Miriam Hopkins

  1. Carole Lombard, No Man Of Her Own, 1931.     Hopkins fled, complaining  the role did not suit her. Or, was it the title?  (No,  she was furious at losing top billing to Clark Gable). So, she fell “ill” – innaugurating the one and only film of Gable and his Carole.  And… no sparks whatsoever.  Indeed, her wrap party gift to him was a ham…  with his picture on it! Their celebrated love affair began much years later and they wed in 1939. 
  2. Joan Crawford, Forsaking All Others, 1933.    As if the mighty MGM didn’t have more stars than were in the heavens, the studio tried to borrow Hopkins from Paramount as Clark Gable’s new partner. No, said Par. So did the Hays Office censors about such injurious words as tramp, sex appeal and – oh no, cover your ears! – “nudist wedding.”
  3. Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night, 1933.      A Frank Capra pal passed her the script.  She passed it back – in high dudgeon. “Not if I never play another part! To me it was just another silly comedy…”  Also in the Ellie loop were Constance Bennett, Myrna Loy, Margaret Sullavan.
  4. Carole Lombard, Twentieth Century, 1934.       “… I’m a bad judge of a play or film,” said Miriam.
  5. Carole Lombard, Bolero, 1934.      One of the few films in this survey that George Raft did make… He also made Rumba with Lombard the following year – but stalked out of their Princess Comes Across, 1935,  because cinematographer Ted Tetziaff had made her look better than Raft in Rumba.   (Easiest job Ted ever had!)   The film’s highlight  was a dance routine on a circular stage to Ravel’s Bolero – just not as well a sspectacularly staged as  by réalisateur Claude  Lelouch in Les uns et les autres (US: Bolero) in 1980.
  6. Ann Harding, Peter Ibbetson, 1934.   Gary Cooper as the titular architevct hired by the Duke of Towers only to find that the Duchess is his childhood sweetheart. Due for Hopkins, scorned by Lombard, won  by Harding. 
  7. Carole Lombard, Hands Across The Table, 1935.     When he couldn’t land Hopkins, producer Samuel Goldwyn gave up and sold the comedy to Paramount.
  8. Carole Lombard, My Man Godfrey, 1935.  Hopkins at age 33, Constance  Bennett, 31,  and Marion Davies, 38,   were hot contenders for teenage Irene Bullkock. But the butler, William Powell, scuppered their boats.  “No,” he said. “I’lll call Carole.” They had divorced three years before but she immediately agreed, quitting Frank Capra’s Mr Deeds Goes to Town three days before he started shooting.   Capra wasn’t happy. The ex-Powells were. (She was youngest on the list – 27). For the first time, one movie  collected  all four Oscar  acting nods for Powell, Lombard, Mischa Auer and Alice Brady. It remains one of the best comedies of all time
  9. Frances Farmer, Come And Get It, 1936.  Just as she began Howard Hawks’ Barbary Coast, 1935, producer Sam Goldwyn decided Hopkins  should also be Hawks’ next leading ladies: mother and daughter Lotta Morgan and Lotta Bostrom, caught between Edward Arnold and Walter Brennan. Hawks didn’t agree. He checked through producer Goldwyn’s tests, thought about Virginia Bruce and Andrea Leeds – relegated to support once Hawks fell heavily for Francis Farmer – the stunning “bad girl of West Seattle” – where she’d entered a newspaper contest in 1935 and won  a VIP trip to… Moscow!!!.). “Fabulous,” said Hawks. “She was a blonde, a natural, but she just used a dark wig, that’s all she put on, no change in make-up. Just her face… her whole attitude changed, her whole method of talking.”And then  It could be said to be the directing credit, a big battle between  Hawks who started the film and William Wyler who wrapped it.  . Frances attended the world premiere at Seattle’s Liberty Theatre, where she’d been an usherette!  Now director Howard Hawks was saying: (A matrix for Lauren Bacall later on with Hawks). Oscar stupidly did not agree. Because she was…  “a trouble maker”!
  10. Vivien Leigh, Dark Journey, 1936. Victor Saville revealed Hopkins was first offered the-not-yet-Scarlett’s WW1 French spy –  falling head over helmet for Conrad Veidt’s German spy.   And they fall for each other. According Saville – and he should know, he was the director.

