Hopkins vs Davis


“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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6 Responses to “Hopkins vs Davis”

  1. Rachel says:

    Miriam Hopkins is my favorite actress so I’m very excited to read this book. As far as her and Bette are concerned, you hit the nail on the head. Most of Miriam’s work is not remembered as well as Bette, who is a legend. Even people who aren’t familiar with Bette’s work know her name, and since more people know her than Miriam, Bette’s opinions win out. I know I’m biased, but personally I think Miriam is a much better actress than Bette because Miriam was more versatile. I just can’t see Bette playing a better Princess Anna in “The Smiling Lieutenant” or even Martha in “These Three”. Oh I could go on defending Miriam but I’ll let your book take care of that! Best of luck on completing the book.

  2. Can’t wait for this book!

  3. Jim says:

    Allan, I think you do an incredible job juggling all your endeavors. I check the blog every morning and if there’s some time between entries I just enjoy them even more! Jim D.
    Thanks Jim

  4. Steffen says:

    Miriam became one of my favorite actresses after I saw her for the first time in THE STRANGER’S RETURN, dubbed on German TV.

    Very much hope the book makes into circulation!

  5. J. P. Ward says:

    Glad to read you’re “back on track” with your book. Good things take time – no need to rush it!
    Thank you it helps to hear that.

  6. D. Mahoney says:

    Hi Allen…As a collector of vintage of magazines, I received a December 15, 1934 cover of American Vogue magazine featuring Miriam Hopkins as the cover model. Sadly she is nearly unrecognizable as she is enshrouded from head to toe in a cape, and headscarf, and her right hand is held to her face so as to shield her eyes from the sun. Standing/leaning on a Packard’s running board, she looks off to the distance (or stunned into weariness wearing from boiling in that get-up under the sun’s heat. Or maybe her camel ran off in the desert?)

    I hung a framed copy of the cover in my living room this morning, saw your blog in looking for information on her, and so I thought I would pass it along. Up until today, I’d only seen Ms. Hopkins in a handful of movies, usually on her birthday when TCM will show a smattering of them as the network does for notable and distinctive stars from a bygone era.

    Also, I have a chronicled history of American Vogue which gives some background as to Ms. Hopkins and her being selected as one of five winners of a 1924 modeling competition held at the Ritz Hotel titled “First Audition of American Models” (bet they thought long and hard on that name, eh?).

    Apparently being a model back then wasn’t exactly something a young woman aspired to be, but the book does state that through this competition, many young women found future fame through the competition and eventual exposure within the pages of Vogue.

    I’d be happy to share the information should you find it useful or do not already have it.

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