Miriam Hopkins Biography

Miriam Hopkins was an American theatre, television and film actress who ranked among top screen divas of the 1930s. This biography profiles her childhood, life, acting career, achievements and timeline.

Miriam Hopkins
Quick Facts

Birthday: October 18, 1902

Nationality: American

Famous: Actresses Theater Personalities

Died At Age: 69

Sun Sign: Libra

Also Known As: Ellen Miriam Hopkins

Born in: Savannah, Georgia, U.S.

Famous as: Actress

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Anatole Litvak (1937–39), Austin Parker (1928–31), Brandon Peters (1926–27), Raymond B. Brock (1945–51)

father: Homer A. Hopkins

mother: Ellen Cutter

children: Michael T. Hopkins (1932–2010)

Died on: October 9, 1972

place of death: New York City, New York, U.S.

U.S. State: Georgia

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Miriam Hopkins was an American theatre, television and film actress who ranked among top screen divas of the 1930s and reigned the first half of the decade as one of the Queens of Paramount. She was also associated with other renowned production houses like ‘Warner Brothers’ and ‘Samuel Goldwyn Productions’. An electrifying performer, Hopkins’ career spanned over four decades that included thirty-six full-length films and working with some of the stalwart directors of Hollywood like William Wyler, Ernst Lubitsch and Rouben Mamoulian. She played the title role in the landmark film ‘Becky Sharp’, the first film to apply newly developed three-strip Technicolor production that paved way for a number of color films that followed in the US and Britain. Her memorable performance in the film fetched her ‘Academy Award’ nomination for best actress. Her versatile acting prowess was manifested by the number of remarkable at the same time varied performances that she executed in films. Some of her significant roles were that of a prostitute Ivy Pearson in ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, a beautiful and jealous pickpocket Lily in ‘Trouble in Paradise’, Gilda Farrell in the Pre-Code comedy ‘Design for Living’ among others. She also made several stage appearances and later performed varied roles in television dramas. However her off-screen reputation of being ‘difficult’ and especially her much publicized arch rivalry with another yesteryear diva Bette Davis had an unfavourable effect on her professional legacy. It would not be much to say that she remained one of the most unsung and underrated screen divas of the film industry.

