Little Moments I Love: Hedda Hopper’s Look of Pity

Sunset Boulevard is chock full of memorable moments.  But one moment that has always stood out to me isn’t one of the obvious ones.  As Norma Desmond is making her infamous trip down the stairs, there is a brief shot of Hedda Hopper watching with a look of absolute pity.  I’m obsessed with that little shot.  It’s always made me wonder if there possibly could have been some kind of back story between Norma and Hedda.  As a gossip columnist, Hedda was known for being pretty ruthless.  Her column earned her a swift kick in the rear from Spencer Tracy and Joan Fontaine once sent her a skunk as a Valentine’s Day gift.  So such a pitiful reaction from Hedda seems a little unusual unless there was some kind of history there.  Before becoming a gossip columnist, Hedda was an actress and worked during the time that Norma would have been at the height of her career.  Perhaps they could have been in some movies together or had been friends during that time.  Or maybe she just thought that Norma Desmond’s story was too tragic to revel in the way everybody else was.  Either way, I’ve gotta hand it to Hedda for making the most out of her cameo appearance.


  1. Well, she was an actress in her younger days so maybe she did have some talent after all. Or maybe by the time they filmed this movie, she had already seen so many stars like the one Gloria Swanson was playing go the way of Norma Desmond.

    1. Billy Wilder was actually better friends with Louella Parsons, but since Hedda was the one with acting experience, she’s the one who got the cameo. But I hadn’t considered that she may have actually encountered a few Norma Desmonds in her time.

  2. Clearly, Hedda and Norma were pals back in the day. In fact, I hear that Hedda was spoiling for a seat at the Waxworks Friday night bridge game once one of the regulars checked into the Actors Home.

  3. I read somewhere that Louella Parsons was also asked to appear in the movie with Hedda but she refused because they despised each other. Hedda was friends in real life with Gloria Swanson and always talked about how Gloria’s career was so up and down and that she made so many returns to fame. She said Gloria would be in a wheelchair and still making a come-back and that Hedda hoped she was right there with her when it happened!

    1. That is an excellent story! I didn’t realize Gloria and Hedda were good friends off-screen, but it definitely shows in their scenes together.

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