Hedda Hopper

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Hedda Hopper
HeddaHopper1929.jpg
in 1929
Born Elda Furry
(1885-05-02)May 2, 1885
Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died February 1, 1966(1966-02-01) (aged 80)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Double pneumonia
Resting place
Rose Hill Cemetery in Altoona, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Occupation Actress, gossip columnist
Years active 1908–1966
Known for Writing "Hedda Hopper's Hollywood"
Political party
Republican
Spouse(s) DeWolf Hopper (m. 1913–22)
Children William Hopper (1915–1970)

Hedda Hopper (May 2, 1885 – February 1, 1966) was one of America's best-known gossip columnists, notorious for feuding with her arch-rival Louella Parsons. She had been a moderately successful actress of stage and screen for years before being offered the chance to write the column Hedda Hopper's Hollywood for the Los Angeles Times in 1938. In the McCarthy era she named suspected communists. Hopper continued to write gossip to the end, her work appearing in many magazines and later on radio.

Early life[edit]

She was born Elda Furry in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, the daughter of David D. Furry, a butcher, and Margaret (née Miller) Furry, both members of the German Baptist Brethren. Her siblings included Dora, Sherman, Cameron, Edgar, Frank and Margaret.[1] The family moved to Altoona when Elda was three.

Career[edit]

Acting[edit]

She eventually ran away to New York City and began her career in the chorus on the Broadway stage. Hopper was not successful in this venture, even getting the axe by the renowned Shubert Brothers. Florenz Ziegfeld called the aspiring starlet a "clumsy cow" and brushed off her pleas for a slot in his lavish Follies. After a few years, she joined the theater company of matinee idol DeWolf Hopper, whom she called "Wolfie" and would later marry.[citation needed]

In her words, "Dancing came easy to me. And in singing, what my voice lacked in quality it made up for in volume." Thus, she remained in the chorus and they toured the country. While in the Hopper company, she realized that chorus and understudy jobs were not acting. She wanted to act, and she knew she would have to prove herself before she could hope to get anywhere in the theater. Hearing that Edgar Selwyn was casting his play The Country Boy for a road tour, she went to his office and talked him into letting her audition for the lead. She was given the role and that show toured for thirty-five weeks through forty-eight states. She studied singing during the summer and, in the fall, toured with The Quaker Girl in the second lead, the prima donna role. The show closed in Albany.[this quote needs a citation]

Hedda Hopper and Carole Lombard, The Racketeer (1929)

In 1913, she became the fifth wife of DeWolf Hopper, whose previous wives were named Ella, Ida, Edna and Nella. The similarity in names caused some friction, as he would sometimes call Elda by the name of one of his former wives. Consequently, Elda Hopper paid a numerologist $10 to tell her what name she should use, and the answer was "Hedda".[2] She began acting in silent movies in 1915. Her motion picture debut was in The Battle of Hearts (1916) with William Farnum. She appeared in more than 120 movies over the following twenty-three years, usually portraying society women.

Writing[edit]

As her movie career waned in the mid-1930s, Hopper looked for other sources of income. In 1937, she was offered the chance of a lifetime and embarked on a career doing something she was quite adept at: gossip. Her gossip column called "Hedda Hopper's Hollywood" debuted in the Los Angeles Times on February 14 (St. Valentine's Day), 1938.[3] After years of struggling as an actress, she had finally found her niche. She christened the home she purchased in Beverly Hills "The House That Fear Built". She maintained a notorious if self-serving rivalry with the longer-established and better-liked Louella Parsons, who had formerly been friendly, sometimes even passing Hopper information. Hopper and Parsons became arch rivals competing fiercely, and often nastily, for the title "Queen of Hollywood", although those who knew both agreed that Hopper, a failed former actress, was far more vicious and unforgiving in her dealings with those who displeased her than rivals Parsons and Sheilah Graham were ever known to be.[citation needed]

