Remembering Miriam Hopkins
Although relatively forgotten and, when remembered, usually dismissed as a second-rate talent (quite possibly by those who have never seen her on film), Miriam Hopkins was actually a highly capable performer who worked with some of the most renowned directors in Hollywood history – Rouben Mamoulian, Ernst Lubitsch, and William Wyler, among them.
Hopkins was also a household name in the 1930s, a time when she co-reigned, at least for a brief while early in the decade, as one of the Queens of Paramount.
Apart from the fact that time tends to dim memories, that most early Paramount films are disgracefully unavailable (thanks to thoughtless executives at Universal, the studio that now owns most Paramount classics), and that the majority of U.S. film critics and historians seem to believe that American cinema began with Bonnie and Clyde, Miriam Hopkins’ professional legacy has suffered more than those of other major stars of her era because of her off-screen reputation.
To say that Hopkins was considered “difficult” would be an understatement. In fact, when her name comes up in current publications – not infrequently accompanied by the word “bitch” – it is almost invariably tied to that of her arch-enemy Bette Davis, with whom Hopkins had well-publicized fights when they co-starred in two Warner Bros. productions during the height of the studio era.
What few care to remember – or to learn – is that before Carole Lombard and Claudette Colbert became full-fledged stars, Hopkins was a top Paramount attraction, playing sensual and sexually liberated women in numerous classics.
Among those were Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), in which she is outstanding as the “loose” girl who gets strangled by Fredric March’s animalistic (and animalized) doctor; Trouble in Paradise (1932), a brilliantly comic performance, hitting all the rights notes as sophisticated thief Herbert Marshall’s lover and accomplice; the three-way comedy of (sexual) manners Design for Living (1933), making merry with fellow bed partners Gary Cooper and Fredric March; and The Story of Temple Drake (1933), in which she gets raped in this controversial film adaptation of William Faulkner’s Sanctuary.
The Savannah native (born on Oct. 18, 1902) from a well-to-do family began her show business career while dancing in the chorus of Broadway productions of the early 1920s. With the arrival of sound later in the decade, Hopkins – by then a well-regarded stage performer – was signed by Paramount, which, along with other Hollywood studios, was looking for stage-trained actors to populate talking pictures.
After only two years, Hopkins had become a major film star. Upon leaving Paramount in mid-decade, she received an Academy Award nomination for playing the title role in Rouben Mamoulian’s Becky Sharp (1935) at RKO, the first feature film in three-strip Technicolor.
At about that time, she also signed with Samuel Goldwyn, for whom she starred in These Three (1936), a bowdlerized – though still powerful – version of Lillian Hellman’s play The Children’s Hour. In the play, Hopkins’ character was in love with her fellow (female) teacher; in the film version, the love triangle had Joel McCrea’s character at the top. (Merle Oberon was the third corner.)
Hopkins was also one of the contenders for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. Like the novel’s heroine, the actress was a not-so-prim and not-so-proper Southern belle, thus becoming author Margaret Mitchell’s initial choice for the part.
After signing with Warner Bros. in the late 1930s, Hopkins appeared in several prestigious productions, co-starring with Claude Rains, Errol Flynn, and Bette Davis.
In Edmund Goulding’s first-rate melodrama The Old Maid (1939), her first pairing with Davis (who had reportedly had an affair with Hopkins’ then husband, director Anatole Litvak), Hopkins all but wipes the screen with her badly miscast co-star.
Even so, by the early 1940s Hopkins’ film career had lost steam. A second pairing with Bette Davis, in Old Acquaintance (1943), directed by Vincent Sherman, did little to help stem her professional decline. (In that one, Davis gets the chance to – literally – give Hopkins a thorough shake-up.) By the end of the decade, the former star had been reduced to playing supporting roles – though usually doing so with all the verve of yore.
Among her later films were William Wyler’s adaptation of Augustus and Ruth Goetz’s play The Heiress (1949), which itself was taken from Henry James’ novel Washington Square, and in which Hopkins plays Olivia de Havilland’s aunt; Carrie (1952), playing Laurence Olivier’s prepossessing wife in Wyler’s careful adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s novel; and The Children’s Hour (1961), excellent as the ditzy aunt in Wyler’s second adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s play, now with the lesbian theme restored. (Shirley MacLaine played the old Hopkins role; Audrey Hepburn and James Garner were the other two sides of the triangle.)
