Hedda Hopper


Actor, Gossip Columnist
Hedda Hopper

About

Also Known As
Elda Furry, Mrs. De Wolf Hopper
Birth Place
Hollidayburg, Pennsylvania, USA
Born
June 02, 1890
Died
February 01, 1966
Cause of Death
Pneumonia

Biography

One of the two most feared women in Hollywood during its Golden Age, Hedda Hopper first made a name for herself as an actress, typecast as society women in such features as "Holiday" (1930), "Alice Adams" (1935) and "Dracula's Daughter" (1936). As her workload inclined more towards Poverty Row than the big studios, Hopper gambled on a career change from actress to gossip columnist for th...

Family & Companions

William DeWolf Hopper
Husband
Actor. Married 1913 divorced 1922.

Biography

One of the two most feared women in Hollywood during its Golden Age, Hedda Hopper first made a name for herself as an actress, typecast as society women in such features as "Holiday" (1930), "Alice Adams" (1935) and "Dracula's Daughter" (1936). As her workload inclined more towards Poverty Row than the big studios, Hopper gambled on a career change from actress to gossip columnist for the Esquire Feature Syndicate. Her insider knowledge and roster of highly-placed confidantes paid off in an instantly-popular platform, published by The Los Angeles Times in 1938 and syndicated nationally. An interest in the private lives of public figures won Hopper the enmity of such secretive stars as Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Joseph Cotten, and Katharine Hepburn, while most of Tinseltown endeavored to keep on her good side in a bid to stay out of print. By widening her range to radio and television, Hopper cornered the gossip market and eclipsed the celebrity status of longtime rival Louella Parsons. During the anti-Communist purges of the Fifties, she advocated traditional American values, aligning herself with such staunch Hollywood conservatives as Ronald Reagan and Howard Hughes and counting as allies red-baiting Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Hopper's death in 1966 paralleled the demise of the studio system, while her devotion to laying bare the intimate secrets of Hollywood stars presaged the rise of such culturally entrenched scandal sheets as The National Enquirer and TMZ.

Hedda Hopper was born Elda Furry on May 5, 1885, in Hollidaysburg, PA. At the age of five, her father relocated the family to nearby Altoona, where he operated a butcher shop. As the middle of seven surviving children and the second oldest daughter, Hopper was expected by her strict Quaker father to cook and keep house in place of his chronically ill wife, while also assisting him in the family business so that her brothers could enjoy more leisurely childhoods, shirking responsibility in favor of fun. A life of small-town drudgery inspired Hopper's dream of living a glamorous big city life. A transformative experience came when she attended a theatrical performance by noted actress Ethel Barrymore. Deciding she wanted to be an actress, less out of a genuine desire to perform than to simply wear elegant costumes, Hopper bought her first hat, a bright green straw bonnet trimmed with red velvet geraniums. Without her parents' permission, she joined a Pittsburgh theatrical troupe. In 1908, at the age of 23, she ran away to New York City with the aim of becoming a Ziegfeld Girl.

Though Hopper was blessed with a peaches-and-cream complexion and excellent legs, her talents as a singer and dancer were held in lesser regard on Broadway. Turned down for employment by Florenz Ziegfeld himself, she turned to work as an understudy. She made her Broadway debut as Elda Curry in R.H. Burnside's staging of the musical "The Pied Piper," starring DeWolf Hopper. She appeared again opposite Hopper in Daniel V. Arthur's "A Matinee Idol," which ran for over a year between April 1910 and May 1911. Joining Hopper's theatrical company, she became his fifth wife. Because her husband's previous spouses had been named Ida, Ella, Edna and Nella, she opted to drop the stage name Elda Curry in favor of Hedda Hopper, by which she billed herself for a role in Clare Kummer's comedy "Be Calm, Camilla" and three later Broadway appearances. In 1915, Hopper gave birth to a son, William DeWolf Hopper, Jr. Later that year, the family traveled to Hollywood, where Hopper, Sr., was under contract to D. W. Griffith, Thomas Ince, and Mack Sennett's Triangle Company.

