Happy Birthday, Miriam Hopkins!

Ask the average man or woman on the street about Miriam Hopkins, who was born 113 years ago today in Savannah, Georgia, and you’ll likely receive a blank stare. But movie buffs well recall her many standout performances.

Hopkins had what TCM.com has described as “an intriguing, husky voice and a brittle, sometimes twitchy yet sexy style.” And like Bette Davis, with whom she was reputed to have had a long-running feud, she was as much a character off the screen as on it.

Miriam Hopkins quote

Hopkins frequently returned to the stage, where her career had begun, when things slowed down for her in Hollywood, and in 1933, she originated the lead role of Julie in Jezebel on Broadway. The play didn’t do particularly well, but when Warner Brothers sought the rights to the play, of which Hopkins was part-owner, for a film adaptation, Hopkins demanded she be cast as Julie before she would agree to the deal. After receiving assurances that she would, in fact, portray Julie in the film, Hopkins signed off the deal, only to see Davis be given the role instead. And worse, Davis went on to win an Oscar, her second, for her work in the film. That didn’t set well with Hopkins.

In 1938, Hopkins and Davis were paired in a film, The Old Maid (1939, based on an Edith Wharton story), and on the first day of shooting, Hopkins got Davis’s goat by showing up in a dress that was a duplicate of one Davis had worn in Jezebel.

Davis wrote of Hopkins’ work in The Old Maid, “Miriam used and, I must give her credit, knew every trick in the book. I became fascinated watching them appear one by one…When she was supposed to be listening to me, her eyes would wander off into some other world in which she was the sweetest of them all. Her restless little spirit was impatiently awaiting her next line, her golden curls quivering with expectancy.”

Among the memorable pictures that stand out in Hopkins’ career are some true classics: The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), Design for Living (1933) and Trouble in Paradise (1932) for director Ernst Lubitsch, Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), and a picture that is considered among the most memorable of pre-codes, The Story of Temple Drake. She also starred in Becky Sharp (1935), the first three-strip Technicolor feature.

Happy birthday, Ms. Hopkins, wherever you may be!

Question of the day

We won’t lie to you (we never do) — we’ve been disappointed that there haven’t been more comments here at Cladrite Radio since our launch some months back.

But it turns out that (as a kindly member of the Cladrite Clan pointed out to us today) our settings didn’t allow comments (boy, are our faces red)!

We’ve rectified that problem now, and you can comment to your heart’s content. And to celebrate our finally solving this previously unrecognized problem, we’re bumping our first Question of the Day entry to the top of the page, so those of you who’d like to share your favorite obscure pre-1955 movie with us can finally do so.

Sorry for the confusion!

* * * * *

What’s your favorite pre-1955 movie that you’re convinced no one else (no one among your friends and family, anyway) has seen?

Ours would be the 1932 Ernst Lubitsch classic Trouble in Paradise. Starring Herbert Marshall, Kay Francis, and Miriam Hopkins, with stellar turns in smaller roles by Charles Ruggles, Edward Everett Horton, and C. Aubrey Smith, this wonderful romantic comedy is well nigh perfect — sly, sexy and sophisticated, exuding the famous Lubitsch touch from start to finish.

It’s not a movie for the callow, but for anyone who’s lived a bit, it fairly sparkles.

How about you — what’s the one lesser-known pre-1955 picture you’d urge your friends (and us) to see?