Military Wiki
William Hopper
William Hopper in 1934, photo by Carl Van Vechten
Born DeWolf Hopper, Jr.
(1915-01-26)January 26, 1915
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died March 6, 1970(1970-03-06) (aged 55)
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1916; 1936–1966; 1970
Spouse(s) Jane Gilbert (1940-1959)
(divorced; 1 child)
Jeanette J. Hopper (1959-1970)
(his death)

William Hopper, born DeWolf Hopper, Jr. (January 26, 1915 – March 6, 1970) was an American actor. Hopper was born in New York City, the only child of singer and comic stage actor DeWolf Hopper (1858–1935) and actress and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (1885–1966). He is best remembered for playing private detective Paul Drake in more than 250 episodes of television's Perry Mason and for his role as the father of the Natalie Wood character in Rebel Without a Cause.

Early life

Hopper's debut motion picture appearance was as a baby in his father's 1916 silent movie Sunshine Dad. His mother divorced his father in 1922 and moved to Hollywood with their son.

Military service

He enlisted in the Navy in 1942, served as a frogman, and received a Bronze Star for bravery and heroic action during operations in the Pacific. He was discharged when the war ended in 1945. The stress of his military action as a frogman in the Pacific caused his hair to turn from blonde to grey. Like a lot of war veterans, chain smoking came commonplace, within all the ranks in the U.S. armed forces, may have contributed to his premature death.

Acting career


Hopper began his acting career as a teenager, working in summer stock in Ogunquit, Maine. He went from there to Broadway, where he appeared in two plays in 1934, Order Please and Romeo and Juliet.

Early in his film career, Hopper appeared uncredited in numerous movies or under the name DeWolf Hopper. In 1936, he played a small role as a photographer in the Columbia Pictures film The King Steps Out starring Grace Moore and Franchot Tone. In 1937 he portrayed the leading man in two films, Public Wedding with Jane Wyman and Over the Goal. He also enjoyed significant roles alongside Ann Sheridan in The Footloose Heiress (1937) and Mystery House (1938).

After that he had roles that included playing a sergeant in the Western Stagecoach (1939) starring Claire Trevor and John Wayne; an intern in The Return of Dr. X starring Humphrey Bogart; a New York reporter in Knute Rockne, All American (1940) starring Pat O'Brien, Gale Page, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Crisp; a reporter in the post-Hollywood Production Code version of The Maltese Falcon (1941) starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor; and a reporter in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) starring James Cagney and Walter Huston. Reagan and Hopper appeared in nine films together between 1937 and 1942.


In the mid 1950s Hopper resumed his movie career with the part of Roy in The High and the Mighty (1954) starring John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Laraine Day, and Robert Stack. In 1956 Hopper had a supporting role in Wayne's production of Good-bye, My Lady.

Other appearances included his iconic role as the father of Natalie Wood in the James Dean classic Rebel Without a Cause (1955), as Robert Mitchum's ill-fated older brother Arthur in the William Wellman adventure Track of the Cat (1954), and as the often absent father Col. Kenneth Penmark in The Bad Seed (1956) also starring Nancy Kelly and Patty McCormack. Hopper, along with Joan Taylor and a very young Bart Braverman, starred in the classic Ray Harryhausen science fiction film 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957).

Also in 1957 he played a supporting role in the pilot episode of the television series The Restless Gun, which was broadcast as an episode of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars. His television guest appearances included the The Joseph Cotten Show, Gunsmoke, Fury, Studio 57, The Millionaire, and Schlitz Playhouse of Stars.

He made two movie appearances during his years on Perry Mason but retired after the television show was canceled in 1966. He made one final movie appearance as a judge, Frederic D. Cannon in Gore Vidal's Myra Breckinridge (1970) starring Raquel Welch, John Huston, Farrah Fawcett, Rex Reed, and Mae West.

