February 15th, 2013

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Hollywood and hats: Helping through Hedda

carole lombard the racketeer 02f hedda hopper

Carole Lombard would never have admitted this publicly, but one senses that if push had come to shove and filmdom's top stars had to swear allegiance to one side or the other during the Great Hollywood Gossip War, she probably would have put herself in the camp of Hedda Hopper. Nothing against Hedda's archrival, Hearst's Louella Parsons, but Hopper had been an actress herself, and a pretty good one (that's her with Carole in the 1929 Pathe film "The Racketeer") before she decided to go into celebrity journalism writing for the Los Angeles Times. (In 1937, Hopper played a small role in "Nothing Sacred.") Lombard probably didn't care much for Hopper's conservative politics, but she had friends throughout the cinematic political spectrum.

We bring this up because this past Sunday, Hopper (and Parsons) were honored in a fun (and charitable) way. Teibel's Family Restaurant in Schererville, Ind., held its fifth annual Valentine's Day luncheon fundraiser for The Caring Place Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence, and this year's theme was Hollywood gossip. One of Hedda's more than 1,000 hats was on display:

hedda hopper hat 00a
carole lombard louella parsons 00d

So, you're wondering, where does Louella (seen above with Lombard in 1933) fit into this? Parsons had a longtime radio show on which stars such as Lombard appeared, and early on, she avoided paying them union scale by instead giving them cases of Campbell's Soup, her show's sponsor. (The clout of Parsons and the Hearst chain made it difficult for even the biggest stars to decline invitations to her show.) Eventually, Hopper reported her to the Screen Actors Guild, and Louella relented.

When it came time for the dessert part of the luncheon, a "soup auction" was held for 100 cans of Campbell's tomato and chicken noodle soups. That raised more than $500.

Read more about the luncheon -- and get Hedda's recipe for Sunkist citrus fruit punch (the company sponsored her radio program, "Hedda Hopper's Hollywood") -- at http://www.nwitimes.com/lifestyles/columnists/philip-potempa/from-the-farm-readers-and-donations-make-hedda-event-great/article_2fe20623-60a9-586c-b5dc-df36558fbcc1.html.

hedda hopper 1929a

As a bonus, here's how Hopper (seen above in a stylish pose from 1929) sounded on the radio. The Dec. 3, 1940 episode of the CBS series "Hedda Hopper's Hollywood" (although this particular evening, Hedda was in New York) is at http://www.myoldradio.com/include/popup.php?id=18033. The first half of the 15-minute show is devoted to entertainment news...some of it accurate, some not (Greta Garbo would not make her next movie with Spencer Tracy, for example). The second half is given to the first of a multi-part series on the life of Lombard friend Dorothy Lamour (with Jeanette Nolan portraying Lamour in this dramatization); I have no idea how much input Dorothy gave to this or whether it was concocted whole cloth by Paramount publicists. All the Lamour "life story" episodes can be found at http://www.myoldradio.com/old-radio-episodes/hedda-hopper-s-hollywood-life-story-of-dorothy-lam-1/4.

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