Miriam Hopkins

Active - 1930 - 1970  |   Born - Oct 18, 1902   |   Died - Oct 9, 1972   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American actress Miriam Hopkins studied to be a dancer, but her first major opportunity with a touring ballet troupe was cut short when she broke her ankle. Opting for an acting career, Hopkins drew upon her Georgia background to specialize in playing Southern belles, most notably in the 1933 Broadway play Jezebel. Entering films with 1930's Fast and Loose, Hopkins became a popular film star, though many critics and film historians deemed her histrionic, uninhibited style as "an acquired taste." During the early stages of her film career, Hopkins contributed at least two memorable performances: Champagne Ivy, the doomed cockney songstress in the Fredric March version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), and the title role in Becky Sharp (1935), the first feature film to be shot in the three-strip Technicolor process. Relatively charming offscreen, Hopkins could be a terror on the set, driving co-stars to distraction with her lateness, lack of concentration and self-centered attitude towards camera angles; she owned the distinction of being one of the few actors ever reprimanded in full view of the production crew by the otherwise gentlemanly Edward G. Robinson. Still, she had her following, and was able to continue her stage career (she was particularly good in the 1958 Pulitzer Prize winner Look Homeward Angel) after her movie popularity waned. One of Hopkins' best later roles was her character part in 1961's The Children's Hour; 25 years earlier, Miriam had starred in the first film version of that Lillian Hellman play, These Three (1936).

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