Perry Mason

Hopper is best known for his regular role as the private investigator Paul Drake on CBS's courtroom television series Perry Mason (1957–1966) with Raymond Burr in the title role and Barbara Hale as secretary Della Street. In the 1959 episode, "The Case of Paul Drake's Dilemma," Hopper played the defendant, the only time in the series' nine-year run that Paul Drake was tried for murder.

A heavy smoker, Hopper can be seen smoking in numerous episodes of the show.

In 1959 Hopper was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series for his performance as Paul Drake.

Personal life

He had one much older half-brother from his father's second marriage in the 1880s. In the mid to late 1930s, Hopper occasionally visited nightclubs with film actress Isabel Jewell. He married actress Jane Gilbert (née Kies), sister of the better-known Margaret Lindsay, in 1940; they had one daughter, Joan (born 1942); the couple divorced in 1959.

Shortly thereafter he married Jeanette Juanita Hopper (née Ward) and became stepfather to her son, Gordon Casimire Williams II. Jeanette died on October 20, 2008, of cardiac arrest from atherosclerosis in El Monte, California.

Although self-published Entertainment Celebrities is credited with claiming that actor Dennis Hopper was his cousin,[1] the Chicago Tribune stated that they are not related.[2]


Hopper was hospitalized on February 14, 1970, after a stroke at his home in Yucca Valley, California, and was transferred to a hospital in Palm Springs when pneumonia developed. He died of a heart attack on March 6 at age 55.[3]

He was buried in Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.


  • Order Please (1934), Playhouse Theatre, as Victor Neilson
  • Romeo and Juliet (1934–1935), Martin Beck Theatre

Film and Television

  • Sunshine Dad (1916) (as DeWolf Hopper Jr.), infant in carriage
  • The King Steps Out (1936) (uncredited), soldier
  • Murder with Pictures (1936) (uncredited), photographer
  • The Big Broadcast of 1937 (1936)
  • Easy to Take (1936) (uncredited), monitor room man
  • The Accusing Finger (1936) (as DeWolf Hopper Jr.), reporter
  • Beware of Ladies (1936) (uncredited), reporter
  • The Adventurous Blonde (1937), Matt, a reporter
  • Over the Goal (1937), Ken Thomas
  • Love Is on the Air (1937), Eddie Gould
  • Back in Circulation (1937) (uncredited), Pete Eddington, a reporter
  • The Footloose Heiress (1937), Jack Pierson
  • Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937) (uncredited), second production manager
  • Public Wedding (1937), Anthony 'Tony' Burke
  • Dick Tracy (serial) (1937/I) (uncredited), Dirigible Pilot, chs. 4, 9-10
  • Join the Marines (1937) (uncredited), marine
  • Larceny on the Air (1937) (as De Wolf Hopper) announcer
  • Mystery House (1938), Lal Killian
  • Love, Honor and Behave (1938) (uncredited), Yale tennis player
  • Daredevil Drivers (1938), Neeley bus driver
  • The Patient in Room 18 (1938) (scenes deleted), grabshot
  • Invisible Stripes (1939) (uncredited), society gent in top hat
  • A Child Is Born (1939) (uncredited), intern going to see operation
  • The Return of Doctor X (1939) (as DeWolf Hopper), intern
  • Dead End Kids at Military School (1939) (uncredited), soldier getting radio report from H4
  • Smashing the Money Ring (1939) (uncredited), trial spectator
  • Pride of the Blue Grass (1939) (as DeWolf Hopper), Joe
  • On Your Toes (1939) (uncredited), Peggy's escort Ronald
  • Espionage Agent (1939) (uncredited), student
  • Dust Be My Destiny (1939) (uncredited), reporter
  • Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (1939) (as DeWolf Hopper), reporter
  • The Angels Wash Their Faces (1939) (uncredited), photographer
  • The Bill of Rights (1939) (uncredited), courier
  • The Old Maid (1939) (as DeWolf Hopper), John Ward
  • The Cowboy Quarterback (1939) (as DeWolf Hopper), Handsome Sam Saxon
  • Daughters Courageous (1939) (uncredited), man with striped shirt at beach
  • Midnight (1939) (uncredited), Flammarions' party guest
  • Nancy Drew... Reporter (1939) (uncredited), bit role
  • Stagecoach (1939) (uncredited), Sergeant
  • Santa Fe Trail (1940) (scenes deleted), officer
  • Lady with Red Hair (1940) (uncredited), Lyceum Theater attendant
  • Always a Bride (1940) (uncredited), man at campaign meeting carrying Michael
  • The Flag of Humanity (1940) (uncredited), sentry
  • Knute Rockne, All American (1940) (uncredited), New York reporter when Knute is ill
  • No Time for Comedy (1940) (uncredited), first-Nnighter
  • Money and the Woman (1940) (uncredited), J.L. Burns, bank depositor
  • Ladies Must Live (1940) (as DeWolf Hopper), Joe Barton
  • Pony Express Days (1940) (uncredited), St. Joseph relegrapher
  • The Man Who Talked Too Much (1940) (uncredited), reporter #2
  • Gambling on the High Seas (1940) (uncredited), police boat radio Ooperator
  • Brother Orchid (1940) (uncredited), 2nd reporter on return ship
  • Flight Angels (1940) (as DeWolf Hopper), Lefty, radio operator
  • Tear Gas Squad (1940) (as DeWolf Hopper), George, Lois' friend
  • 'Til We Meet Again (1940) (uncredited), man
  • The Singing Dude (1940) (uncredited), cowboy
  • Virginia City (1940) (uncredited), Lieutenant reporting Murrell's attack
  • Castle on the Hudson (1940) (uncredited), reporter
  • Calling Philo Vance (1940) (uncredited), clerk at Hotel Nino in Chicago
  • The Fighting 69th (1940) (as DeWolf Hopper), Private Turner
  • Hedda Hopper's Hollywood No. 2 (1941) (uncredited), himself as party guest
  • You're in the Army Now (1941) (uncredited), supply man: gas masks
  • The Body Disappears (1941) (as DeWolf Hopper), Terrence Abbott
  • All Through the Night (1941) (uncredited), reporter
  • They Died with Their Boots On (1941) (uncredited), Lt. Frazier
  • Blues in the Night (1941) (uncredited), billiard player
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941) (uncredited), reporter
  • Passage from Hong Kong (1941) (uncredited), Watson
  • Navy Blues (1941) (uncredited), Ensign Walters
  • International Squadron (1941) (uncredited), radio operator
  • Dive Bomber (1941) (uncredited), pilot telling Joe 'Tim Landed RAF Plane'
  • Manpower (1941) (uncredited), power company telephone operator
  • Highway West (1941) (uncredited), Frank Carson, murdered cashier
  • Bullets for O'Hara (1941) (as DeWolf Hopper), Richard Palmer
