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#QueerQuote: ”Nobody’s Interested in Sweetness and Light” – Hedda Hopper


Photo collage from Variety via YouTube

She was born Elda Furry in 1885.

After a crappy career as an actor that sputtered to a stop in the mid-1930s, Hedda Hopper was offered a job doing what she was best at: Gossip. Her column, Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood began running in the Los Angeles Times in 1938. She called her home in Beverly Hills “The House That Fear Built”.

She enjoyed a notorious, self-serving feud with the more established and more popular Louella Parsons. They had once been friendly, with Parsons passing along tips for Hopper. Hopper, Parsons and fellow columnist Sheilah Graham all vied for title “Queen Of Hollywood”, but the whole town knew that Hopper was more vicious and unforgiving than her rivals.

Judy Davis as Hopper in Feud: Betty And Joan, Fox via YouTube

If you watched last year’s Feud: Betty And Joan, she was played by Judy Davis, I hope you did watch, because you would know that Hopper had a thing for hats. In the film Breakfast In Hollywood (1946), Spike Jones And The City Slickers did a song called A Hat For Hedda Hopper, while Hopper was shown sitting in the audience wearing one of her extraordinary chapeaus.

In the film The Sweet Smell Of Success (1957), Burt Lancaster‘s character, columnist J.J. Hunsecker, was inspired by Hopper, who courted controversy and ruined lives when she named names of alleged Communists during the Hollywood Blacklist.

She frequently attacked Charlie Chaplin in the 1940s for his politics and his love life, contributing to his being denied a permission to re-enter the USA after he had been traveling in Europe in 1952.

After she published a “blind item” about Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy‘s relationship, Tracy kicked her in the rear at Ciro’s.

After she published a story about Joseph Cotten and Deanna Durbin‘s affair, Cotten ran into Hopper at an industry event and pulled out her chair for her, only to continue pulling it out until she fell on her hopper.

Hopper spread rumors that Michael Wilding and Stewart Granger had a love affair. Wilding sued Hopper for libel and won.

ZaSu Pitts compared Hopper to “a ferret”.

Joan Bennett sent Hopper a $435 valentine. The $35 went for a skunk which carried a note: “Won’t you be my valentine? Nobody else will. I stink and so do you.” Hopper later reported that the skunk was beautifully behaved. She named it Joan and passed it on to James Mason.

Merle Oberon: ”What inspired all the vicious things you’ve been writing about me?”

Hopper: ”Bitchery, dear. Sheer bitchery.”

During WW II, her only child, William Hopper (he played Paul Drake on the Perry Mason television series) served in the US Navy. She publicly scolded Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. for shirking his duty to his country. But, Fairbanks was already serving in the British Royal Navy, and he never forgave Hopper for the insinuation.

Hopper has been portrayed by Jane Alexander in Malice In Wonderland (1985), with Elizabeth Taylor as Louella Parsons; Katherine Helmond in Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story (1995); Rue McClanahan on the AMC’s The Lot (1999-2001); Fiona Shaw in RKO 281 (2001); Joanne Linville in James Dean (2001); Helen Mirren in Trumbo (2015); and Tilda Swinton as Thora and Thessaly Thacker, two identical twin sister gossip columnists that are a thinly disguised version of Hopper x 2 in the Coen BrothersHail, Caesar! (2016)

Mirren with Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo” via YouTube

Tilda Swinton in “Hail, Caesar!” via YouTube

There is even an opera about her, sort of, Hopper’s Wife, about an imagined marriage between Hopper and painter Edward Hopper, with a score by Stewart Wallace.

She penned two memoirs, From Under My Hat (1952) and The Whole Truth And Nothing But (1962). She remained active as a writer until she kicked the bucket in 1966, producing six daily newspaper columns and a Sunday column, as well as writing articles for magazines such as Photoplay.



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