Hopkins last film appearance was in the little-seen Savage Intruder (a.k.a. Comeback, 1970), a Sunset Blvd. redux in which she plays a former film star who becomes entangled with rough trade in the form of John Garfield Jr. (Despite her stint at Warner Bros., Hopkins never worked with his father.)
A well-to-do woman to the end, Hopkins died of a heart attack in 1972.
Author Allan Ellenberger, whose previous books include a biography of actor Ramon Novarro and a book on the aftermath of Rudolph Valentino’s death, is currently working on a Miriam Hopkins biography.
Through his research, Allan has uncovered a Miriam Hopkins that is considerably more complex than the Mega-Bitch of lore. “Difficult” she may have been, but Hopkins was also a cultured woman who enjoyed to be surrounded by writers and intellectuals, and one who made more than a few male hearts flutter in her heyday.
Allan is currently looking for more leads on Miriam Hopkins. Those who have pertinent information, please contact him at Aellenber at aol dot com.
If mentioned at all today, Miriam Hopkins’ name pops up in the media for two reasons:
- One of her movies is being shown on cable or at some retrospective or other, and someone says or writes that Old Hollywood’s Miriam Hopkins was a selfish, self-centered, megalomaniacal, scene-stealing, temperamental, fire-spitting Bitch from Hell who made life difficult for co-stars, directors, producers, writers, cameramen, hairdressers, manicurists, costume designers, studio carpenters, and special effects personnel, among others.
- Miriam Hopkins was Bette Davis’ Foremost Nemesis. Davis hated her so much, but so much, that Joan Crawford, Jack Warner, Errol Flynn, and whoever else Davis feuded & fought with during her sixty-year career were transmogrified into angelic babes in comparison. (What’s not widely known is that Davis had an affair with director Anatole Litvak when they were filming The Sisters in the late 1930s. At that time, Litvak happened to be Hopkins’ husband.)
Well, talk about an unfair rap. One, for that matter, that has been going on for decades. (In 1940, for instance, the Harvard Lampoon cited Hopkins as “the least desirable companion on a desert island.”)
I’ve written about Miriam Hopkins before, informing Alt Film Guide visitors that author Allan Ellenberger, who has written books on silent film actor Ramon Novarro, silent era Latin Lover Rudolph Valentino, and MGM child actress Margaret O’Brien, has been working on a biography about the 1930s star of classics such as The Smiling Lieutenant, Trouble in Paradise, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, among others.
Here are a few more samples of Hopkins’ 1930s screen work:
- Design for Living, in which she is part of a cozy love/sex triangle;
- the scandalous The Story of Temple Drake (taken from William Faulkner’s equally scandalous Sanctuary), in which she gets raped (possibly with a corncob);
- Becky Sharp, which happens to be the first all-(three-strip)Technicolor feature film;
- These Three, a un-scandalous film version of The Children’s Hour, the scandalous Lillian Hellman play about lies and lesbianism (Hopkins had a supporting role in the more “explicit” 1961 remake);
- the classic tearjerker The Old Maid, in which Hopkins plays opposite none other than Bette Davis;
Additionally, I should mention the 1943 melo Old Acquaintance, also co-starring Davis, which inspired both (unofficially) the multiple Academy Award-nominee The Turning Point and (officially) Rich and Famous.
During her heyday as a major Hollywood star, Miriam Hopkins co-starred with the likes of Errol Flynn, Edward G. Robinson, Joel McCrea, George Raft, Paul Muni, Gary Cooper, Fredric March (right, in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Ray Milland, Bing Crosby, Randolph Scott, Maurice Chevalier, and Claude Rains.
She also played opposite quite a few women: Claudette Colbert, Merle Oberon, Kay Francis, Carole Lombard, Frances Dee, Fay Wray, and, as mentioned above, Bette Davis.
