About Elda Hopper (Furry)
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 D. (born 1857) and Margaret Miller (born 1856) Furry, members of the German Baptist Brethren. Her siblings included Dora Furry (born 1880); Sherman Furry (born 1882); Cameron Furry (born 1887); Edgar Furry (1889–1975); Frank M. Furry (born 1891); and Margaret Furry (born 1897).
The family moved to Altoona when Elda was three. Her father was a butcher who owned a shop. She eventually ran away to New York and began her career in the chorus on the Broadway stage. Hopper was not successful in this venture, even getting the axe by the renowned Shubert Brothers. Florenz Ziegfeld called the aspiring starlet a "clumsy cow" and brushed off her pleas for a slot in the Follies. After a few years, she joined the theater 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 theater. 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.
She was the fifth wife of De Wolf Hopper, whose previous wives were named Ella, Ida, Edna and Nella. The similarity in names caused some friction, as he would not always call Elda by her proper name but rather by the names of one of his previous wives. Consequently, 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 The Battle of Hearts (1916) with William Farnum. 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 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 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, sang a novelty song, "A Hat for Hedda Hopper" while Hopper 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. Fictional columnist J.J. Hunsecker, played by Burt Lancaster in the film Sweet Smell of Success, is said to have been inspired at least in part by Hedda 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 bottom. Similarly, 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 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 one Valentine's Day with a note reading "I stink and so do you".
Radio and television
Hopper debuted as host of her own radio program, The Hedda Hopper Show, November 6, 1939. Sponsored by Sunkist, she was heard on CBS three times a week for 15 minutes until October 30, 1942. From October 2, 1944 to September 3, 1945, Armour Treet sponsored a once-a-week program. On September 10, 1945, she moved to ABC, still sponsored by Armour, for a weekly program that continued until June 3, 1946. Hopper moved back to CBS October 5, 1946, with a weekly 15-minute program, This Is Hollywood, sponsored by Procter & Gamble. It ran until June 28, 1947.
Expanding to 30 minutes on NBC, she was host of a variety series, The Hedda Hopper Show, broadcast from October 14, 1950 to November 11, 1950 on Saturdays, then from November 19, 1950 to May 20, 1951 on Sundays, This program featured music, talk and dramatized excerpts from movies with well-known guests, such as Broderick Crawford doing a scene from All the King's Men.
On January 10, 1960, a television special, Hedda Hopper's Hollywood, aired on NBC. Hosted by Hopper, guest interviews included a remarkably 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 The Martha Raye Show, I Love Lucy,, The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford, and The Beverly Hillbillies, starring Buddy Ebsen. 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.
On May 8, 1913, she married DeWolf Hopper in New Jersey. They had one child, actor William Hopper, best known for playing Paul Drake in the Perry Mason series. They were divorced in 1922. On May 19, 1950, she married Thomas Hepburn (father of Katharine Hepburn],] )and they had a childless marriage.They were married until his death on December 30, 1962.
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.
Jane Alexander received an Emmy nomination portraying Hopper in the 1985 TV film Malice in Wonderland (opposite Elizabeth Taylor as Louella Parsons).
She was also portrayed by Katherine Helmond in Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story, a 1995 made for TV movie and by Joanne Linville in James Dean, a 2001 made for TV movie..