Filled Under: Hedda Hopper
Hedda Hopper, born Elda Furry in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania on May 2, 1885, was an American actress and gossip columnist. Hopper began acting in silent movies in 1915. Her motion picture debut was in “Battle of Hearts” (1916) with William Farnum. She appeared in more than 120 movies over the following twenty-three years. When her movie career slowed down in the mid 1930’s she was offered a job as a Hollywood gossip columnist. Her gossip column called “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood” debuted in the Los Angeles Times on February 14, 1938 and ran for 28 years. She became known for hobnobbing with the biggest names in the industry, for getting the “scoop” before almost anyone else most of the time, and for being vicious in dealing with those who displeased her. She maintained 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, a former actress, was the more sadistic of the two.
Hopper courted controversy, naming names of suspected or alleged Communists during the Hollywood Blacklist era. Her frequent attacks against Charlie Chaplin in the 1940s for his leftist politics contributed to his “banishment and exile'” from America in 1952 by J. Edgar Hoover. After publishing a blind item on Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s relationship, Tracy confronted her at Ciro’s and kicked her in the bottom. After she had printed a story about an extramarital affair between Joseph Cotten and Deanna Durbin, Cotten ran into Hopper at a social event and pulled out her chair, only to pull it out from under her when she sat down. She reportedly 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 would later sue Hopper for libel and win. ZaSu Pitts compared Hopper to a ferret and Joan Fontaine sent Hopper a skunk one Valentine’s Day with a note reading “I stink and so do you”.
Hopper debuted as host of her own radio program on CBS, The Hedda Hopper Show, November 6, 1939. She went on to do radio shows for NBC and ABC over the next dozen years. On January 10, 1960, “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood” debuted on NBC television. Hosted by Hopper, guests included 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. During this time she also appeared in a few more movies, mostly as herself, as well as television episodes of The Martha Raye Show, I Love Lucy,, The Ford Show, starring Tennessee Ernie Ford, and The Beverly Hillbillies. Her autobiography titled “From Under My Hat” was published by Doubleday in 1952. She followed it up with “The Whole Truth and Nothing But” in 1962. She 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.
Hopper married DeWolf Hopper On May 8, 1913. They had one child, actor William Hopper, best known for playing Paul Drake in the Perry Mason series. They were divorced in 1922. Hedda Hopper 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. For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Hopper has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6313½ Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.