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William Hopper in 1934, photo by Carl Van Vechten
|Born||DeWolf Hopper, Jr.
January 26, 1915
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||March 6, 1970
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Rose Hills Memorial Park|
|Other names||DeWolf Hopper, Jr.
William Dewolf Hopper
|Years active||1916; 1936–1966; 1970|
|Spouse(s)||Jane Gilbert (m. 1940; div. 1959)
Jeanette Juanita Ward (m. 1959–70)
William Hopper (January 26, 1915 – March 6, 1970) was an American stage, film and television actor. Hopper is best remembered for playing private detective Paul Drake in more than 250 episodes of television's Perry Mason and for his role as the father of the Natalie Wood character in Rebel Without a Cause.
William DeWolf Hopper, Jr. was born in New York City, the only child of singer and comic stage actor DeWolf Hopper (1858–1935) and actress and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (1885–1966). He had one older half-brother from his father's second marriage in the 1880s. Hopper made his film debut as a baby in his father's 1916 silent movie Sunshine Dad. His mother divorced his father in 1922 and moved to Hollywood with their son.
He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1942, served as a frogman, and received a Bronze Star for bravery and heroic action during operations in the Pacific. He was discharged when the war ended in 1945.
Early in his film career, Hopper appeared uncredited in numerous movies or under the name DeWolf Hopper. In 1936, he played a small role as a photographer in the Columbia Pictures film The King Steps Out starring Grace Moore and Franchot Tone. In 1937 he portrayed the leading man in two films, Public Wedding with Jane Wyman and Over the Goal. He also enjoyed significant roles alongside Ann Sheridan in The Footloose Heiress (1937) and Mystery House (1938).
After that he had roles that included playing a sergeant in the Western Stagecoach (1939) starring Claire Trevor and John Wayne; an intern in The Return of Dr. X starring Humphrey Bogart; a New York reporter in Knute Rockne, All American (1940) starring Pat O'Brien, Gale Page, Ronald Reagan and Donald Crisp; a reporter in the post-Hollywood Production Code version of The Maltese Falcon (1941) starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor; and a reporter in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) starring James Cagney and Walter Huston. Reagan and Hopper appeared in nine films together between 1937 and 1942.
In the mid 1950s Hopper resumed his movie career with the part of Roy in The High and the Mighty (1954) starring John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Laraine Day, and Robert Stack. In 1956 Hopper had a supporting role in Wayne's production of Good-bye, My Lady.
Other appearances included his iconic role as the father of Natalie Wood in the James Dean classic Rebel Without a Cause (1955), as Robert Mitchum's ill-fated older brother Arthur in the William Wellman adventure Track of the Cat (1954), and as the often absent father Col. Kenneth Penmark in The Bad Seed (1956) also starring Nancy Kelly and Patty McCormack. Hopper, along with Joan Taylor and a very young Bart Braverman, starred in the classic Ray Harryhausen science fiction film 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957).
Also in 1957 he played a supporting role in the pilot episode of the television series The Restless Gun, which was broadcast as an episode of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars. His television guest appearances included the The Joseph Cotten Show, Gunsmoke, Fury, Studio 57, The Millionaire, and Schlitz Playhouse of Stars.
He made two movie appearances during his years on Perry Mason but retired after the television show ended in 1966. He made one final movie appearance as a judge, Frederic D. Cannon in Gore Vidal's Myra Breckinridge (1970) starring Raquel Welch, John Huston, Farrah Fawcett, Rex Reed, and Mae West.
Hopper is best known for his regular role as the private investigator Paul Drake on CBS's courtroom television series Perry Mason (1957–1966) with Raymond Burr in the title role and Barbara Hale as secretary Della Street. He originally auditioned for the role of Perry Mason, and Raymond Burr auditioned for the role of Mason's rival, district attorney Hamilton Burger. After Burr was given the role of Perry Mason, Hopper was cast as Mason's friend and private detective, Paul Drake. In the 1959 episode, "The Case of Paul Drake's Dilemma," Hopper played the defendant, the only time in the series' nine-year run that Paul Drake was tried for murder.
In 1959, Hopper was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series for his performance as Paul Drake.
In the mid to late 1930s, Hopper occasionally visited nightclubs with film actress Isabel Jewell. He married actress Jane Gilbert (née Kies), sister of the better-known Margaret Lindsay, in 1940; they had one daughter, Joan (born 1942); the couple divorced in 1959.
Shortly after his divorce, he married Jeanette Juanita Ward (August 9, 1929 - October 20, 2008) and became stepfather to her son, Gordon Casimire Williamsii (né Gordon Patrick Williams, July 5, 1957 - June 15, 2013). Jeanette died on October 20, 2008, of cardiac arrest from atherosclerosis in El Monte, California.
Hopper was hospitalized on February 14, 1970, after suffering a stroke at his home in Yucca Valley, California. He died of pneumonia three weeks later, on March 6, at age 55. He was buried in Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.