Hopkins was Ernst Lubitsch’s favorite actress, starring for the director in three films (The Smiling Lieutenant, Trouble in Paradise, Design for Living). Additionally, she worked for top-notch talent such as Rouben Mamoulian, William Wyler, Edmund Goulding, John Cromwell, Howard Hawks, Michael Curtiz, and Vincent Sherman.
Now, allow me to commit a major heresy here:
If I had the choice between watching Miriam Hopkins and Bette Davis, I wouldn’t think twice; Miriam Hopkins would be my pick. Davis excelled at playing Bitches from Hell – and some of Davis’ Bitches are the Greatest Ever – but in my view she was a dismal “sympathetic” heroine, as lightheartedly funny as a funeral and as sexy as Margaret Hamilton. Hopkins, on the other hand, with the right guidance could play just about any kind of role with ease.
She could be dramatic, all but stealing the show from Academy Award winner Fredric March in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; turning the bowdlerized These Three into a powerful, visceral drama; fully obfuscating Bette Davis in The Old Maid; and even teaching none other than Laurence Olivier a lesson or two in screen acting while playing his unrelentingly nasty wife in Carrie.
She could be funny, as can be attested by her charming thief in Trouble in Paradise, her unhappy princess who finally learns how to jazz up her lingerie in The Smiling Lieutenant (above), and even her cheesy – and highly successful – novelist in Old Acquaintance.
And she could be sexy: just look at her in the aforementioned Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or check out her free-thinking sophisticate having a three-way with Gary Cooper and Fredric March in Design for Living. And though “sexy” isn’t quite the word for the sixty-something, matronly Hollywood has-been in Savage Intruder (1970), Hopkins does prove that nearly forty years after her pre-Coders, she still got what it took to seduce a guy – even if that basically meant sheer gutsiness and willpower.
But, you ask, was Miriam Hopkins really difficult?
Well, Allan talks about her reputation below. But what I, personally, think is utterly unfair is that Hopkins should be remembered for her temper and not for her work when she could be – and often was – an outstanding actress, superior to and more versatile than many other actresses of the era who are more fondly remembered.
In fact, Miriam Hopkins, who suffered a fatal heart attack in October 1972 shortly before her 70th birthday, remains a thoroughly underappreciated performer; one that merits a reevaluation of her long – and quite fruitful – career.
Allan has kindly agreed to answer several questions (via e-mail) about his biographical subject, ranging from her relationship with Bette Davis to her dealings with the highly subversive League of Women Shoppers.
Later on, check out Allan’s other q&a’s at altfg: Anita Page, Celebrities in the 1930 Census, the Rudolph Valentino Legacy. And if you have any information, whether personal or professional, about Miriam Hopkins, please contact Allan at email@example.com.
Dear Mr. Ellenberger: LOOKING FORWARD to your Miriam Hopkins biography and I do wish you much success with it. I wrote before, Mr. Ellenberger, and I know you’ve had enormous challenges with the biography of Miss Hopkins. As gifted as she was, I think she is a difficult one to put into a neat perspective….but I’m sure you’ve succeeded. Sincerely, Dennis Yancey
I THINK I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED DRAMAS, AND WHO BETTER TO CHOOSE FOR THAT VEHICLE BUT, “MIRIAM HOPKINS”! SHE WAS BLESSED WITH MANY GIFTS! I CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF HER IN “BECKY SHARP/VANITY FAIR”. SHE TAKES OVER EVERY SCENE, AND PLAYS IT AS IF THIS IS HER LIFE! I CAN’T STOP WATCHING THAT MOVIE(LAUGHING)! SHE REALLY SPIRITED ME AWAY IN THAT ONE! I AM UNHAPPY, SADDENED REALLY TO KNOW THERE IS NOT MUCH INFORMATION OUT THERE ABOUT HER AS WELL AS OTHER STARS. IT BAFFLES ME THAT SHE DID NOT WIN AN ACADEMY AWARD FOR BECKY SHARP/VANITY FAIR!
