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Hope Hampton



A beauty whose insouscience and lack of self-consciousness enabled her to convert modest acting talent into silent movie stardom in an era when the flapper embodied careless femininity, Hope Hampton was in boarding school in Texas when winning a beauty contest brought her to the attention of motion picture producers in 1918. Maurice Tournier, that supreme aesthete of early film, discovered her and used her in "Women." Her reddish blonde hair and blue eyes caused a sensation in the Franco-American film-making world, and she passed from director to director in 1919-1920 personating beauties. Leonce Perret presented her as the chief attraction in "A Modern Salome." Tournier paired her with John Gilbert in "The Bait."

It was no doubt through Tournier that Hampton came to the attention of Jules E. Brulator, president of Eastman Kodak, and one time boss of Tournier at Eclair films in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Hampton's film career reached its apogee in Alan Dwan's film adaptation of the Broadway hit "Lawful Larceny" in 1923. Dwan's handling of the action minimized the defects of Hampton's underdeveloped acting technique.

Marriage to Brulator in that same year put his immense wealth behind her efforts, but Brulator revered opera more than movies, and so Hampton underwent bootcamp training in classical voice. She proved a capable but by no means star quality soprano, and performed in productions of the Philadelphia Grand Opera (an organization kept afloat by Brulator's money) through the 1930s. After retiring from the stage, Hampton became one of Manhattan's more conspicuous first nighters, present at every cultural event of significance in the city. Some have regarded her life as a model for Susan Alexander Kane in the movie "Citizen Kane." David S. Shields/ALS