William Hopper in 1934
William DeWolf Hopper Jr.
January 26, 1915
New York City, U.S.
|Died||March 6, 1970 (aged 55)|
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Rose Hills Memorial Park|
|Years active||1916; 1934–1970|
|Known for||Paul Drake|
William DeWolf Hopper Jr. (January 26, 1915 – March 6, 1970) was an American stage, film, and television actor. The only child of actor DeWolf Hopper and actress and Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper, he appeared in predominantly minor roles in more than 80 feature films in the 1930s and '40s. 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 Wellman to resume his film career. He became best known for his work as private detective Paul Drake in the CBS television series Perry Mason.
William DeWolf Hopper Jr., was born January 26, 1915 in New York City. He was the only child of actor, singer, comedian, and theatrical producer DeWolf Hopper (March 30, 1858 – September 23, 1935) and his fifth wife, actress Hedda Hopper (born Elda Furry; May 2, 1885 – February 1, 1966). He had one older half-brother, John A. Hopper, 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. Hedda Hopper became one of America's best-known gossip columnists, with nearly 30 million readers in newspapers in the U.S.
Hopper began his acting career as a teenager. He made his first stage appearance at the Pasadena Community Playhouse, in She Loves Me Not. He worked in summer stock in Ogunquit, Maine.:58 He appeared on Broadway in the short-lived comedy Order Please (1934) and as a member of the ensemble in Katharine Cornell's production of Romeo and Juliet (1934–35).
In March 1936, Hopper — then working under the name Wolfe Hopper — won a contract at Paramount Pictures. 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 and Franchot Tone. 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).
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); a college football player in Over the Goal (1939); and reporters in Knute Rockne, All American (1940), The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942).
Military service and postwar career
Hopper served with the United States Navy during World War II, as a volunteer with the Office of Strategic Services 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.
In 1953, director William Wellman persuaded Hopper to resume his movie career with his 1954 film, The High and the Mighty, 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.":60 Hopper subsequently appeared in two of Wellman's films, Track of the Cat (1954) and Good-bye, My Lady (1956).
Hopper was cast to star opposite Claire Trevor in the live television drama, "No Sad Songs for Me",:61 broadcast April 14, 1955, on NBC's Lux Video Theatre. 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.":61
At last comfortable on screen, Hopper played the stern and emotionally distant father of Natalie Wood in the James Dean classic, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and the often absent father in The Bad Seed (1956). He starred in the science-fiction films 20 Million Miles to Earth and The Deadly Mantis, released in 1957.
In 1956 Hopper guest-starred again on television during the first season of the Western series Gunsmoke, portraying an outlaw initially supported by townsfolk in an episode titled "Robin Hood". The following year 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. Some of Hopper's other television guest appearances include The Joseph Cotten Show, Fury, Studio 57, and The Millionaire.
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] 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."
"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 television series::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.:61
The 1959 episode, "The Case of Paul Drake's Dilemma", had Hopper's character on trial for murder.:65
Hopper continued to work in summer stock and to make movie appearances during his years on Perry Mason; however, after the series was cancelled in 1966, he declined other television offers. He did, though, make one final film appearance in Myra Breckinridge (1970), which premiered in New York three months after his death.:66
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.
In 1940, Hopper married actress Jane Kies, whose professional name was Jane Gilbert; she was the sister of Margaret Lindsay.:60 They had worked together on the 1939 film, Invisible Stripes. They had one daughter, Joan, born in 1947.:60 The couple divorced in 1959, and later that same year, Hopper took a second wife, Jan, with whom he had no children and who was widowed by his death.
Hopper entered Desert Hospital in Palm Springs, California, on February 14, 1970, after suffering a stroke. He died of pneumonia three weeks later, on March 6, at age 55. Hopper's death came five days before that of Perry Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner. He was buried in Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.
