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slaytonf

Forgotten brilliance: Miriam Hopkins for Star of the Month

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Why isn't Miriam Hopkins remembered along with the other great actresses of the studio era?  She was just as great an actress, just as lovely.  Why are her films forgotten?  They were just as big in their day as any other, and they compare better than many that are better recalled today.  Perhaps it's because her career lasted for a shorter time than your Crawfords, your Hepburns, or your Davises.  People would say her star burned brightest during the early thirties, before the production code began to be enforced with rigor, and she could shine in roles where sex could figure in all it's many permutations, straight, gay, and perverted.  Maybe so, but then how would you explain her having the title role in the first true Technicolor feature movie (Becky Sharp, 1935)?  Not something given to someone on the downslide.  If you ask me, I would say it's that movie that marks a change in her career.  But she manages other notable movies later, like The Old Maid (1939),  Virginia City (1940), Lady With Red Hair (1940), Old Acquaintance (1943), and especially The Heiress (1949).  Maybe it's that she was too temperamental and individualistic to persist in the Hollyworld, sparring and sparking with the studio heads.  Maybe it's that she preferred working on the stage (she starred in Tennessee Williams' first produced play).

 

Regardless, she was an uncompromising professional, and a master at all kinds of roles, from farcical comedy in movies by Ernst Lubitsch, to stark and powerful drama in movies like The Story of Temple Drake (1933), and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931).  My favorite movie of hers is Trouble in Paradise (1932), in which she plays a thief/pickpocket/con artist who finds her perfect mate in Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall).

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I never underrate Miriam Hopkins-she's great!

A favorite.

Whenever TCM plays one of her movies, I always record one I don't already have-last one was your mention -TROUBLE IN PARADISE- loved it! My favorite MH observation is to turn your TV sound off & watch her. You can completely "read" her emotions without needing words-but she was really good emoting with her voice too, not unlike a Barrymore.

 

It's just Hopkins isn't that well known these days-many of her movies are earlier in Hollywood's "golden" age. 

There's no Miriam Hopkins t-shirts at Target for the teens to buy, so we have to rely on her body of work to familiarize her to the masses.

 

And most younger people are turned off by early b&w film. Too bad, they don't realize what they're missing.

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A highy sensual Miriam Hopkins and director Rouben Mamoulian created one of the most memorable of pre-code moments with the enticement of her swinging leg to Dr. Jekyll

 

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"Come baaack . . ."

 

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 My favorite MH observation is to turn your TV sound off & watch her. You can completely "read" her emotions without needing words

 

 

I'll try it!

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...one of the most memorable of pre-code moments

 

you said it brother!

 

Does anyone see an acting style similarity between Hopkins & Bette Davis? With all due respect to Bette Davis, it seems to me she was imitating Hopkins in her earliest films. Davis' gestures, her facial expressions, etc seem to be imitating Hopkins "dramatic" qualities.

 

I know actors "pretend" to be others anyway, but it seems logical Davis would imitate Hopkins' simple brilliance as she was "learning". I always wondered if that was the seed of their legendary feud?

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She's really good.  I think I've said it before:  If there had been Supporting Actor Oscars from the early 30's, she certainly deserved it for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, no doubt.  Also loved her in Trouble in Paradise.  Terribly underrated, like many others from the early classic era.  Halliwell said in his Filmgoer's Companion that "her rather brittle style has dated" but I like her and glad to read others appreciate her as well.

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'Brittle.'  Does that mean she broke up on screen?

 

Brittle is a rather odd term for an actor's screen persona (maybe off screen for someone like Monroe?).

 

I do find Hopkins screen persona unsteady (maybe fragile is a better term?).     E.g. often when she laughs one wonder if she has the ability to stop.   Her acting style pushes the boundaries and since she get so close to them it can be unnerving for the audience.   But that is a key reason why I'm a big fan of her.

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Brittle is a rather odd term for an actor's screen persona (maybe off screen for someone like Monroe?).

