Posts Tagged ‘Brown Derby’

Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

*This is a passage that never made it into my upcoming biography, Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel, to be published on January 5, 2018 by the University Press of Kentucky. Copies can be preordered at AMAZON.

By Allan R. Ellenberger

One day, in her dressing room at Goldwyn Studios, Miriam Hopkins hosted a lunch for her husband Anatole Litvak, director Edmund Goulding and his Lordship, The Earl of Warwick, who she met in London the previous year. Warwick was in Hollywood to kick start an acting career using the stage name Michael Brooke.

As they dined, she received a call from her ex-husband, Austin “Billy” Parker, asking if he could borrow her car and chauffeur. Since his valet-chauffeur was in an accident, he needed a man to wake him in the morning, make his tea, shine his shoes, and so forth. Thinking fast, Miriam realized this was a chance to play a practical joke on her former husband. She explained that her car was in the shop, but she would ask Edmund Goulding if he could help.

Placing Billy on hold, she said to the Earl, “You want to get in pictures, don’t you? Well, if you can pass yourself off as a servant before [Billy], who knows actors and theaters backward, then you’ll know you’re good.” The Earl nodded in agreement. Miriam told Billy that Goulding would loan him his valet for the day.

“Is the man a good valet?” Billy asked.

“Excellent,” Miriam assured him.

Billy sounded pleased. “That’s marvelous,” he said. Warwick borrowed a chauffeur’s uniform from Goldwyn’s costume department and reported to Billy’s home the next morning, promptly at eight o’clock. Billy, still in bed, bellowed for his tea and toast. Warwick burned the toast. The morning tea was bitter and black, and the teacups and two vases were somehow broken. When Billy ordered him to make the bed, lumps like mountains remained in the coverlets.

His Lordship helped Billy on with his boots, but he was clumsy. The shoe polish spilled into the shoes, on the floor, and everywhere. When they left the house at noon, Billy was terribly pressed; jerkily shaven and the Earl’s erratic driving down Sunset Boulevard left him a nervous wreck. He was disgusted but didn’t want to be ungracious to the man that Goulding had so graciously loaned him.

The Earl dropped Billy off at the Vine Street Brown Derby where Miriam, Litvak and Goulding were waiting. After several minutes, a prearranged phone call was brought to their table. Finally, she hung up and said to her ex-husband, “I’m sorry Billy, but Edmund’s man says he can’t possibly stay the day with you. He says you are impossible, temperamental, sloppy, surly and hard to please.”

Astonished, Billy turned fifty-shades of red, but before he could express his disbelief, Miriam added: “Oh, and by the way. He doesn’t like the way you dress.” Just as Billy was about to spout off his full inventory of obscenities, “Goulding’s man” came in, casually took a place at the table, rubbed his hands together, and gave an off-hand nod at Billy. “May I present the Earl of Warwick?” said Miriam, who, along with the others at the table, had a good laugh at Billy’s expense

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