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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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George Hurrell at Laguna Art Museum

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on May 5th, 2013
2013
May 5

EVENTS

Laguna Art Museum presents early photographs and Hollywood glamour portraits by George Hurrell from 1925–1944

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Laguna Art Museum presents George Hurrell: Laguna to Hollywood, on display through May 19, in the museum’s upper level gallery. George Hurrell was a famed Hollywood glamour photographer with roots in Laguna Beach. The exhibition traces his beginnings as a photographer and his leap to photographing Hollywood stars of the 1930s and 40s. The exhibition presents a selection of over sixty works from 1925-1944 (mostly from the museum’s permanent collection), curated by Laguna Art Museum’s Curator of Early California Art, Janet Blake.

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George Hurrell (1904–1992) was born in Covington, Kentucky, and studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Learning to photograph his paintings spurred an interest in photography as a medium. In 1924 he was befriended by Laguna Beach artist Edgar Payne and his wife, Elsie Palmer Payne, who were spending several months in Chicago after returning from a long European sojourn. The following spring, the Paynes motored back to California accompanied by Hurrell. After a short time in Los Angeles, Hurrell moved to Laguna Beach, living for a time in the vacant cottage of silent film director Malcolm St. Clair. He became part of the art community and developed close friendships with artists William Wendt and William Griffith. He began photographing the leading artists of the Laguna Beach Art Association, including, besides Griffith and Wendt, Anna Hills, Thomas Hunt, and Frank Cuprien. Laguna Art Museum traces its roots to the Laguna Beach Art Association.

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It was in Laguna Beach that Hurrell met Florence “Pancho” Barnes, who, in turn, introduced him to silent movie star Ramon Novarro. Hurrell’s photographs of Barnes and Novarro caught the attention of Hollywood, and he moved there in 1927. By 1930 he was the head of the MGM portrait gallery. He was soon dubbed the “Grand Seigneur of the Hollywood Portrait.” He established his own studio on the Sunset Strip and later worked for Warner Bros. The museum’s collection contains many Hurrell photographs, including those of the early artists and other prominent people of Laguna Beach, as well as a portfolio of ten portraits of important Hollywood stars, including John Barrymore, Gary Cooper, Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, and Katharine Hepburn.

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ABOUT LAGUNA ART MUSEUM

Laguna Art Museum is a museum of California art. Its mission is to collect, care  for, and exhibit works of art that were created by California artists or represent the life and history of the state. Through its permanent collection, its special loan exhibitions, its educational programs, and its library and archive, the museum enhances the public’s knowledge and appreciation of California art of all periods and styles, and encourages art-historical scholarship in this field.

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Laguna Art Museum stands just steps from the Pacific Ocean in the beautiful city of Laguna Beach. The museum is proud to continue the tradition of the Laguna Beach Art Association, founded in 1918 by the early California artists who had discovered the town and transformed it into a vibrant arts community. The gallery that the association built in 1929 is part of today’s Laguna Art Museum.

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MUSEUM INFORMATION

Laguna Art Museum

is located at

307 Cliff Drive in Laguna Beach,

on the corner of PCH and Cliff Drive,
next door to Las Brisas restaurant.
Hours:
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday: 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Thursday: 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays
Closed Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day

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Admission:
General admission: $7.00
Students, seniors, and active military: $5.00
Children under 12: FREE
Museum members: FREE

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Arthur Carrington Obituary

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Nov 15th, 2012
2012
Nov 15

OBITUARY

Arthur Carrington, former child star who appeared twice with Bette Davis, dies at 76

 

Arthur Carrington

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Arthur Carrington, a one-time child actor who appeared twice with Bette Davis in That Certain Woman (1937) and The Corn is Green, died on Wednesday morning of bladder cancer.

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In the Bette Davis film, That Certain Woman (1937) co-starring Henry Fonda, Davis has a child who appears at two different ages over the course of the film. The elder child was played by Dwayne Day (his only film according to imdb), however Jackie Merrick as an infant was played by one year-old Arthur Carrington.

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Arthur Carrington is probably not a name that film historians can rattle off a bio for, however in his own small way, he contributed to film history.

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Carrington was born to Hiram and Pearl Carrington on April 20, 1936 in Willow Brook (near Compton), California. He began appearing in films through his cousin Dawn Bender, who, the same year he appeared in That Certain Woman, was cast as the infant daughter of Kay Francis in the Warner Bros. film, Confession (1937). Bender later appeared in small roles in such films as Till We Meet Again (1944), A Song to Remember (1945) and The Actress (1953). Her last film was the classic, Teenagers From Outer Space (1959). However, she is probably best known for her appearances on radio, specifically for the role of Margaret Barbour on the radio drama, One Man’s Family.

