Cover

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Accolades, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Prologue

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pp. 1-4

One fall afternoon in 1940, stage and screen actress Miriam Hopkins opened the door to her suite at New York’s Ambassador Hotel. Standing before her was a short young man wearing thick glasses, a threadbare corduroy jacket, and muddy riding boots. ...

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1. “From a Fine Old Family”

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pp. 5-16

Miriam Hopkins’s elitist ancestral legacy wasn’t as important to her as it was to her self-admitted southern belle mother, Ellen Dickinson Cutter Hopkins. Mrs. Hopkins spent years of arduous work in the Bainbridge, Georgia, and New York chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. ...

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2. Broadway Bound

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pp. 17-33

As far as Dixie knew, Miriam’s only theater exposure was her dance school. He was unaware of her vaudeville stint and that both she and Ruby auditioned for roles on Broadway. To ensure that they followed his wishes, he spread the news along the Great White Way that he would shoot any casting agent who hired either of his nieces. ...

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3. Billy

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pp. 34-45

Known to his friends as Billy, Austin Parker was a tall, well-built man with blue eyes, a strong face, and graying hair. A magazine writer and the author of several books, Parker had filed for a Paris divorce from his first wife, Phyllis Duganne, a short-story writer and novelist. ...

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4. Of Paramount Importance

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pp. 46-56

Appearing in Lysistrata exposed Miriam to many famous show business people. Broadway producer Lee Shubert offered her the lead in the stage production The King’s Forty-Horsepower Motor. Rehearsals would begin in late August, so Miriam continued in Lysistrata until then. ...

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5. Hollywood

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pp. 57-66

Miriam’s train pulled into Pasadena’s Santa Fe Station on Monday, June 8, 1931. On the same train were Paramount contract players: actress-singer Jeanette MacDonald and Peggy Shannon, a Clara Bow type who would have a minor career in the early 1930s. Both had been called to the West Coast to make pictures as well. ...

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6. “An Expensive Leading Woman”

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pp. 67-86

Miriam returned to Hollywood to film the adaptation of Robert E. Sherwood’s play This Is New York, now titled Two Kinds of Women. Directed by William C. de Mille, the brother of Cecil, it’s the story of a country-bred daughter (Hopkins) of a North Dakota senator (Irving Pichel) ...

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7. The Lubitsch Touch

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pp. 87-95

Noël Coward’s darkly witty comedy Design for Living opened on Broadway on January 24, 1933, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The play, about “three people who love each other very much,” explored risqué subjects such as infidelity and a ménage à trois with traces of homosexuality. ...

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8. Sutton Place

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pp. 96-110

New York’s Sutton Place is one of the city’s most affluent streets, running six blocks along the East River, from East Fifty-Third Street to East Fifty-Ninth Street (where it becomes York Avenue), and offering a stunning view of the Queensboro Bridge. ...

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9. Goldwyn

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pp. 111-127

In Hollywood, Goldwyn delayed the start of Barbary Coast. Goldwyn wanted to produce an authentic, sweeping panorama of San Francisco in the halcyon days of the 1849 gold rush. He had bought the rights to Herbert Asbury’s novel, but Harrison’s Reports called it “one of the filthiest, ...

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10. Tola

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pp. 128-143

Before sailing for the United States on the SS Normandie from Southampton, Miriam said goodbye to her English admirer, the publisher Jamie Hamilton, who was enamored enough to fly his private plane to buzz the ship, zeroing in dangerously over the smoke stacks. Miriam stood at the ship’s rails, watching her impulsive suitor swooping overhead ...

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11. West Hollywood to Burbank

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pp. 144-153

When Miriam returned to Goldwyn Studios, she had concerns about her career. Her last film, RKO’s Wise Girl, had been released more than a year earlier, at the end of 1937. The film lost $144,000, and the reviews were hardly raves. Also, the box office for her four Goldwyn films was middling at best. There were many reasons for this. ...