  • Hopper was noted for her hats, considered her trademark, due to her taste for large, flamboyant ones; and her hats were so famous that, in the film Breakfast in Hollywood, Del Porter, backed by Spike Jones and his City Slickers, sang a novelty song, "A Hat for Hedda Hopper", while Hopper was sitting in the audience wearing an extraordinarily large milliner's creation.
  • Fictional columnist J.J. Hunsecker, played by Burt Lancaster in the film Sweet Smell of Success, is said to have been inspired at least in part by Hopper, who courted controversy as well for "naming names" of suspected or alleged Communists during the Hollywood Blacklist.
  • Her frequent attacks against Charlie Chaplin in the 1940s for various reasons, including his politics and love life purportedly contributed[citation needed] to his being denied a permission to re-enter the United States after a sojourn to Europe in 1952.
  • After publishing a "blind item" on Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy's relationship, Tracy confronted her at Ciro's and kicked her in the rear.
  • Similarly, after she had printed a story about an extramarital affair between Joseph Cotten and Deanna Durbin, Cotten ran into Hopper at a social event and pulled out her chair, only to continue pulling it out from under her when she sat down.[4]
  • Hopper spread rumors that Michael Wilding and Stewart Granger had a sexual relationship; Wilding later sued Hopper for libel and won.[5]
  • Actress ZaSu Pitts compared Hopper to "a ferret".[6]
  • Joan Bennett sent Hopper a "$435 valentine. The $35 went for a skunk which carried a note: 'Won't you be my valentine? Nobody else will. I stink and so do you.'" Hopper reportedly commented that the skunk was beautifully behaved. She christened it Joan and passed it on to actor James Mason and his wife as a present, as they had made the first bid after the story about the unusual gift made the news.[7]
  • During World War II, her only child, actor William "Bill" Hopper, served in the Navy in Underwater Demolitions. She chastised Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., the son of her old friend the late Douglas Fairbanks, because she thought the younger Fairbanks was shirking his duty to his country. Fairbanks Jr. recalled in his memoirs Salad Days that he was already in uniform serving in the British Royal Navy, and despised Hopper for her insinuations.[8]

Politics[edit]

Hopper was a fervent Republican. In 1944, for instance, she spoke before the massive rally organized by David O. Selznick in the Los Angeles Coliseum in support of the Dewey-Bricker ticket as well as Governor Earl Warren of California, who would become Dewey's running mate in 1948 and later the Chief Justice of the United States. The gathering drew 93,000, with Cecil B. DeMille as the master of ceremonies and Walt Disney as one of the speakers. Others in attendance included Ronald Reagan, Barbara Stanwyck, Ann Sothern, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott, Adolphe Menjou, Dick Powell, Gary Cooper, Edward Arnold, and William Bendix. Despite the good turnout at the rally, most Hollywood celebrities who took a public position sided with the Roosevelt-Truman ticket.[9]

Hopper strongly supported the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings and was a guest and speaker of the Women's Division at the 1956 Republican National Convention held in San Francisco to renominate the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket.[10]

Radio and television[edit]

Hopper debuted as host of her own radio program, The Hedda Hopper Show, November 6, 1939. Sponsored by Sunkist, she was heard on CBS three times a week for 15 minutes until October 30, 1942. From October 2, 1944 to September 3, 1945, Armour Treet sponsored a once-a-week program. On September 10, 1945, she moved to ABC, still sponsored by Armour, for a weekly program that continued until June 3, 1946. Hopper moved back to CBS October 5, 1946, with a weekly 15-minute program, This Is Hollywood, sponsored by Procter & Gamble. It ran until June 28, 1947.

Expanding to 30 minutes on NBC, she was host of a variety series, The Hedda Hopper Show, broadcast from October 14, 1950 to November 11, 1950 on Saturdays, then from November 19, 1950 to May 20, 1951 on Sundays, This program featured music, talk and dramatized excerpts from movies with well-known guests, such as Broderick Crawford doing a scene from All the King's Men.