While still calling herself Elda Furry, Hopper made her film debut as the star of Oscar Apfel's sea drama "The Battle of Hearts" (1916), produced by the Fox Film Corporation. She would be so-billed, or alternatively listed as Elda Millar, until her appearance in the Goldwyn Company's "Nearly Married" (1917), an adaptation of the Broadway comedy by Edgar Selwyn (for whom Hopper had performed in New York). For a supporting role in "Virtuous Wives" (1918), produced by Louis B. Mayer for First National, she was billed as Mrs. DeWolf Hopper, a credit she would retain for "The Inner Chamber" (1921), "Conceit" (1921), and "What's Wrong with the Women?" (1922). In 1922, Hopper divorced her husband, opting to raise their son alone while she continued with her career. She played the duplicitous Madge Larrabee to John Barrymore's "Sherlock Holmes" (1922), having transitioned by this point from ingénues to character roles. Hopper's patrician beauty often found her playing affluent or titled women, such as the lofty Mrs. Leiter in "The Snob" (1924) with John Gilbert and Norma Shearer; Lady Wildering in "Déclassé" (1925) with Corinne Griffith; and the artistically-inclined Countess de Fragni in "Fools of Fashion" (1926) with Mae Busch.

Surviving Hollywood's changeover from silents to talking pictures, Hopper played yet another woman of means in "Holiday" (1930), an adaptation of the Philip Barry play starring Mary Astor and Edward Everett Horton, and appeared alongside Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, Edward G. Robinson, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck and other stars in the charity short "The Stolen Jools" (1931). Rent-paying work in low-budget productions such as "Murder Will Out" (1930), "One Frightened Night" (1925), and "The Dark Hour" (1936) earned Hopper the nickname Queen of the Quickies, but she was cast in a number of prestige pictures as well, including "Alice Adams" (1935) at RKO, opposite Katharine Hepburn and Fred McMurray. Hopper played society ladies in "Dracula's Daughter" (1936) and "Topper" (1937). In "Tarzan's Revenge" (1938), she sneezed her way through the role of the hypochondriacal mother Eleanor Holm, jungle consort of Glenn Morris' vine-swinging King of the Apes.

In 1936, Hopper had found a sideline as a fashion commentator for a Los Angeles radio station. The following year, she was hired by the Esquire Feature Syndicate to be their Hollywood correspondent. Her column, "Hedda Hopper's Hollywood," debuted in The Los Angeles Times in 1938 and was swiftly syndicated all over the country. A CBS radio program followed in 1939. Hopper relished her new-found notoriety as a purveyor of Tinseltown tidbits. Never seen in public without an elaborate hat, she held court at such posh nightclubs as Ciro's and the Trocadero, where she collected rumors about troubled productions and misbehaving movie stars. Her rumor-mongering tinged with cruelty, Hopper wound up on the bad side of such industry A-listers as Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and Joseph Cotten. Yet for as many stars who hated Hopper, more courted her favor in a bid to stay out of range. So damaging was the prospect of ruination via a Hopper exclusive that the columnist nicknamed her Beverly Hills mansion "the House that Fear Built."

Though she never remarried, Hopper weathered a longtime association with rival gossip columnist Louella Parsons. Though the pair had initially gotten on well, the friendship turned acrimonious as both women jockeyed for the title of Queen of Hollywood. Hopper was not above using her platform as a vehicle for settling old grudges, bashing Louis B. Mayer (allegedly because he had stunted her stardom at MGM when she refused a go on his casting couch) and Charlie Chaplin, whose left-wing politics and libertine lifestyle offended Hopper's Puritan propriety. Having fled her small town home for Hollywood and raised her child alone, Hooper nonetheless beat the drum for traditional American values. An anti-union Republican, she was disdainful of Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and counted among her inside sources newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, red-baiting Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, and FBI frontman J. Edgar Hoover. Though she railed against big government in general and income tax in particular, Hopper gladly took a $5,000 deduction for the purchase of designer hats as a business expense.

