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Miriam Hopkins biography to be published by University Press of Kentucky

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Sep 25th, 2016
2016
Sep 25

 MIRIAM HOPKINS

Miriam Hopkins biography to be published by University Press of Kentucky

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Miriam Hopkins

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 By Allan R. Ellenberger

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After tens years of research, interviews and writing, on Friday, I was notified that my biography of actress Miriam Hopkins will be published by the University Press of Kentucky as part of their Screen Classics series. The people of UPK have been great and I look forward to working with them.

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Miriam Hopkins (1902-1972), a top star during Hollywood’s Golden Age, was a complex, independent-minded woman decades ahead of her time. A hard-working (and highly demanding) professional, Hopkins was also a sexually daring, self-educated intellectual, who happened to be a firm believer in liberal causes.

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She had a reputation as one of the screen’s most difficult and temperamental actresses. A close friend, Tennessee Williams, worked with Hopkins and after an initially difficult period, he accepted her extremes. He once described her extremes as “morning mail and morning coffee,” and at other times she was like “hat-pin jabbed in your stomach. The quintessence of the female, a really magnificent bitch.”

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Hopkins was exceptionally smart; one who never let anyone find out how smart she was until it was too late. After many years of research, I was amazed at her intellect and temperament, which would erupt unexpectedly and disappear as quickly. Sometimes her demanding mother would trigger it, but in most cases, she was fighting for her career—or so she thought.

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Throughout the 1930’s, the freewheeling Hopkins was a unique case, remaining a top Hollywood star at no less than four studios: Paramount, RKO, Goldwyn and Warner Bros. And no matter where she worked, in her quest for better opportunities, Hopkins fearlessly tackled the studios’ powers-that-be, from the venerated Samuel Goldwyn to the irascible Jack Warner.

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Hopkins’ biography offers numerous stories—some humorous, some ugly—about her countless battles with co-workers on the set of her plays and films. Whatever drove her—be it ambition, insecurity, or something altogether different, she created conflict with her fellow actors. She was either loved or hated; there was rarely anything in-between. And to say that Hopkins was “difficult and temperamental” would be an understatement. She was Barbra Streisand, Faye Dunaway and Jane Fonda rolled into one.

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Having said that, whenever she trusted the work of her director and co-stars, she was an ideal team player, but if she did not, life for them was not worth living. If rewriting screenplays, directing her fellow actors and her directors, fighting with producers and the studio’s front office was necessary, so be it.

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But in Hopkins’ mind, she was never temperamental. “Proof of that is that I made four pictures with Willie Wyler, who is a very demanding director,” she once said. “I made two with Rouben Mamoulian, who is the same. Three with Ernst Lubitsch, such a dear man. When you are asked to work again with such directors, you cannot be temperamental.”

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In 1940, she made theater history by starring in Tennessee Williams’ first produced play, Battle of Angels. In the beginning, there were problems, but they soon came to terms. “Difficult? I guess so,” Williams reasoned. “But not with me. She was every Southern divinity you could imagine. Smart and funny and elegant, and I kept looking for her in Joanne [Woodward], and Carrie Nye and Diane Ladd, but there was no one like her. No one. I will hear nothing bad of Miriam Hopkins.”

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Ironically, I started working on Miriam Hopkins’ life story because of Bette Davis, who was a favorite. I enjoyed watching Hopkins clash with the indomitable Warner Bros. star in their two films together: The Old Maid and Old Acquaintance. There are stories about their dynamic real-life feud, and years later, the image of a post-stroke Davis ranting on television on how demanding her former co-star could be. For her part, Hopkins denied the bad blood between them. That intrigued me. She would say, “Yes, I know the legend is that Bette Davis and I were supposed to have had a feud. Utter rubbish. Bette and I got along fine. I’d love to make another picture with her.” Even more rubbish!

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I began watching Hopkins’ other films: the ones in which she collaborated with directors, Ernst Lubitsch, Rouben Mamoulian, and William Wyler, in addition to her lesser-known Paramount fare. It was then that I discovered Miriam Hopkins in command of her sexuality. Whether as a dance-hall prostitute in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), a participant in a ménage a trois in Design for Living (1933), or a rape victim in the scandalous The Story of Temple Drake (1933), she proved that sex was more than a three-letter word: at times, it could be raw and terrifying; at others, it could be sensual, sophisticated fun.

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In 1932, columnist Cal York chose Miriam Hopkins as the “best bet for stardom,” ranking her above Joan Blondell, Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Sylvia Sidney and Helen Hayes. York wasn’t off the mark. Still, Hopkins temperament would hinder her rise to “stardom.” My biography on the actress examines her career decline and her several attempts at a comeback.