  11. Bette Davis, Jezebel, 1937.   
    Head bro Jack Warner started moves to obtain the rights to the Owen Davis play in 1935.  With Ruth Chatterton in mind for Julie Marsden, the “high-handed and wilful” Southern belle.  Or, perhaps, Margaret Sullavan. Miriam Hopkins was Broadway’s Julie.  She co-owned the rights and refused to sell – unless she reprised Julie.  She figured she had won but should have read the small print she had won but should have read the small print.  The deal said she would be “considered” for the role, not given it. Enter her eternal nemesis  since  their George Cukor stage days when  Bette stole scenes – “even from extras!”  Miriam then hated how Bette became the biggest star in Hollywood – “stealing” her Jezebel, her Oscar and, for the duration of The Sisters,  her  husband, director Anatole Litvak.   Jack Warner persuaded Hopkins not to name Davis in the divorce  suit and Miriam could only retaliate by using all her up-staging tricks to put Bette off-kilter when they made The Old Maid, 1939. Jezebel became known as the black-and-white Gone with the Wind – and was released on  March 26, 1938.  My literal birthday. 

  12. Kay Francis, Comet Over Broadway, 1937.  “Weak tea.”  Snorted Bette, still on a high from Jezebel. She was immediately suspended and the movie was handed the starstruck Eve  to Miriam Hopkins. She fell ill – or was it “ill”? –  making room for Francis plus  off-cuts from her 1934 film, I Found Stella Parish.  Davis was right, hence directors Edmund Goulding and William Keighley refused the gig. Busby Berkeley took over until he fell ill (actually he was in a  divorce court, being named, by Irving Wheeler as the lover of his wife Caroile Landis). John Farrow made the film.  
  13. Bette Davis, Dark Victory, 1938.  When still at MGM, David O Selznick bought the Tallulah Bankhead play in 1935 – not for her (“too Broadway”) but for Garbo and Fredric March. However, Gone with the Wind got in the way…  Gloria Swanson wanted to be the  socialite going blind with a brain tumour. “Can’t be any good if Selznick wants to sell it,” said the Columbia czar Harry Cohn.  Swanson quit Tinseltown for New York.  Next?  Barbara Stanwyck and Merle Oberon were keen, sniffing Oscar on the horizon. Warner Bros paid $50,000 for it – for Miriam Hopkins. Or Kay Francis. They were still pondering when Bette Davis pounced, winning her  third Oscar nomination in five years, allthough the head bbro Jack Warner had said ” who wants to see someone going blind?” Hah! Warner He built three new sound stages with the profits.

  14. Bette Davis, All This,  and Heaven Too, 1939.   During their spell on  in George Cukor’s  stage troupe Bette was  was mesmerised by Hopkins – and the bisexual Miriam fancied Davis. (Bette’s Mom warned her off; “she’s trouble.”).  When Hopkins finally hit Hollywood, Bette was The Star – after winning her first Oscar for the very role Miriam had played on Broadway, Jezebel.  In their first film together, The Old Maid, Hopkins always found something – anything – to do, draw eyes from Davis and her dialogue to herself. A literal scene-stealer, not by performance, but subterfuge.
  15. Barbara O’Neil, All This, And Heaven Too, 1940. With Davis signed up, Hopkins was then offered the secondary role of the Duchesse de Praslin.   On their second and last film, Old Acquaintance, 1942, Hopkins played her usual tricks. So did Bette. She had an liaison with their co-star, Gig Young – and much later, with their director, Vincent Sherman. Bette had already bred her feud wiyh Joan Crawford, by starting an  affair with Franchot Tone during her Oscar-winning Dangerous, 1935, when  he was engaged to Crawford. (She stiill wed him., For four years).

