The Power and Influence of Hedda Hopper

Fall film Trumbo puts gossip columnist's reign of selective terror back in the headlines.

The highly anticipated fall film Trumbo won’t be out until Nov. 6, but already, the buzz has started. One sizable chunk of discussion involves syndicated gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, portrayed in the film by Helen Mirren. (Bryan Cranston plays the title role of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.)

Variety editorial director Peter Bart, given an early look at the film, is among the class of journalists who goes back far enough to have known the real Hopper:

I met Hopper in the 1960s, when she scolded me for writing admiringly about Dalton Trumbo, the blacklisted screenwriter.

Meanwhile, the actress who plays Hopper in Trumbo told Gary Baum, a senior writer with our sister publication THR, that the breadth of the columnist’s influence remains breathtaking:

“She’s such a powerful, interesting influence – at a time when women weren’t allowed a lot of power. Between her and Louella Parsons [syndicated columnist of the Los Angeles Examiner], the two of them worked their way into becoming extremely powerful movers and shakers. They could make or break a movie. Or a career. There is no one around like her today. [She was like] Twitter, Facebook, Maureen Dowd, the film critics, reaching out across the country. She had a huge power over the box office, much more than anyone nowadays.”

North of the border, TIFF Lightbox has this very day launched a tribute to the films of Ingrid Bergman. As Globe and Mail reporter Nathalie Atkinson reminds, Hopper had her grubby hands all over that trail as well:

Then there is the chapter of the scandalous adultery, the child out of wedlock with neorealist director Roberto Rossellini (after writing him a fan letter in 1949) and her subsequent banishment from the U.S. The narrative of Bergman’s stardom, fall from grace and eventual restoration is a case study that says a lot about mid-century America, celebrity and the film industry.

She was slut-shamed by influential syndicated columnist Hedda Hopper not because of the pregnancy but because competitor Louella Parsons got the scoop first. The scandal was of such magnitude she was denounced in Congress (as an “instrument of evil” – though a formal apology was entered into Congressional record in 1972).

[Image courtesy: Bleecker Street Media]