HEDDA HOPPER Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Hedda Hopper                                                                           
Birth name: Elda Furry                                                                       
Born: 2 May 1885 Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.                                           
Died: 1 February 1966 Hollywood, California, U.S.                                           
Hedda Hopper (May 2, 1885 – February 1, 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.                                   
She was born Elda Furry in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, the daughter of David               
and Margaret Furry, who were Quakers.                                                       
Her siblings included Dora Furry (born March 1880); Sherman Furry (born June                 
1882); Cameron Furry (born September 1887); Edgar Furry (April 20, 1889-November             
1975); Frank M. Furry (born August 1891); and Margaret Furry (born July 1897).               
The family moved to nearby Altoona when Elda was three. Her father was a butcher             
who owned his own shop. She eventually ran away to New York and began her career             
as a chorus line dancer on the Broadway stage. After a few years, she joined the             
theatre company of matinee idol DeWolf Hopper, whom she called "Wolfie."                     
In her words, "Dancing came easy to me. And in singing, what my voice lacked in             
quality it made up for in volume." Thus, she remained in the chorus and they                 
toured the country from one end to the other.                                               
While in the Hopper company, she realized that chorus and understudy jobs were               
not acting. She wanted to act, and she knew she would have to prove herself                 
before she could hope to get anywhere in the theatre. Hearing that Edgar Selwyn             
was casting his play The Country Boy for a road tour, she went to his office and             
talked him into letting her audition for the lead. She was given the role and               
the show toured for thirty-five weeks through forty-eight states.                           
She studied singing during the summer and, in the fall, went out with The Quaker             
Girl in the second lead, the prima donna role. The show closed in Albany.                   
On May 8, 1913 she married DeWolf Hopper in New Jersey. They had one child, the             
actor William Hopper, best known for playing Paul Drake in the Perry Mason                   
series. They were divorced on January 20, 1924.                                             
Elda Hopper paid a numerologist $10 to tell her what name she should use, and               
the answer was Hedda.                                                                       
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. She began writing a                   
gossip column for a Los Angeles newspaper.                                                   
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 arch-rivals competing fiercely, and often nastily, for             
the title "Queen of Hollywood", although those who knew both declared that                   
Hopper was the more sadistic, surprising given Hopper's Quaker background.                   
ZaSu Pitts compared Hopper to "a ferret", and pointed out that she should not               
have been surprised her (Hedda's) own movie career did not pan out.                         
Known for her gossipy comments and movie star interviews, Hopper debuted as host             
of her own radio program, The Hedda Hopper Show, November 6, 1939. It was                   
sponsored by Sunkist on CBS three times a week for fifteen minutes.                         
From October 2, 1944 to September 3, 1945, Armour Treet sponsored the once a                 
week program. On September 10, 1945, it changed to ABC, again sponsored by                   
Armour once a week, and ran until June 3, 1946.                                             
Hopper moved back to CBS October 5, 1946, with a once a week, fifteen minute                 
program titled This Is Hollywood, which was sponsored by Procter & Gamble. It               
ran until June 28, 1947. The last season on the air had a change to thirty                   
minutes and also changed to NBC.                                                             
From October 14, 1950 to November 11, 1950 on Saturdays, then from November 19,             
1950 to May 20, 1951 on Sundays, she was heard hosting a program that contained             
music, talk, and dramatized excerpts from movies with a variety of the biggest               
names in the industry. She also did a television spot.                                       
Hedda Hopper and Jackie Gleason, 1962                                                       
She was noted for her hats, considered her trademark, mostly because of her                 
unusual taste for large, flamboyant ones. 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.                                                   
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 the gossip that Michael               
Wilding and Stewart Granger had been intimate.                                               
Hopper also had several acting roles during the latter part of her career,                   
including a brief cameo appearance as herself in the movie Sunset Boulevard (1950),         
and another on a 1955 episode of TV's I Love Lucy.                                           
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 friend of Hopper), Francis X. Bushman, John               
Cassavetes, Robert Cummings, Marion Davies, Walt Disney, Janet Gaynor, Bob Hope,             
Hope Lange, Anthony Perkins, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, and Gloria Swanson.             
Her autobiography, From Under My Hat, was published in 1952 by Doubleday &                   
Company. It was followed with The Whole Truth and Nothing But (1963), also                   
published by Doubleday. In 1964, she played herself in the Jerry Lewis comedy               
The Patsy.                                                                                   
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.                               
She died of double pneumonia at the age of 80 in Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in               
Hollywood. She is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery, Altoona, Pennsylvania.                       
Hopper has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6313 1/2 Hollywood Boulevard             
in Hollywood.