Actor. Best known and loved by his fans as "Paul Drake" on the hugely popular Perry Mason television series (1957-1966), William DeWolf Hopper Jr. was born in New York City, the son of movie actress-turned-gossip-columnist Hedda Hopper and the legendary Broadway actor William DeWolf Hopper, who was 32 years her senior. Hopper's parents began making films around the time of his birth and he received his first film credit as an infant in a baby carriage in the 1916 film Sunshine Dad. Following their divorce in 1922, Hedda continued performing on film, stage and radio into the late 30's, when she became prominent in her second career as a Hollywood gossip columnist. In the meantime her son had grown into a tall (6'4") handsome young man who she encouraged to sign a contract with Paramount in 1935 at the age of 20. As his estranged father had died by this time, he started out with the stage name of DeWolf Hopper Jr. Young Hopper languished in bit parts at Paramount, but after moving to Warner Bros. in 1937, he was able to get some leading roles in second features such as Over the Goal (1937; with June Travis) and Mystery House (1938; with Ann Sheridan). He was soon back to bit parts and supporting roles, but he did manage to appear in such all-time classics as Stagecoach (1939), Knute Rockne, All American (1940), Santa Fe Trail (1940) and The Maltese Falcon (1941). He kept working during the early years of World War II, but in due course entered the armed forces. Upon his return in 1945, Hopper turned his back on Hollywood to become a car salesman, a profession he stayed with until 1954, when he resumed his show business career with a role as "Roy" in the John Wayne adventure The High and the Mighty, now calling himself William Hopper. Other film credits in the fifties included roles as "Dr. George Fenton" in Conquest of Space (1955), as Judy's father in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), as "Col. Kenneth Penmark" in The Bad Seed (1956), and as "Col. Robert Calder" in 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957). In 1957 he reached the pinnacle of his career with his performance of the "Paul Drake" role in the Perry Mason television series, where he had second billing to Raymond Burr. Hopper was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series for his work in Perry Mason in 1959. He settled into semi-retirement following the end of the Perry Mason series and the death of his mother in 1966. His final film role was as "Judge Frederic D. Cannon" in Myra Breckinridge (1970).
Bio by: Edward Parsons