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Old 18-02-16, 20:29   #1
 
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Movies NEW MOVIES >Gossip Queen Struck TERROR in Hollywood

Gossip Queen Who Struck Terror in Hollywood: Played by Helen Mirren and Tilda Swinton in Two New Films
>How Hedda Hopper Could Bury Careers With One Swipe of Her Pen


Daily Mail UK, 18 February 2016






Gossip queen: Hedda Hopper was the Hollywood gossip columnist whose revelations, whether true or false, enraptured tens of millions of Americans
.

Hedda Hopper died 50 years ago this month. The cause of death was given as double pneumonia, which in a way was apt: she never did things by halves.

Hedda was the Hollywood gossip columnist whose revelations, whether true or false, enraptured tens of millions of Americans and struck terror into the hearts of the biggest movers and shakers in the movie business.

In two new films she is played, brilliantly, by leading British actresses. In the recently released film Trumbo, Helen Mirren portrays her as unscrupulous and bitterly vindictive.

And Tilda Swinton does much the same in the forthcoming comedy Hail Caesar! - Starring George Clooney,


CLICK;

Hail, Caesar! (2016)


Trumbo is the story of Dalton Trumbo, the top screenwriter who spent most of the Fifties persecuted for his Communist sympathies. With the rest of the so-called Hollywood Ten, he was blacklisted, unable to work under his own name.

The same era is depicted in Hail Caesar!, a riotous Coen Brothers parody of Hollywood in its so-called Golden Age, in which Hedda is thinly disguised, with Swinton playing her as one of two scheming twin sisters.

But in both films she looms large and terrifying. In Trumbo, we see her as the embodiment of America’s Cold War paranoia about the enemy within, whipping up fear of ‘Reds under the bed’.

In Hail Caesar!, Swinton’s twins (the other is based on her arch-rival Louella Parsons) are more concerned with dishing the dirt on movie stars caught with their pants down.

Both movies, in their different ways, show precisely how Hedda Hopper operated.
From 1920 until the mid-Thirties, she was a bit part actress, appearing in more than 120 films, but never as a leading lady.

Then she was invited to parlay her fondness for industry tittle-tattle into a syndicated newspaper column. When the mighty Los Angeles Times picked it up in 1937, she at last had the attention she craved.

With it came power and wealth. She loved to refer to her stylish home on Tropical Avenue in Beverly Hills as ‘The House That Fear Built’.


The fear was well-founded. She could bury careers with a swipe of her pen, and did, sometimes simply because she could.


When the English actress Merle Oberon asked why she kept writing such horrid things, Hedda smiled sweetly and patted her arm. ‘Bitchery, dear, sheer bitchery,’ she said.

But often there were reasons other than sheer bitchery. When Ingrid Bergman arrived in Hollywood from her native Sweden in 1939, Hedda was beguiled by her and praised her lavishly in print for her talent, beauty and wholesome domestic life with her nice dentist husband.

That would all change, dramatically.







In two new films she is played, brilliantly, by leading British actresses. In the recently released film Trumbo, Helen Mirren portrays her as unscrupulous and bitterly vindictive.
And Tilda Swinton does much the same in the forthcoming comedy Hail Caesar!. Pictured, Hopper with actors Martha Hyer and Robert Horton in 1950





In both films she looms large and terrifying. In Trumbo, we see her as the embodiment of America’s Cold War paranoia about the enemy within, whipping up fear of ‘Reds under the bed’. Pictured, Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper in Trumbo, with Bryan Cranston as Dalton







The fear was well-founded. She could bury careers with a swipe of her pen, and did, sometimes simply because she could. When the English actress Merle Oberon asked why she kept writing such horrid things, Hedda smiled sweetly and patted her arm.

‘Bitchery, dear, sheer bitchery,’ she said






Tilda Swinton plays twins based on Hedda (the other is based on her arch-rival Louella Parsons) who are more concerned with dishing the dirt on movie stars caught with their pants down



In 1949, Hedda travelled to Rome and asked Bergman — whose recent performance as Joan of Arc had merely compounded her saintly reputation — whether there was any truth in the scandalous rumour that she was pregnant by the married Italian film director Roberto Rossellini.