I SUPPOSE OTHER MORE IMPORTANT/ENTERTAINING MOVIES HAD MORE OF A DEMAND DURING THAT ERA (WHATEVER)! I PLAN ON GETTING THE ENHANCED VERSION OF BECKY SHARP/VANITY FAIR, BUT THIS VERSION (TCG) IS /HAS BEEN FINE. THANKS FOR THE OPPORTUNUTY TO SHARE MY FEELINGS ABOUT ONE OF THE BEST ACTRESSES THAT EVER LIVED! HAVE A BLESSED DAY. FW (the elf)
Just wondered when your biography of Miriam Hopkins will be published. Am a big fan.
Need to speak with you regarding your bio on Rollin Lane. Please contact me via my email
TY Terrie Robbins
Mr. Allan Ellenberg, HELLO and CONGRATULATIONS on your challenging new endeavour with such very great talent and such a top class act to follow, for especially portrayal, (to be submitted), in the form of the late Miriam Hopkins! With such beauty and intelligence, I don’t believe all that was said about her, such as the. negative. And it comes from the hateful and…spiteful. The work is the legacy but in the devil’s unforgiving world, jealousies and envíes’ cowardly outnumber someone,
I was just thinking how nice it would be to read a biography on Miriam Hopkins, and came here by way of google. I can’t believe there isn’t a book out there on her yet.
Allan, have you written that biography yet. I would like to read it. If so, please provide title.
Dear Mr. Allan,
I think Ms. Hopkins needs to be given a tribute due her. She’s a fine actress like Ms. Barbara Stanwyck, also a pre-code artist but has remained popular in her senior years due to prolific movies and tv series. In terms of acting prowess she can’t be far behind. Just because she tackled controversial roles, movies, Hollywood relegated her to obscurity. The themes of movies she appeared in like Stanwyck’s tackle the real situation of the time. Gangsters, abuse, violence, and prostitution do emerge since its the period of the Great Depression. Thank you.
I would like to have contact with Allen Ellenberger, who has written about my aunt, Miriam Hopkins. Miriam and my mother were half sisters, having the same father. Miriam’s mother and my grandfather divorced, and my mother and Miriam did not meet until they were grown. I do have some interesting insights and have several items that belonged to her. Unfortunately, my mother passed away several years ago, and I think her son Michael is not living, but I am not sure. Any information about him would be appreciated. I just ran across this website, and I wish I had seen it sooner.
When is the book due to be released? Cannot wait to read it!
I am an old man and an old classics fan but I had never heard of MH until watching “Virginia City”(1940)over my lunch partner’s shoulder on TCM. I am pleased to find that she had such a great career and that someone has gone to the trouble of documenting it. In this movie (which noone has mentioned)she was a brilliant light in an otherwise cardboard-cutout cast. I will be downloading more.
She was a natural blonde, she was a Libra, she was born in Savannah GA, and she had a perfectly proportioned petite body. And I’ve watched her movies on TCM where I found her to outshine Bette Davis, if that’s possible.
It is strange to me that a number of websites all list Miriam Hopkin’s birthplace as differently. This one states that she was born Savannah, GA born. Another one says Atlanta, GA, and a third says Bainbridge, GA. I am almost certain that Bainbridge is the correct city. I know that she is buried at Bainbridge in the Oak City Cemetery. There is a genealogy connection with my great grandfather, Bolivar Hopkins Gee, but I’ve yet to determine what it is. Any help will be appreciated.
These is a book entitled, Ginger, Loretta, and Irene Who?, that was written many years back. It made the point that in 1933 certain actresses never shown brighter than in 1933. Miriam Hopkins was one of those listed along with Kay Francis.
Miriam may not have been the the singular Queen of the Paramount lot, but she definitely shared that position with several other actresses of the time. This is what I meant by that statement “Queen of the Paramount Lot”.
It is true that there was a downhill slide, but in that magical year of 1933, Miriam did occupy a position at Paramount with several other stars that indeed shown brightly at that time and year. That Star brightness diminished over the years, but for Miriam Hopkins, I think she made the most of it, considering her successful transition to Radio, Broadway, and later television.
Her performance in many television shows of the 1950’s and 6-‘s clearly shows this. From a large variety of roles from “The Flying Nun” to the”The Outer Limits”, confirms this.