Not entirely abandoning her acting career, Hopper made sporadic film appearances, playing a thinly-veiled version of herself in George Cukor's "The Women" (1939) and character roles in James P. Hogan's "Queen of the Mob" (1940) and Cecil B. DeMille's "Reap the Wild Wind" (1942). She cameoed as herself in Harold Schuster's "Breakfast in Hollywood" (1946), Henry Levin's "The Corpse Came C.O.D." (1947), and Billy Wilder's "Sunset Blvd." (1950) and hosted a series of featurettes for Paramount titled "Hedda Hopper's Hollywood" as an extension of her column. With the popularity of television, Hopper extended her domain to the small screen, turning up in episodes of "I Love Lucy" (CBS, 1951-57), "The Colgate Comedy Hour" (NBC, 1950-55), "The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show" (NBC, 1956-1961) and "The Beverly Hillbillies" (CBS, 1962-1971). Having begun his own film career in 1935, Hopper's son William attained his own level of celebrity as Natalie Wood's father in "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955) and among the cast of the long-running CBS courtroom drama "Perry Mason" (1957-1966).

Hopper published two sets of memoirs, in 1952 and 1963. At age 79, she contributed a cameo appearance to the Jerry Lewis farce "The Patsy" (1964), but her final years found her in declining health. Hopper never lived to see her final film appearance, in Russell Rouse's acidic Hollywood exposé "The Oscar" (1966), released a month after her death from pneumonia on Feb. 1, 1966. In 1972, author George Eells published the dual biography Hedda and Louella , source of the 1985 CBS telefilm "Malice and Wonderland" starring Jane Alexander as Hedda Hopper and frequent gossip target Elizabeth Taylor as Louella Parsons. Having established Hollywood gossip as a model for big business and a component of mid-century American life, Hopper paved the way for such professional scandal-mongers as Rex Reed, Rona Barrett and Liz Smith, while anticipating the 21st century dominance of such internet scandal sheets as TMZ, Gawker, and Radar Online.

