Malice in Wonderland
When the made-for-TV The Rumor Mill first aired on May 12, 1985, it bore the title Malice in Wonderland. This joyously inaccurate biopic concerns itself with Hollywood's two foremost gossipmongers of the 1930s and 1940s: Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper. Long involved in the film industry, Parsons used her ironclad relationship with publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst and the "confidential" information gleaned by her physician husband Harry "Docky" Martin to outscoop every other columnist in Tinseltown. Parsons' awesome power remained unchallenged until 1938, when Hedda Hopper, a character actress fallen on hard times, was hired as a gossip reporter by one of Hearst's rivals. Thereafter, it was every woman for herself: the blood feud between Parsons and Hopper raged unabated until the latter's death in 1966. Jane Alexander's on-target portrayal of Hedda Hopper won her an Emmy nomination; no less impressive (though not as accurate in her characterization) is Elizabeth Taylor as Louella Parsons. Other Emmy nominations went to the costume design and sound mixing, while Philip H. Lathrop won the statuette for his '30s-style photography. The "look who that is" supporting cast includes Richard Dysart as Louis B. Mayer, Eric Purcell as Orson Welles, Tim Robbins as Joseph Cotten (who once booted Louella in the derriere), Jason Wingreen as Jack Warner, Gary Wayne as Clark Gable, Denise Crosby as Carole Lombard, and Thomas Byrd as Hedda Hopper's actor-son William. Adapted from George Eels' waspish book Hedda and Louella, Malice in Wonderland is delightful, high-class claptrap.