Also, Robert Redford says in his Biography of Miriam Hopkins performance as his mother in the late 1960’s film “The Chase”, she should have gotten an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her very impressive role in standing up to the mighty Marlon Brando quite effectively in that Courthouse scene from the film.
I don’t think anyone can argue that Miriam could be difficult, but then who that time or now who was really good wasn’t at least somewhat temperamental! That personality characteristic seems to go with the territory, especially if you were to continue to have employment in a field as competitive as an actress in Hollywood, on the Broadway Stage, or even television roles.
I hope the Biography is coming along well, and look forward to its’ release. There is indeed an interesting personality in the character of Miriam Hopkins, and the information that will be in this Biography should prove to be very interesting reading for those interested in actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Allan Please email me I would like to share some info with you re: Edward Gray. My sister is his
daughter,My brothers have passed. We have all been thinking of him a lot lately then I came across the Oct 30th story.
Another fan here eagerly awaiting the biography. To get a really good insite into Miriam’s working relationship with Bette Davis read Shaun Considine’s “The Divine Fued” (The story of Bette Davis & Joan Crawford’s struggle for stardom during Hollwood’s hayday), the few paragraphs relating to Miriam are for me the highlites of the book and a great source of interest!
Please let me know, if possible, when your biography of Miriam Hopkins is published. I really enjoy seeing Mirian’s films and would love to read about her life in detail.
I was one of the many watching TMC which stared Miriam Hopkins in August and I was completely captiveated by her. She was a very beautiful and talanted women. Can’t wait to read more on her. She may be gone but certainly not forgotten. Thanks
Anyone who was fortunate enough to watch more than any two of TCM’s films on Miriam Hopkins today, 20 August 2009 will know how extraordinary she was on screen when writers lived in Hollywood and the industry demanded much of everyone. She was beautiful and talented. Yes, please, we want to see a well deserved biography on Ms. Hopkins.
Miriam Hopkins was lovely and talented. I have wondered why she is not remembered like some others from her era. I would love to read a good biography about her.
I was wondering when we may expect the biography of Miriam Hopkins to be finished and go on sale.
de film in nederlands de naam ZIJ DIE WIJ VEREREN met jane weijman en vermoedelijk Terry Moore uit de jaren 50 heeft u de info kijk al heel lang maar kom er niet achter mvgr wim
Jane Wyman never made a movie with Terry Moore.
And there’s no Wyman title of the ’50s that matches — or even resembles — “Zij die wij vereren.” (“She Who We Respect.”)
It could be “The Blue Veil” — in which Wyman plays a children’s nanny-nurse. It’s a very hard-to-find film.
Others in the cast are Charles Laughton, Agnes Moorehead, Joan Blondell, Audrey Totter, and Natalie Wood.
Curtis Bernhardt directed in 1951.
I must tell you how I enjoyed your discussion of the great Miss Miriam Hopkins! Please keep us updated on the biography.
Since the election, I have been “de-toxing” from politics by watching old movies; nothing made after 1970 and preferably 30s, 40s, and a few 50s pictures. Although Miss Davis remains my all time favorite female actor, Miss Hopkins has hurtled to the top in a very short while!
I, too first was aware of Miss Hopkins through the two pictures she made with Miss Davis. She mops the floor with Bette in “The Old Maid” while I find they are a better compliment to each other in the wonderful “Old Acquaintance” a movie I feel is unfairly dismissed by many as a rather routine “women’s” melodrama. In actuality, their scenes together are stunning, and the 26 minute sequence at her hotel apartment later in the film is dominated by Miss Hopkins, although it does end with the famous “Davis Shake.”
Since the election I have collected 28 of Miss Hopkins’ films. As you say, most are poor quality, but it does give one a chance to finally own these frequently wonderful films! If the distributor wants the money, let them release these films on dvd. A collection set would be a smash!
I, too have ruminated over why Miss Hopkins is not more remembered. I think you are right that it’s because she made relatively few films over a long career in which she took long periods of time off to do theater and radio. If she was “difficult” (and I cannot imagine her being as hateful as some say) I say, too bad as brilliant people are not the same as others.
Miriam Hopkins is a stunning beauty-not the dumb blonde that was Jean Harlow, but the cunning and clever blonde who got any man, gay or straight, to do her bidding.