 

I do find Hopkins screen persona unsteady (maybe fragile is a better term?).     E.g. often when she laughs one wonder if she has the ability to stop.   Her acting style pushes the boundaries and since she get so close to them it can be unnerving for the audience.   But that is a key reason why I'm a big fan of her.

 

 

Well, no actor is great in all their performances.  But in so much of her work she is fantastic and fascinating to watch.  There are moments when you are overcome (at least I am) by her brilliance.  Take for instance the scene at the end of The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), where Maurice Chevalier opens the door to her bedroom to disclose her dressed in her new fashion, playing a jazzy tune on the piano, vamping it to the max.  The business with the cigarette is priceless.

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Screen%2Bshot%2B2017-01-05%2Bat%2B6.36.3

 

The first time I noticed her skill I was watching VIRGINIA CITY. I realized that Errol Flynn was not very good and she was basically carrying all their scenes and giving him acting lessons in the process. I like Flynn, but usually people try to make him out to be greater than he actually was as an actor. In her case, they seem to do the opposite.

 

------------------- m i r i a m   h o p k i n s ------------------

 

The next time I noticed her technique was in THE MATING SEASON. Even in a supporting rote, she's the one who commands the viewers' attention. In THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, she does it again. You can tell that acting was her whole life because every line reading has been carefully thought out, every mannerism is perfectly choreographed, like she must have spent hours rehearsing every detail.  

 

Another performance of hers I'm crazy about is one she gives in an episode of Route 66. She plays a vicious lonely woman and has a courtroom scene that almost goes over the top. Keyword almost. Everyone else in the scene is just absorbing her performance-- they're in the presence of a great actress, waiting for the director to yell cut so they can recover. And I love what she does in THE CHASE, as Robert Redford's mother. Even with less screen time, at the end of her career, she just kills it. Whoever thought of her as Redford's mother was inspired, because he looks like he could be her son. 

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Well, no actor is great in all their performances.  But in so much of her work she is fantastic and fascinating to watch.  There are moments when you are overcome (at least I am) by her brilliance.  Take for instance the scene at the end of The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), where Maurice Chevalier opens the door to her bedroom to disclose her dressed in her new fashion, playing a jazzy tune on the piano, vamping it to the max.  The business with the cigarette is priceless.

 

You may have misunderstood my comments as being negative.    I find Hopkins one of the most fascinating actors to watch.   She often commands my focus even when other actors should be dominating the scene.     So when I said she can be unnerving I meant that as a positive   (verses say actors that are competent but often boring).

 

Big fan of The Smiling Lieutenant which I just found out was Paramount's biggest grosser of 1931 and named 10 best for the year by the NY Times.    

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You may have misunderstood my comments as being negative.    I find Hopkins one of the most fascinating actors to watch.   She often commands my focus even when other actors should be dominating the scene.     So when I said she can be unnerving I meant that as a positive   (verses say actors that are competent but often boring).

 

Big fan of The Smiling Lieutenant which I just found out was Paramount's biggest grosser of 1931 and named 10 best for the year by the NY Times.    

 

 

Sorry I misinterpreted.  I'll read your posts more carefully in the future.  But there are movies I don't like her so much in.  Becky Sharp (1935) is one of them.  I don't hold it against her, though.  No actress could have done much with that material. 

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The first time I noticed her skill I was watching VIRGINIA CITY. I realized that Errol Flynn was not very good and she was basically carrying all their scenes and giving him acting lessons in the process. I like Flynn, but usually people try to make him out to be greater than he actually was as an actor. In her case, they seem to do the opposite.

 

 

Her performance is on such a higher level, it feels out of place in the movie, deserving of a better context.

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Her performance is on such a higher level, it feels out of place in the movie, deserving of a better context.

 

Quite frankly Hopkins' casting as a saloon singer in Virginia City has the lady miscast in my opinion. She was no longer the same age as when she had seductively played Ivy in a tavern in Dr Jekyll (one of her most effective performances). She and Flynn have zero chemistry, further lessening her impact in a film in which the actor was also less than convincing in his scenes of romance with the lady. Virginia City is not a highlight in the career of any of the principles involved (particularly, rather notoriously for horrible casting, Bogart with a pencil thin moustache and one of the worst Mexican accents imaginable).

