Hedda Hopper

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Hedda Hopper

Hedda Hopper Signed Album Page - 1945

Bold signature in pencil on autograph album page.

 Hedda Hopper

Hedda Hopper (1885-1966) was an American actress and gossip columnist, whose long-running feud with friend turned arch-rival Louella Parsons became at least as notorious as many of Hopper’s columns.


Hopper began acting in silent movies in 1915. Her motion picture debut was in Battle of Hearts (1916). She appeared in more than 120 movies over the following twenty-three years, usually portraying distinguished-looking society women.

As her movie career waned in the mid-1930s, Hopper looked for other sources of income. In 1937, she was offered the chance of a lifetime and embarked on a career doing something she was quite adept at: gossip. Her gossip column called “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood” debuted in the Los Angeles Times on February 14, 1938. After years of struggling as an actress, she had finally found her niche. She christened the home she purchased in Beverly Hills “The House That Fear Built.” She then had a notorious feud with the long-established Louella Parsons, who had been friendly to her in print and to whom she had sometimes passed information. Hopper and Parsons became archrivals competing fiercely, and often nastily, for the title “Queen of Hollywood”, although those who knew both declared that Hopper was the more sadistic.

She was noted for her hats, considered her trademark, mostly because of her taste for large, flamboyant ones; and her hats were so famous that, in the 1946 movie, Breakfast in Hollywood, Del Porter, backed by Spike Jones and his City Slickers, even sang a novelty song entitled “A Hat for Hedda Hopper“, to Hedda Hopper who was sitting in the audience wearing an extraordinary creation.

She was known for hobnobbing with the biggest names in the industry, for getting a “scoop” before almost anyone else most of the time, and for being vicious in dealing with those who displeased her, whether intentionally or not. The columnist J.J. Hunsecker, played by Burt Lancaster in the film Sweet Smell of Success, is said to have been inspired partly by Hopper.

Hopper courted controversy as well for “naming names” of suspected or alleged Communists during the Hollywood Blacklist. Her frequent attacks against Charlie Chaplin in the 1940s for his leftist politics and love life contributed to his departure from America in 1952. After publishing a blind item on Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy‘s relationship, Tracy confronted her at Ciro’s and kicked her in the behind. A similar incident occurred when Hopper leaked info about the extramarital affair between Joseph Cotten and Deanna Durbin. She tried to “out” Cary Grant and Randolph Scott as gay lovers, but Grant was too big a star even for her to touch. She also spread rumors that Michael Wilding and Stewart Granger had been intimate (Wilding later sued Hopper for libel and won). ZaSu Pitts compared Hopper to “a ferret”, and pointed out that she should not have been surprised her (Hopper’s) own movie career did not pan out. Joan Fontaine sent Hopper a skunk on Valentine’s Day with a note reading “I stink and so do you”.

Having spent years with her own programs on radio for various networks, on January 10, 1960, a TV special, Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood, aired on NBC. Hosted by Hopper, guest interviews included an extremely eclectic mix of then-current and former stars: Lucille Ball (a longtime friend of Hopper), Francis X. Bushman, Liza Minnelli, John Cassavetes, Robert Cummings, Marion Davies (her last public appearance), Walt Disney, Janet Gaynor, Bob Hope, Hope Lange, Anthony Perkins, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart and Gloria Swanson.

Hopper also had several acting roles during the latter part of her career, including brief cameo appearances as herself in the movie Sunset Boulevard (1950) and The Patsy (1964), as well as episodes of I Love Lucy and The Beverly Hillbillies. Her autobiography, From Under My Hat (Doubleday, 1952) was followed by The Whole Truth and Nothing But (1962), also published by Doubleday.

Hopper remained active as a writer until her death, producing six daily columns and a Sunday column for the Chicago Tribune syndicate, as well as writing countless articles for celebrity magazines such as Photoplay. For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Hopper has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6313 1/2 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.

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