By Richard Harland Smith

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

The Oscar (1966)
The Patsy (1964)
Pepe (1961)
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Herself
Breakfast in Hollywood (1946)
Herself
Reap the Wild Wind (1942)
Aunt Henrietta
Life with Henry (1941)
Mrs. Aldrich
Queen of the Mob (1940)
Mrs. Emily Sturgis
Cross-Country Romance (1940)
Mrs. North
What a Life (1939)
Mrs. Aldrich
Midnight (1939)
Stephanie
Laugh It Off (1939)
Elizabeth Rockingham
The Women (1939)
Dolly DePuyster
That's Right--You're Wrong (1939)
Herself
Dangerous to Know (1938)
Mrs. Carson
Maid's Night Out (1938)
Mrs. Harrison
Tarzan's Revenge (1938)
Penny Reed
Thanks for the Memory (1938)
Polly Griscom
Nothing Sacred (1937)
Dowager
Walter Wanger's Vogues of 1938 (1937)
Mrs. Van Klettering
Artists and Models (1937)
Mrs. Townsend
You Can't Buy Luck (1937)
Mrs. Agnes White
Topper (1937)
Mrs. [Grace] Stuyvesant
Dangerous Holiday (1937)
Lottie
Dracula's Daughter (1936)
Lady Esme Hammond
Bunker Bean (1936)
Dorothy Kent
The Dark Hour (1936)
Mrs. Tallman, Aunt Marian
Doughnuts and Society (1936)
Mrs. Murray Hill
Alice Adams (1935)
Mrs. Palmer
Ship Cafe (1935)
Tutor
One Frightened Night (1935)
Laura Proctor
Lady Tubbs (1935)
Mrs. [Ronald] Ash-Orcutt
Society Fever (1935)
Mrs. Vandergriff
Three Women (1935)
Three Kids and a Queen (1935)
Mrs. Cummings
I Live My Life (1935)
Alvin's mother
No Ransom (1934)
Myra Winfield
Bombay Mail (1934)
Lady Daniels
Little Man, What Now? (1934)
Nurse
Let's Be Ritzy (1934)
Mrs. Burton
The Barbarian (1933)
American tourist
Beauty for Sale (1933)
Madame Sonia [Barton]
Men Must Fight (1933)
Mrs. Chase
Pilgrimage (1933)
Mrs. Worth
Skyscraper Souls (1932)
Ella Dwight
The Man Who Played God (1932)
Mrs. Chittendon
The Unwritten Law (1932)
Jean Evans
Night World (1932)
Mrs. Rand
As You Desire Me (1932)
Madame [Inez] Montari
Speak Easily (1932)
Mrs. Peets
Downstairs (1932)
Countess [De Marnac]
Shipmates (1931)
Auntie
The Easiest Way (1931)
Mrs. Williams
West of Broadway (1931)
Mrs. Trent
A Tailor Made Man (1931)
Mrs. Stanlaw
The Prodigal (1931)
Christine
Flying High (1931)
Mrs. Smith
Good Sport (1931)
Mrs. Atherton
The Common Law (1931)
Mrs. Clare Collis
Men Call It Love (1931)
Callie [Brooks]
Mystery Train (1931)
Mrs. Radcliffe
Rebound (1931)
Liz [Crawford]
War Nurse (1930)
Matron
Our Blushing Brides (1930)
Mrs. Weaver
Murder Will Out (1930)
Aunt Pat
Let Us Be Gay (1930)
Madge Livingston
Holiday (1930)
Susan Potter
Such Men Are Dangerous (1930)
Muriel Wyndham
High Society Blues (1930)
Mrs. Divine
The Racketeer (1929)
Mrs. Lee
Half Marriage (1929)
Mrs. Page
Girls Gone Wild (1929)
Mrs. Holworthy
A Song of Kentucky (1929)
Mrs. Coleman
His Glorious Night (1929)
Mrs. Collingswood Stratton
The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1929)
Lady Maria
Harold Teen (1928)
Mrs. Hazzit
The Companionate Marriage (1928)
Mrs. Moore
Undressed (1928)
Mrs. Stanley
Runaway Girls (1928)
Mrs. Hartley
Love and Learn (1928)
Mrs. Ann Blair
Green Grass Widows (1928)
Mrs. Worthing
The Chorus Kid (1928)
Mrs. Garrett
The Whip Woman (1928)
Countess Ferenzi
The Port of Missing Girls (1928)
Mrs. C. King
Venus of Venice (1927)
Jean's mother
The Drop Kick (1927)
Mrs. Hamill
Children of Divorce (1927)
Katherine Flanders
Orchids and Ermine (1927)
The modiste
Adam and Evil (1927)
Eleanor Leighton
Wings (1927)
Mrs. Powell
The Cruel Truth (1927)
Grace Sturdevant
Matinee Ladies (1927)
Mrs. Aldrich
Black Tears (1927)
A Reno Divorce (1927)
Hedda Frane
One Woman to Another (1927)
Olive Gresham
Don Juan (1927)
Marquise Rinaldo
The Silver Treasure (1926)
Mrs. Gould
Pleasures of the Rich (1926)
Mona Vincent
The Caveman (1926)
Mrs. Van Dream
Skinner's Dress Suit (1926)
Mrs. Colby
Fools of Fashion (1926)
Countess de Fragni
Lew Tyler's Wives (1926)
Virginia Philips
Obey the Law (1926)
Dance Madness (1926)
Valentina
Zander The Great (1925)
Mrs. Caldwell
Dangerous Innocence (1925)
Muriel Church
Borrowed Finery (1925)
Mrs. Bordon
Déclassée (1925)
Lady Wildering
The Teaser (1925)
Margaret Wyndham
Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1925)
Mrs. Clarice Vidal
Her Market Value (1925)
Mrs. Bernice Hamilton
Gambling Wives (1924)
Madame Zoe
Sinners in Silk (1924)
Mrs. Stevens
Another Scandal (1924)
Elizabeth MacKenzie
Why Men Leave Home (1924)
Nina Neilson
The Snob (1924)
Mrs. Leiter
Miami (1924)
Mary Tate
Happiness (1924)
Mrs. Chrystal Pole
Reno (1923)
Mrs. Kate Norton Tappan
Has the World Gone Mad (1923)
Mrs. Adams
What's Wrong With the Women? (1922)
Mrs. Neer
Sherlock Holmes (1922)
Madge Larrabee
Women Men Marry (1922)
Eleanor Carter
Conceit (1921)
Mrs. Crombie
Heedless Moths (1921)
His wife
The Inner Chamber (1921)
Mrs. Candor
The Man Who Lost Himself (1920)
Countess of Rochester
The New York Idea (1920)
Vida Phillimore
The Isle of Conquest (1919)
Mrs. Harmon
The Third Degree (1919)
Mrs. Howard Jeffries, Sr.
Sadie Love (1919)
Mrs. James Wakeley
The Beloved Traitor (1918)
Myrna Bliss
Virtuous Wives (1918)
Irma Delabarre
Nearly Married (1917)
Hattie King

