was everything an actress longing to prove she was legit could wish for…a daughter with serious daddy issues who ultimately deals with her rejection by shooting herself and becoming the catalyst for the dramatic climax of the show.
EVERYONE wanted to play Hedvig. Exotic silent film star (and later marrying into Princess and Countess titles) Pola Negri cited Hedvig as “a girl I could completely understand” in her memoirs, and played the role at least twice before graduating to the silver screen.
Peg Entwistle was another Hedvig fan. Miss Entwistle is remembered today as the starlet that leapt to her death off the “H” of the Hollywood (then Hollywoodland) sign. But before her untimely death, Peg Entwistle was a big name on Broadway as well as across the pond in England.
Bette Davis, the grand dame herself, caught a performance of The Wild Duck starring Entwistle, and declared that Peg’s performance is what inspired her to become an actress. Miss Davis usually got what she wanted, and she wanted to play Hedvig. She did, very early in her career, and it was definitely a performance that got her noticed.
So although things didn’t turn out so great for Hevig, she does have the distinction of being the “vinspiration” for the careers of some of the world’s most talented actresses.