Susanna Foster’s real horror story was not Nelson Eddy’s Phantom of the Opera…but real life

Above, baritone Wilbur Evans with son Michael and wife Susanna Foster. Evans starred in the West End production of South Pacific.

Forget Phantom of the Opera, Nelson Eddy, Claude Rains, etc. For Susanna Foster, the real horror movie was played out in real life.

It seems that Michael Evans (Susanna Foster‘s son) has finally now begun telling in detail on his blog the painful details of his mother’s childhood and life…incidents that he talked to us about at the New York club meeting that left us somewhat stunned but very sympathetic.

Susanna’s mother Adie, his grandmother, was a monster – made Joan Crawford look like Good Housekeeping’s Mother of the Year!

The story is one of such horror, that one is amazed that Susanna Foster could have a career at all and become a movie star while still a teenager. Here’s an excerpt:

The Larson’s lived a comfortable upper-middle class life until the crash of 1929, and then all hell would break loose for millions of Americans.

After about 1931 when the dollars mysteriously ran out, things swiftly declined; Les could not find work, if he did it was menial, sold type writers, fixing small appliances etc. They often moved every month, being evicted for lack of rent $$.

There were many ‘episodes’ of witness, here’s just a few mentioned through the prism of my mother’s denial;

  • Victoria’s [sister] Scarlet Fever-Quarantined sign on the door.
  • Gas company turned off the gas- no heat-no cooking.
  • Les [father] appealed to the gas company-they would not turn it back on.
  • Les was humiliated when he had to steal gas from the downstairs neighbor.
  • Adie [mother] was paradoxically a “wonderful mother”/ nurse- Svengali- like.
  • Waking them up at 4am to clean house (very drunk)- “come on, come on everybody up, we got to clean this place.”
  • Dragging the girls across the floor by their hair when rage would frequent Adie.
  • Suzanne coming home from school to find the apartment wrecked, human feces on the kitchen walls with Adie slumped over the kitchen table, drunk and puking.
  • Terrific fights; where furniture was broken and bones nearly.
  • Kathleen [sister] would hold her breath and turn blue “…when she couldn’t get her way..”. Maybe just to survive.
  • Suzanne’s almost fatal bout with pneumonia.
  • Exceedingly lonely times for Suzanne, at 8 years would become the sole caretaker of her baby sisters “Baby” and “Sister.”

Michael Evans was a friend, he spoke at a MacDonald/Eddy New York luncheon, detailing some of the harsh realities of his family’s life and his mother’s mental illness. He expressed that his greatest fear was that he would eventually have mental issues as several other family members had suffered through in his mother’s and grandmother’s generations. Sadly, this proved out. He died in 2017.