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In 1935, she made motion picture history by starring in the title role of the first all-Technicolor feature film, Becky Sharp, based on Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. For her performance, she received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination (she lost to—who else?—her future archrival Bette Davis).

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Chronicled will be Hopkins’ remarkable film career along with the importance of her lasting legacy on the Broadway stage. Regrettably, her widely acclaimed live performances survive only in the recollections of those who witnessed them. Thus, what remain of Hopkins’ art are her films.

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Eventually, Hopkins appeared in 36 films, 40 stage plays, guest appearances in the early days of television, and on countless radio shows. In these media, she worked with Carole Lombard, Gary Cooper, Jane Fonda, Edgar Bergen, Bing Crosby, William Powell, Sally Field, Henry Fonda, Loretta Young, Orson Welles, Olivia de Havilland, Peter Lorre, Merle Oberon, Claudette Colbert, Ray Milland, Elizabeth Montgomery, Coleen Dewhurst, Robert Redford and dozens more.

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Her friendships were as celebrated as well, but instead of actors, Hopkins hung around with writers and intellectuals such as writers Theodore Dreiser, Dorothy Parker, Gertrude Stein, and, of course, Tennessee Williams.

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In her love life, she was independent-minded and just as discriminating. She would have four husbands and dozens of lovers; most were writers including Bennett Cerf, William Saroyan, and John Gunther. Hopkins, once again ahead of her time, was a single mother. In 1932, she adopted a baby boy, being one of the first Hollywood stars to do so and starting a trend for such adoptions.

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She was an avid reader, sometimes a writer herself, a lover of poetry, and a patron of the arts. Over the years, her political beliefs vacillated from the far right to the far left. She held positions in political organizations that had the FBI tracking her actions for almost four decades, marking her as a perceived “communist sympathizer.”

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She was one of Hollywood’s brainiest women—yet, she was absurdly superstitious. A believer in the occult, she would not accept film or stage roles, move to a new home, or take long trips without consulting a psychic.

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Despite all her eccentricities, Hopkins proved that she was an accomplished performer who happened to have her own set of rules and her own personal demons. Although she was aware of being a part of film history—how could Margaret Mitchell’s personal choice to play Scarlet O’Hara not have been—she was not sentimental about her existence or her career. She kept no scrapbooks, clippings, or photographs. It was irrelevant to document or discuss her past.

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But no matter. This first-ever Hopkins biography will provide the real, complex, and at times a contradictory portrait of a woman who had her faults, and idiosyncrasies, but who was a major (and fearless) professional achiever—one who could be generous, gracious, and selfless.

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Once you read about the ambiguous, fascinatingly larger than life character that was Miriam Hopkins, you may agree with Tennessee Williams that she truly was a “magnificent bitch.”

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Miriam Hopkins 113th Birthday…

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Oct 18th, 2015
2015
Oct 18

MIRIAM HOPKINS

Happy Birthday Miriam Hopkins!

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hopkins-gods2

MIRIAM HOPKINS

October 18, 1902–Savannah, Georgia

October 9, 1972–New York City, New York

Oak City Cemetery, Bainbridge, Georgia

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As a sneak preview, below are the individual chapters/titles

to the biography on Miriam Hopkins

“Magnificent Bitch” THE LIFE OF MIRIAM HOPKINS

by Allan R. Ellenberger

CONTENTS
Foreword
Preface
Chapter One: “From a Fine Old Family” (1653—1920)
Chapter Two: The Road to Broadway (1921—1927)
Chapter Three: Billy (1927—1930)
Chapter Four: Of Paramount Importance (1930—June 1931)
Chapter Five: Hollywood (June 1931—October 1931)
Chapter Six: An Expensive Leading Woman (October 1931—December 1932)
Chapter Seven: The Redemption of Temple Drake (January 1933—June 1933)
Chapter Eight: The Lubitsch Touch (July 1933—March 1934)
Chapter Nine: 13 Sutton Place (March 1934—November 1934)
Chapter Ten: The Real Becky Sharp (December 1934—November 1935)
Chapter Eleven: “It’s About Lesbians” (November 1935—October 1936)
Chapter Twelve: Tola (October 1936—February 1937)
Chapter Thirteen: “Goldwyn Blamed Me” (March 1937—March 1938)
Chapter Fourteen: “In a Year of Drought…” (April 1938—March 1939)
Chapter Fifteen: “Perfect Little Bitches…” (March 1939—August 1939)
Chapter Sixteen: All This, Jack Warner and Bette Davis, Too (August 1939—January 1940)
Chapter Seventeen: A Blonde with a Redhead’s Temperament (January 1940—November 1940)
Chapter Eighteen: Angels Battle in Boston (December 1940—July 1942)
Chapter Nineteen: “This is Pure Hopkins” (July 1942—March 1943)
Chapter Twenty: To New York and Back by the Skin of Her Teeth (April 1943—October 1947)
Chapter Twenty-One: A Little Off Center (November 1947—1950)
Chapter Twenty-Two: “They Surely Are Reds” (1950-1958)
Chapter Twenty-Three: “How Many Times Can You Come Back?” (1958—1962)
Chapter Twenty-Four: “As Long As She Lives…” (1962-1965)
Chapter Twenty-Five: The Final Years (1966—1971)
Chapter Twenty-Six: “If I Had It to Do All Over Again…” (1972)
Epilogue