 

Only the quiet dignity of Randolph Scott emerges unscathed from this film.

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Her performance is on such a higher level, it feels out of place in the movie, deserving of a better context.

 

My theory is she took VIRGINIA CITY because the opening scenes, set in the Civil War south, have a GONE WITH THE WIND feel to them. She was a Georgia native, and unlike Vivien Leigh who play-acted, Miriam Hopkins was a real-life Scarlett O'Hara in spirit and temperament.

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My theory is she took VIRGINIA CITY because the opening scenes, set in the Civil War south, have a GONE WITH THE WIND feel to them. She was a Georgia native, and unlike Vivien Leigh who play-acted, Miriam Hopkins was a real-life Scarlett O'Hara in spirit and temperament.

 

Interesting that so many of us feel Hopkins wasn't right for that part  in Virginia City when in theory as a Georgia native she should have been perfect for the part.    I view Virginia City as a western and some actors just don't fit the vibe of a western.     While the Australian-born Flynn was reluctant to do a western (if I remember correctly)  he really fit the role in films like Dodge City.      

 

Hey, I guess they call it acting for a reason.  ;)

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Another one worth mentioning is LADY WITH RED HAIR. It's a modestly budgeted Warners programmer (not exactly a 'B' film), and she gets the chance to interact with Claude Rains. I think they're both great, despite the obvious disparity in their respective acting techniques.

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Nothing against Miriam, but at least many of her films are shown on TCM (not all of her Paramount product). Her Paramount co-worker, Sylvia Sidney,  gets little to no exposure on TCM, except for her MGM film, Fury. Would think TCM would try to show a few of her Paramount films especially after her biography, Paid By the Tear, was published last fall. But nothing.

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Nothing against Miriam, but at least many of her films are shown on TCM (not all of her Paramount product). Her Paramount co-worker, Sylvia Sidney,  gets little to no exposure on TCM, except for her MGM film, Fury. Would think TCM would try to show a few of her Paramount films especially after her biography, Paid By the Tear, was published last fall. But nothing.

 

I don't think it's fair to talk about how someone else should be featured as Star of the Month on a thread about Miriam Hopkins.

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Nothing against Miriam, but at least many of her films are shown on TCM (not all of her Paramount product). Her Paramount co-worker, Sylvia Sidney,  gets little to no exposure on TCM, except for her MGM film, Fury. Would think TCM would try to show a few of her Paramount films especially after her biography, Paid By the Tear, was published last fall. But nothing.

There's something odd about Sylvia Sidney. I think she is a fine actress, but to me, in her early films, she still looks like an old person without the wrinkles. It's hard to describe. My grandmother was that way. I looked at her college graduation picture from 1921 and she just looked like an unwrinkled version of my granny. Some people in youth just look like young people waiting to get old. And you don't know which unless you know what they looked like when they were older.

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Miriam as SOTM is not going to happen. But at least her films are shown on TCM which was my point..

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There's something odd about Sylvia Sidney. I think she is a fine actress, but to me, in her early films, she still looks like an old person without the wrinkles. It's hard to describe. My grandmother was that way. I looked at her college graduation picture from 1921 and she just looked like an unwrinkled version of my granny. Some people in youth just look like young people waiting to get old. And you don't know which unless you know what they looked like when they were older.

 

 

Yes, that's true. She did look mature for her age even when young.

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Miriam as SOTM is not going to happen. But at least her films are shown on TCM which was my point..

 

I can see her getting a Summer Under the Stars tribute in August, because she has enough Warner Brothers films in the TCM library to make it happen. Plus the programmers seem to like a good excuse to rebroadcast Ernst Lubitsch's precodes. And they can also play THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE in primetime.

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I'm pretty sure Miriam has been a SUTS already. She'd be better suited in that category. Not that she isnt deserving of being SOTM, but I'm sure the powers that be feel she's not well known or important enough..........

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