A Woman to Know: Louella Parsons

The first person I cared deeply and sincerely about was — myself. — Louella Parsons

The first person I cared deeply and sincerely about was — myself. — Louella Parsons

(you can guess which one is Louella. image via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1914, Louella Parsons started the first-ever movie column in the United States. As a writer for The Chicago Record-Herald, Louella recognized show business was big business, and she took her reporting chops to the studios, parties and after-parties — from there, her influence only grew. Hearst newspapers employed her as a movie columnist and gossip reporter, publishing her work in more than 400 newspapers around the world.

After a tuberculosis scare in the 1930s — when she thought she only had six months to live — Louella threw herself into her gossip column. She often “played dumb” in order to lure her sources into divulging just too much. As a result, she “scooped” multiple high-profile divorces and even co-wrote some Hollywood screenplays on the side.

Her fierce rivalry with fellow columnist Hedda Hopper often meant Louella would trade information or withhold starlets’ secrets in order to protect a prime item from reaching Hedda’s ears.

Louella continued writing her column until she was well in her 80s. She tended to her source relationships at doctors’ offices, secretaries’ desks and hairdressers’ salons. At one point, more than 20 million readers read her words religiously.

As The New York Times put it in a 1961 article:

Tourists to Hollywood should be permitted at least one glimpse of Louella Parsons at a public function. Heads of studios, producers, stars, do not quite kneel or curtsey in her presence, but their homage is almost feudal.

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