Michael Evans, son of Susanna Foster, has collected and edited a wonderful obituary for his mother on his blog, The Susanna Foster Chronicles – Phantom of the Heart.
Susanna Foster died on January 17, 2008 of heart failure in New Jersey. She was born on January 6 1924 and was 84.
She began her career in vaudeville at the age of five and was a singer, actor, a movie star, stage star. She’s best known for her starring role with Claude Rains in The Phantom of the Opera in 1943. Foster also suffered from alcoholism and mental illness which for the most part ended her career by 1945.
According to Wikipedia,
Foster suffered from alcoholism and mental illness in her adult life. Her mother and sister were also heavily afflicted by mental illness and alcoholism. With no warning, Foster walked out of her marriage to Evans, citing the reason that she was not in love with him. She could barely support her two young sons, who endured a hellish childhood sometimes living in squalor.
Wilbur Evans apparently was long unaware of his ex-wife’s problems and instability as a single mother. By 1983 Foster had been on and off welfare, lived in her car, then moved back to Hollywood from the east coast to make a “comeback.”
She lived for a time with a doting fan in a tiny apartment on Cherokee Avenue in Hollywood. For a time she attended the occasional film convention or Phantom of the Opera screening and signed autographs, interacting with her fans. She claimed her son Philip was a drug addict and he also became an alcoholic.
In 1985 Philip lapsed into hepatic coma (liver failure) on Susanna’s living room floor and died three days later in Van Nuys Hospital. Eventually, Foster’s excellent acting ability could not conceal her mental problems; she was unable to keep a job or support herself.
Her surviving son, Michael, who had tried in vain to help her, finally brought her back to the east coast where she spent the last years of her life living in nursing homes.
Author Sharon Rich shares her interview with Foster, from 2005. READ – Interviewing Susanna Foster in regards to working with Nelson Eddy in “Phantom of the Opera”