Oscar Actors: Hopkins, Miriam (Nominee)–Background, Career, Awards

Research in Progress
Miriam Hopkins Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance:


Social Class:


Family: parents separated



Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut:

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut: 1930; aged 28

Breakthrough Role:

Oscar Role: Becky Sharp

Other Noms:

Other Awards:

Frequent Collaborator: 5 films with Joel McCrea; 4 films directed by Wyler

Screen Image:

Scandal: Feud with Bette Davis

Last Film: 1970; aged 68

Career Output:

Film Career Span: 1930-



Death: 69

Ellen Miriam Hopkins (October 18, 1902 – October 9, 1972) was an American actress known for her versatility.

She first signed with Paramount Pictures in 1930.

Her best known roles included a pickpocket in Ernst Lubitsch’s romantic comedy Trouble in Paradise, bar singer Ivy in Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the titular character in the controversial drama The Story of Temple Drake.

She received a nomination for the Best Actress Oscar for the 1935 film Becky Sharp, by which she earned the distinction of being the first performer nominated for a performance in a color picture.

She received a Golden Globe nomination for The Heiress.

She co-starred with Joel McCrea in five films.

Her long-running feud with actress Bette Davis was publicized for effect. Hopkins later became a pioneer of TV drama. She was considered a distinguished hostess in Hollywood, and moved in intellectual and creative circles.

Hopkins was born in Savannah, Georgia to Homer Hopkins and Ellen Cutler and raised in Bainbridge, near the Alabama border. She had an older sister, Ruby (1900–1990).

Her maternal great-grandfather, the fourth mayor of Bainbridge, had helped establish St. John’s Episcopal Church in the city.

Hopkins sang in the choir as a girl.

In 1909, she briefly lived in Mexico with her family. After her parents separated, Hopkins moved as a teen with her mother to Syracuse, New York to be near her paternal uncle, Thomas Cramer Hopkins, head of the geology department at Syracuse University.

Hopkins attended Goddard Seminary in Barre, Vermont (it later became Goddard College, relocated to Plainfield, Vermont) and Syracuse University in New York.

After becoming estranged from her father, when she applied for a passport in 1922 to undertake a theatrical tour of South America, she listed his address as “unknown.”

At age 20, Hopkins became a chorus girl in New York City; she also acted regularly on the stage throughout the 1920s, including in the 1926 stage adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy.

In 1930 she starred on Broadway in the play Ritzy by Sidney Toler. She starred on Broadway in the lead of Jezebel, a 1933 play by Owen Davis. When it was adapted as a 1938 film of the same name, Hopkins was bitterly disappointed that Bette Davis was chosen for the role she had played on stage. This began a feud between them publicized by the studios.

The same year, Hopkins signed with Paramount Pictures and made her official film debut in Fast and Loose. Her first great success was in the 1931 horror drama film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where she portrayed Ivy Pearson, a prostitute who becomes entangled with Jekyll and Hyde. She received rave reviews, including one from Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times, saying she portrayed Ivy “splendidly.”

Her career ascended swiftly thereafter. In 1932 she made her breakthrough in Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise, where she proved her charm and wit as a beautiful and jealous pickpocket. During the pre-code Hollywood of the early 1930s, she appeared in The Smiling Lieutenant, The Story of Temple Drake, and Design for Living, all of which were box-office successes and critically acclaimed.

Design for Living ranked as one of the top ten highest-grossing films of 1933.

Hopkins’ early films were considered sexually risqué. Produced in the years before the Code was rigorously enforced, they featured issues that would be prohibited after 1934. For instance, The Story of Temple Drake depicted a rape scene and Design for Living featured a ménage à trois with Fredric March and Gary Cooper. Her successes continued during the remainder of the decade with the romantic comedy The Richest Girl in the World (1934); the historical drama Becky Sharp (1935), for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress; Barbary Coast (1935); These Three (1936) (the first of four films with director William Wyler); and The Old Maid (1939).

Hopkins was one of the first actresses approached to play the role of Ellie Andrews in It Happened One Night (1934). She rejected the part, and Claudette Colbert was cast instead.

Hopkins auditioned for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, and was the only candidate to be a native Georgian; but the part went to British actress Vivien Leigh.

Both Colbert and Leigh won Oscars for their performances.

Hopkins had well-publicized fights with her arch-enemy Bette Davis. Hopkins and Davis co-starred in two films, The Old Maid (1939) and Old Acquaintance (1943).  She believed that Davis was having an affair with her husband, Anatole Litvak. Davis resented her jealousy and said that she had enjoyed shaking Hopkins in a scene in Old Acquaintance, after Hopkins’s character makes unfounded allegations against Davis’s.

