Researching the third Jane Benjamin Novel (Flyboy, November 2023) had me reading quite a bit about 1940s gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.
Hedda had a lot of what my protagonist Jane dreams of: national by-lines, a syndicated radio show, pre-movie newsreels of her celebrity interviews, and all the money that came with it. She called her Beverly Hills mansion, The House that Fear Built. She could ruin people, or make them. Hollywood moviestars usually had a “moral turpitude” clause in their contract so studio bosses used Hedda’s nasty newspaper nudges to keep their stars on the right side of the headlines. She was a Hollywood tycoon’s enforcer.
Let me tell you, Hedda goes dark. Maybe you’ve read about her role in Joseph McCarthy’s Hollywood witch hunt for communists. Hedda’s column had real-world political repercussions that seem shockingly current.
If you’d like to dip your toes in Hedda’s influence, I suggest the movie TRUMBO, starring Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren. Better yet, listen to the season called “Gossip Girls” on the podcast You Must Remember This, which is dedicated to exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. The podcast is written, produced and narrated by Karina Longworth. It’s great fun and historically well done.