  • The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941) (as DeWolf Hopper), Keenan's and Brice's pilot
  • Throwing a Party (1941)
  • Affectionately Yours (1941) unbilled
  • Strange Alibi (1941) (uncredited), apartment house clerk
  • A Shot in the Dark (1941) (uncredited), reporter
  • Knockout (1941) (uncredited), first reporter
  • Here Comes Happiness (1941) (as DeWolf Hopper), Schuyler, Blaine's best man
  • Footsteps in the Dark (1941) (uncredited,) police secretary
  • Flight from Destiny (1941) (as DeWolf Hopper), Travin
  • High Sierra (1941) (scenes deleted), man
  • The Case of the Black Parrot (1941) (uncredited),ship's officer reporting false alarm
  • Gentleman Jim (1942) (uncredited), undetermined
  • Beyond the Line of Duty (1942) (uncredited), University of Texas classmate
  • You Can't Escape Forever (1942) (uncredited), soldier
  • Desperate Journey (1942) (uncredited), radio operator
  • Across the Pacific (1942) (uncredited), orderly
  • Divide and Conquer (1942) (uncredited), bit role
  • Secret Enemies (1942) (uncredited), agent
  • Busses Roar (1942) (uncredited), dark-haired sailor at bar
  • Escape from Crime (1942) (uncredited), Hastings, reporter
  • Spy Ship (1942) (uncredited), Reporter
  • Juke Girl (1942) (uncredited), Atlanta postal clerk
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) (uncredited), reporter
  • Larceny, Inc. (1942) (uncredited), traffic policeman
  • Murder in the Big House (1942) (uncredited), reporter
  • Lady Gangster (1942) (as DeWolf Hopper), John
  • The Male Animal (1942) (uncredited), reporter on porch
  • Bullet Scars (1942) (uncredited), Citizens Bank teller
  • Murder on the Waterfront (1943) (uncredited), first sentry
  • Action in the North Atlantic (1943) (uncredited), Canadian soldier
  • The Mysterious Doctor (1943) (uncredited)
  • Air Force (1943) (uncredited), Sergeant
  • The Hard Way (1943) (uncredited), Hotel Desk Clerk
  • The Last Ride (1944) (uncredited), swank mechanic/henchman
  • Track of the Cat (1954), Arthur Bridges
  • This Is My Love (1954), District Attorney
  • Sitting Bulll (1954) (as Bill Hopper), Charles Wentworth
  • The High and the Mighty (1954) (as William Dewolf Hopper), Roy
  • Lux Video Theatre .- Perilous Deception (1955) TV episode, himself as host
  • Casablanca (1955) (TV) - Labor Camp Escapee William Randoll
  • Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Judy's father
  • One Desire (1955), 'Mac' MacBain
  • Ford Theatre (1955), The Mumbys. Joe Cramer
  • Robbers' Roost (1955), Robert Bell
  • Conquest of Space (1955), Dr. George Fenton
  • Lux Video Theatre- No Sad Songs for Me (1955)
  • Lux Video Theatre- The Star (1956)
  • Lux Video Theatre - The Top Rung (1956)
  • The Bad Seed (1956), Col. Kenneth Penmark
  • Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre - Ten Percent (1956), Rick Gordon
  • Gunsmoke ... Unmarked Grave (1956) TV episode, Tasker Sloan
  • Gunsmoke ... Robin Hood (1956) TV episode, John Henry Jordan
  • The First Texan (1956), William Barrett Travis
  • The Millionaire.- ...The Captain Jonathan Carroll Story (1956) TV episode, Capt. Jonathan Carroll
  • Good-bye, My Lady (1956), Walden Grover
  • Celebrity Playhouse - Stagecoach to Paradise (1956) TV episode
  • The 20th Century Fox Hour.- One Life (1956) TV episode, Philip Harland
  • Fury ..-.. The Hobo (1956) TV episode, Dr. Steve Brown aka Steve Wilson
  • Studio 57- The Magic Glass (1956) TV episode
  • Slim Carter (1957), Joe Brewster
  • Studio 57- Mr. November (1957) TV episode, Kip
  • 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), Colonel Robert Calder
  • The Deadly Mantis (1957), Dr. Nedrick 'Ned' Jackson
  • The Joseph Cotten Show.- The Case of the Jealous Bomber (1957) TV episode, Arnold Bait
  • Schlitz Playhouse of Stars - The Restless Gun (1957) TV episode, Don Maler
  • Perry Mason (1957–1966, 256 episodes), Paul Drake
  • Stump the Stars- Episode dated July 8, 1963 (1963) TV episode, guest panelist
  • Myra Breckinridge (1970) (uncredited), Judge Frederic D. Cannon
  • Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? (1975), documentary film using archival footage (as DeWolf Hopper Jr.)


  1. Norbert B. Laufenberg, Entertainment Celebrities (Trafford Publishing, 2005), 795
  2. Bettelou Peterson. "What happened to Dennis Hopper who played Paul Drake in...," Chicago Tribune, TV sec., February 27, 1987.
  3. New York Times: "William Hopper, Actor, Dies; Detective in 'Perry Mason,' 54," March 7, 1970, accessed July 14, 2011

External links

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