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Other family members also had bits in films. His sister Marilyn had a small role in the classic, The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Two other cousins, Bill and Carol Roush also appeared in films.

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Arthur Carrington and Bette Davis

One year-old Arthur Carrington with Bette Davis in That Certain Woman (1937)

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Carrington received the role as the infant Jackie Merrick in That Certain Woman when a casting call went out and he was placed in a line-up with several other babies. Director Edmund Goulding, walking back and forth, finally proclaimed him as the “most beautiful” of the bunch and a career was born.

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Bette Davis and Arthur Carrington

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Of course Carrington remembered nothing about the film or of Bette Davis. However, his mother told him that Davis came to her and asked if she would consider letting her adopt Arthur. Mrs. Carrington, who politely turned her down, felt that Davis evidently fell in love with Arthur and thought the family was poor and could use the money. That wasn’t the case.

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Bette Davis and Arthur Carrington

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There were some films he appeared in that he remembers nothing about. There are memories of meeting the Lone Ranger and getting to hold his gun. At some point he must have appeared in a Randolph Scott film because his mother had some harsh words about the actor. “She said that Randolph Scott was the biggest idiot and never knew his lines,” Carrington recalled. He didn’t know why she felt so strongly.

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A year following his stint in That Certain Woman, Carrington was set to appear in a Clark Gable film – presumably Test Pilot (1938) with Myrna Loy. Gable wanted to make sure that Arthur would feel comfortable and carried him around the set and showed him the planes. Little Art clearly embarrassed his mother at one point when the two year-old complained about Gables bad breath.

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Regardless, things didn’t quite work out when Arthur came down with Scarlet Fever and the set had to be shut down until it was determined the illness did not spread. Carrington recovered but lost the part.

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Carrington was unimpressed with his film appearances as a child. When asked about it, he remembered very little until  his memory was jogged and then would get some nuggets. His mother Pearl, who died in 1998, had all the stories. “My mother was the one you should have talked to,” Carrington said. “She was very much a people person and enjoyed meeting all the actors that I worked with.”

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The Corn is Green

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He recalled that his mother was not a typical “stage mother” and never pushed him to do anything. This point was proven when he appeared in one of his last films, The Corn is Green (1945), once again with Bette Davis. As an eight year-old playing one of the many students, director Irving Rapper wanted to give Arthur a line.

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So his mother took him aside and asked: “Do you think you’d like to say a line?”

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“No, I don’t think I would,” Arthur replied. So that was the end of it. He said a ‘stage mother’ would have went berserk.

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Summing up his career Carrington said: “Working as a child in films was a great opportunity if you had the talent. I just wasn’t that interested.”

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As a teenager, he sometimes tried to impress his friends with his former career. “I once told a buddy that I was in The Corn is Green with Bette Davis,” Carrington recalled. “Evidently he didn’t believe me or wasn’t that impressed because he just rolled his eyes and said, ‘Yeah the corn sure is green.’”

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Arthur and Willeta Carrington and Shotzie

Art Carrington with his wife Willeta and their dog Shotsie

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Carrington worked as a Long Beach postal worker and in his retirement, spent much of his time traveling across the country with his wife, visiting celebrity graves. Carrington is survived by his wife Willeta, his two children, Debra and Arthur, Jr. and two grandchildren.

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Correction 0n the burial location: It will be held Wednesday, November 21 @ 12:30pm at Cypress Forest Lawn Cemetery, 4471 Lincoln Avenue, Cypress, CA 90630.

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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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Peg Entwistle’s suicide

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Sep 16th, 2010
2010
Sep 16

HOLLYWOOD SUICIDES

Peg Entwistle, the suicide blonde of Hollywoodland

 

 

 

Today, September 16, is the 78th anniversary of the suicide of Peg Entwistle. In remembrance, here is a rerun of an article recently posted. Rest in peace Peg.

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger
Hollywoodland
 

On the evening of Sunday, September 18, 1932, a mysterious phone call was received at the Central Station of the Los Angeles Police Department:

 

“I was hiking near the Hollywoodland sign today,” said a feminine voice, “and near the bottom I found a woman’s shoe and jacket. A little further on I noticed a purse. In it was a suicide note. I looked down the mountain and saw a body. I don’t want any publicity in this matter, so I wrapped up the jacket, shoe and purse in a bundle and laid them on the steps of the Hollywood Police Station.”

