Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood
Celebrity Gossip and American Conservatism
Publication Year: 2011
“In this fascinating book, Jennifer Frost shows how the famous Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper combined celebrity gossip with the promotion of Right-wing politics. In the process, Frost offers a welcome corrective to the notion of an always liberal Hollywood, and reveals how apparently private tittle-tattle can become a public political force.”
Published by: NYU Press
The project began at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and so I need to thank the Department of History for a Special Travel Grant, which allowed me to undertake an initial research trip to explore available primary sources in Los Angeles. Jeanne Boydston, Paul Boyer, Nancy Isenberg, Earl Mulderink, and John Pettegrew in History provided guidance early on, and...
Introduction: “Malice in Wonderland”
In 1944, just six years into her career as a nationally syndicated Hollywood gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper quipped that her future memoirs would be titled “Malice in Wonderland.” Witty and catty, Hopper’s title perfectly captured her reputation in Hollywood. Malicious was the least of it: “unpredictable and ruthless,” “cold-blooded,” “a vicious witch,” and, due...
1. The Making of a Celebrity Gossip
On October 22, 1939, Hedda Hopper broke a story that made the front page of the Los Angeles Times and her career as a gossip columnist. In an “exclusive” interview with James Roosevelt, eldest son of the sitting president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and a producer and executive vice president at Samuel Goldwyn Studios, Hopper confronted “Jimmy” about...
2. Readers, Respondents, and Fans
“My dear Mrs. Hopper,” wrote one of Hedda Hopper’s respondents. “Since I am a reader of your column, one of the few I consider worth reading pertaining to Hollywood, I would like to take some of my time and also some of yours to give you some views my friends and I have reached concerning movies, etc.” She then went on to describe herself. “I am 25 years old...
3. Hopper’s Wars
In the late 1930s, as a syndicated gossip columnist with a radio show and a growing and eager audience, Hedda Hopper became a national public figure, allowing her to participate in, and pontificate on, the world of politics beyond Hollywood, particularly the politics of war. In the years before the United States entered what came to be called World War II...
4. Cold War Americanism, Hopper Style
“My dear Miss Hopper,” wrote one of her readers in September 1953. “Every morning my husband, who is 90 years of age, and a very young fellow at that, says to me—read me Hopper.” The reader went on to praise Hedda Hopper’s honesty and added, “We like your way of speaking out against subversion and policies detrimental to our form of Government.” “I want to thank you,” she...
5. Blacklisting Hollywood “Reds”
In September 1947, Hedda Hopper planned to appear on a radio broadcast to debate the topic “Is There Really a Threat of Communism in Hollywood?” The very next month HUAC would hold its first post–World War II hearings to investigate Communism and subversion in the motion picture industry. These October hearings would feature the “Hollywood Ten” and...
6. Representing Race in the Face of Civil Rights
When Hedda Hopper appeared in the Women for Nixon commercial during the 1950 U.S. Senate race, she not only used the Republican Party’s Red-baiting campaign tactics and advanced the party’s electoral prospects. She also revealed her conservative racial attitudes. In planning for this radio broadcast, Hopper wanted a black actress involved. Until the 1930s, the...
7. “Family Togetherness” in Fifties Hollywood
On December 12, 1949, Hedda Hopper was notably scooped by Louella Parsons, who announced that Ingrid Bergman was pregnant and by a man, Italian director Roberto Rossellini, who was not her husband. “I spent the day of the announcement rubbing egg off my face,” Hopper recalled, “because six months before I’d interviewed Bergman at the scene...
8. Taking on “Hollywood Babylon”
In January 1962, the filming of 20th Century-Fox’s costly Cleopatra (1963) resumed in Rome, with scenes of Elizabeth Taylor as “the temptress-queen” and Richard Burton as the Roman general Marc Antony together for the first time. Their tumultuous affair soon began and became known to the production crew, their respective spouses (Eddie Fisher and Sybil Burton)...
Conclusion: Movies, Politics, and Narratives of Nostalgia
The scene opened onto an ornate, overstuffed bedroom in disarray with Hedda Hopper, in her mid-sixties, hatted and gloved, seated on an unmade bed, speaking rapidly into a white telephone on the nightstand. “Times City Desk? Hedda Hopper speaking. I’m talking from the bedroom of Norma Desmond. Don’t bother with a rewrite man, take it direct. Ready?—As...
About the Author
Jennifer Frost teaches U.S. history at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She received her PhD in United States women’s history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and is the author of “An Interracial Movement of the Poor”: Community Organizing and the New Left in the 1960s, also published by NYU...
Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2011
OCLC Number: 703156000
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood