William Hopper

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This article is about the American actor. For other uses, see William Hopper (disambiguation).
William Hopper
William Hopper by Van Vechten.jpg
William Hopper in 1934
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten
Born William DeWolf Hopper, Jr.
(1915-01-26)January 26, 1915
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died March 6, 1970(1970-03-06) (aged 55)
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Pneumonia
Resting place
Rose Hills Memorial Park
Other names
  • Wolfe Hopper
  • DeWolf Hopper, Jr.
  • DeWolf Hopper
  • DeWolfe Hopper
  • Bill Hopper
Occupation Actor
Years active 1916; 1934–1970
Spouse(s) Jane Kies Hopper
(married 1940–?)
Children 1
Parent(s)

William DeWolf Hopper, Jr. (January 26, 1915 – March 6, 1970) was an American stage, film and television actor. The only child of actress and Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper, he appeared in predominantly minor roles in more than 80 feature films in the 1930s and 1940s. After serving in the United States Navy during World War II he left acting, but in the mid-1950s he was persuaded by director William A. Wellman to resume his film career. He became best known for his work in television, as private detective Paul Drake in the long-running CBS series, Perry Mason.

Early life[edit]

William DeWolf Hopper, Jr., was born January 26, 1915, in New York City.[1] He was the only child of noted actor, singer, comedian and theatrical producer DeWolf Hopper and his fifth wife, actress Hedda Hopper. He had one older half-brother, John A. Hopper, from his father's second marriage in the 1880s.[2] Hopper made his film debut as a baby in his father's 1916 silent movie Sunshine Dad.[3] His mother divorced his father in 1922 and moved to Hollywood with their son. Hedda Hopper became one of America's best-known gossip columnists, with nearly 30 million readers in newspapers nationwide.[4]

Paramount Pictures contract players Wolfe Hopper and Gail Patrick in July 1936; 20 years later William Hopper was Paul Drake and Gail Patrick Jackson was executive producer of the CBS-TV series, Perry Mason
William Hopper, Barbara Hale and Frank Sully in the CBS-TV series Perry Mason (1958)
Hopper and Raymond Burr in the Perry Mason episode, "The Case of Paul Drake's Dilemma" (1959)
Guest star Bette Davis with Hopper in Perry Mason (1963)

Career[edit]

1930s–1940s[edit]

Hopper began his acting career as a teenager. He made his first stage appearance at the Pasadena Community Playhouse, in She Loves Me Not.[5] He worked in summer stock in Ogunquit, Maine.[6][7]:58 He appeared on Broadway in the short-lived comedy Order Please (1934)[8] and as a member of the ensemble in Katharine Cornell's production of Romeo and Juliet (1934–35).[9]

In March 1936 Hopper — then working under the name Wolfe Hopper — won a contract at Paramount Pictures.[5][10] Early in his film career, Hopper appeared in numerous movies, uncredited and also under the name DeWolf Hopper. In 1936, he played a small role as a soldier in the Columbia Pictures film The King Steps Out starring Grace Moore. In 1937 he portrayed the leading man in two films, Public Wedding with Jane Wyman and Over the Goal with June Travis. He also enjoyed significant roles alongside Ann Sheridan in The Footloose Heiress (1937) and Mystery House (1938).[3]

After that he had roles that included playing a sergeant in the John Ford Western, Stagecoach (1939); an intern in The Return of Dr. X (1939); and reporters in Knute Rockne, All American (1940), The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942).[3]

Hopper became an actor because his mother expected it of him.[7]:57 "When I worked at Warner Bros.," Hopper said, "I was so scared I stuttered all the time."[11]

Military service and postwar career[edit]

Hopper served with the United States Navy during World War II, as a volunteer with the Office of Strategic Services[12] and as a member of the newly created Underwater Demolition Team. He received a Bronze Star and several other medals during operations in the Pacific.[13]