 

The officer asked for the woman’s name but she hung up before he could get more information. He called the Hollywood station and the package was found as described, including the alleged suicide note which read: “I’m afraid I’m a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this thing a long time ago it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.”

 

 

 

 

 

Detectives made their way to the Hollywoodland sign, where they found the body of a woman, described as being about 25 years old, with blue eyes and blonde hair. She was reasonably well dressed. With no other identification except for the “P.E.” on the suicide note, her body was sent to the morgue where it remained unclaimed.

 

Meanwhile, the following morning, Harold Entwistle read in the papers about an unidentified woman, dubbed “The Hollywood Sign Girl” by the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, who had apparently jumped to her death from the top of the letter “H” in the fifty-foot-high “Hollywoodland” electric sign. Entwistle, an actor, lived at 2428 Beachwood Drive and could see the sign from his front porch. He was suspicious about his niece Millicent, who he had not seen since the previous Friday evening walking up Beachwood towards the Hollywood Hills. She said she was going to buy a book at the drug store and then visit with some friends.

 

Millicent, a struggling actress, was known professionally, and to her friends as Peg. It was Peg’s absence and the alleged suicide note that Entwistle regarded as significant — the report said it was signed with the initials “P.E.” After contacting authorities at the county morgue, Entwistle’s fears were confirmed when he identified the dead woman as his niece.

 

“Although she never confided her grief to me,” Entwistle told officers, “I was somehow aware that she was suffering intense mental anguish. She was only 24. It is a great shock to me that she gave up the fight as she did.”

 

Entwistle denied reports that a broken love affair had actuated his niece to take her life. Instead, it was determined that disappointments for a screen career, equal to the success she had enjoyed on stage, were attributed as the reason behind the spectacular suicide.

 

Millicent Lilian Entwistle was born in Port Talbot, Wales to English parents Robert and Emily Entwistle, on February 5, 1908 while her parents were visiting relatives. They returned to their West Kensington (outside London) home where she lived until age 8. Peg’s mother died in 1910 and four years later, Robert married Lauretta Ross, the sister of his brother Harold’s wife Jane.

 

In August 1913, Robert was brought to New York by famed Broadway producer Charles Frohman as his stage manager. After a few years, on March 20, 1916, Peg, along with her parents and aunt and uncle, arrived in New York on the SS Philadelphia. In 1918, Robert and Lauretta had a son Milton, and two years later Robert was born. In 1921, Lauretta died from meningitis and a year later, on November 2, 1922, Robert was struck down by a hit-and-run driver on Park Avenue. He lingered for weeks and died just before Christmas 1922. Now orphans, Peg and her brothers were taken in by her uncle Harold and aunt Jane.

 

A few years later Peg was living in Boston where she made her first appearance on the professional stage with the Henry Jewett Reparatory Company where she was taught to act by Blanche Yurka. In October 1925, Harold Entwistle’s employer, actor Walter Hampden, gave Peg an uncredited walk-on in his Broadway production of Hamlet with Ethel Barrymore. A young Bette Davis was inspired to act after seeing Peg perform in Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck. Over the years Davis made several references to Entwistle, saying that she “wanted to be exactly like Peg Entwistle.”

 

 

 

 

After serving an apprenticeship with them for several seasons, she came to New York and was recruited by the prestigious New York Theatre Guild and obtained a small part in The Man from Toronto in June 1926. Afterward she was cast in an important role in The Home Towners, which George M. Cohan produced in August of that year. Over the next six years Peg performed in ten Broadways plays in such Theatre Guild productions as Tommy, which was her longest running play. Reviewers said that Peg was “attractive in the manner of a number of other fresh ingénues.”

 

Other plays followed including The Uninvited Guest, a revival of Sherlock Holmes with William Gillette and Getting Married. Some of her plays lasted no longer than a month or two; however she always received good reviews for her performances regardless of the quality of the production.

 

In April 1927, Peg married fellow actor, Robert Keith, who was the father of Brian Keith, best known for his role in the television sit-com, Family Affair. The Keith’s toured together in several Theatre Guild plays until their divorce in 1929.

 

Peg’s final Broadway play was in J.M. Barrie’s, Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire in March 1932. The production starred the popular actress, Laurette Taylor whose alcoholism caused her to miss several performances and forcing producers to end the play several weeks early.