Press photos featured the two divas in a boxing ring, gloves up, with director Vincent Sherman between them like a referee. In later interviews, Davis described Hopkins as a “terribly good actress,” but also “terribly jealous.”

After Old Acquaintance, Hopkins did not work in films again until The Heiress (1949), where she played the lead character’s aunt.

In Mitchell Leisen’s 1951 comedy The Mating Season, she gave a comic performance as the mother of Gene Tierney’s character. She also acted in The Children’s Hour (1961), a remake of her film These Three (1936). In the remake, she played the aunt to Shirley MacLaine, who took Hopkins’ original role.

Hopkins was a television pioneer. She performed in teleplays from the late 1940s through the late 1960s, in such programs as The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre (1949), Pulitzer Prize Playhouse (1951), Lux Video Theatre (1951–1955), and in episodes of The Investigators (1961) and The Outer Limits (1964), and even in an episode of The Flying Nun (“Bertrille and the Silent Flicks”) in 1969.

She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for film at 1709 Vine Street and one for television at 1716 Vine Street.

Hopkins married four times. Her first marriage was to actor Brandon Peters, second to aviator and screenwriter Austin Parker, third to the director Anatole Litvak, and fourth to war correspondent Raymond B. Brock.

In 1932, she adopted a son, Michael T. Hopkins (March 29, 1932 – October 5, 2010), who had a career in the U.S. Air Force.

She was known for hosting elegant parties. John O’Hara, a frequent guest, noted that most of her guests were chosen from the world of the intellect … Miriam knew them all, had read their work, had listened to their music, had bought their paintings. They were not there because a secretary had given her a list of highbrows.

She was a staunch Democrat, who supported the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Hopkins died in New York City from a heart attack 9 days before her 70th birthday. She is buried in Oak City Cemetery in Bainbridge, Georgia.


1930 Fast and Loose Marion Lenox Hopkins’s film debut
1931 The Smiling Lieutenant Princess Anna The first of three films Hopkins made with Lubitsch
1931 24 Hours Rosie Duggan
1931 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Ivy Pearson
1932 Two Kinds of Women Emma Krull
1932 Dancers in the Dark Gloria Bishop
1932 The World and the Flesh Maria Yaskaya
1932 Trouble in Paradise Lily Second film directed by Lubitsch and starring Hopkins
1933 The Story of Temple Drake Temple Drake Based on Faulkner’s scandalous novel Sanctuary
1933 The Stranger’s Return Louise Starr
1933 Design for Living Gilda Farrell Third and final film Hopkins and Lubitsch made together
1934 All of Me Lydia Darrow
1934 She Loves Me Not Curly Flagg
1934 The Richest Girl in the World Dorothy Hunter First of five films Hopkins and McCrea made together
1935 Becky Sharp Becky Sharp Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
The first feature film made in the three strip Technicolor process
1935 Barbary Coast Mary ‘Swan’ Rutledge Second film starring Hopkins and McCrea
1935 Splendor Phyllis Manning Lorrimore Third film starring Hopkins and McCrea
1936 These Three Martha Dobie The film was adapted from the 1934 play The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman.
Fourth film starring Hopkins and McCrea
1936 Men Are Not Gods Ann Williams
1937 The Woman I Love Madame Helene Maury Hopkins married director Anatole Litvak shortly after this film was made.
It is the only film Hopkins made with Paul Muni
1937 Woman Chases Man Virginia Travis Final film Hopkins and McCrea made together
1937 Wise Girl Susan ‘Susie’ Fletcher
1939 The Old Maid Delia Lovell Ralston The first of two films Hopkins made with Bette Davis
1940 Virginia City Julia Hayne Hopkins co-starred with Errol Flynn
1940 Lady with Red Hair Mrs. Leslie Carter
1942 A Gentleman After Dark Flo Melton
1943 Old Acquaintance Millie Drake Second of two films Hopkins made with Bette Davis.
1949 The Heiress Lavinia Penniman Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1951 The Mating Season Fran Carleton
1952 The Outcasts of Poker Flat Mrs. Shipton / ‘The Duchess’
1952 Carrie Julie Hurstwood
1961 The Children’s Hour Lily Mortar Hopkins had starred in the original film adaptation of the play The Children’s Hour entitled These Three in the role of Martha Dobie. In this film Shirley MacLaine played Martha and Miriam Hopkins played her Aunt Lily.
1964 Fanny Hill Mrs. Maude Brown
1966 The Chase Mrs. Reeves Hopkins played the mother of Robert Redford’s character
1970 Savage Intruder Katharine Parker Hopkins’s last film (final film role)