Miriam Hopkins

October 18, 2009

Today Miriam Hopkins would have been 107 years old.

Out of all the actresses I admire, I think that Miriam Hopkins is the most underrated. Her skill as a serious actress and a comedienne rivaled that of her more famous contemporaries like Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck. Like Jean Arthur, she had an unconventional beauty, unique voice and the ability to speak rapid fire dialogue without missing a beat. She made the transition from risque pre code (some of the most risque of that era, if you ask me!) into the more tame post-code films with ease. She was brilliant when playing the leading lady, but was strong enough to hold her own when sharing the top billing with such heavyweights as Kay Francis or Bette Davis.
She had enormous range and was capable in every genre -- from her light performances in the Lubitsch comedies Design for Living and Trouble in Paradise, to her melodramatic turns with Bette Davis in Old Acquaintance and The Old Maid, to her oh-so-pre-code roles in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Story of Temple Drake.

And when her age began to show, Miriam Hopkins seamlessly transitioned into character roles in top notch films. And she continued playing character roles until two years before her death in 1972.

Miriam Hopkins might be remembered now as a bit of a drama-queen, and for her epic feud with Bette Davis. But she was a tremendously talented actress and deserves to be remembered, and respected.

Here is the opening scene from my favorite Miriam Hopkins movie, Design for Living (the whole movie is on YouTube & DVD.. no excuses not to see it!)


Nicole Newcomb said...

I do agree with you, she is such an underrated actress. I'm glad that I've recently discovered her because she is a treat to watch on the screen. Lovely job on the sketch of her!

Kim said...

I think she is somewhat an underrated actress because people judge her by her personality (she was supposedly not easy to get along with in RL) and not her acting ability. Personally I think she is one of the best actresses of the 30's. I know she was one of Lubitsch's favorites and they made 3 great films together: Trouble in Paradise, Design for Living, and the Smiling Lieutenant. I also love her in Mamoulian's Jekyll & Hyde. Anyways I am really glad to see you make a post highlighting her. I love the sketch. :)

Terence Towles Canote said...

She definitely was underrated. I think I remember her best from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Her performance there was great!

Unknown said...

Hooray! Design for Living is one of my favorite films of all time. She is fantastic in it. I can't remember who it was, but someone once said of her she had the "talkingest hands" on the silver screen. A strange statement, but somehow true.

Rachel said...

I just found this post. Great drawing of my new favorite actress! Don't forget "The Smiling Lieutenant". I think she stole that movie from Claudette Colbert. And I think it's a shame that she's remembered primarily for her feud with Bette Davis. She's way to talented to be remembered for that.