Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Bennett Sisters: Constance

Each time the Siren takes a look at celebrity news she is confronted with Somebody's Kid, to the point where it seems stardom has become as heritable as a dry-cleaning business. Talent, however, is often a recessive trait. The Redgraves and Barrymores are the exception, not the rule.

For a while, in the first half of the 20th century, it seemed the Bennetts might become a true acting dynasty. As Brian Kellow details in his fine book, The Bennetts: An Acting Family, it didn't work out that way. Richard Bennett was a legendary theatre actor. Two of his daughters, Constance and Joan, gave good performances in a number of movies, including four the Siren would nominate for immortality. And now, the last of the Bennetts live quietly. Whatever acting fire was in the genes is either extinguished, or banked up awaiting another generation.

Richard Bennett was primarily a stage actor, although he did good work for John Ford in Arrowsmith and worked twice for Orson Welles, who had seen Bennett on stage and, according to Kellow, "felt that he had the greatest lyric power of any actor in the theater." Bennett's final film role was as a Greek captain on a fishing boat in Journey Into Fear. By then his drinking had made him incapable of remembering lines, a difficulty Welles solved by having the captain speak no English. But Bennett's grand moment was as the Major in The Magnificent Ambersons, life ebbing from him as he sits by the fire, eyes fixed beyond the camera on an expanse of utter loneliness: "And he realized that everything which had worried him or delighted him during this lifetime, all his buying and building and trading and banking, that it was all trifling and waste beside what concerned him now. For the Major knew now that he had to plan how to enter an unknown country where he was not even sure of being recognized as an Amberson." One scene like that is all an actor needs for immortality, as far as the Siren is concerned.

But, though it would no doubt displease the blustery Richard, the Siren wants to concentrate on his daughters. There were three of them, as anyone who's read Lulu in Hollywood knows: Constance, Barbara (who never had a real career) and Joan. True to the conventions of fairy tales the youngest, Joan, was also the most beautiful, the kindest and the most talented. Despite this undeniable fact, the Siren found herself spellbound by the smart, mercurial and brazenly selfish Constance. A recent viewing of What Price Hollywood?, which Kellow wisely points to as Constance's best movie, added to the fascination. The Siren suspects something similar happened to the biographer. At times Kellow halts the narrative for a minute, unable to resist an aside concerning Constance's never-ending supply of chutzpah.



We meet the oldest Bennett daughter shortly after her birth in October 1904, a date she would spend the rest of her life obfuscating along with the birthdates of all three of her children and, for the first two, even the identity of their fathers. Richard Bennett came home to his actress wife, Mabel, after a tour undertaken during a rift in their marriage. Summoned by a telegram, he went upstairs to the apartment his wife had rented and heard a baby caterwauling. After making up with Mabel, Richard took a look at his new daughter and was thoroughly alarmed. Her face was red, her fists were clenched and she was raising such a ruckus her father was afraid she was sick. Mabel told him, "She wants attention, dear."

As any parent can tell you, temperament shows up from the first slap on the behind. What Constance wanted, Constance got, and she wanted a great deal. When refused something as a child, she'd retreat to her room and bang her head on the floor. As she grew into a young woman, and throughout her life, she maintained a figure so slim they called her "the human coathanger." Capable of steely self-discipline as well as willfulness, Constance observed her father's ruinous alcoholism and never took a drink. When Barbara's sad life also began to descend into a miasma of alcohol and self-destructive behavior, Constance lost patience early on, telling Joan that anyone with sense should be able to look at their father's binges and know it was wise to abstain.

She grew into a beauty who immediately set about felling a string of men. Her first marriage was to Philip Morgan Plant, the heir to a vast railroad fortune. The pattern of this first marriage was quite like some of Constance's movies, including What Price Hollywood?. His mother tried to discourage the romance but she needn't have bothered. Constance, already launched on a career in silent films, never even tried to charm Mrs. Plant as she got engaged and un-engaged to Plant several times. Finally an engagement stuck, and they were married. Things unraveled in no time flat, as Philip was no slouch in the drinking department himself. In December 1929 she and Plant signed a divorce decree in Nice. At the end of January, Constance appeared in New York with a baby boy. She was cagey about whether or not son Peter was biologically hers, and over the years she increased the confusion, at first claiming he was adopted, later insisting he was Plant's. She was, she said later, fearful that Plant's family might try to take the boy away. Philip always acknowledged the boy as his and, after he died and Constance wound up in court with his family, a trust fund was established for Peter.

