Edna Wallace Hopper (January 17, 1872 - December 14, 1959) was an American actress on stage and in silent films.
Edna was born in San Francisco to Waller Wallace and Josephine. She was probably born on January 17, 1872, but she refused to give her age and said no one could find out for sure because her birth records were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Her father was head night usher at the California Theater. He and Josephine had two children.
When Edna was still young, Wally and Josephine took in a wealthy boarder, Alexander Dunsmuir (1853-1900), co-heir to the Dunsmuir coal and shipping fortune. Alex and Josephine fell in love, and Wally left with the children. Josephine was lonely for her children, and they made a cash settlement with Wally, so they could have Edna back.
Wally sued for divorce, but Alex had parents who disapproved of his new love and so their marriage had to wait.
Alex began to drink heavily. In spring 1886, he disappeared in San Francisco on a drinking binge. He went missing for ten days, and shortly after being found suffered from delirium tremens.
After Alex's father died in 1889, Alex and his brother tried to buy their mother out, but she had been left in control. Finally it happened. Alex then bought the estate of Souther Farm, now known as Dunsmuir House, near San Leandro at a cost of $350,000 and deeded it to Josephine.
On their much-delayed wedding day, Alex made out a will leaving everything else to his brother James. They married December 21, 1899 at a hotel in San Pablo, California and honeymooned in New York City.
To New York
Edna had gone to New York to train for the stage. While there, she had married DeWolf Hopper (1858–1935) on 28 June 1895. They appeared in several comic operas together, including John Philip Sousa's El Capitan, before they divorced in 1898. The couple presented a striking physical contrast on stage. DeWolf, at 6 ft 5 in, was exceptionally tall for the time, while Edna stood under five feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds. By the time of her mother's marriage to Alex, Edna was already a star on Broadway.
Edna met up with her mother and new stepfather while they were in New York. Alex sick with alcohol withdrawal got worse every day and died on New Year's Day in a New York City hospital.
Josephine returned a widow to her new San Leandro estate. She died of cancer there on June 22, 1901.
By this time Wallace Hopper had starred in her most famous role, Lady Holyrood in the popular London importation Florodora. Though not playing one of the renowned Florodora Sextettes, she shared in some of the wild adulation of male admirers who mobbed the stage door after every performance.
Wallace Hopper remained active on stage over the next decade, including starring in George M. Cohan's Fifty Miles from Boston in 1907. Edna married Wall Street broker Albert O. Brown in 1908. Her professional activity lessened in the 1910s but resumed in a new direction in the 1920s. One of the earlier stage actors to have a facelift, Wallace Hopper had the operation filmed and then made personal appearance tours over the next eight years showing the film and giving beauty tips.
"The June 8, 1953 issue of Life Magazine featured an article on Edna Wallace Hopper, who was a popular stage actress and singer during the turn of the 20th Century. In this article, Mrs. Hopper, in her 80's at the time of the article, performed the same role she began her acting career with in 1893. It was to be the final performance of the Empire Theater in New York City, which was scheduled for demolition."
She put her name on a line of products, noted for keeping her looking youthful - Edna Wallace Hopper Cosmetics: at the beginning a society by the advertising man Claude C Hopkins, then a part of American Home Products.
Wallace Hopper separated from her second husband and he died in the 1930s. She went on to become the only woman of the thirty-six member board of L. F. Rothschild & Co. She traveled daily by subway to her office to handle investments until shortly before her death in 1959.
- Tale of Love and Hate in Old San Francisco, Millie Robbins; Chronicle Books, San Francisco. 1971
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Edna Wallace Hopper|
- Biographical bits and picture of Alex Dunsmuir
- Edna Wallace Hopper at the Internet Broadway Database
- Her picture
- Edna Wallace Hopper Youth Cream Face Powder box
- Edna Wallace Hopper at the Internet Movie Database
- postcard of Edna Wallace Hopper 1872-1959
- Edna Wallace Hopper photo gallery at NY Public Library
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