Posts Tagged ‘biography’

Why a Biography on Miriam Hopkins?

Friday, July 22nd, 2011


 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?



Miriam Hopkins Update…

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Finding Miriam’s Grandfather



Miriam Hopkins’ grandfather


by Allan R. Ellenberger


Being born in Georgia, Miriam Hopkins has always been thought of as a “southern belle.” While it’s true that Hopkins was born in Savannah and her mother’s side of the family are southern, her father’s side are true Yankees originating from central Pennsylvania. By chance, I was also born and raised in central Pennsylvania, not far from where the Hopkins clan are from.


During my research, I discovered that Miriam’s paternal grandfather, Isaac Cramer Hopkins, was buried in Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania, only twenty miles from where I was born. On a recent trip home to visit family, I treked that twenty miles and found Isaac, who died in in 1882, when Miriam’s father Homer Hopkins, was only ten years old. Miriam’s grandmother, Mary Ann Glenn Hopkins (1831-1915) is buried next to Isaac, however, she has no headstone. It is doubtful that Miriam ever visited her grandfathers grave as her mother was not a fan of the Hopkins family.


Unfortunately, the lengthy inscription at the bottom of the headstone is worn away from over one-hundred years of harsh central Pennsylvania winters. If you click on the above image it will super-size the photo and perhaps someone can decipher part of the inscription.



 A wider view of the Hopkins grave and Phillipsburg Cemetery.



Footstone of Hopkins grave



Miriam Hopkins Update…

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

Miriam Hopkins charm

I first began working on my biography of Miriam Hopkins in earnest almost a year ago, once I had turned in my manuscript for Celebrities in the 1930 Census. By then I had met and interviewed Hopkins son Michael, his wife and their son. I had decided that I wasn’t going to do the biography unless I could find her family and get their cooperation. Fortunately they were very receptive and have allowed me into their lives on several occasions.

Once I received their cooperation, I began doing the rounds of the local libraries and archives. As usual, the staff at the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy have been a huge help. I spent a week in New York doing research (I will be returning to New York next month) at the Billy Rose Theatre Collection of the New York Public Library. The archivists at the Warner Brothers Archives have also been very accommodating.

Interviewing people who knew Hopkins has been a treat – that is, if I can get them to talk to me. Of the letters I have sent, I have about a 50% success rate of cooperation. So far just some of the people I have contacted include, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Olivia De Havilland, Doris Eaton, Leatrice Gilbert-Fountain, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., Brook Hayward, Dick (Dickie) Jones, Arthur Laurents, Nicola Lubitsch, A C Lyles, Paul Mayer, Andrew Prine, Nancy Reagan, Franchesca Robinson-Sanchez, Aram Saroyan, Lizabeth Scott, Marian Seldes, Daniel Selznick, Belinda Vidor, Michael Westmore and Joe Yranski.



Of those I am still waiting to hear from are:

Ed Begley, Jr (his father appeared with Hopkins in the Broadway play, Look Homeward Angel); Horton Foote (screenwriter of The Chase); Beverly Garland (appeared with Hopkins in the play, Happy Birthday); Jo Hammett (daughter of Dashiel Hammett); Dale Robertson (costar, The Outcasts of Poker Flat); Barbara Rush (television costar); Budd Schulberg (son of B. P. Schulberg, head of Paramount); Judith Wyler (daughter of William Wyler); Gloria Stuart; Buck Taylor (costar, The Outer Limits); Dick Van Patten (costar in the Broadway play, The Skin of OUr Teeth) ;Joyce Van Patten (costar in the Broadway play, The Perfect Marriage); Gore Vidal (wrote teleplay); Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (costar in the play, The Heiress )

AND, some people I don’t have contact information for:

Jane Bryan (The Old Maid); Jackie Cooper; Maria Cooper (daughter of Gary Cooper); James Cromwell (son of director John Cromwell); Nina Foch; Julie Garfield (daughter of John Garfield); John Kerr; Judy Lewis (daughter of Loretta Young); Jody McCrea (son of Joel McCrea); Arthur Penn (The Chase); Melinda Plowman (The Outer Limits); Maria Riva (daughter of Marlene Dietrich); Leticia Roman (Fanny Hill); Johnny Russell (Lady with Red Hair); Virginia Wing (Savage Intruder); Catherine Wyler.

If you know any of the above people or can help with contact information, it would be appreciated.