On January 10, 1960, a television special, Hedda Hopper's Hollywood, aired on NBC. Hosted by Hopper, guest interviews included a remarkably eclectic mix of past, current and future stars: Lucille Ball (a longtime friend of Hopper), Francis X. Bushman, Liza Minnelli, John Cassavetes, Robert Cummings, Marion Davies (her last public appearance), Walt Disney, Janet Gaynor, Bob Hope, Hope Lange, Anthony Perkins, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, and Gloria Swanson.[citation needed]

Hopper had several acting roles during the latter part of her career, including brief cameo appearances as herself in the movie Sunset Boulevard (1950) and The Patsy (1964), as well as episodes of The Martha Raye Show, I Love Lucy, The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford, and The Beverly Hillbillies, starring Buddy Ebsen. Her autobiography, From Under My Hat (Doubleday, 1952) was followed by The Whole Truth and Nothing But (1962), also published by Doubleday. She remained active as a writer until her death, producing six daily columns and a Sunday column for the Chicago Tribune syndicate, as well as writing articles for celebrity magazines such as Photoplay.

Personal life[edit]

On May 8, 1913, she married actor and singer DeWolf Hopper in New Jersey. They had one child, William, who later played Paul Drake in the Perry Mason series.[11] They were divorced in 1922.[12]

Death[edit]

Hopper died on February 1, 1966, of double pneumonia at the age of 80 in Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Hollywood.[13][14] She is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery, Altoona, Pennsylvania.[15]

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Hopper has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6313½ Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.[16]