- Order Please (1934), Playhouse Theatre, New York City (as Victor Neilson)
- Romeo and Juliet (1934–35), Martin Beck Theatre, New York City
|1916||Sunshine Dad||Infant in carriage||Uncredited|
|1937||The Big Broadcast of 1937||Ship's Officer||Credited as DeWolf Hopper Jr.|
|1937||Love Is on the Air||Eddie Gould|
|1937||Dick Tracy||Dirigible Pilot||Uncredited|
|1937||Mr. Dodd Takes the Air||Second Production Manager||Uncredited|
|1938||Love, Honor and Behave||Yale Tennis Player||Uncredited|
|1939||Nancy Drew... Reporter||Bit role||Uncredited|
|1939||Daughters Courageous||Striped-Shirted Man at Beach||Uncredited|
|1939||The Old Maid||John||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1939||The Angels Wash Their Faces||Photographer||Uncredited|
|1939||Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase||Reporter||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1939||Dust Be My Destiny||Reporter||Uncredited|
|1939||On Your Toes||Ronald - Peggy's Escort||Uncredited|
|1939||The Return of Doctor X||Intern||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1939||Invisible Stripes||Society Gent in Top Hat||Uncredited|
|1940||The Fighting 69th||Private Turner||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1940||Calling Philo Vance||Clerk at Hotel Nino in Chicago||Uncredited|
|1940||Castle on the Hudson||Reporter||Uncredited|
|1940||Virginia City||Lieutenant Reporting Murrell's Attack||Uncredited|
|1940||'Til We Meet Again||Man||Uncredited|
|1940||Brother Orchid||2nd Reporter on Return Ship||Uncredited|
|1940||No Time for Comedy||First-Nighter||Uncredited|
|1940||Knute Rockne, All American||New York Reporter When Knute is Ill||Uncredited|
|1940||Lady with Red Hair||Lyceum Theater Attendant||Uncredited|
|1941||Affectionately Yours||Airline Attendant||Uncredited|
|1941||The Bride Came C.O.D.||Keenan's and Brice's pilot||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1941||Manpower||Power Company Telephone Operator||Uncredited|
|1941||The Maltese Falcon||Reporter||Uncredited|
|1941||They Died with Their Boots On||Lt. Frazier||Uncredited|
|1941||All Through the Night||Reporter||Uncredited|
|1941||You're in the Army Now||Supply Man - Gas Masks||Uncredited|
|1942||The Male Animal||Reporter on porch||Uncredited|
|1942||Lady Gangster||John||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1942||Larceny, Inc.||Traffic Policeman||Uncredited|
|1942||Yankee Doodle Dandy||Reporter||Uncredited|
|1942||Across the Pacific||Orderly||Uncredited|
|1942||Desperate Journey||Radio Operator||Uncredited|
|1942||Beyond the Line of Duty||University of Texas classmate||Uncredited|
|1943||The Hard Way||Hotel Desk Clerk||Uncredited|
|1943||Action in the North Atlantic||Canadian Soldier||Uncredited|
|1954||The High and the Mighty||Roy||Credited as William Dewolf Hopper|
|1954||Sitting Bull||Charles Wentworth||Credited as Bill Hopper|
|1954||Track of the Cat||Arthur Bridges|
|1955||Conquest of Space||Dr. George Fenton|
|1955||Rebel Without a Cause||Judy's father|
|1956||Good-bye, My Lady||Walden Grover||Alternative title: The Boy and the Laughing Dog|
|1956||The First Texan||William Barret Travis|
|1956||The Bad Seed||Col. Kenneth Penmark|
|1957||The Deadly Mantis||Dr. Nedrick (Ned) Jackson|
|1957||20 Million Miles to Earth||Col. Robert Calder|
|1970||Myra Breckinridge||Judge Frederic D. Cannon||Uncredited|
|1954||Mayor of the Town||Girard||Episode: "Minnie's Job"|
|1955-1956||Lux Video Theatre||Various||3 episodes|
|1956||Fury||Dr. Steve Brown/Steve Wilson||Episode: "The Hobo"|
|1956||The 20th Century Fox Hour||Philip Harland||Episode: "One Life"|
|1956||Celebrity Playhouse||Episode: "Stagecoach to Paradise"|
|1956||The Millionaire||Capt. Jonathan Carroll||Episode: "The Captain Jonathan Carroll Story"|
|1956||Gunsmoke||John Henry Jordan
|1956||Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre||Rick Gordon||Episode: "One Percent"|
|1956||Matinee Theater||Episode: "Madame de Treymes"|
|1956-1957||Studio 57||Kip||2 episodes|
|1957||Schlitz Playhouse of Stars||Dan Mailer||Episode: "The Restless Gun"|
|1957||The Joseph Cotten Show||Arnold Bait||Episode: "The Case of the Jealous Bomber"|
|1957-1966||Perry Mason||Paul Drake||271 episodes|
- "TV Actor, William Hopper, 55". The Miami News. March 6, 1970. pp. 12–A. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
- "In Memory of Gordon Casimire Williamsii". dignitymemorial.com. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
- Norbert B. Laufenberg, Entertainment Celebrities (Trafford Publishing, 2005), 795
- Bettelou Peterson. "What happened to Dennis Hopper who played Paul Drake in...," Chicago Tribune, TV sec., February 27, 1987.
- New York Times: "William Hopper, Actor, Dies; Detective in 'Perry Mason,' 54," March 7, 1970, accessed July 14, 2011
- "Romeo and Juliet". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2014-10-02.
- William Hopper at the Internet Movie Database
- William Hopper at the Internet Broadway Database
- William Hopper at Aveleyman
- William Hopper as Paul Drake
- William Hopper at Find a Grave