“I will never retire. Put that down and underline it. The world is too nice – and so have been all the breaks.” –Miriam Hopkins
Born Ellen Miriam Hopkins on October 18, 1902, to Homer Hopkins and Ellen Cutler in Savannah, Georgia, Hopkins was the youngest of two children. While Hopkins spent her early life in Georgia, the family would relocate to Mexico. Soon, her parents would separate, leading Hopkins, her mother, and her sister, Ruby, to move back to Savannah and live with her grandmother. Later, they would again relocate to Syracuse, New York.
When Hopkins was living on the East Coast, she attended the Goddard Seminary in Vermont, followed by Syracuse University, where her paternal uncle worked as the head of the geology department.
As the years went on, Hopkins developed a strong interest in theater as well as dance and found work as a chorus girl. While in New York City and working in other stock companies as a chorine, she also secured roles on Broadway in both dramatic and comedic productions. One of her key moments in the theater included carrying out the title role in the play Jezebel. To her dismay, Bette Davis was chosen to play the role on the screen, leading to an eventual rivalry between the two actresses.
By 1930, Hopkins signed with Paramount and made her screen debut in Fast and Loose (1930), but a more notable role came one year later in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931). Her breakthrough role was in Trouble in Paradise (1932), which was the first of several occasions in which Hopkins worked under the direction of Ernst Lubitsch.
In 1932, and in between marriages, Hopkins adopted a son. Hopkins loved her son, Michael, immensely and dubbed him “the most important man in my life.”
Thriving as a Pre-Code star, Hopkins carried out more risqué and shocking performances in films like The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), The Story of Temple Drake (1933), and Design for Living (1933). She would also achieve further success in Becky Sharp (1935), earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
After turning down the lead role in It Happened One Night (1934) and losing the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939) to Vivien Leigh, Hopkins performed in Old Acquaintance (1943). She would not perform in films again until The Heiress (1949), followed by appearing in the comedy The Mating Season (1951).
Losing popularity as a film actress, Hopkins turned to television. She worked in various teleplays and made guest appearances on other television shows.
After attending a special Museum of Modern Art screening of The Story of Temple Drake in honor of Paramount’s 60th anniversary, Hopkins suffered from a heart attack. She passed away on October 9, 1972, at age 69. She was buried at Oak City Cemetery in Bainbridge, Georgia.
Today, there are some locations of relevance to Hopkins’s life that remain.
In 1910, Hopkins lived with her grandmother at 1701 Barnard St., Savannah, Georgia. The original home no longer stands.
The Goddard Seminary is now Goddard College, located at 123 Pitkin Rd., Plainfield, Vermont.
In 1922, according to her passport application, Hopkins resided at 46 W. 36th St., New York, New York. This is the location at present:
In 1936, Hopkins had a residence at 13 Sutton Place in New York City. This is the location today:
She also maintained a residence at 498 St. Pierre Rd., Beverly Hills, California, which remains today.
She and her son also resided at 1400 Tower Grove Dr., Los Angeles, California, along with a gardener, maid, butler, and cook. The original home no longer stands.
Additionally, Hopkins has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, honoring her work in film and television. The former is located at 1709 Vine St. and the latter at 1716 Vine St., Los Angeles, California.
Oak City Cemetery is located at 420 Cemetery St., Bainbridge, Georgia.