For eight years after the war, Hopper became involved in business and sold cars in Hollywood.[13] He combined car sales and acting when opportunities came up during the advent of television.[14]

"I didn't even think about acting much until a friend, director Bill Wellman, asked me to do a part in The High and the Mighty," Hopper recalled.[11]

1950s–1970s[edit]

In 1953 director William Wellman persuaded Hopper to resume his movie career with his 1954 film, The High and the Mighty,[15] opposite Jan Sterling. Before filming began Hopper challenged Wellman because he suspected his mother had arranged the offer. "When it appeared Wellman was serious, I asked him if he knew whose son I was. He ignored me," Hopper recalled. "I was so lousy, so nervous, I didn't even know where the camera was. But somehow Billy got me through. Afterward, I thanked him. He said, 'Thank me, my foot. After this, you're going to be in every picture I make.' I didn't believe him."[7]:60 Hopper subsequently appeared two of Wellman's films, Track of the Cat (1954) and Good-bye, My Lady (1956).[3]

Hopper was cast to star opposite Claire Trevor in the live television drama, "No Sad Songs for Me",[7]:61 broadcast April 14, 1955, on NBC's Lux Video Theatre.[16] He had such stage fright he initially cancelled: "I swore I'd never act again as long as I lived," Hopper recalled. "Then I thought, what the heck, they can't shoot me, and walked on the set. Something happened then. It was as if someone had surgically removed the nerves."[7]:61

At last comfortable on screen, Hopper played the father of Natalie Wood in the James Dean classic, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and the often absent father in The Bad Seed (1956). With Joan Taylor and a very young Bart Braverman, he starred in the classic Ray Harryhausen science-fiction film 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957).[3]

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 and The Millionaire.

Perry Mason[edit]

Hopper is best known for his principal role as the private investigator Paul Drake on CBS's courtroom television series Perry Mason (1957–66). He initially tested for the title role, while Raymond Burr read for the role of Mason's courtroom adversary, district attorney Hamilton Burger. Burr was encouraged to lose weight and return to audition for the role of Perry Mason — which he later did, successfully.[a][17] Hopper, too, was called back. Executive producer Gail Patrick Jackson recalled, "When Bill Hopper came in to read for Paul Drake he blurted out, 'You hate my mother.' And that was Hedda Hopper. Well, I disliked what she stood for, but 'hate' is something else — and anyway he was perfect as Drake, and we got him."[18]

"As Paul Drake, William Hopper was called on to be the most versatile of the principals in the Perry Mason cast," wrote Brian Kelleher and Diana Merrill in their chronicle of the TV series:[7]:61

He was not only the careful investigator, the duke-it-out tough guy, the ladies' man, and the hipster, but also the fall guy, the strikeout artist, the "eating machine" and "the big kid." Hopper's Drake alone provided the comic relief for the show. And, despite being a rather late bloomer to the acting field, he played all the parts surprisingly well and believably. His appearances made fair shows good, and good shows better.[7]:61

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.[7]:65

Hopper worked in summer stock and made movie appearances during his years on Perry Mason. After the series was cancelled in 1966 he declined other TV offers. He made one final film appearance in Myra Breckinridge (1970),[7]:66 unreleased at the time of his death.[19]

Accolades[edit]

In 1959, Hopper was nominated as Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series at the 11th Primetime Emmy Awards for his performance as Paul Drake.[20]

Personal life[edit]

In 1940 Hopper married actress Jane Kies, sister of Margaret Lindsay, whose professional name was Jane Gilbert.[7]:60[19][21] They had worked together on the 1939 film, Invisible Stripes.[22] They had one daughter, Joan, born in 1947.[7]:60[23][24]

On February 1, 1966, Hopper announced the death of his mother, actress and celebrated Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper, from double pneumonia.[4]

Published rumors to the contrary,[25][26] actor Dennis Hopper was not related to William Hopper.[27]

Death[edit]

