Thursday, April 22, 2010

Miriam Hopkins- known for her versatility in a wide variety of roles.

Miriam Hopkins studied to be a dancer, but her opportunity with a touring ballet troupe was cut short when she broke her ankle.

When Miriam Hopkins, first signed on with Paramount Pictures, she made her first film, Fast and Loose(1930). A romantic comedy film directed by Fred C. Newmeyer. The film was written by Doris Anderson, Jack Kirkland and Preston Sturges, based on the 1924 play The Best People by David Gray and Avery Hopwood.

Her next film was, in Trouble in Paradise(1932). A story about a master thief who hooks up with a beautiful pickpocket. The two of them go to work for a famous perfume manufacturer, and the thief finds himself torn between two women.

She also performed in film, The Smiling Lieutenant. A romantic comedy about the love of a Princess for a soldier and the love of the soldier for another woman. The Lieutenant while standing in formation smiles at his girlfriend in the crowd. Unfortunately, the Princess thinks he is smiling at her and an international incident is avoided by having them married. The Lieutenant sneaks away from his bride and looks for his girlfriend Franzi. The princess finds out and confronts Franzi, who sees that the princess is in fact deeply in love with the lieutenant, and decides to step aside and gives the princess a makeover..

Next she went on to perform in the film, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde(1931), a story about Dr. Jekyll, who develops a drug to release the evil side in himself, becoming the violent, Mr. Hyde. Jekyll becomes addicted to the formula and unable to control his alter-ego Mr. Hyde. The only thing that can stop him is his friend and the police, who watches while he transforms into Hyde. Hyde tries to escape from the lab by climbing through a window, but Lanyon shoots him and Hyde transforms into Jekyll.

Her next film was, Design for Living (1933). The story begins while traveling to Paris by train, Gilda Farrell meets George Curtis and Thomas Chambers, who share an apartment. Gilda works for advertising executive Max Plunkett, who is in love with her. Tom and George each attracted to her, agree to forget her, but they can not keep that promise when she comes to visit. She can not choose between the two, so she decides that she live with them with the understanding they will not have sex.

Gilda arranges for a producer to read Tom's play and he goes to London follow his dream. While he is gone, Gilda and George fall in love, much to Tom's dismay. One night, at the theatre he meets Max, who tells him George has become successful. Tom returns to Paris and discovers George has left the apartment and moved into a penthouse with Gilda. George is in Nice painting a portrait and Gilda and Tom begin a romance.

When George returns he finds his former roommate and Gilda have been together while he was away and orders the two to get out. Gilda decides to marry Max, but is so upset when she receives a gift from her former lovers she can not consummate the marriage. When Max hosts a party for his clients, Tom and George crash the party and hide in Gilda's bedroom. Max finds the three in the bedroom and orders the men out. Will Gilda leave her husband?

Her film, Becky Sharp(1935), was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. The story is about a young girl named Becky Sharp, who manages to survive during the years after Napoleon's defeat. In trying to advance herself, she finds a way to link up with a number of gentlemen: the Marquis of Steyne, Joseph Sedley, Rawdon Crawley and George Osborne. She rises to the top of British society, offending the other ladies. Soon, Sharp finds herself making a living singing in a beer hall..

Her next performance was in the film, Barbary Coast (1935), A period film directed by Howard Hawks. Set in San Francisco during the Gold Rush era. The film has it all: crime, Western, melodrama and adventure.

Her next performance was in the film, These Three (1936) (the first of four films with director William Wyler). Friends Karen Wright and Martha Dobie start a boarding school with the help of Amelia Tilford, who enrolls her granddaughter Mary. Karen and the local doctor Joe Cardin, begin to date, not knowing that Martha is in love with him.

Troubles begin for the two friends when Martha's aunt Lily Mortar arrives. One evening, Lily finds Joe asleep in a chair while waiting for Karen to return. Lily jumps to the wrong conclusion and she gets into a argument with Martha, Lily decides it is best for her to leave, but not before telling her niece about her suspicions about her friend.