Select theatre credits
- 1934: Order Please, Playhouse Theatre, New York City (as Victor Neilson)
- 1934–35: Romeo and Juliet, Martin Beck Theatre, New York City (Ensemble)
|1916||Sunshine Dad||Baby||Credited as William DeWolf Hopper Jr.|
|1936||The King Steps Out||Soldier||Offscreen credit|
|1936||Murder with Pictures||Photographer||Offscreen credit as DeWolf Hopper|
|1936||The Big Broadcast of 1937||Ship's Officer||Uncredited|
|1936||Easy to Take||Monitor room man||Offscreen credit as DeWolf Hopper|
|1936||The Accusing Finger||Reporter||Offscreen credit as DeWolf Hopper|
|1936||Beware of Ladies||Reporter||Uncredited|
|1937||Larceny on the Air||Announcer||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1937||Join the Marines||Marine||Uncredited|
|1937||Dick Tracy||Dirigible Pilot||Uncredited|
|1937||Public Wedding||Tony Burke||Male lead, opposite Jane Wyman|
|1937||Mr. Dodd Takes the Air||Second production manager||Uncredited|
|1937||The Footloose Heiress||Jack Pierson|||
|1937||Back in Circulation||Pete Edington||Offscreen credit|
|1937||Love Is on the Air||Eddie Gould|||
|1937||Over the Goal||Ken Thomas||Male lead, opposite June Travis|
|1937||The Adventurous Blonde||Matt|||
|1938||Daredevil Drivers||Neeley bus driver||Offscreen credit |
|1938||Love, Honor and Behave||Yale tennis player||Offscreen credit |
|1938||Mystery House||Lal Killian|||
|1938||The Patient in Room 18||Grabshot||Offscreen credit |
|1938||Women Are Like That||Larraby||Offscreen credit |
|1939||Stagecoach||Cavalry Sergeant||Offscreen credit|
|1939||Midnight||Flammarions' Party Guest||Uncredited|
|1939||Daughters Courageous||Striped-shirted man at beach||Offscreen credit|
|1939||The Cowboy Quarterback||Handsome Sam||Offscreen credit as DeWolf Hopper|
|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||Offscreen credit as DeWolf Hopper|
|1939||Dust Be My Destiny||Reporter||Uncredited|
|1939||Espionage Agent||Student||Offscreen credit|
|1939||On Your Toes||Ronald - Peggy's Escort||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1939||Pride of the Blue Grass||Joe||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1939||On Dress Parade||Soldier Getting Radio Report from H4||Uncredited|
|1939||The Return of Doctor X||Intern||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1939||A Child Is Born||Intern||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1939||Invisible Stripes||Young Man||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1940||The Fighting 69th||Private Turner||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1940||Calling Philo Vance||Hotel clerk||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1940||Castle on the Hudson||Reporter||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1940||Virginia City||Lieutenant||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1940||'Til We Meet Again||Man||Uncredited|
|1940||Tear Gas Squad||George||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1940||Flight Angels||Lefty||Credited as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1940||Brother Orchid||Reporter||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1940||Gambling on the High Seas||Station operator||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1940||The Man Who Talked Too Much||Reporter||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1940||Ladies Must Live||Joe Barton||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1940||Money and the Woman||J.L. Burns, Bank Depositor||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1940||No Time for Comedy||First-Nighter||Uncredited|
|1940||Knute Rockne, All American||Reporter||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1940||Always a Bride||Man at campaign meeting carrying Michael||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1940||Lady with Red Hair||Lyceum Theater Attendant||Uncredited|
|1940||Santa Fe Trail||Officer||Scenes deleted; offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1941||The Case of the Black Parrot||Second mate||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1941||Flight from Destiny||Travin||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1941||Footsteps in the Dark||Police secretary||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1941||Here Comes Happiness||Best Man||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1941||Knockout||Reporter||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1941||A Shot in the Dark||Jones||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1941||Strange Alibi||Desk clerk||Offscreen credit as Bill Hopper|
|1941||Affectionately Yours||Airline attendant||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1941||The Bride Came C.O.D.||Keenan's pilot||Offscreen credit as DeWolf Hopper|