Hopper entered Desert Hospital in Palm Springs, California,[13] on February 14, 1970, after suffering a stroke. He died of pneumonia three weeks later, on March 6, at age 55.[19][28] He was buried in Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.[29]

Select theatre credits[edit]

Select film and television credits[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1916 Sunshine Dad Baby Credited as William DeWolf Hopper Jr.[3]
1936 The King Steps Out Soldier [3]
1936 Murder with Pictures Photographer [3]
1936 The Accusing Finger Reporter Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1936 The Big Broadcast of 1937 Ship's Officer [30]
1936 Easy to Take Monitor room man Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1936 Beware of Ladies Reporter [30]
1937 Larceny on the Air Announcer Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1937 Join the Marines Marine [30]
1937 Dick Tracy Dirigible Pilot [30]
1937 Public Wedding Tony Burke Male lead, opposite Jane Wyman[3]
1937 The Footloose Heiress Jack Pierson [3]
1937 Mr. Dodd Takes the Air Second production manager [30]
1937 Back in Circulation Pete Edington [3]
1937 Love Is on the Air Eddie Gould [3]
1937 Over the Goal Ken Thomas Male lead, opposite June Travis[3]
1937 Torchy Blane, the Adventurous Blonde Matt [3]
1938 The Patient in Room 18 Grabshot [3]
1938 Daredevil Drivers Neeley bus driver [3]
1938 Love, Honor and Behave Yale tennis player [3]
1938 Women Are Like That Larraby [3]
1938 Mystery House Lal Killian [3]
1939 Stagecoach Cavalry Sergeant [3]
1939 Daughters Courageous Striped-shirted man at beach [3][30]
1939 The Cowboy Quarterback Handsome Sam Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1939 The Old Maid John Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1939 Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase Reporter Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1939 Espionage Agent Student [3]
1939 Pride of the Blue Grass Joe Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1939 On Your Toes Escort Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1939 The Return of Doctor X Intern Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1939 Invisible Stripes Young Man Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1940 A Child Is Born Intern Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1940 The Fighting 69th Private Turner Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1940 Calling Philo Vance Hotel clerk Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1940 Castle on the Hudson Reporter Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1940 Virginia City Lieutenant Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1940 Flight Angels Lefty Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1940 Tear Gas Squad George Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1940 Brother Orchid Reporter Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1940 The Man Who Talked Too Much Reporter Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1940 Gambling on the High Seas Station operator Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1940 Ladies Must Live Joe Barton Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1940 Money and the Woman Depositor Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1940 Knute Rockne, All American Reporter Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1940 Always a Bride Man at campaign meeting carrying Michael Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3][30]
1940 Santa Fe Trail Officer Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1941 The Case of the Black Parrot Second mate Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1941 Flight from Destiny Travin Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1941 Footsteps in the Dark Police secretary Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1941 Knockout Reporter Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1941 A Shot in the Dark Jones Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1941 Strange Alibi Desk clerk Credited as Bill Hopper[3]
1941 Affectionately Yours Airline attendant Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1941 Passage from Hong Kong Watson Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1941 The Bride Came C.O.D. Keenan's pilot Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1941 Bullets for O'Hara Richard Palmer Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1941 Manpower Power company telephone operator Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3][30]
1941 Dive Bomber Pilot Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1941 Navy Blues Ensign Walters Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1941 International Squadron Radio operator Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1941 The Maltese Falcon Reporter Credited as Bill Hopper[3]
1941 Blues in the Night Pool player Credited as Bill Hopper[3]
1941 All Through the Night Reporter Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1941 The Body Disappears Terrence Abbott Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1941 You're in the Army Now Clerk Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1941 They Died with Their Boots On Frazier Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1942 Bullet Scars Reporter [3]
1942 The Male Animal Reporter Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1942 Murder in the Big House Reporter Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1942 Larceny, Inc. Customer Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1942 Juke Girl Clerk Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1942 Lady Gangster John Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1942 Yankee Doodle Dandy Reporter [3]
1942 Escape from Crime Reporter [3]
1942 Across the Pacific Orderly [3]
1942 Busses Roar Sailor [3]
1942 Desperate Journey Aircraftsman Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1942 Secret Enemies Ensign [3]
1942 Beyond the Line of Duty University of Texas classmate Short film[30]
1943 Truck Busters Trucker Credited as Bill Hopper[3]
1943 The Hard Way Clerk Credited as Bill Hopper[3]
1943 The Mysterious Doctor Orderly Credited as DeWolfe Hopper[3]
1943 Air Force Sergeant [3]
1943 Action in the North Atlantic Canadian soldier [3]
1943 Murder on the Waterfront First sentry Credited as DeWolf Hopper[3]
1944 The Last Ride Swank [3]
1954 The High and the Mighty Roy Credited as William DeWolf Hopper[3]
1954 Sitting Bull Charles Wentworth Credited as Bill Hopper[3]
1954 This Is My Love District Attorney [3]
1954 Track of the Cat Arthur Bridges [3]
1955 Conquest of Space Dr. George Fenton [3]
1955 Robbers' Roost Robert Bell [3]
1955 One Desire Mac McBain [3]
1955 Rebel Without a Cause Judy's father [3]
1956 Good-bye, My Lady Walden Grover [3]
1956 The First Texan William B. Travis [3]
1956 The Bad Seed Col. Kenneth Penmark [3]
1957 The Deadly Mantis Dr. Nedrick (Ned) Jackson [3]
1957 20 Million Miles to Earth Col. Bob Calder [3]
1957 Slim Carter Joe Brewster [3]
1970 Myra Breckinridge Judge Frederic D. Cannon [30]