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12. “Perfect Little Bitches”

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pp. 154-166

Variously described as a “woman’s picture,” a “tearjerker,” and a “soap opera,” the melodrama has been a standard since the early days of the silent cinema. The maternal melodrama, a subgenre featuring plots of self-sacrificing, loving mother figures who suffer adversity, best describes Miriam’s first film at Warner Bros., ...

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13. All This, Jack Warner, and Bette Davis, Too

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pp. 167-184

While Miriam played the waiting game in Nevada, the Warner Bros. legal department was working on what they referred to as the “Miriam Hopkins situation.” Contract or no contract, the studio postponed filming of All This, and Heaven Too but were uncertain of how Miriam would react. ...

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14. Angels Battle in Boston

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pp. 185-193

It had been seven years since Miriam appeared on Broadway, in Jezebel; each year she insisted she would “be back next season,” but “next season” never came. There were plays, but nothing that made it to Broadway. Her starring role and investment in Battle of Angels would prove to her naysayers that she was still an audience draw. ...

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15. “This Is Pure Hopkins”

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pp. 194-203

Warner Bros. paid $75,000 for the film rights to Old Acquaintance. Of the two women writers, one is a success in the commercial market and the other writes more erudite, and unpopular, fare. They live by different standards. Their commonality is that they attended the same school. ...

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16. To New York and Back

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pp. 204-216

In February, Miriam returned to New York for a rest. Sutton Place—exclusive, architecturally unblemished, and impressively stamped with good breeding—was a far cry from her perception of Hollywood. On that serene byway, she was neighbors to a Vanderbilt (Lillie Havemeyer, a Vanderbilt sister) and a Morgan. ...

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17. “A Little Off-Center”

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pp. 217-224

It had been nearly four years since Miriam’s last film, and she was certain she had “burned her Hollywood bridges,” at least metaphorically. Her career was on the stage, she believed, Broadway or elsewhere. ...

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18. “They Are Sure Reds”

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pp. 225-235

During the 1930s and throughout the 1940s, Miriam got involved with several political and social groups that the FBI suspected of fronting for the Communist Party. Among them was the Motion Picture Democratic Committee (Miriam was its second vice president) and the incendiary League of Women Shoppers, which also counted Bette Davis among its members. ...

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19. “How Many Times Can You Come Back?”

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pp. 236-253

For a period, Miriam was dividing her time between television and road tours. In the spring of 1958, she was in Phoenix, appearing in Arthur Laurent’s play Time of the Cuckoo as a lonely American secretary in search of romance in Venice. A few years earlier the play had been adapted into a film titled Summertime, ...

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20. The Final Years

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pp. 254-263

Miriam always looked for opportunities to make money and often invested in her plays, but at the time there were no prospects. She sought advice from Eliot Janeway, who two decades earlier had rescued her from the advances of former presidential candidate Wendell Willkie. ...

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21. “If I Had to Do It Over Again”

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pp. 264-272

In the beginning months of 1972, Becky Morehouse was in Los Angeles attending several press junkets and conducting interviews. When United Artists learned she was visiting Miriam, they asked she bring her to a luncheon they were hosting. Becky tried with her “tremendous persuasive qualities” to get Miriam to go, but she would not go. ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 273-278

Miriam Hopkins advised her niece, Margot Welch, when she started as an actress, that there were five things a young person needed for a successful acting career: talent, training, good luck, persistence, and heart (or guts). Margot asked which one was the most important. ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 279-282

In my ten years of research, I gained the cooperation and support of Miriam Hopkins’s son, Michael, his wife, Christiane, and their son, Michael Thomas (Mike) Hopkins. Besides sharing their family history, they also provided photographs and encouragement. ...

Appendix

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pp. 283-294

Notes

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pp. 295-332

Bibliography

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pp. 333-336

Index

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pp. 337-360

Further Series Titles

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Illustrations

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