A native of Savannah, Georgia, Miriam Hopkins trained as a dancer while a girl, and eventually cajoled her parents to taking her to New York to study with M. Fokine. She made spending money by dancing intermissions at New York Movie theaters. Once she became convinced of her ability to win over audiences, she abandoned lessons, approached manager Sam Harris, and convinced him to give her a spot in the Music Box Revue. This convinced the impresario of a ballet company to secure her services for a South American Tour; but she broke an ankle before the departure, and recuperated in New York.
Once ambulatory she tried vaudeville and during one of her experimental performances in New York City caught the eye of producer Joe Weber who hired her to play in "Little Jesse James" (1923). It proved an enormous hit and made her reputation. She mastered musical comedy without great difficulty, starring in shows such as "The Matinee Girl" and "Excess Baggage," but she yearned to be recognized as an actress in legitimate drama. Hence she convinced Horace Liveright to cast her as Sondra Finchley in his adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's naturalist novel An American Tragedy to the stage. It proved a major success and gave Hopkins a taste for intensely dramatic roles, a taste that she would exploit in films and in her post 1930 forays onto the stage, such as 1933's "Jezebel."
She was playing "Lysistrata" when she decided that she would conquer motion pictures. She signed with Paramount and her first release, "Fast and Loose," showed that her talent could translate to the big screen. She won critics' accolades for her comic acting in 1932's "Trouble in Paradise" and enjoyed an active career throughout the 1930s. David S. Shields/ALS