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The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon…

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jan 24th, 2015
2015
Jan 24

MIRIAM HOPKINS

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

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I’m pleased to announce The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon being hosted by Silver Screenings and A Small Press Life / Font & Frock websites on January 22–25, 2015. The Blogathon has been running for a couple days now but still check it out and all the great articles written about the fabulous Miriam Hopkins. The following is from the Silver Screenings website:

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“We are so excited, we can hardly contain ourselves – and for Two Big Reasons!

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“Firstly, you’re invited to help us celebrate one of the most remarkable actresses in Classic Hollywood: the fabulous Miriam Hopkins. The blogathon will run January 22-25, 2015, and we’d love to have you join us.

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“Secondly, we’re excited to be co-hosting this event with our über-chic friend Maedez of A Small Press Life. But that ain’t the half of it! This blogathon with correspond with the launch of her new movie blog, Font and Frock, in January, 2015.”

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So read what other bloggers are saying about Miriam Hopkins and check back here for more updates on my  biography of the actress!

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Miriam Hopkins Birthday

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Oct 18th, 2014
2014
Oct 18

MIRIAM HOPKINS

Happy Birthday Miriam Hopkins!!

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Today, October 18, 2014 would be the 112th birthday of stage, screen and television actress, Miriam Hopkins. To celebrate, the above photo shows Miriam being introduced to actress Lee Remick. What event are they attending and what is it they have in common at this event and in film history?

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If you think you know the answer, click the CONTINUE READING tab to find out.

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Continue Reading »

Miriam Hopkins fan magazine cover

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Oct 5th, 2014
2014
Oct 5

MAGAZINE COVER SUNDAY

Miriam Hopkins in Becky Sharp

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Miriam Hopkins as Becky Sharp, on the cover of the October 1935 issue of Cine-Mundial magazine…

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Miriam Hopkins on TCM

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Sep 11th, 2014
2014
Sep 11

MIRIAM HOPKINS

Miriam Hopkins on Turner Classics Movies tomorrow evening

 

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Every Friday evening in September, TCM is showing classic pre-code films. Tomorrow evening, in addition to Jean Harlow, Kay Francis and Myrna Loy, four films of Miriam Hopkins are playing in a row including Design for Living, Trouble in Paradise, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Story of Temple Drake.

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NOTE: All times are Eastern:

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Miriam Hopkins biography update

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Feb 4th, 2013
2013
Feb 4

MIRIAM HOPKINS

Miriam Hopkins biography–an update

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

I thought it was time to give an update on my Miriam Hopkins biography. It’s been several years of research, talking to people who knew her, questioning her family, film historians, going to libraries and surfing the internet. There are probably about three or four more chapters remaining, but then there are the rewrites. There are still four actors that I would like to interview. Does anyone out there know how to contact them?

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DICK VAN PATTEN: In 1943, Miriam replaced Tallulah Bankhead in the Broadway version of The Skin of Our Teeth. I assume that Van Patten, who played a telegraph boy, was still with the show when Miriam joined, though I couldn’t find confirming evidence.

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JOYCE VAN PATTEN: The following year, Miriam appeared in the Broadway play, The Perfect Marriage with Victor Jory. Joyce Van Patten, the sister of Dick, played her daughter.

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SHIRLEY MACLAINE: In The Children’s Hour, Miriam played MacLaine’s aunt. Miriam originally played MacLaine’s role in the original version, These Three. I contacted MacLaine last year and asked for an interview but she refused. She said she was too busy which surprised me. I thought she would be one of the easiest to talk to.

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ROBERT REDFORD: Miriam played Redford’s mother in The Chase. I was told that Redford said that Miriam should have received an Oscar nomination. I’m not sure if that is true but I’d love to find out.

