On October 22nd, 1939, Hedda Hopper landed on the front page of the Los Angeles Times with an item that suggested that the son of President Roosevelt, James, an executive at the Goldwyn studio was on the brink of divorce.
Here’s a little bit of the copy, and yes, it reads exactly like what it was; a gossip column—
James Roosevelt, eldest son of the President, last night in Beverly Hills refused to deny or affirm reports that he would soon be divorced from his wife, Betsey Cushing Roosevelt.
In an exclusive interview in his Beverly Hills home I faced the young scion of the No. 1 political family in America with this question:
“Is it true that you and your wife are going to be divorced?”
AWARE OF RUMORS
Jimmy paused for a moment and then said quietly:
“Hedda, you know how rumors are. Since Betsey returned to the East to live near her parents and friends and I have settled in the West to carve out a career for myself in the picture industry, people have been trying to attach some importance to our geographic separation. More than that I’m afraid I can’t say.”
It is no secret among close associates of Roosevelt and his wife that the couple have not found the harmony they expected since Jimmy’s migration to Hollywood.
SEEN WITH NURSE
blah blah blah…
Let me put this in context. On September 1st, Germany invaded Poland. By September 3rd, France and Britain had entered the conflict, otherwise known as WW2. By October, Hitler was well into a series of actions and atrocities that haunt us still…
Now, getting back to Hedda and the front page of the Los Angeles Times in 1939; did her article warrant page one placement? No, definitely not.
But, I imagine Harry Chandler, the publisher of the Times knew it would sell copy. I suppose that same principle, the guiding light of commercialized gossip is still in play, and that’s why we’re all reveling in reading other people’s mail. Which, in a way, is a whole lot worse than engaging in gossip. We are publishing and reading personal correspondence, stolen letters. It’s like tapping someone’s phone calls and broadcasting them for their entertainment value.
Next up, Aaron Sorkin’s op-ed piece in the NY Times.