Posts Tagged ‘Margot Welch’

Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel

Friday, July 21st, 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

In the summer of 1957, Miriam Hopkins was touring in the stage version of The Old Maid, her 1939 hit with Bette Davis. This time around, she played the title role, and her old friend and former Paramount star, Sylvia Sidney, played her cousin, Delia. For their entire careers, these two ladies had an on-again, off-again relationship. “Sylvia was also bigger than life,” recalled a mutual friend, “so you had these two former screen stars with lots of ego. Sylvia would recount stories of things that Miriam did, or did not do.

“Onetime, Miriam tried to thank Sylvia for something, so she sent over a half a case of champagne to Sylvia’s dressing room, which infuriated her because it was strange to only send half a case— ‘Why didn’t she send the whole case?’ Sylvia complained. But this was Miriam’s idiosyncrasies, about her life and everything else.”

Also in the play was Miriam’s niece, 23-year-old Margot Welch, who made her acting debut as Tina, the “old maid’s” illegitimate daughter. “I don’t remember much about The Old Maid, it was so long ago,” Margot recalled. “I got my part through Ben Starbach, a stage manager and a friend of Miriam’s and of Ron Rawson, who ran the John Drew Theatre. Ben had no children and took me under his wing when I started out. Mr. Rawson must have been shocked when I showed up for my audition. I have auburn hair, but he liked my reading and decided to take a chance on me. Both Ben and mom came up to cue Miriam as her part was huge. She’d been persuaded to take the Bette Davis role from the film, while Sylvia Sidney played her old part of Delia. Miriam also helped with the directing, so we hardly saw her.”

Miriam was eager for Margot to succeed, inundating her with advice, almost to distraction. The director had to step in and forbid Miriam from talking to her niece during rehearsals. Even so, when Margot was reciting her dialogue on stage, Miriam would stand in the wings and mouth her lines, which intimidated the young actress.

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