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SALLY FIELD: In her last role, Miriam played a Mother Superior on The Flying Nun, which starred the current Oscar nominee.

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If you know any of the above actors and could put in a good word for me, or if you have contact information where I could write or email them, I would appreciate it.

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My email contact is aellenber@aol.com . More to come…soon. Thank you.

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One of the last pictures taken of Miriam Hopkins (© Allan R. Ellenberger)


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Miriam Hopkins and Darth Vader

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Dec 8th, 2011
2011
Dec 8

MIRIAM HOPKINS

Miriam Hopkins and Darth Vader

 

  

What is the connection between Miriam Hopkins and Darth Vader of Star Wars?

 

 

Hurray for Google! The majority of answers were correct. In 1936, Miriam went to England and appeared in a film for Alexander Korda called Men Are Not Gods. Her costars were Gertrude Lawrence and Sebastian Shaw. They were involved in a love triangle with both women in love with him. In the film Shaw was married to Lawrence and had a clandestine affair with Miriam.

 

Shaw continued to do occasional films but mostly was seen on stage and television. In 1983, George Lucas chose him to play the unmasked and dying, Darth Vader. He was credited as Anakin Skywalker, and was also seen as his spirit in a vision to his son, Luke.

 

 

Miriam day-dreams of Darth Vader 

 

  

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Why a Biography on Miriam Hopkins?

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jul 22nd, 2011
2011
Jul 22

 

 By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

I’m often asked, “Why a biography on Miriam Hopkins?” I confess that I get this question mostly from people who are not fans of the actress. They can’t understand why anyone would be interested. On the other hand, those who are fans seem thrilled that one is being prepared. It’s scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

 

A few reasons why Miriam Hopkins would make a good biographical subject:

 

  • Hopkins appeared in 35 films, 2 shorts, 18 Broadway plays, 20 plus summer stock plays and road tours, 20 television programs and multiple radio plays and appearances.

 

  • Hopkins made her first film, Fast and Loose (1930) during the day while performing on the Broadway stage in Lysistrata in the evenings.

 

  • Hopkins appeared in the very first Technicolor film, Becky Sharp (1935).

 

  • Hopkins starred in the first produced play written by Tennessee Williams, Battle of Angels (1941).

 

  • Hopkins appeared in a silent short film in 1928 with Humphrey Bogart.

 

  • Hopkins had a love-hate relationship with her mother.

 

  • Hopkins did not have contact with her father for more than twenty years — not until she became a Hollywood star.

 

  • Hopkins was indirectly descended from Revolutionary figures, Arthur Middleton and John Dickinson.

 

  • Hopkins was Margaret Mitchell’s choice to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939).

 

  • Hopkins was nominated for an Academy Award (Becky Sharp) and a Golden Globe (The Heiress).

 

  • Hopkins bought and remodeled John Gilbert’s house after his death and sold it ten years later to David O. Selznick.

 

  • Hopkins costars include: Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Claudette Colbert, Maurice Chevalier, George Raft, Gary Cooper, Franchot Tone, Lionel Barrymore, Kay Francis, Bing Crosby, Fay Wray, Joel McCrea, Edward G. Robinson, Merle Oberon, Gertrude Lawrence, Rex Harrison, Errol Flynn, Claude Rains, Olivia De Havilland, Gene Tierney, Laurence Olivier, Jennifer Jones, Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and of course, Bette Davis.

 

  • Hopkins was directed four times by William Wyler, three times by Ernst Lubitsch and twice by Rouben Mamoulian.

 

  • Hopkins was married four times and had numerous lovers.

 

  • Hopkins lived on Washington Square in New York during the late 1920s, the same place as her character in The Heiress (1949).

 

  • Hopkins was seriously interested in astrology and numerology.

 

  • Hopkins adopted a child as a single parent.

 

  • Hopkins was involved in political causes during her Hollywood years.

 

  • Hopkins was an authority at scene stealing.

 

  • Hopkins preferred writers, directors and intellectuals as friends and not Hollywood types.

 

  • Hopkins had an extensive book collection in her homes and was a voracious reader.

 

  • Hopkins actions were followed closely by the FBI for more than 15 years.

 

  • Hopkins never revealed her first marriage to her son

(he read about it in his mothers obituary)

 

  • Hopkins died nine days before her 70th birthday.

 

  • Hopkins feuded with Bette Davis, Tallulah Bankhead, Errol Flynn and numerous others and pissed off half of Hollywood.

 

What’s not interesting about that?

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Hopkins vs Davis

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Nov 6th, 2010
2010
Nov 6

MIRIAM HOPKINS

“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 aellenber@aol.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.

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