Just wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed your appreciation of Miriam. I haven’t yet seen quite enough of her work, but I have seen her in Jekyll & Hyde, Temple Drake, and the YouTube clip of her with Colbert singing Jazz Up Your Lingerie. I find her adorable, she impresses me as one of the most talented, charming and attractive actresses of the pre-Code era. While I realize that as you say she doesn’t have quite the stature of a Davis or Hepburn in our time, I do think that those with a deeper, more seasoned awareness of cinema’s history are aware of and can acknowledge her gifts, her lasting contributions. I look forward to the viewing of more of her films down the road.
Miriam Hopkins was a joy for this 1930’s (especially precode) film lover. No one has mentioned 24 Hours made in 1931 with Kay Francis. Miriam sings two torch songs. One of them is especially good, something about “no use trying to leave that man.” Don’t know the name, but she sure could sing it effectively. Got a copy on VHS tape from a collector. It’s a fascinating film. Why doesn’t Paramount make this available on DVD?? Hope you include info on 24 Hours in your book and I wish you luck. I will look forward to reading it. Two other films from early 30’s I wish they would put on DVD are Dancers in the Dark and Story of Temple Drake.
Glad to hear that Miriam Hopkins is getting the full biographical treatment she deserves. A terrific actress, and very versatile, as noted.
This excellent interview has whetted my appetite for the book.
Bravo, André - great interview. My attention was also first drawn to Miriam Hopkins through her co-starring vehicles with Bette Davis but, unlike mr. Ellenberg, I still haven’t been seduced to see much more… I’ll keep an eye out, though.
Very interesting. Reminds me so much of a witch hunt. I agree, too, that it is very classy of Miriam to have kept her opinions and dirty laundry from the public’s eye.
by the way…i saw miriam’s childhood home in savannah last month…i found it perusing her family tree on genealogy.com, and chking out the census report they had on there 4 her from 1910 when she was just 8 yrs old…very nice old victorian home that has been divided into apts now…near forsyth park…
glad 2 hear about the miriam hopkins bio…great actress! surprised that she wasn’t nominated 4 more oscars…hope the book comes out soon!
Not only was Miriam Hopkins an outstanding and successful actress, but she was chosen for what turned out to be one of the most memorable covers of Vogue Magazine in 1935 - where she is the epitome of the Woman of the Age. She was also a highly successful hostess, giving numerous A-list parties. I’m delighted to know you’re writing a book on her - she is definitely one of the great stars of the Golden Age of the Silver Screen.
Hello, I think that Miss Hopkins was one of early Hollywoods most attractive stars.Have read she could be difficult dont think she was as difficult as Bette Davis who I always thought a completely unpleasant woman.Miriam was very good in Jekyl & Hyde with Frederick March and the two films she did with Davis.As good an actress as Davis who is much overpraised and surely no more difficult.Good luck with the book.Sue.
MIRIAM HOPKINS WAS QUEEN OF THE PARAMOUNT LOT IN THE EARLY 1930’S. HER STAR NEVER SHOWN BRIGHTER THAN IN 1933. SHE WAS A VERY CLOSE FRIEND OF TENNESSEE WILLIAMS (WHO WROTE HER OBITUARY STATING AMERICA HAD LOST ONE OF ITS’ FINEST ACTRESSES), AND STARRED IN HIS FIRST STAGE PRODUCTION, BATTLE OF ANGELS IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS BACK IN 1941. THIS WAS FINALLY FILMED AS THE FUGITIVE KIND WITH MARLON BRANDO.
ODDLY ENOUGH, MIRIAM PLAYED ROBERT REDFORD’S MOTHER IN THE CHASE (1960’S), AND REDFORD FELT SHE SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN AN ACADEMY AWARD FOR THE SCENE SHE HAD WITH MARLON BRANDO, WHERE SHE COMPLETELY OVERWHELMS BRANDO (NOT EASY TO DO) IN THIS MOVIE BASED ON THE PLAY BY LILLIAN HELLMAN.