‘Hedda, look at me,’ Bergman replied. ‘Do I look as if I am going to have a baby?’

Hedda duly reported that there was ‘not a word of truth’ in the rumour.

But Bergman was, indeed, pregnant with Rossellini’s illegitimate child, and the scoop went to another columnist, Hedda’s former mentor turned bitter rival Louella, who was just as powerful.

There was rarely any respite for those on whom Hedda Hopper turned her fury, and fighting back wasn’t the answer either.

For studio publicists, keeping Hedda and Louella happy was a full-time job. Not least because cosying up to one often meant the undying enmity of the other.

That’s what happened to Bergman. Enraged, Hedda led a campaign to taint her name.
Almost overnight, the star of Casablanca and Joan Of Arc became box-office poison, and was denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate, no less, as ‘a free-love cultist’, ‘a horrible example of womanhood’ and even a ‘powerful influence for evil’, as if she were a serial killer.

There was rarely any respite for those on whom Hedda Hopper turned her fury, and fighting back wasn’t the answer either.
She was incorrigibly, irredeemably, relentlessly nasty. But she was also elegant, charismatic and fun. And she knew that reputations in Tinseltown were all about image.

Before the 1942 Oscars, those attending were told to dress informally because America was at war and too much ostentation might be regarded as tasteless.

A few female movie stars, led by Ginger Rogers, wore evening gowns regardless. But no one flouted the order quite like Hedda, who glided in dressed up to the nines in one of her trademark extravagant hats.





Mirren (pictured) makes the most of those hats in Trumbo


But for all Hedda’s glamour, there was no greater scourge of Left-wing idealists in Hollywood. At the 1950 Oscars, word went round that if the Socialist Jose Ferrer won Best Actor, Hedda planned to stand up, unfurl an American flag and storm out.








In Hail Caesar!, Swinton’s twins are inspired by Hedda and her arch-rival Louella Parsons. Pictured, Swinton at the Hail Caesar! screening in Berlin on February 11 at the tribute to David Bowie: The Man Who Fell to Earth in Berlin






Hail Caesar! is a riotous Coen Brothers parody of Hollywood in its so-called Golden Age, in which Hedda is thinly disguised, with Swinton playing her as one of two scheming twin sisters





Fiona Shaw is pictured playing Hopper in the film RKO 281. Hedda had spies everywhere, and everyone knew that if a star so much as flounced off a set she would know within the hour


Mirren makes the most of those hats in Trumbo, but for all Hedda’s glamour, there was no greater scourge of Left-wing idealists in Hollywood.

At the 1950 Oscars, word went round that if the Socialist Jose Ferrer won Best Actor, Hedda planned to stand up, unfurl an American flag and storm out.

He did win, and when she later heard about the rumour, she said she was sorry she hadn’t thought of it.
With her friend John Wayne she was a leading light in the pompously named Motion Picture Alliance For The Preservation of American Ideals.

But for Hedda, an ideal American life didn’t just mean political conservatism. She was also passionate about the sanctity of the family, and in Hollywood there was no one more likely to make your life a misery if you were having a clandestine affair.





Hedda loathed adultery and sexual promiscuity, like she loathed Commies


Hedda loathed adultery and sexual promiscuity, like she loathed Commies. Her energetic trashing of Ingrid Bergman owed as much to genuine moral outrage as it did to damaged professional pride.

Her spies were everywhere. Everyone knew that if a star so much as flounced off a set, Hedda, or Louella, would know within the hour.

But they both preferred meatier tip-offs. In his 1975 memoir Bring On The Empty Horses, David Niven recalled Hedda dropping ‘heavy hints’ in her column that married movie star Joseph Cotten ‘had been caught by the Malibu beach patrol in the back seat of his car astride a teenage Deanna Durbin’.

Cotten, and more particularly Mrs Cotten, were aghast.

He threatened to boot Hedda up the backside the next time he saw her, and accounts vary as to whether he did or if he instead pulled away her chair just as she was sitting down at a swanky dinner.

