Hollywood Socialism - Hedda Hopper and the FBI Files
Hollywood Costumer and Power Broker
Ms. Hedda Hopper was a star of silent films and the B Movies in old Hollywood, managing to make 120 films in all.
After that film-packed career, Ms. Hopper became an assistant customer designer during the Golden Age of Hollywood that included massive production numbers and elaborate costumes in films and on stage.
Hedda's specialty was the hat and she made hats and wore them with gusto. She accumulated fame for showing up at all manner of events in a fresh, new hat. Many of her creations were outrageous and she became famous for them. In fact, her name is synonymous with "hat" in Hollywood history.
Ms. Hopper's fashion style provided her with enough renown that it acted as a springboard toward securing her own Hollywood gossip column, called Hedda Hopper's Hollywood. She and Louella Parsons, another gossip columnist of the era, raised celebrity gossip to a science and an art form that increased newspaper circulation and sales.
All this publicity, in turn, fueled the film box office for greater success and even more gossip. Thus, the cycle of Hollywood incomes advanced. Today's news and gossip media related to celebrities are direct descendants of Hopper and Parsons, including shows like Access Hollywood, Extra, US Magazine, TMZ and dozens of others. Websites have added to this entertainment genre since the 1990s.
The dishing and dissing have not changed much over the decades - perhaps they have become more extreme - but are more popular than ever.
Hedda Hopper's first syndicated column ran on Valentine's Day on February 14, 1938, followed by the addition of a national radio show. She became politically powerful as well as famous.
The FBI Files and Dirt
At the US National Archives, Hedda Hopper has an FBI file that is two inches thick. It was at once time delivered to her grandson, Gordon P. Williams, the adopted son of William Hopper, who played Paul Drake in the Perry Mason TV series.
At one time, a webpage with information from his experiences and the large FBI file was posted by Williams. Hedda was apparently so influential that she could make sure that a Hollywood actor lost his or her livelihood with just a few words in her column or on her radio program. Ronald Reagan was one actor that came under her influence.
Howard Hughes was a good friend and inspected every plane she rode. J. Edgar Hoover reportedly supplied her with gossip about Hollywood "communists." Unfortunately, some stars blacklisted by the 1950s government as communist and communist sympathizers, considered dangerous to the US, never worked again. Some died in poverty.
Ms. Hedda Hopper staunchly advocated the workings of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and its hearings, especially against non-Republican actors. She was a guest and a featured speaker of the Women's Division at the 1956 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, supporting Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Word has it that Hopper supposedly helped Ronald Reagan rise to the presidency of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). He became a Republican -- He had been a Democrat.
How much influence did Hedda Hopper have on the American Film Industry? Perhaps quite a lot.
I remember hearing some snippets of her presentations on the air, rebroadcast in the late1960s and I thought they were very incriminating, perhaps to extremes.
Hedda Hopper has been described in Jennifer Frost's Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood: Celebrity Gossip and American Conservatism as having a severe conservative bent, enjoying any opportunity to use her newspaper columns and radio shows to “expose” Democrats and "other leftists" as hypocrites, especially during the New Deal Era of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an economic, business, and social welfare program that she detested.
Hopper Quotes on the Air
These are quotes Hedda made about Hollywood actors and actresses. She was sarcastic and biting in her criticism and may have targeted some for communist blacklisting.
She looks like she combs her hair with an egg beater.
At one time I thought he wanted to be an actor. He had certain qualifications, including no money and a total lack of responsibility.
Two of the cruelest, most primitive punishments our town deals out to those who fall from favor are the empty mailbox and the silent telephone
Reagan's Personal Spy Machine
The New York Times ran a story during autumn 2012 about his "secret spy" ring (Reference: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/02/opinion/sunday/reagans-personal-spying-machine.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&).
Although Ronald Reagan warned in 1961 speeches against Big Government becoming Big Brother and "creeping socialism", journalist Seth Rosenfeld found that his actions in real life opposed his comments. The writer found that Reagan had been a government informer in return for political help from J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI.
Rosenfeld further reports that in 1946, FBI agents appeared at Reagan's home in California and warned him of Communists that had sneaked into a liberal organization of which the actor was a member. He quit and became an informant, apparently opening up Screen Actors Guild files to the FBI while he was president of SAG. The FBI went on to aid Reagan in several family matters and the student protests in California during his term as Governor.
Hats, Fashion and Style in the 1930s
Hats and Fashion in Things to Come, 1936
© 2008 Patty Inglish MS