MIRIAM HAD EARLIER STARRED IN THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF THE FILM TITLED THESE THREE WITH MERLE OBERON, AND ALSO THE LATER REMAKE TITLED THE CHILDREN’S HOUR. WILLIAM WYLER DIRECTED BOTH FILM VERSIONS, AND SPECIFICALLY ASKED MIRIAM TO STAR IN THE REMAKE 30 YEARS LATER. MIRIAM WAS A CLOSE FRIEND OF KAY FRANCIS, AND KAY ACCOMPANIED HER TO RENO, NEVADA WHEN MIRIAM GOT HER DIVORCE FROM NOTED HOLLYWOOD DIRECTOR ANATOLE LITVAK.
MIRIAM’S CAREER LASTED FROM THE LATE 1920’S THROUGH THE LATE 1960’S, WORKING IN STAGE, FILM, RADIO, AND TELEVISION. SHE WAS THE SECOND CHOICE OF SCARLETT OHARA IN GONE WITH THE WIND, AND MARGARET MITCHELL’S FIRST CHOICE!
MIRIAM HOPKINS WAS PROBABLY THE ONLY ACTRESS IN HOLLYWOOD NOT INTIMIDATED BY BETTE DAVIS, AND GAVE TWO OF HER MOST MEMORABLE PERFORMANCES OPPOSITE BETTE IN THE OLD MAID, AND IN OLD ACQUAINTANCE.
IN LATER YEARS IN MANY INTERVIEWS, BETTE ALWAYS MENTIONED MIRIAM AS THE MOST DIFFICULT PERSON SHE EVER WORKED WITH, BUT ALWAYS GAVE HER CREDIT AS A VERY GOOD ACTRESS! SHE WAS CHOSEN FOR THE FIRST THREE STRIP TECHNICOLOR FILM, BECKY SHARP, BECAUSE OF HER PHOTOGENIC QUALITIES, AS WELL AS A FIERY TEMPERAMENT NEEDED FOR THIS ROLE IN THE ORIGINAL OF THACKERAY’S NOVEL VANITY FAIR.
MIRIAM WAS VERY INFLUENCED BY NUMEROLOGY, AND TURNED DOWN IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT BECAUSE THE NUMBERS WERE NOT RIGHT, HOWEVER THAT WAS DETERMINED. THE LEAD PART WENT TO CLAUDETTE COLBERT, WHO LATER WON AN ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS, AS DID ALL THE PRINCIPLE PLAYERS IN THS FILM INCLUDING CLARK GABLE, INCLUDING BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR!
MIRIAM’S ONLY PICTURE SHE MADE FOR MGM WAS A STRANGER’S RETURN (LATE 1930’S) WITH FRANCHOT TONE AND LIONEL BARRYMORE. SHE GIVES A VERY GOOD PERFORMANCE, AND ODDLY THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST OVERLOOKED FILMS IN HER CAREER. LEONARD MALTIN STATED THIS IN HIS FILMOGRAPHY LIST OF THE MOST OVERLOOKED FILMS MADE IN HOLLYWOOD WORTHY OF DISTINCTION.
MIRIAM HOPKINS WAS ONE OF THE BRIGHTEST STARS OF HOLLYWOOD IN 1933, AND ALTHOUGH THAT STAR DIMMED, SHE CONTINUED GIVING GOOD MEMORABLE PERFORMANCES IN A VARIETY OF MEDIUMS FOR THE NEXT 40 YEARS UNTIL HER DEATH.
MIRIAM TURNED IN A GREAT PERFORMANCE IN THE HEIRESS (1949) WITH OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND, RALPH RICHARDSON, AND MONTGOMERY CLIFT (WITH WHOM SHE GOT ALONG WITH FAMOUSLY). TENNESSEE WILLIAMS WAS RIGHT IN STATING IN THE OFFICIAL OBITUARY(HE WROTE) THAT AMERICA HAD TRULY LOST ONE OF HER GREATEST ACTRESSES.
This might be of interest to some of you: I run a blog called “Carole & Co.,” and about two months ago I wrote an entry on Miriam Hopkins, discussing her career and its many connections with Lombard’s. You can find it at community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/38343.html
I think Miriam would have been awful in ALL THIS AND HEAVEN TOO, the character is kind of a timid, easily frightened little mouse and I can’t imagine Miriam ever being believable in such a meek role. It’s a very Janet Gaynorish part (who I think WOULD have been better than Bette, although I do think it is one of Davis’ best roles.)