Selected filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1916 The Battle of Hearts Maida Rhodes Credited as Elda Furry
1917 Her Excellency, the Governor Sylvia Marlowe Credited as Elda Milar
1917 Seven Keys to Baldpate Myra Thornhill Credited as Elda Furry
1917 Nearly Married Hattie King
1918 By Right of Purchase Society Woman Uncredited
1918 Virtuous Wives Irma Delabarre Credited as Mrs. DeWolf Hopper
1919 The Third Degree Mrs. Howard Jeffries, Sr Lost film
1919 Sadie Love Mrs. James Wakeley
1919 The Isle of Conquest Mrs. Harmon Lost film
1920 The Man Who Lost Himself Countess of Rochester
1920 The New York Idea Vida Phillimore
1921 Heedless Moths His Wife
1921 The Inner Chamber Mrs. Candor Lost film
Credited as Mrs. DeWolf Hopper
1921 Conceit Mrs. Agnes Crombie Credited as Mrs. DeWolf Hopper
1922 Sherlock Holmes Madge Larrabee
1922 What's Wrong with the Women? Mrs. Neer Credited as Mrs. DeWolf Hopper
1923 Has the World Gone Mad! Mrs. Adams
1923 Reno Mrs. Kate Norton Tappan
1924 Gambling Wives Madame Zoe
1924 Why Men Leave Home Nina Neilson
1924 Happiness Mrs. Chrystal Pole
1924 Miami Mary Tate
1924 Another Scandal Cousin Elizabeth MacKenzie
1924 Sinners in Silk Mrs. Stevens
1924 The Snob Mrs. Leiter
1925 Her Market Value Mrs. Bernice Hamilton
1925 Declassée Lady Wildering
1925 Dangerous Innocence Muriel Church Lost film
1925 Zander the Great Mrs. Caldwell
1925 Raffles Mrs. Clarice Vidal
1925 The Teaser Margaret Wyndham Lost film
1925 Borrowed Finery Mrs. Bordon Lost film
1926 Dance Madness Lost film
1926 The Caveman Mrs. Van Dream
1926 Pleasures of the Rich Mona Vincent Lost film
1926 Skinner's Dress Suit Mrs. Colby
1926 The Silver Treasure Mrs. Gould
1926 Lew Tyler's Wives Virginia Philips
1926 Don Juan Marchesia Rinaldo
1926 Fools of Fashion Countess de Fragni
1926 Obey The Law Society Woman
1927 Orchids and Ermine The Modiste
1927 Venus of Venice Jean's Mother
1927 Matinee Ladies Mrs. Aldrich Lost film
1927 Children of Divorce Katherine Flanders
1927 Wings Mrs. Powell Uncredited
1927 The Cruel Truth Grace Sturdevant
1927 Adam and Evil Eleanor Leighton
1927 One Woman to Another Olive Gresham
1927 The Drop Kick Mrs. Hamill
1927 A Reno Divorce Hedda Frane Lost film
1927 French Dressing
1928 Love and Learn Mrs. Ann Blair
1928 The Whip Woman Countess Ferenzi
1928 The Port of Missing Girls Mrs. C. King
1928 The Chorus Kid Mrs. Garrett
1928 Harold Teen
1928 Green Grass Widows Mrs. Worthing Lost film
1928 Undressed Mrs. Stanley
1928 Runaway Girls Mrs. Hartley
1928 Companionate Marriage Mrs. Moore
1929 Girls Gone Wild Mrs. Holworthy Lost film
1929 The Last of Mrs. Cheyney Lady Maria
1929 His Glorious Night Mrs. Collingswood Stratton
1929 Half Marriage Mrs. Page
1929 The Racketeer Mrs. Karen Lee
1929 A Song of Kentucky Mrs. Coleman Lost film
1930 Such Men Are Dangerous Muriel Wyndham
1930 High Society Blues Mrs. Divine
1930 Murder Will Out Aunt Pat
1930 Holiday Susan Potter
1930 Let Us Be Gay Madge Livingston
1930 Our Blushing Brides Mrs. Weaver
1930 War Nurse Matron
1931 The Easiest Way Mrs. Clara Williams Uncredited
1931 A Tailor Made Man Mrs. Stanlaw
1931 The Mystery Train Mrs. Marian Radcliffe
1931 Flying High Mrs. Smith
1932 The Man Who Played God Mrs. Alice Chittendon
1932 Night World Mrs. Rand
1932 As You Desire Me Ines Montari
1932 Skyscraper Souls Ella Dwight
1932 Downstairs Countess De Marnac
1932 Speak Easily Mrs. Peets
1933 Men Must Fight Mrs. Chase
1933 The Barbarian Mrs. Loway, American Tourist
1933 Pilgrimage Mrs. Worth (Gary Worth's mother)
1933 Beauty for Sale Madame Sonia Barton
1934 Little Man, What Now? Nurse Uncredited
1935 One Frightened Night Laura Proctor
1935 Alice Adams Mrs. Palmer
1935 I Live My Life Alvin's Mother
1935 Ship Cafe Tutor
1936 The Dark Hour Mrs. Tallman
1936 Dracula's Daughter Lady Esme Hammond
1936 Bunker Bean Mrs. Dorothy Kent
1937 You Can't Buy Luck Mrs. Agnes White
1937 Topper Mrs. Stuyvesant
1937 Artists and Models Mrs. Townsend
1937 Vogues of 1938 Mrs. Van Klettering Uncredited
1937 Nothing Sacred Dowager on Ship Uncredited
1938 Tarzan's Revenge Penny Reed
1938 Maid's Night Out Mrs. Harrison
1938 Dangerous to Know Mrs. Emily Carson
1938 Thanks for the Memory Polly Griscom
1939 Midnight Stephanie
1939 The Women Dolly Dupuyster
1939 What a Life Mrs. Aldrich
1939 That's Right - You're Wrong Hedda Hopper - Newspaper Columnist Uncredited
1939 Laugh It Off Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rockingham
1940 Queen of the Mob Mrs. Emily Sturgis
1940 Cross-Country Romance Mrs. North
1941 Life with Henry Mrs. Aldrich
1941 I Wanted Wings Mrs. Young Uncredited
1942 Reap the Wild Wind Aunt Henrietta Beresford
1950 Sunset Boulevard Herself
1960 Pepe Herself, Cameo appearance
1964 The Patsy Herself
1966 The Oscar Herself
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1951-1963 What's My Line? Herself - Mystery Guest 7 episodes
1953 Goodyear Television Playhouse Hostess Episode: "A. Fadeout"
1955 I Love Lucy Herself Episode: "The Hedda Hopper Story"
1955 The Colgate Comedy Hour Herself - Gossip Columnist 2 episodes
1956 The Bob Hope Show Herself 2 episodes
1956 The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show Herself Episode #1.19
1957 Playhouse 90 Various roles 2 episodes
1957 The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour Herself Episode: "Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havana"
1958 The Garry Moore Show Herself Episode #1.5
1959 Small World Herself Episode #2.8
1959 Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Herself Episode: "The Desilu Revue"
1960 Hedda Hopper's Hollywood Host Television special
1960 The Steve Allen Show Herself Episode: "The Movie Premiere of 'Can-Can'"
1961 Here's Hollywood Herself October 31, 1961 episode
1964 The Beverly Hillbillies Herself Episode: "Hedda Hopper's Hollywood"
1966 The New Alice in Wonderland Hedda, the Mad Hatter (Voice) Television film

