“Old Loathing” starring Miriam Hopkins and Bette Davis
By Allan R. Ellenberger
As many are aware, I have been working on a biography of actress Miriam Hopkins, on-and-off for several years. I was stalled for several months because of personal duties, my nine-to-five job and this blog, which takes an enormous amount of time, but I love it. With any luck I’m on track with Hopkins now and I’m sure some have noticed I have cut back on blog entries recently, which I have to until Hopkins is completed, so please understand and have patience.
Most of my research is completed (except for some last minute library and archive work), although there are a few people I would like to interview, such as: Dick Van Patten, and his sister Joyce, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field, Leticia Roman, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Clint Eastwood and Sylvia Miles, among others; many I have tried to contact with no success (So if anyone has entry to any of the above people, please contact me here or at email@example.com). I have been so fortunate to interview more than forty people including family members, costars of film and stage, personal friends, producers, and film historians. Such people as the late Kitty Carlisle and Doris Eaton; Dickie Jones, Andrew Prine, Lizabeth Scott and Olivia de Havilland have been gracious enough to help.
The challenge has been to present the real Miriam Hopkins and not just the personality that most people are familiar with as being difficult and hard to work with. Yes, that was part of her persona but as with most people, there is much more to her than that. Bette Davis was so vocal about her dislike of Hopkins that, because she is such an iconic and beloved actress, she virtually turned people that have never seen a Hopkins film, except perhaps for the two they made together. Bette would always claim how difficult Miriam was but yet had that reputation herself. In fact, in one interview, when comparing Debra Winger and her alleged reputation, to herself, said that “all good actresses are difficult.” Bette admitted that Hopkins was a good actress – and she was – however her reputation has overshadowed that over the years.
With all their differences, Davis and Hopkins had more in common than either one would dare to admit. They could be “over the top” in their performances if not guided by good directors. However, both were great actresses and felt they had to fight to get what they deserved. As well as being “difficult” and stealing scenes, Hopkins had more to fight for than Davis – at least that was her perception. Warner’s was Davis’ studio and of course they would favor her. When Jezebel was made, Warner’s tricked Hopkins out of her share to the rights of the film (she played the role on Broadway) letting her think she would play it and instead, gave the part to Davis who won an Academy Award. I could go on (and will in the book).
Of course Hopkins battled with other costars during her career; except for Davis, all were men. Hopkins was sometimes difficult to work with, there is no arguing that, however so was Davis and her fans (of which I am one) need to accept that. She also had a sensitive side and might show compassion to those who couldn’t help themselves. In any event, don’t judge Hopkins too harshly, at least until you know the entire truth, which hopefully I will be able to expound on with some success. I hope to be completed by September 2011 – at least that is my goal.
If anyone has information about, or perhaps knows someone who knew Miriam Hopkins, or even knew her themselves, please contact me.