Either way, he reacted as if there were no truth in her gossip-mongering. Doubtless he felt he had to.

But Orson Welles, who knew Cotten well, later confirmed that he had, indeed, been ‘f****** Deanna Durbin’, and moreover, that he liked to do it in his car. Hedda had not been misled by her spy in the Malibu beach patrol.

Of course, no gossip columnist these days could ever wield the power she did. And Hollywood itself is nothing like the community she knew so well.

Yet some things haven’t changed. For example, as the 2016 Oscars approach, she would undoubtedly recognise the febrile atmosphere caused by the apparent snubbing of black actors and directors.

As it happens, she took full credit for the first Oscar bestowed on a black male actor.


At the 1948 ceremony, a special award was given to James Baskett, who had played the former slave Uncle Remus and sung Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah in the Disney film Song Of The South. Hedda thought this would be ‘a great humanitarian move’ and championed the idea in her column. But she was no paragon of racial understanding. In a 1958 interview with a young Sidney Poitier, she asked if he sang, adding: ‘So many of your people do.’ Poitier replied he couldn’t.





Of course, no gossip columnist these days could ever wield the power she did. And Hollywood itself is nothing like the community she knew so well





The man she despised most vehemently and publicly of all, however, was Charlie Chaplin. In print she hounded him for years, not only for his Leftist politics, but also for his fondness for much younger women


‘You’re the first one I’ve ever met who says he can’t sing,’ said Hedda. ‘I’ve never known any of your people who couldn’t sing.’

She had similar preconceptions about the Jews. Rabidly anti-Semitic, she held them responsible for much of Hollywood’s political extremism.
The man she despised most vehemently and publicly of all, however, was Charlie Chaplin.

In print she hounded him for years, not only for his Leftist politics, but also for his fondness for much younger women. In 1943, when weeping, pregnant 22-year-old Joan Barry arrived on her doorstep, claiming Chaplin was the father, Hedda helped her file a paternity suit.

Weeks later, as also chronicled by David Niven, Hedda ‘nearly went up in flames’ when she heard that Chaplin, then 54, had married Oona, the 18-year-old daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill.

Significantly, Hedda’s fairly brief marriage had been to a man 27 years her senior.

She was his fifth wife and divorced him after finding him cheating on her, so that may well have been why Chaplin’s predilections enraged her so.

She was also furious that he had made such a fortune out of Hollywood while remaining a British citizen. In fact, Britain generally seemed to annoy her.


At the 1963 Oscars, she was furious that three of the five Best Actor nominees were from the British Isles (Richard Harris, Rex Harrison and Albert Finney).





Significantly, Hedda’s fairly brief marriage had been to a man 27 years her senior. She was his fifth wife and divorced him after finding him cheating on her, so that may well have been why Chaplin’s predilections enraged her so.


She admitted they could act, but added: ‘The weather’s so foul on that tight little isle that, to get in out of the rain, they all gather in theatres and practise Hamlet on each other.’


Years earlier, she had so enjoyed her visits to London that Niven recalled her once coming back with ‘a bogus British accent, complete with the broadest “A” in the business.

‘On her return, she informed me that London was “arbsolutely farntarstic” ’.


All her long life, Hedda was a hypocrite on an almost heroic scale.

She liked to draw a veil over when precisely that life began, but it seems to have been between 1880 and 1885, to Quaker parents in Pennyslvania.

Born Elda Flurry, she ran away from home to become a chorus girl on Broadway, and there met the handsome actor and producer DeWolf Hopper, whom she married in 1913.


She changed her name to Hedda, apparently because Elda was too similar to the names of his first four wives: Ella, Nella, Ida and Edna.
But they soon divorced anyway, and Hedda was forging her first career as a Hollywood actress.

That she never enjoyed anything like the movie-star status of those whose peccadilloes she would later expose surely helps to explain why she so enjoyed exposing them.

Yes, Hedda Hopper was a complex and vindictive woman. But there is no doubt at all that the story of Hollywood would have been much duller without her.
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