Martha finds Rosalie listening at the door. When Mary finds a missing bracelet that belongs to another student in Rosalie's room, she forces her into telling what she overheard. Angry Mary, she comes up with a wild story to tell her grandmother about Martha and Joe engaged in an affair and she forces Rosalie into going along with it. Mrs. Tilford is shocked by the story and has all the parents take their children out of the school, leaving Martha and Karen wondering what went wrong.

When one of the girl's chauffeurs tells the women the reason why, they confront Mrs. Tilford. Worried her theft will be revealed, Rosalie says the story is true. Martha and Karen sue Mrs. Tilford for libel but lose their case. Karen and Joe go their separate ways when she confesses she believes the story Mary told. Martha admits to Karen she loves Joe but tells her that he never knew.

When Lily, mentions the missing bracelet again, they now know what happened. Martha confronts Rosalie and convinces her to tell the truth. Mrs. Tilford wants to make things right, but Martha asks only that she tell Karen the truth.

Hopkins, turned down the role of Ellie Andrews in the film, It Happened One Night (1934). The role went to Claudette Colbert who won an Academy Award. Hopkins had fights with Bette Davis, when they co-starred in their two films The Old Maid (1939) and Old Acquaintance (1943).

Kit becomes jealous, when Millie writes a successful novel, the first of many best selling novels. After eight years taking a backseat to Millie's career, her husband Preston leaves her. Another decade passes and Kit makes plans to marry much younger man named, Rudd. Millie, soon finds out that Preston is engaged and he also admits that he was in love with Kit. Blaming Kit for the failure of her marriage, Millie confronts Kit, but before long they are sharing a glass of champagne.

Davis enjoyed the scene in Old Acquaintance where she shakes Hopkins. After Old Acquaintance, she did not work again in films until the film, The Heiress(1949). Written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, adapted from their 1947 play of the same title that was based on the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James. The film was directed by William Wyler. Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift and Ralph Richardson.

She gave a comic performance in the film, In The Mating Season, as Gene Tierneys character's mother. She also acted in The Children's Hour, a remake of her film These Three(1936). In the remake, she played the aunt to Shirley MacLaine, while MacLaine took Hopkins' original role. Hopkins auditioned for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, even though she was a native Georgian. The part, went to Vivien Leigh. She performed in teleplays, spanning the late 1940s through the late 1960s, in such programs as The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre (1949), Pulitzer Prize Playhouse (1951), Lux Video Theatre (1951-1955) and an episode of The Flying Nun in 1969. Though she is best known for her film work, she has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for motion pictures at 1701 Vine Street, and one for television at 1708 Vine Street.

Please click here to view Old Maid movie review.
Please click here to view the Mating Season movie review.


  1. Dawn, you just made my morning with this lovely post about Miriam. She has quickly become one of my favorite actresses. Haven't seen too many of her films, but the ones I have seen, she has been awesome. In fact, your post has just given me another idea. Who are your stars that you have recently began following. The ones where you have just starting watching films of them and would like to see and know more about. Let's see if we can compile a Top ten list for that and post it here. I'll be thinking about that this morning. And once again, thanks for starting my day off on a good note with Miriam.

  2. Awesome!! Monty, I will think of my list of, Top 10 "new to me" actors to share.

  3. I am planning to do an article on Miriam Hopkins as part of my "Why weren't they bigger stars?" series. In her case, sadly I think she was her own worst enemy. I think despite her enormous talent, she still felt insecure and other actors did not like working with her as a result of some of her antics such as upstaging thm in scenes(a very common stage actor's trick.) I have always felt her bad girl in Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde to be the definitive one and she was outstanding in These Three.

  4. Gilby, I'm really looking forward to reading your Miriam Hopkins, article. I hope to see her performace in the film, The Mating Season, with Gene Tierney. So I can add it to, Chick Flicks: Gene Tierney movie page.


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