I’ve always wanted to see radio star Lurene Tuttle (best known for her TV supporting roles today) in her one and only starring part as Ma Barker.
I do think Hopkins would have made a darn good Belle Watling in GWTW although Ona Munson is wonderful in the role.
A few Miriam Hopkins projects that went to somebody else or that were never made.
Source: Allan Ellenberger
The Man Who Broke His Heart (1933) [never made]
Ready For Love (1934) Ida Lupino took the role
The Song of Songs (1933) Marlene Dietrich
No Man of Her Own (1932) Carole Lombard
The Sign of the Cross (1932) Either the Elissa Landi or the Claudette Colbert role
Passionate Stranger (1932) [not made]
Samson and Delilah (1934) [not made]
Bolero (1934) Carole Lombard
It Happened One Night (1934) Claudette Colbert
Forsaking All Others (1934) Joan Crawford
The Trumpet Blows (1934) Frances Drake
Wharf Angel (1934) Dorothy Dell
Bordertown (1935) Bette Davis
Peter Ibbetson (1935) Ann Harding
Perfectly Good Women (1935) [not made]
Come and Get It (1936) Frances Farmer
The Princess and the Pauper (1936) [apparently never made; or made with different title]
Accuse, Levez Vous (Accused, Stand Up) (1936) with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. [not made]
Love on Parole (1937) [apparently never made; or made with different title]
Next Time I Marry (1938) Lucille Ball
The Sisters (1938) with Kay Francis - eventually made with Bette Davis, Anita Louise, and Jane Bryan
We Are Not Alone (1939) Flora Robson
All This and Heaven Too (1940) Bette Davis (Hopkins would have been much better in this one.)
Devotion (1940) with Bette Davis [made in 1946 with Ida Lupino and Olivia de Havilland]
Badlands of Dakota (1941) Probably the Frances Farmer role
Law of the Tropics (1941) Constance Bennett
To Be or Not to Be (1942) Carole Lombard
The Glass Menagerie (1950) [Miriam tested for the role] Gertrude Lawrence
The Opposite Sex [newspaper columnist] (I’m not sure who plays that role in the film)
Ma Barker’s Killer Brood (1959) Hopkins filmed for one day and left the film. She was replaced by Lurene Tuttle
Also, I’ve heard from another source that Miriam Hopkins was considered for the female lead in “My Life with Caroline” (1941). That role eventually went to Anna Lee.
Here’s something not many movie buffs are aware of: In 1932, Paramount received Clark Gable on loan from MGM, and he was to co-star with Hopkins in a film called “No Bed Of Her Own.” However, as part of the deal, Gable was to get top billing, which irked Hopkins, so she backed out of the project. Carole Lombard, then a largely undefined Paramount leading lady, took her spot, and the film’s title ultimately was changed to “No Man Of Her Own.” (And just to clear things up for those who don’t know — no romantic sparks developed between Clark and Carole at this time, although their on-set relationship was deemed cordial; the famed Gable-Lombard romance didn’t ignite until 1936.) Hopkins was still involved in the film long enough for posters advertising her and “No Bed Of Her Own” to be made, and now those are movie memorabilia rarities.
While I am happy to hear someone is writing a book on Miriam Hopkins (even if she is, to me at least, one of the least appealing actresses from the golden era, she always seems quarrelsome) I don’t think Miriam could have ever been called “queen of Paramount” at any point. Despite several good performances and generally good reviews, I don’t believe she ever really had a major following with the public not unlike Sylvia Sidney, Merle Oberon, and other actresses who worked for years - even decades - without ever becoming true box office attractions. I would dare to presume the “queen of Paramount” title would have been held by the following:
1927-29 Clara Bow
1930 Nancy Carroll
1931-32 Marlene Dietrich
1933-35 Mae West
1936-40 Claudette Colbert
1941-45 Dorothy Lamour
1946-52 Betty Hutton
1953-?? Audrey Hepburn