|1941||Bullets for O'Hara||Richard Palmer||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1941||Highway West||Frank Carson - Murdered Cashier||Uncredited|
|1941||Manpower||Power company telephone operator||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1941||Dive Bomber||Pilot||Offscreen credit as DeWolf Hopper|
|1941||International Squadron||Radio operator||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1941||Passage from Hong Kong||Watson||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1941||Navy Blues||Ensign Walters||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1941||The Maltese Falcon||Reporter||Offscreen credit as Bill Hopper|
|1941||Blues in the Night||Billiard Player||Offscreen credit as Bill Hopper|
|1941||They Died with Their Boots On||Lt. Frazier||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1941||All Through the Night||Reporter||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1941||The Body Disappears||Terrence Abbott||Offscreen credit as DeWolf Hopper|
|1941||You're in the Army Now||Clerk||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1942||Bullet Scars||Reporter||Offscreen credit|
|1942||The Male Animal||Reporter||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1942||Lady Gangster||John||Credited as DeWolf Hopper|
|1942||Murder in the Big House||Reporter||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1942||Larceny, Inc.||Customer||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1942||Yankee Doodle Dandy||Reporter||Offscreen credit|
|1942||Juke Girl||Atlanta Postal Clerk||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1942||Spy Ship||Reporter||Offscreen credit as Bill Hopper|
|1942||Escape from Crime||Reporter||Offscreen credit|
|1942||Secret Enemies||Ensign||Offscreen credit as Bill Hopper|
|1942||Busses Roar||Sailor||Offscreen credit|
|1942||Across the Pacific||Orderly||Offscreen credit|
|1942||Desperate Journey||Aircraftsman||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1942||You Can't Escape Forever||Soldier||Offscreen credit as Bill Hopper|
|1942||Beyond the Line of Duty||University of Texas classmate||Short film, uncredited|
|1942||Gentleman Jim||Undetermined Role||Offscreen credit as DeWolf Hopper|
|1943||The Hard Way||Hotel Desk Clerk||Offscreen credit as Bill Hopper|
|1943||The Mysterious Doctor||Orderly||Credited as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1943||Air Force||Sergeant||Offscreen credit|
|1943||Truck Busters||Trucker||Offscreen credit as Bill Hopper|
|1943||Action in the North Atlantic||Canadian soldier||Offscreen credit as DeWolfe Hopper|
|1943||Murder on the Waterfront||First sentry||Offscreen credit as DeWolf Hopper|
|1944||The Last Ride||Swank||Offscreen credit|
|1954||The High and the Mighty||Roy||Offscreen credit as William DeWolf Hopper|
|1954||Sitting Bull||Charles Wentworth||Offscreen credit as Bill Hopper|
|1954||This Is My Love||District Attorney||Offscreen credit|
|1954||Track of the Cat||Arthur Bridges||Offscreen credit|
|1955||Conquest of Space||Dr. George Fenton|||
|1955||Robbers' Roost||Robert Bell||Offscreen credit|
|1955||One Desire||Mac McBain|||
|1955||Rebel Without a Cause||Judy's father|||
|1956||Good-bye, My Lady||Walden Grover|||
|1956||The First Texan||William B. Travis|||
|1956||The Bad Seed||Col. Kenneth Penmark|||
|1957||The Deadly Mantis||Dr. Nedrick (Ned) Jackson|||
|1957||20 Million Miles to Earth||Col. Bob Calder|||
|1957||Slim Carter||Joe Brewster|||
|1970||Myra Breckinridge||Judge Frederic D. Cannon||Uncredited, Released posthumously|
|1954||Mayor of the Town||Girard||"Minnie's Job"|
|1955||Lux Video Theatre||Brad Scott||"No Sad Songs for Me"|
|1955||Ford Theatre||Joe Cramer||"The Mumbys"|
|1955||Lux Video Theatre||Host||"Perilous Deception"|
|1955||Warner Brothers Presents … Casablanca||Wilson Randall||"Labor Camp Escape"|
|1956||Fury||Sam Wilson||"The Hobo" (credited as Bill Hopper)|
|1956||The 20th Century Fox Hour||Phil Harland||"One Life"|
|1956||Gunsmoke||John Henry Jordan||"Robin Hood"|
|1956||Lux Video Theatre||Jim Johanson||"The Star"|
|1956||Celebrity Playhouse||"Stagecoach to Paradise"|
|1956||The Millionaire||Capt. Jonathan Carroll||"Captain Jonathan Carroll"|
|1956||Gunsmoke||Tasker Sloane||"Unmarked Grave"|
|1956||Lux Video Theatre||George||"The Top Rung"|
|1956||Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre||Rick Gordon||"Ten Percent"|
|1956||Matinee Theater||"Madame de Treymes"|
|1956||Studio 57||Smith||"The Magic Glass"|
|1957||Studio 57||Kip||"Mr. November"|
|1957||Schlitz Playhouse of Stars||Dan Mailer||"The Restless Gun" (pilot for TV series)|
|1957||The Joseph Cotten Show||Arnold Bait||"The Case of the Jealous Bomber"|
|1957–1966||Perry Mason||Paul Drake||271 episodes|
- 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.
