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!)