Helen Hayes Quotes

Helen Hayes Brown, 1900 – 1993

Born: 10 October 1900, Washington City
Died: 17 March 1993, Nyack, New York

Her first stage appearance was at age five, by age ten she had her first film credit. Her stage career spanned 1905 to 1971, she retired partly due to asthma inflamed by stage dust; her films span the period from 1917 to 1978; and her TV credits are extensive. She was called the “First Lady of American Theatre” and is one of only ten persons to win an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony. She gave generously to theatre causes, and with her friend Lady Bird Johnson founded the National Wildflower Research Center. Ronald Reagan awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1986.

Helen Hayes quotes:

Acting in the theatre is the most direct and effective approach to emotion that has ever been devised, isn’t it?

Helen Hayes

quoted by Lewis Funke and John E. Booth in Actors Talk About Acting (1961)
Actors cannot choose the manner in which they are born. Consequently, it is the one gesture in their lives completely devoid of self-consciousness.

Helen Hayes

A Gift of Joy, with Lewis Funke (1965)
Actors work and slave, and it is the color of your hair that can determine your fate in the end.

Helen Hayes
Age is not important unless you’re a cheese.

Helen Hayes
Always aim for achievement, and forget about success.

Helen Hayes
An actress always knows when she’s hit it and mostly you haven’t; but once or twice I think I hit it right, so maybe that’s good enough for one life.

Helen Hayes
Childhood is a short season.

Helen Hayes

Loving Life, with Marion Glasserow Gladney (1987)
Civilization will cease without civility.

Helen Hayes

Loving Life, with Marion Glasserow Gladney (1987)
Egocentrics are attracted to the inept. It gives them one more excuse for patting themselves on the back.

Helen Hayes
Even the wisest can be misled by success.

Helen Hayes

quoted by Lewis Funke and John E. Booth in Actors Talk About Acting (1961)
Every human being on this earth is born with a tragedy, and it isn’t original sin. He’s born with the tragedy that he has to grow up. That he has to leave the nest, the security, and go out to do battle. He has to lose everything that is lovely and fight for a new loveliness of his own making, and it’s a tragedy. A lot of people don’t have the courage to do it.

Helen Hayes

quoted by Roy Newquist in Showcase (1966)
Everybody starts at the top, and then has the problem of staying there. Lasting accomplishment, however, is still achieved through a long, slow climb and self-discipline.

Helen Hayes
From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot in front of the other. But when books are opened you discover you have wings.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)
Good actors sparking each other make for the wild fire that lights up the theater.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)
He could smell a sinner five miles away on a windless day.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)

Health care is news, partly because of costs and partly because of length of life, both of which exceed expectations.

Helen Hayes

Loving Life, with Marion Glasserow Gladney (1987)
I cry out for order and find it only in art.

Helen Hayes
I often wonder: Who will pick up the pieces of our damaged world? A poet, I think.

Helen Hayes

A Gift of Joy, with Lewis Funke (1965)
I think it’s very important to be alone. Loneliness is just an idea that, I’m afraid, has something to do with self-pity.

Helen Hayes

A Gathering of Hope (1983)
If you rest, you rust.

Helen Hayes

My Life in Three Acts, with Katherine Hatch (1990)
I’m leaving the screen because I don’t think I am very good in the pictures and I have this beautiful dream that I’m elegant on the stage.

Helen Hayes
In the last states of a final illness, we need only the absence of pain and the presence of family.

Helen Hayes

Loving Life, with Marion Glasserow Gladney (1987)
Inefficiency seems to be running rampant in our world, and our only hope lies in the fact that the wicked so often share this lack of dedication to a job well done. Nature does have its way of compensating.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)
It is a wise thing for a woman to keep a high regard for her husband’s intelligence and competence, even when she realizes, as we all do, that he is not quite the hero she thought he was.

Helen Hayes

Loving Life, with Marion Glasserow Gladney (1987)
Legends die hard. They survive as truth rarely does.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)
Life … would give her everything of consequence, life would shape her, not we. All we were good for was to make the introductions.

Helen Hayes
Marriage is like a war. There are moments of chivalry and gallantry that attend the victorious advances and strategic retreats, the birth or death of children, the momentary conquest of loneliness, the sacrifice that ennobles him who makes it. But mostly there are the long dull sieges, the waiting, the terror and boredom. Women understand this better than men; they are better able to survive attrition.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)
Mere longevity is a good thing for those who watch Life from the side lines. For those who play the game, an hour may be a year, a single day’s work an achievement for eternity.

Helen Hayes
Much of the disapproval we think is directed against us is, in fact, self-inflicted.

Helen Hayes

Loving Life, with Marion Glasserow Gladney (1987)
My mother drew a distinction between achievement and success. She said that achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is in you. Success is being praised by others. That is nice but not as important or satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about success.

Helen Hayes

No matter how real the emotion, the habit of acting is hard to break. If you are a star, then it follows that you must twinkle mightily. There is a price for stardom and, unfortunately, one’s family shares in the payment.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)
Now that I have reached a goodly age — a grandmother’s age, three things remain. Faith, love and memory.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)
One has to grow up with good talk in order to form the habit of it.

Helen Hayes

A Gift of Joy, with Lewis Funke (1965)
One has to protect oneself from the earnest friends who would help you in adversity.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)
Only the poet can look beyond the detail and see the whole picture.

Helen Hayes
Our house was always filled with dogs … They helped make our house a kennel, it is true, but the constant patter of their filthy paws and the dreadful results of their brainless activities have warmed me throughout the years.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)
People who refuse to rest honorably on their laurels when they reach “retirement” age seem very admirable to me.

Helen Hayes
Perhaps we have been misguided into taking too much responsibility from our children, leaving them too little room for discovery.

Helen Hayes

A Gift of Joy, with Lewis Funke (1965)
Reality was such a jungle — with no signposts, landmarks, or boundaries.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)
Relationships, casual or intimate, are frequently played out as they might be in theater, heightened, dramatized, staged with echoes of past dialogue and gestures that corrupt the spontaneity.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)
Science is providing answers with such phenomenal speed that philosophy has lost track of the questions.

Helen Hayes

Loving Life, with Marion Glasserow Gladney (1987)
Stardom can be a gilded slavery.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)
Talent may not be for sale, but the best way to package and display your gift is.

Helen Hayes

On Reflection, An Autobiography, with Sandford Dody (1968)
The agonies of alcoholism have been familiar to me since early childhood. Childhood is rather brief under those conditions.

Helen Hayes

Loving Life, with Marion Glasserow Gladney (1987)
The flattering, if arbitrary, label, First Lady of the Theatre, takes its toll. The demands are great, not only in energy but eventually in dramatic focus. It is difficult, if not impossible, for a star to occupy an inch of space without bursting seams, cramping everyone else’s style and unbalancing a play. No matter how self-effacing a famous player may be, he makes an entrance as a casual neighbor and the audience interest shifts to the house next door.

Helen Hayes

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