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Miriam Hopkins
Childhood & Early Life
  • She was born on October 18, 1902, in Savannah, Georgia, in the wealthy family of Homer A. Hopkins and Ellen Cutter. The marriage of her parents was not a happy one that would often see her accompanying her mother and only sister Ruby to her maternal grandfather’s house, who was the fourth mayor of Bainbridge.
  • Later her parents divorced and little Miriam moved with her mother and sister to Bainbridge for good. She spent happy times there acting, directing and writing several plays that she would perform with her friends in the woods, an early knack that culminated into a full-fledged acting career. She also used to sing in children's choir held at the Episcopal church of the town.
  • At thirteen years of age she relocated with her mother and sister to Syracuse, New York where her maternal uncle, who wanted to support the family, was a wealthy businessman.
  • She attended ‘Goddard Seminary’ in Barre, Vermont (at present the ‘Goddard College’ in Plainfield, Vermont), an officially recognized private liberal arts college, from where she completed her graduation. There she studied music, participated in several plays, took extra lessons in singing and piano and remained actively involved in extracurricular activities. She also turned heads there by becoming the first student to flaunt a bob-cut hair.
  • Thereafter she joined ‘Leboska Dance Troupe’ and performed with them till the time she broke her ankle.
  • She also attended ‘Syracuse University’ in New York.
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Career
  • At 20 she stepped into show business as a chorus girl in dancing and productions of ‘Broadway’ in New York City. After performing in local musicals she gradually started doing dramatic roles.
  • Her excellent stage presence and charisma added with favourable reviews she received on Broadway soon made ‘Paramount Pictures’ eager to sign her to a contract that materialised in 1930. This led to her official film debut that year with Fred C. Newmeyer directed romantic comedy ‘Fast and Loose’.
  • Her film career took off swiftly within a year of joining Paramount that saw her starring opposite Maurice Chevalier, the biggest actor of Paramount during that time, in the 1931 American Pre-Code musical comedy ‘The Smiling Lieutenant’, directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
  • She tasted her first success with the American Pre-Code horror drama film ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ in 1931. It was directed by Rouben Mamoulian, where she essayed the role of a prostitute Ivy Pearson who gets involved with Jekyll and Hyde. Although she received rave reviews, many of her shots were removed prior to official release of the film due to potential controversy about the film as also her part in it.
  • After a couple of films she landed up with her breakthrough film in 1932, ‘Trouble in Paradise’, her second film with Ernst Lubitsch, where she proved her mettle by portraying the character of a charming yet jealous pickpocket Lily.
  • During that time the pre-Code films of this talented and daring beauty were thought-out to be risqué although all the films garnered box office success and acclamation from critics. Her other notable films of that time included ‘Design for Living’, and ‘The Story of Temple Drake’, both released in 1933. While the storyline of the first revolved around a ménage à trois between her, Gary Cooper and Fredric March; the second one featured a rape scene.
  • The 1930s were the most fruitful years of her film career when she reached pinnacle of success achieving stardom with most of her films reaping success both commercially and critically. Her other notable films of that decade are ‘Two Kinds of Women’ (1932), ‘The Richest Girl in the World’ (1934), ‘Barbary Coast’ (1935), ‘Becky Sharp’ (1935), ‘These Three’ (1936) and ‘The Old Maid’ (1939).
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  • Through her portrayals she presented new kind of women in Hollywood that America had never seen earlier like tricksters, plotters, seducers and cool Hannahs who were unconventional yet glamorous and captivating.
  • Although she auditioned for the part of Scarlett O'Hara in epic historical romance film ‘Gone with the Wind’, directed by Victor Fleming, which eventually won ten ‘Academy Awards’, it was finally played by Vivien Leigh.
  • Her arch-rivalry with another silver-screen prima donna Bette Davis, with whom she did two films, ‘The Old Maid’ (1939) and ‘Old Acquaintance’ (1943) and whom she suspected of having an affair with her then husband Anatole Litvak soon became viral.
  • She concentrated more on performing on-stage during the 1940s that saw her appearing in plays like ‘The Perfect Marriage’, ‘The Skin of our Teeth’ and ‘Message for Margaret’. She also performed in radio programs like ‘Suspense and Inner Sanctum’, ‘Lux Radio Theatre’ and ‘The Campbell Playhouse’.
  • From late 1940s for around three decades she performed in television plays, becoming a pioneer in the small-screen. Some of her TV performances include American anthology series such as ‘The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre’ in 1949; ‘Pulitzer Prize Playhouse’ in 1951 , that featured adaptations of ‘Pulitzer Prize’ winning stories, novels and plays; and ‘Lux Video Theatre’ from 1951 to 1955; and science fiction TV series ‘The Outer Limits’ in 1964.
  • Her later films mostly saw her in character roles including ‘The Heiress’ (1949), ‘The Mating Season’ (1951), ‘The Children's Hour’ (1961) and ‘The Chase’ (1966).
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • She married four times but all culminated in divorce. These were with actor Brandon Peters (1926–27); screenwriter and aviator Austin Parker (1928-31); director Anatole Litvak (1937–39); and war correspondent Raymond B. Brock (1945-51).
  • She adopted a son Michael T. Hopkins in 1932 who passed away on October 5, 2010.
  • On October 9, 1972, she succumbed to heart attack and was interred in the ‘Oak City Cemetery’ in Bainbridge, U.S.
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Trivia
  • ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ has two stars on her, for television at 1708 Vine Street and for motion pictures at 1701 Vine Street.
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How To Cite

Article Title
- Miriam Hopkins Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/miriam-hopkins-7546.php
Last Updated
- November 12, 2017

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