Miriam Hopkins on Aisle 9
While grocery shopping recently, I caught an amazing sight out the corner of my eye: a magazine featuring none other than the brilliant and talented Miriam Hopkins. As you might imagine, I was a little shocked to find her beautiful face next to a stack of newspapers featuring the disgraced Atlanta Public School system on the front page. Instead of buying the newspaper with incredibly relevant information about a very real scandal in our city, I reached for a magazine with a dead actress on the cover. Ms. Hopkins is featured in the summer issue of Georgia Backroads magazine. Definitely not Vanity Fair or Time, but a nice tribute to one of Georgia’s own nonetheless.
Although the article is quite short and doesn’t necessarily contain any new information or insight into the life and career of Hopkins, it is still a nice surprise. Hopkins was born in Savannah, GA in 1902 to a wealthy and respected family. Her parents divorced when she was a child, and she spent her remaining childhood living with her older sister, mother, and grandmother. After moving to New York and graduating from a prestigious private school, Hopkins embarked on a career in theatre. In 1930 she signed with Paramount studios and quickly became a star. Hopkins was one of the finest actresses in Hollywood in the 1930s, but her reputation of being extremely difficult and temperamental ultimately harmed her career. According to the author of the article and Hollywood legend, Hopkins was a contender for the lead in William Wyler’s Jezebel (ultimately going to Wyler favorite Bette Davis–who won an Oscar for the role) as well as the much coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara in Selznick’s masterpiece Gone With the Wind (which we all know went to Vivien Leigh, who was virtually unknown at the time).
Attitude aside, Miriam Hopkins was one of the best and most versatile actresses of the era. She possessed amazing talent which allowed her to perform in a variety of roles. Some of her most memorable performances include Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), The Story of Temple Drake (1933), Design for Living (1933), Becky Sharp (1935), These Three (1936), and Virginia City (1940). If you are unfamiliar with Hopkins, you should watch some of her work. I suggest beginning with the Ernst Lubitsch comedy Trouble in Paradise– one of the funniest films ever made.
Jill Blake is the owner of the classic film website Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence. She is also a co-founder and editor of the film site The Black Maria and film editor at CC2K. In 2012, she was interviewed on-air by Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz. In 2013, she was a featured guest on the TCM podcast. In her spare time Jill is a stay-at-home mom, wife, fried okra connoisseur, and the neighborhood’s own L.B. Jeffries.