Brearley School, 610 E 83rd St, New York, NY 10028
Miss Porter's School, 60 Main St, Farmington, CT 06032
Colony Club, 564 Park Ave, New York, NY 10065
Valley Cemetery, 3629 Southfork Rd, Cody, WY 82414
Hope Williams (August 11, 1897 - May 3, 1990) was a debutante with a carefree manner, boyishly clipped blond hair and a humorous walk, who was a leading Broadway actress in the late 1920's and 30's.
Williams, whose sole acting training was in amateur plays, gained notice in a Philip Barry comedy in 1927, ''Paris Bound,'' and won Broadway over as a rebellious socialite in ''Holiday,'' the classic comedy of manners in 1928 that Barry wrote for her.
The enthusiasm of reviewers and audiences was reflected in this appraisal by Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times: ''Miss Williams is one of the most clearheaded comediennes we have. She plays quietly with a sort of comic incandescence that is one of the superlative delights of this season. Through all the turns of the play she remains very much herself - boyishly awkward but quick and sparkling.''
Years later, Katharine Hepburn, who had understudied Williams on Broadway and recreated the ''Holiday'' role in the 1938 movie that also starred Cary Grant, offered this tribute: ''I stole a great deal from Hope. She was the first fascinating personality from that period, 1929 to 1932, which wasn't really ready for her. She was a woman who blossomed with a little more than she was supposed to.''
Over seven years, Williams was generally hailed in a handful of productions, including two revues, ''The New Yorkers'' and ''Strike Me Pink,'' in which she played a well-bred subtle foil to the riotous buffoonery of Jimmy Durante. She was also remembered for a world-weary role in Noel Coward's 1935 film, ''The Scoundrel.''
Coward wrote in his 1940 autobiography, ''Future Indefinite,'' that Miss Williams ''had a charming speaking voice with a sort of beguiling tonelessness.''
''She was slangy without being vulgar,'' Coward added, ''modern without being brash, and her gaucheries of movement had a peculiar grace.''
Williams was born in Manhattan on Aug. 11, 1897. Her father, Waldron, was a prominent lawyer. She attended the Brearley School and Miss Porter's Classes and learned acting in the Amateur Comedy Club and Junior League charity shows.
''Too much has been made of this Park Avenue situation,'' she told an interviewer. ''What difference does it make what side of the railroad tracks a girl comes from, so long as she has charm and looks and ability?''
Williams retired from acting after playing the careless governess Miss Prism in a 1939 Broadway revival of Oscar Wilde's ''Importance of Being Earnest.''
Williams told a columnist for Playbill, Rebecca Morehouse, that when World War II began ''everything changed.''
''I have a ranch in Wyoming, and after my manager was drafted, I had to be there,'' Williams said.
She divided her time between the 1,000-acre dude ranch outside Cody and her Upper East Side apartment and for a while ran a cooking school and recorded books for the blind.
Mrs. Morehouse observed in her column in 1983 that in later decades Williams socialized in Manhattan almost without notice, often attended theater and music events and regularly dined with friends, often at her club, the Colony. Asked why she never resumed acting, she thought for a moment, smiled nonchalantly and replied, ''I guess that's because I have always had a privileged life.''
First Colony Club, NYC
Second Colony Club House, NYC
Some of the privileges came from her former husband, Dr. R. Bartow Read. They were married in 1922 and divorced in 1928. He was killed in a crash of his private plane in 1931, and his will, written in 1923, named her as his sole beneficiary.
She was a good friend of Laura Barney Harding, whom she had met at Miss Porter’s School, and Katherine Hepburn. Williams was one of the lovers of Mercedes de Acosta.
She died of cardiac arrest at her home in Manhattan. She was 92 years old
BACK TO HOME PAGE