1930s stage and film actress Victoria Hopper (1909-2007) spent part of her childhood in Trail.
Although the city has done an excellent job of celebrating the successes of its native sons and daughters, her Kootenay connection has mostly flown beneath the radar.
Victoria Hopper depicted on a 1934 tobacco card promoting the film Lorna Doone.
Hopper was born in Vancouver to Matthew Garfield (Gar) Hopper and Elizabeth Jane Rutherford, who were both from Dunston-on-Tyne England. They married in Vancouver on Aug. 6, 1908 and Victoria Evelyn came along on May 24 of the following year in a house on East Broadway.
The family moved to Trail in 1915, where Gar was hired as a carpenter at the smelter. The 1921 census found them living on Ravine Street — the short street off Spokane, opposite city hall.
Victoria attended Central School through 1922 and reportedly won an all-Canada piano competition.
The Vancouver Sun, July 28, 1922
The following year the family moved back to England. Victoria enrolled at the Webber-Douglas School of Singing and in 1933 was cast in the title role of Martine, a West End play. That same year she made her film debut as Tess Sanger in The Constant Nymph.
Her success was noted in BC. From the Vancouver Province of July 8, 1933:
And from The Vancouver Sun of Feb. 3, 1934:
Director Basil Dean cast Hopper as the titular character in his film version of Lorna Doone. They married upon the film’s completion — three weeks after announcing they had broken off their engagement.
According to The Independent, the marriage “gave a boost to her career, though inevitably there were accusations that [Dean] overrated her talents.”
Hopper continued to appear in films, on stage, and on television throughout the 1930s, but her films did poorly at the box office and her marriage to Dean dissolved in 1939.
During World War II, she was a director of the Entertainments National Service Association, and toured Europe and the Middle East to perform for troops. After the war, she returned to the stage. Her final West End role was in 1955.
She married actor Peter Walter in 1951 and lived at Romney Marsh.
While some of Victoria Hopper’s films survive on DVD, I haven’t been able to find any clips from them online.
Though her local connection is long forgotten, her obituary in The Independent did note that “she was raised in Trail, a small town in the Canadian Rockies [sic].”