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1954 Mayor of the Town Girard "Minnie's Job"[31][30]
1955 Lux Video Theatre Brad Scott "No Sad Songs for Me"[16]
1955 Ford Theatre Joe Cramer "The Mumbys"[32]
1955 Lux Video Theatre Host "Perilous Deception"[16]
1955 Warner Brothers Presents … Casablanca Wilson Randall "Labor Camp Escape"[33]
1956 Fury Sam Wilson "The Hobo" (credited as Bill Hopper)[34]
1956 The 20th Century Fox Hour Phil Harland "One Life"[35]
1956 Gunsmoke John Henry Jordan "Robin Hood"[36]
1956 Lux Video Theatre Jim Johanson "The Star"[37]
1956 Celebrity Playhouse "Stagecoach to Paradise"[38]
1956 The Millionaire Capt. Jonathan Carroll "Captain Jonathan Carroll"[39]
1956 Gunsmoke Tasker Sloane "Unmarked Grave"[36]
1956 Lux Video Theatre George "The Top Rung"[40]
1956 Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre Rick Gordon "Ten Percent"[41]
1956 Matinee Theater "Madame de Treymes"[42]
1956 Studio 57 Smith "The Magic Glass"[43]
1957 Studio 57 Kip "Mr. November"[44]
1957 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Dan Mailer "The Restless Gun" (pilot for TV series)[45]
1957 The Joseph Cotten Show Arnold Bait "The Case of the Jealous Bomber"[46]
1957–66 Perry Mason Paul Drake 271 episodes[47]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hopper's audition as Perry Mason, along with Burr's auditions for Burger and Mason, were included as special features on the 2008 "50th Anniversary Edition" Perry Mason DVD set.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ancestry.com. California, Death Index 1940–1997 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2000. Retrieved 2015-05-06.
  2. ^ Douglass, Harvey (July 12, 1933). "DeWolf Hopper Calls 6th Wife the Only Perfect One". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Retrieved 2015-05-06. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck cl cm cn co cp cq cr cs ct cu cv "William Hopper". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2015-05-04. 
  4. ^ a b Associated Press (February 2, 1966). "Hedda Hopper, Columnist, Dies; Chronicled Gossip of Hollywood". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ a b "De Wolfe Hopper's Son Wins Contract". The Milwaukee Sentinel. April 8, 1936. Retrieved 2015-05-03. 
  6. ^ Wolters, Larry (January 10, 1960). "Meet Hedda's Son Bill". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2015-05-12. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kelleher, Brian; Merrill, Diana (1987). "William Hopper as Paul Drake". The Perry Mason TV Show Book. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 57–66. ISBN 9780312006693. Retrieved 2015-04-07. 
  8. ^ a b "Order Please". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-05-03. 
  9. ^ a b "Romeo and Juliet". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-05-03. 
  10. ^ "Wolfe Hopper Gets a Movie Contract". The Milwaukee Sentinel. March 11, 1936. Retrieved 2015-05-03. 
  11. ^ a b Du Brow, Rick (July 11, 1961). "Mason's Sidekick Used to Sell Cars". The Daily Review (UPI). 
  12. ^ "William Hopper ('Paul Drake') is dead". Delta Democrat-Times. March 8, 1970. 
  13. ^ a b c United Press International (March 7, 1970). "Perry Mason Star Hopper Dead at 55". Oakland Tribune. 
  14. ^ Thomas, Bob (June 16, 1962). "Perry Mason's Aide Faces a Dilemma". Oakland Tribune (Associated Press). 