  16. Constance Bennett, Law of the Tropics, 1940. Followed by The Law of the Hopkins… Not many actresses were as honest as she was. She passed, explaining she felt too old at 38 to playing footsy with Jeffrey Lynn, 31.
  17. Mary Astor,The Great Lie, 1940. Or Women of the World when Bette Davis decidedf to play nice for once instead of her close to home bitches (and then, naturally, called it  “one of the few times I played a character basically like myself.” Hah!  The concert pianist Sandra Kovak (“cold and poisonous” said critic Bosley Crowther) was the harder to fill.  Perfect for Miriam Hopkins but she and Davis had…. issues. Next in line were Sylvia Sidney, Anna Sten and the unknown Muriel Angelus and Katherine Locke. But Mary Astor could play piano.    And so the most sublime “character: was… Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1…perfectly fingered by Astor but actually recorded by Max Rabinovitch.
  18. Carole Lombard, To Be Or Not To Be, 1941.  The Legend: Miriam just could not get on with co-star  Jack Benny. The Truth: ’Twas the role she didn’t like.  Lombard loved it and simply Iago-ed Hopkins into quitting – the fifth film that Lombard took a away from Hopkins. And the last. As, alas,  this proved to be Lombard’s finale.  Once shooting was completed, she embarked on  her US War Bonds tour.  She never came back – killed in a plane crash on January 16 1942. Variety praised her “effortless and highly effective performance that provides memorable finale to a brilliant screen career.” Scant consolation for her husband, Clark Gable. So distraught he ran away to WWII. 
  19. Bette Davis, The Little Foxes, 1941.     This once, Miriam  came close to replacing Bette… on the verge of a breakdown when directed anew by her ex- lover, William Wyler.  He insisted she stay in the film – and then , never chose her for another. 
  20. Ann Rutherford, Badlands of Dakota, 1941.  Even with her fame on the slide, Miriam  refused the “unsuitable” B-Western.  She was unhappy with the final draft of her role.  Farmer was no happier but made a great Calamity Jane – although she was only ever referred to as Jane. Because Frances was enough of a calamity?  Jane’s  real name was Martha Burke (1852–1903).
  21. Joan Blondell, Lady For A Night, 1941.   Early that June, Republic was chasing Hopkins (and Judith Anderson) for the John Wayne film (almost called Memphis Belle!). Director Leigh Jason (who?) settled for Blondell and Blanche Yurka.

  22. Hedy Lamarr, Samson and Delilah, 1948.    
     Cinemperor Cecil B DeMille’s 1935 plan had been had Henry Wilcoxon with Joan Crawford, Larraine Day, Dolores Del Rio, Paulette Goddard, Jane Greer or Miriam Hopkins.   
    Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene Dietrich… By ’48, CB got serious.  He sought a mix of Vivien Leigh, Jean Simmons and “a generous touch of Lana Turner” from among… Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Rhonda Fleming (the Queen of Babylon, 1954), Ava Gardner, Greer Garson (Mrs Miniver!!), Susan Hayward (1951’s Bathsheba), Rita Hayworth (the future Salome), Jennifer Jones (St Bernadette in 1943), Patricia Neal, Maureen O’Hara, Nancy Olson (too demure), Jean Peters, Ruth Roman, Gail Russell, Ann Sheridan, Gene Tierney… even such surprises as comical LucIlle Ball (!) and song ‘n’ dancer Betty Hutton.  Plus the Dominican Maria Montez (perfect!), Italian Alida Valli and two Swedes: Viveca Lindfors and Marta Toren.  But CB had already fancied Lamarr for his unmade epic about the Jewish queen Esther (played by Joan Collins in 1960).  Here’s a Samson review signed Groucho Marx: “No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s bust is larger than the leading lady’s!”

  23. Gertrude Lawrence, The Glass Menagerie, 1950.    The first Tennessee Williams play to be filmed.  By Elia Kazan?   Not at all.  Irving Rapper got the gig, having moved up from, dialogue director to full-time helmer – and surviving three battles with the irascible Bette Davis. For Amanda, the mother of Jane Wyman’s handicapped Laura ,(based on Wiilliams’ mother and sister), Warner Bros chose  Tallulah Bankhead – and sacked her on  the second day for being sloshed on-set!  Rapper suggested Miriam Hopkins (no way, said Jack Warner), rejected Ethel Barrymore (too old) and  Ruth Chatterton (too Ruth Chatterton). He said the brass  “positively screamed when I mentioned Bette Davis… That left Gertrude Lawrence, who had little camera experience and was so very jittery she’d cry every time a take was spoiled.”. Later versions were way better, even those made in Bollywood and Iran.
  24. Vivien Leigh, A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951.    Fifteen years after Dark Journey– the result is the same… Producer Irene Selznick seriously considered Hopkins, who felt Blanche DuBois would be her perfect comeback. “It’s almost a foregone conclusion that I’ll win the Oscar… It would make up for not getting Scarlett O’Hara, a part I was destined to play .”Or not… She hated British women playing Southern belles – Jessica Tandy in Streetcar and, especially, Vivien as Scarlett – “I could have done that role better than anyone.” In 1966, Marlon Brando was sad to see her in a small role in “this turkey”- The Chase.  By 1964, Hopkins was a madame in Fanny Hill directed by… Russ Meyer. Bette Davis’ comments remain unprintable.




 Birth year: 1902Death year: 1972Other name: Casting Calls:  24