 

In May, Peg was brought to Los Angeles to costar with Billie Burke and Humphrey Bogart in the Romney Brent play, The Mad Hopes at the Belasco Theatre. The play opened to rave reviews with standing-room-only audiences. One reviewer commented:

 

“…Belasco and Curran have staged the new play most effectively and have endowed this Romney Brent opus with every distinction of cast and direction. …costumes and settings are of delightful quality, and every detail makes the production one entirely fit for its translation to the New York stage. In the cast Peg Entwistle and Humphrey Bogart hold first place in supporting the star (Billie Burke) and both give fine, serious performances. Miss Entwistle as the earnest, young daughter (Geneva Hope) of a vague mother and presents a charming picture of youth…”

 

When the play closed, Peg was preparing to return to New York when she was offered a screen test at RKO. On June 13, 1932 she signed a contract to appear in Thirteen Women where she is billed ninth in the opening credits. The film starred Irene Dunne and Myrna Loy as a half-caste fortune teller’s assistant motivated by revenge against the bigoted schoolgirls who tormented her in school years earlier.

 

The film received poor reviews and negative comments from preview audiences. The Los Angeles Times said of the preview: “…its picturization is an utterly implausible tale of mediocre worth.” The premiere was delayed and the film was edited to reduce its running time, significantly cutting back Peg’s screen time. Once it premiered after Peg’s death, one reviewer called it “a dreadful mess of a picture with more defects, deficiencies and lapses than any offering since Chandu the Magician.”

 

 Peg Entwistle’s home at 2428 Beachwood Drive

(this is a private residence; please do not disturb the occupants)

 

 

 The sidewalk in front of Peg Entwistle’s home on Beachwood Drive where she took her last walk

 

 

RKO did not option Peg’s contract and she was broke and could not return to New York. She tried finding roles on both the local stage and at the film studios but nothing was available. On Friday evening, September 16, 1932, Peg told her uncle she was going to walk to the local drugstore and then visit friends. Instead, she walked up Beachwood past Hollywoodland and then hiked up the side of Mount Lee to the Hollywoodland sign. There she most likely wrote her suicide note, took off her coat and shoe, and climbed a maintenance ladder behind the letter H and, at some point, jumped to her death.

 

The coroner determined that death was due to internal bleeding caused by “multiple fractures to the pelvis.” Her Episcopal funeral service was conducted on September 20 at the W. M. Strother Mortuary at 6240 Hollywood Boulevard (demolished). Her body was cremated at Hollywood Cemetery and held in storage until December 29 when her ashes were sent to Oak Hill Cemetery in Glendale, Ohio for burial with her father on January 5, 1933. Her grave is unmarked.

 

 The burial card at Oak Hill Cemetery where Peg Entwistle’s ashes were interred. H Milton Ross was the father of Peg’s stepmother, Lauretta. (Photo courtesy of Scott Michaels)

 

 

Peg Entwistle was buried with her father at Oak Hill Cemetery in Glendale, Ohio. Their grave is unmarked. (Photo courtesy of Scott Michaels) 

 

 

Some sources claim that shortly after Peg’s death, she received a letter from the Beverly Hills Community Players, offering her a role in a play where her character commits suicide. Since this tale was related in Kenneth Anger’s “Hollywood Babylon II,” the veracity of it is questionable. Other false claims made by Anger are that Peg jumped from the last letter D because it was the thirteenth letter and she associated it with the film Thirteen Women. He also wrote that she was the first of other “disillusioned starlets” who followed her lead and committed suicide from the sign; this is not true. Peg Entwistle is the only confirmed suicide from that famous Hollywood landmark.

 

 

Click below to watch Peg Entwistle’s appearance in Thirteen Women (1932)

 

 

 

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Mary Wickes 100th Birthday

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jun 13th, 2010
2010
Jun 13

100th BIRTHDAY

Mary Wickes

 

 

 

AMERICAN ACTRESS

 

 

 

Click below to watch Mary Wickes in The Decorator, an unaired 1965 pilot starring Bette Davis

 

 

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The Stars Happiest Christmas

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Dec 25th, 2009
2009
Dec 25

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Classic stars recall their happiest yule

 

 

Claudette Colbert (above) poses on Vine Street next to her image emblazoned on a Christmas decoration in the heart of Hollywood. The two tall buildings on the right in the background are at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine.

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Just like anyone else, to film stars there is always just one Christmas that stands out above all others. In December 1932, several stars were asked about their most memorable Christmas.

 

The previous Christmas for Neil Hamilton competed with one when he was seven years old: “What with a new baby and a new house and the baby’s first Christmas tree, last year was hard to cap,” said Hamilton. “But for sheer unadulterated happiness I must remember the gorgeous Indian suit they gave me when I was seven years old. I strut when I remember it to this day. I was the reincarnation of Sitting Bull.”

