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Hedda Hopper in 1929
May 2, 1885
Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||February 1, 1966
Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Double pneumonia|
|Resting place||Rose Hill Cemetery in Altoona, Pennsylvania|
|Occupation||Actress, gossip columnist|
|Known for||Writing "Hedda Hopper's Hollywood"|
|Spouse(s)||DeWolf Hopper (m. 1913–22)|
|Children||William Hopper (1915–1970)|
Hedda Hopper (May 2, 1885 – February 1, 1966) was an American actress and 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.
Hopper was born Elda Furry in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Margaret (née Miller; 1856-1941) and David Furry, a butcher, both members of the German Baptist Brethren. Her siblings included Dora, Sherman, Cameron, Edgar, Frank and Margaret. Her family was of Pennsylvania Dutch (German) descent. The family moved to Altoona when Elda was three.
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.
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.
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". 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.
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. 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 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.
- 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 to his being denied a permission to re-enter the United States after a sojourn to Europe in 1952.
- After she published 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.
- Hopper spread rumors that Michael Wilding and Stewart Granger had a sexual relationship; Wilding later sued Hopper for libel and won.
- Actress ZaSu Pitts compared Hopper to "a ferret".
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Radio and television
Hopper had an acting role in a radio soap opera, playing Portia Brent on the Blue Network's Brenthouse beginning in February 1939. She 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.
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.
|1916||The Battle of Hearts||Maida Rhodes||Lost film
Credited as Elda Furry
|1917||Her Excellency, the Governor||Sylvia Marlowe||Lost film
Credited as Elda Milar
|1917||The Food Gamblers||June Justice||Lost film|
|1917||Seven Keys to Baldpate||Myra Thornhill||Credited as Elda Furry|
|1917||Nearly Married||Hattie King||abridged version extant|
|1918||By Right of Purchase||Society Woman||Incomplete print
|1918||Virtuous Wives||Irma Delabarre||Lost film
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||Lost film|
|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||Another Scandal||Cousin Elizabeth MacKenzie|
|1924||Sinners in Silk||Mrs. Stevens|
|1924||The Snob||Mrs. Leiter|
|1925||Her Market Value||Mrs. Bernice Hamilton|
|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||Lost film|
|1926||Lew Tyler's Wives||Virginia Philips||Lost film|
|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||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|
|1928||Love and Learn||Mrs. Ann Blair||Lost film|
|1928||The Whip Woman||Countess Ferenzi||Lost film|
|1928||The Port of Missing Girls||Mrs. C. King|
|1928||The Chorus Kid||Mrs. Garrett|
|1928||Green Grass Widows||Mrs. Worthing||London|
|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||Let Us Be Gay||Madge Livingston|
|1930||Our Blushing Brides||Mrs. Weaver|
|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|
|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||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||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|
|1960||Pepe||Herself, Cameo appearance|
|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 1995, Cynthia Adler portrayed Hedda Hopper in the documentary Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business.
In addition, she was also portrayed by Katherine Helmond in Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story (1995 TV film), by Joanne Linville, in the 2011 made-for-TV-movie James Dean (2001 made-for-TV-movie), by Jenn Colella in Chaplin: The Musical on Broadway in 2012, and by Helen Mirren, in the 2015 film Trumbo, directed by Jay Roach.
- Rootsweb genealogy site; accessed July 14, 2011
- LIFE - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. 1944-11-20. Retrieved 2014-01-29.
- Hedda Hopper Timeline Archived July 5, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- Silvester, Christopher (2002). The Grove Book of Hollywood. Grove Press. p. 352. ISBN 0-8021-3878-0.
- Stephens, Autumn (1998). Drama Queens: Wild Women of the Silver Screen. Conari. p. 202. ISBN 1-57324-136-9.
- 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.
- Eells, George (1972). Hedda and Louella. G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 260–262.
- Salad Days by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. c. 1980
- David M. Jordan, FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2011), pp. 231-232
- Frost, Jennifer (2011). Hedda Hopper's Hollywood: Celebrity Gossip and American Conservatism. NYU Press. pp. 139–140. ISBN 0-814-72824-3.
- Dunning, John. (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. P. 118.
- Donnelley, Paul (2005). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus. p. 497. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
- Houseman, Victoria (1991). Made in Heaven: The Marriages and Children of Hollywood Stars. Bonus Books. p. 150. ISBN 0-929387-24-4.
- "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.
- Donnelley, Paul (2005). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus. p. 498. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
- O'Toole, Christine (2012). Pennsylvania Off the Beaten Path®, 11th: A Guide to Unique Places. Globe Pequot. p. 158. ISBN 0-762-78615-9.
- "Hollywood Star Walk". latimes.com. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hedda Hopper.|
- 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.
- Hedda Hopper at the Internet Broadway Database
- Hedda Hopper at the Internet Movie Database
- Hedda Hopper at AllMovie
- Hedda Hopper and others on Orson Welles' 1944 radio show
- Hedda Hopper: Broadway Photographs (University of South Carolina)
- 1923 passport photo(courtesy flickr.com)
- Grave photo
- Hedda Hopper papers at the Margaret Herrick Library