Before she became the nationally syndicated commentator on the foibles of Hollywood, Hedda Hopper had been a minor motion picture star, a stage actress, and fifth wife of the greatest comic opera bass of the early 20th century, DeWolf Hopper. Born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and educated in Pittsburgh's public schools, she went on the stage before graduating high school. She met her husband in 1908's "The Pied Piper." She played in "A Matinee Idol," Silvio Hein's 1911 musical.
Motherhood interrupted her performing career at this juncture, but when son Billy was old enough to be entrusted to a nanny, Hopper reactivated her career, this time in the movies after she and DeWolf moved to Los Angeles in 1915. She played in Sam Goldwyn's 1917 movie hit "Nearly Married" in a supporting part. She played older and wiser than her age, so would appear occasionally as the villainess in movies, such as the high life seductress Myrna Bliss in "The Beloved Traitor" (1918). She appeared in supporting roles throughout her career, cast as wives, vamps, and grand dames.
After her divorce from DeWolf Hopper, she stepped up the frequency of her performances, including a stint in the Broadway hit "Six Cylinder Love." She was not consequential to the success of the greatest films in which she appeared - "Zander the Great," "Don Juan," and "Sunset Boulevard." Her marginality eventually rankled, forcing her to consider a career change in the mid-1930s.
In 1936 she created a radio gossip show that secured her a syndicated column in the national newspapers. Hedda Hopper became the feared scourge of Hollywood leftists, friend to the money men, and the instrument of William Randolph Hearst. In most of her later screen appearances she acted herself. David S. Shields/ALS