  15. ^ "The High and the Mighty". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2015-05-06. 
  16. ^ a b c "Lux Video Theatre, Season 5". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  17. ^ Galbraith IV, Stuart (April 10, 2008). "Perry Mason — 50th Anniversary Edition". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2015-05-06. 
  18. ^ Bawden, James (April 29, 2014). "Dream Factory Time: Gail Patrick". Classic Images. Retrieved 2015-05-06. 
  19. ^ a b c Associated Press (March 6, 1970). "TV Actor, William Hopper, 55". The Miami News. Retrieved 2015-05-04. 
  20. ^ "Awards Search". Emmys. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2015-05-04. 
  21. ^ "Jane Gilbert". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2015-05-04. 
  22. ^ "Invisible Stripes". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2015-05-04. 
  23. ^ Ancestry.com. California Birth Index, 1905–1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc. 2005. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  24. ^ "Modern Screen Goes to a Christening". Modern Screen 35 (3): 32. August 1947. Retrieved 2015-05-04. 
  25. ^ "Squawk Box: Readers' Letters". San Antonio Express and News. January 31, 1960. 
  26. ^ Laufenberg, Norman B. (2005). Entertainment Celebrities. Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford Publishing. p. 795. ISBN 9781412053358. 
  27. ^ Peterson, Bettelou (February 27, 1987). "What happened to Dennis Hopper who played Paul Drake in …". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2015-05-03. 
  28. ^ Reuters (March 7, 1970). "William Hopper, Actor, Dies; Detective in 'Perry Mason,' 54". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-05-04. 
  29. ^ "William Hopper". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2015-05-04. 
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "William Hopper". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2015-05-04. 
  31. ^ "Mayor of the Town". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  32. ^ "Ford Theatre". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  33. ^ "Warner Brothers Presents". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  34. ^ "Fury, Season 1". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  35. ^ "The 20th Century-Fox Hour, Season 1". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  36. ^ a b "Gunsmoke, Season 1". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  37. ^ "Lux Video Theatre, Season 6". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  38. ^ "Celebrity Playhouse". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  39. ^ "The Millionaire, Season 2". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  40. ^ "Lux Video Theatre, Season 7". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  41. ^ "Jane Wyman Theater". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  42. ^ "Matinee Theater". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  43. ^ "Studio 57, Season 2". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  44. ^ "Studio 57, Season 4". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  45. ^ "Schlitz Playhouse of Stars". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  46. ^ "On Trial: The Joseph Cotten Show". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  47. ^ "Perry Mason". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 

External links[edit]