In popular culture[edit]

Portrayals[edit]

Jane Alexander received an Emmy nomination portraying Hopper in the 1985 TV film Malice in Wonderland opposite Elizabeth Taylor as Louella Parsons.

Cynthia Adler portrayed Hedda Hopper in the documentary Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business (1995).

She was also portrayed by Katherine Helmond in Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story, a 1995 made for TV movie, by Joanne Linville in James Dean, a 2001 made for TV movie, and by Jenn Colella in Chaplin: the musical on Broadway in 2012.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rootsweb genealogy site; accessed July 14, 2011
  2. ^ LIFE - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. 1944-11-20. Retrieved 2014-01-29. 
  3. ^ Hedda Hopper Timeline[dead link]
  4. ^ Silvester, Christopher (2002). The Grove Book of Hollywood. Grove Press. p. 352. ISBN 0-8021-3878-0. 
  5. ^ Stephens, Autumn (1998). Drama Queens: Wild Women of the Silver Screen. Conari. p. 202. ISBN 1-57324-136-9. 
  6. ^ Kanfer, Stefan (2011). Tough Without A Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart. Borzoi Books (Random House). p. 86. ISBN 978-0-307-27100-6. 
  7. ^ Eells, George (1972). Hedda and Louella. G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 260–262. 
  8. ^ Salad Days by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. c. 1980
  9. ^ David M. Jordan, FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2011), pp. 231-232
  10. ^ Frost, Jennifer (2011). Hedda Hopper's Hollywood: Celebrity Gossip and American Conservatism. NYU Press. pp. 139–140. ISBN 0-814-72824-3. 
  11. ^ Donnelley, Paul (2005). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus. p. 497. ISBN 1-84449-430-6. 
  12. ^ Houseman, Victoria (1991). Made in Heaven: The Marriages and Children of Hollywood Stars. Bonus Books. p. 150. ISBN 0-929387-24-4. 
  13. ^ "Hedda Hopper, Columnist, Dies; Chronicled Gossip of Hollywood; Confidante of Leading Stars Noted for Flamboyant Hats and Caustic Comments". Associated Press in New York Times. February 2, 1966. Retrieved 2009-02-03. "Hedda Hopper, the Hollywood gossip columnist, died in Cedars of Lebanon Hospital today of double pneumonia with heart complications. She was 75 (sic) years old." 
  14. ^ Donnelley, Paul (2005). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus. p. 498. ISBN 1-84449-430-6. 
  15. ^ O'Toole, Christine (2012). Pennsylvania Off the Beaten Path®, 11th: A Guide to Unique Places. Globe Pequot. p. 158. ISBN 0-762-78615-9. 
  16. ^ "Hollywood Star Walk". latimes.com. Retrieved March 2, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Frost, Jennifer. "Hedda Hopper, Hollywood Gossip, and the Politics of Racial Representation in Film, 1946–1948,” Journal of African American History, 93 (Winter 2008), 36–63.

External links[edit]