 

James Dunn said a pool table presented to him when he was 14 still stood out as the most stylish event of his life. On that Christmas morning he invited all the boys in the neighborhood to play pool and they were still at it long past bedtime.

 

It was a Christmas bicycle that stood out for Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. He was eight years of age and had been demanding a bike from Santa since he was five. He’s almost given up hope when the family weakened. “It was a Rolls-Royce to me,” Fairbanks said.

 

Bette Davis claimed that no ecstasy since had surpassed the Christmas on which she acquired a huge Teddy Bear, handed to her from the very top of a big tree. “I have loved that Teddy all my life and still him,” she said.

 

It was a gorgeous box of paints, brushes, palettes all complete including a real artist’s smock, which made Claudette Colbert ecstatic when she was a small girl. She had always loved drawing and that Christmas saw the family’s recognition of her artistic yearnings.

 

Gary Cooper said the Christmas in which he and his family were snowed in on a cattle ranch in Montana stands our as his sweetest. No turkey, no shopping — a blizzard cut them off from everything. But the family decided to make their own fun and made presents by themselves out of any old odds and ends. “The least expensive and the jolliest Christmas I ever hope to enjoy,” he said.

 

A pair of rubber boots and a sled marked the most exciting Christmas for William Collier, Jr., who until that time, had to be content with a stocking encasing an orange, nuts and popcorn. He was nine years of age when the miracle occurred. And it was Marian Nixon’s very first watch, waiting on the breakfast table, which made one Christmas forever notable for her. In the same way a coaster-brake bike with a fancy headlight presented when he was 12 years old, marked one hilarious Christmas for John Boles.

 

Marie Dressler remembered a certain Christmas fifteen years earlier when, because her dearest friend was in the hospital, she took a tree, goodies and all the packages to the hospital between the matinee and the evening performance, and Christmassed at the there.

 

Joan Crawford, without hesitation, said, “Oh, Christmas 1925. I hadn’t seen my people in Kansas City for so long. I had just signed my contract with MGM and they paid my fare to the coast via Kansas City. So I went home in triumph — the biggest thrill of my life.”

 

It was 1919 that meant everything to Ramon Novarro. After a bus-boy job in New York, he was back in Los Angeles with his family and was celebrating his very first picture role. “We had an utterly perfect Mexican Christmas,” he remembered.

 

But to Maurice Chevalier, escaping from a German prison camp, rejoining  his mother in Paris and receiving medical attention for his wounds — and the glorious award of the Croix de Guerre made Christmas 1918, the most memorable one for him.

 

Katherine Hepburn recalled an ecstatic Christmas when her father built her a little theater of her own in the back yard when she was about 12.

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Bette Davis – Queer Icon

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jul 1st, 2009
2009
Jul 1

SCREENINGS

Queer Icon: The Cult of Bette Davis

 

Queer Icon

 

Queer Icon: The Cult of Bette Davis

Date/Time:Thu., July 2, 6:00pm, Thu., July 2, 8:10pm, Thu., July 2, 10:20pm

Price: $15

 

Fasten Your Seatbelts

San Francisco Weekly

By Michael Fox

 

We all have our favorite screen actresses, but none are more steadfast in their affections than gay men. Ask Doris Day, Elizabeth Taylor, or Cher, whose gay fans never wavered (unlike those fickle heteros) after the stars stepped away from the spotlight. But even these goddesses bow before the queen (or queen bitch) of gay esteem, Bette Davis. Her appeal derives from her ambisexuality in combination with such timeless personas as the holy-terror diva, the stalwart solitaire, and the camp heroine. Bay Area filmmaker Mike Black’s new documentary, Queer Icon: The Cult of Bette Davis, considers this fascinating phenomenon through a mix of vintage film clips and fresh interviews with a wealth of mostly local figures, such as impresario Marc Huestis and historian Matthew Kennedy. Actor Matthew Martin, who channels the star of All About Eve and Dark Victory onstage, supplies his unique perspective on the special place she has in gay men’s hearts. More than simply a lovefest, Queer Icon questions whether gays still need a role model like the fabulous Miss D. The film will surely find an enthusiastic audience when it plays the queer capitals of New York and Los Angeles, but tonight’s world premiere is bound to be an only-in-San-Francisco event. It won’t be tedious, darling.

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Bette Davis: Queer Icon

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jun 13th, 2009
2009
Jun 13

SCREENINGS

Bette Davis: Queer Icon

 

queer-icon

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