- Reuters (March 7, 1970). "William Hopper, Actor, Dies; Detective in 'Perry Mason,' 54". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
- Ancestry.com. California, Death Index 1940–1997 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, US: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2000. Retrieved 2015-05-06.
- Douglass, Harvey (July 12, 1933). "DeWolf Hopper Calls 6th Wife the Only Perfect One". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
- "William Hopper". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
- Associated Press (February 2, 1966). "Hedda Hopper, Columnist, Dies; Chronicled Gossip of Hollywood". The New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2017.
- "De Wolfe Hopper's Son Wins Contract". The Milwaukee Sentinel. April 8, 1936. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
- Wolters, Larry (January 10, 1960). "Meet Hedda's Son Bill". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
- 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 April 7, 2015.
- "Order Please". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
- "Romeo and Juliet". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
- "Wolfe Hopper Gets a Movie Contract". The Milwaukee Sentinel. March 11, 1936. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
- Du Brow, Rick (July 11, 1961). "Mason's Sidekick Used to Sell Cars". The Daily Review (UPI).
- "William Hopper ('Paul Drake') is dead". Delta Democrat-Times. March 8, 1970.
- United Press International (March 7, 1970). "Perry Mason Star Hopper Dead at 55". Oakland Tribune.
- Thomas, Bob (June 16, 1962). "Perry Mason's Aide Faces a Dilemma". Oakland Tribune (Associated Press).
- "The High and the Mighty". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
- "Lux Video Theatre, Season 5". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Robin Hood", season 1 episode 17 (S01E17) of Gunsmoke, originally broadcast February 4, 1956. Full video of "Robin Hood" available for viewing on YouTube. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
- Galbraith IV, Stuart (April 10, 2008). "Perry Mason — 50th Anniversary Edition". DVD Talk. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
- Bawden, James (April 29, 2014). "Dream Factory Time: Gail Patrick". Classic Images. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
- Myra Breckinridge, cast and crew credits, production details, and release dates; catalog of the American Film Institute (AFI). Retrieved June 15, 2017.
- "Awards Search". Emmys. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
- Associated Press (March 6, 1970). "TV Actor, William Hopper, 55". The Miami News. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
- "Invisible Stripes". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
- Ancestry.com. California Birth Index, 1905–1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, US: Ancestry.com Operations Inc. 2005. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
- "Modern Screen Goes to a Christening". Modern Screen. 35 (3): 32. August 1947. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
- United Press International (March 7, 1970). "William Hopper Dies in Palm Springs at 55". Redlands Daily Facts.
- "William Hopper". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
- "William Hopper". BFI Film & TV Database. British Film Institute. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
- "Mayor of the Town". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Ford Theatre". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Warner Brothers Presents". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Fury, Season 1". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "The 20th Century-Fox Hour, Season 1". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Gunsmoke, Season 1". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Lux Video Theatre, Season 6". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Celebrity Playhouse". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "The Millionaire, Season 2". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Lux Video Theatre, Season 7". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Jane Wyman Theater". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Matinee Theater". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Studio 57, Season 2". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Studio 57, Season 4". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Schlitz Playhouse of Stars". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "On Trial: The Joseph Cotten Show". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "Perry Mason". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2015.