Cast (Special)

Hedda Hopper's Hollywood (1960)
Host
The Desilu Revue (1959)

Cast (Short)

Cavalcade of the Academy Awards (1940)
Herself
Apples To You! (1934)

Life Events

1936

Began radio talk show

1938

Became Hollywood columist

Photo Collections

The Women - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's The Women (1939), directed by George Cukor and featuring an all-star, all-female cast.

Videos

Movie Clip

Last Of Mrs. Cheyney, The (1929) - The Widow Of A Rich Australian Joining the first scene, a garden outside a London charity concert, Lord Dilling (Basil Rathbone) with stuffier Lord Elton (Herbert Bunston) and Maria (Hedda Hopper) discuss the hostess (Norma Shearer, title character) until she appears, George Barraud the butler, in The Last Of Mrs. Cheyney, 1929.
Downstairs (1932) - Complete Satisfaction In a screen story he wrote for himself, John Gilbert (as Austrian chauffeur Karl), arrives and plays the consummate cad, with a maid (Marion Lessing), a bride (Virgina Bruce), a Countess (Hedda Hopper) and a Baroness (Olga Baclanova), opening Downstairs, 1932.
Vogues Of 1938 (1937) - I Can't Be Married! Fed-up New York fashion house chief Curson (Warner Baxter) at work, his crankiest customer the mother (Hedda Hopper) of a bride (Joan Bennet, strawberry blonde in Technicolor) who'd rather call the whole thing off, early in producer Walter Wanger's eye-candy variety show Vogues Of 1938, 1937.
Cross Country Romance - Stop Drooling! Meet madcap heiress Diane (Wendy Barrie), from wedding dress into a slip, eligible professor Larry (Gene Raymond) dropping by on business, and mother-of-the-bride Hedda Hopper, opening Cross Country Romance, 1940.
Our Blushing Brides - How Do You Like This Model? Jerry (Joan Crawford) has cute bits with Eloise (Mary Doran), Mrs. Lansing Ross-Weaver (Hedda Hopper) and especially Tony (Robert Montgomery), modeling lingerie in MGM's Our Blushing Brides, 1930.

Trailer

Family

William Hopper
Son
Actor.

Companions

William DeWolf Hopper
Husband
Actor. Married 1913 divorced 1922.

Bibliography