Constance moved on to Gloria Swanson's ex, the Marquis de la Falaise de Coudray. While married to him she had a daughter, Lorinda, who may have been Henri's or, then again, may have been the daughter of the glamorous Latin actor Gilbert Roland. Constance divorced Henri, married Roland and had another daughter, but in the early 1940s she tired of Roland and took a new lover, a nine-years-younger Army Air Corps colonel named John Coulter. They met at a party Coulter attended with his wife, who was in a wheelchair due to a recent car accident. Constance vamped into the room in full evening regalia and that was all she wrote for the unfortunate Mrs. Coulter. Constance had her new man arrange for Gilbert's assignment to an aerial mapping squadron working over South America--with blithe disregard for Roland's acute fear of heights. As Kellow remarks at this point, "how can we not admire Constance's skill as a master puppeteer?" Forget Scarlett O'Hara. Constance would have steamrolled her, too.

The Siren's growing enthrallment with Constance took a huge hit, however, with the actress's conduct during her marriage to Coulter. She was in charge of her son Peter's trust fund, and as her career waned and she tried to maintain a star's lifestyle with Coulter, Constance began to tap into the fund to supplement her income. Eventually the fund, which was about $300,000--in 1952 dollars--was completely depleted. Peter threatened a lawsuit unless Constance and her husband turned over their house. Constance, knowing when to fold 'em, signed it over. Mother and son did not speak for more than a decade, but Constance had raised him even better than she realized. Eventually he wrote her a letter asking for a reconciliation before it was too late. She invited him to dinner and when he arrived, she opened the door and her first words were, "Let's not talk about it." Later Constance's friends told Peter she had been tormented by their years of silence, but she had asked him not to bring it up, and he never did. Their reconciliation probably added years to her life.

Usually by this point in a post the Siren has brought up a film or two, but Constance's life fascinates as much as even her good movies, and certainly a great deal more than something like Sin Takes a Holiday. Sister Joan was a Democrat, who with her husband Walter Wanger supported a number of liberal causes; but Constance was a fierce Republican who late in life would entertain guests by reading out loud from The Conscience of a Conservative. When Richard hit up his eldest daughter once too often for a loan, she wrote back saying that unfortunately Roosevelt had already bled her dry. She was a skilled poker player, one of the few women allowed to play in high-stakes regular games with moguls like Jack Warner, Samuel Goldwyn and Darryl Zanuck. Permitted, hell--she frequently took them to the cleaners. Another lady with a perfect poker face? Constance's friend Kay Francis, who once complained of the expense of maintaining her mother. Constance told her to knock it off--"we know you support your mother on your poker winnings." It was Constance who, it is said, watched Marilyn Monroe sashay across a set and remarked, "There goes a broad with a future behind her."

Despite the trust fund debacle, Constance is remembered with affection by her children, who all turned out sane and stable. But they admit she was no picnic, as you may guess. Remember the Christmas-gift-giveaway scene in Mommie Dearest? Constance did the same thing to her two daughters, demanding that their favorite gift be given away to an orphanage. (This incident is dryly indexed under "Bennett, Constance...child-rearing philosophies of.")

"My personal feeling is that Mummy should never have been a mother," said daughter Lorinda. "But she was one hell of a woman. I am very happy that Mummy was this fantastic woman: intelligent, great sense of humor, full of all kinds of wonderful things. Someone I respected so much as a person. I much prefer that she was someone like that than a 'good mother.'"

(Next up, if all goes according to plan (which, my patient readers know, isn't always the case) are notes on Constance's actual acting.)

48 comments:

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

They met at a party Coulter attended with his wife, who was in a wheelchair due to a recent car accident. Constance vamped into the room in full evening regalia and that was all she wrote for the unfortunate Mrs. Coulter.

I was going to make a crack about Constance being the "Cindy McCain" of her day but since you brought up her devotion to Goldwater, it's pretty much a moot point.

Vanwall said...

I never could take to her as a human being, she was an artificial and selfish self-creation if there ever was one. I heard more scuttlebutt and rumor about her from the beginning of my learning about films than anyone else, I think. A master manipulator, even of her kids, and the boys shoulda known better than to play poker with her, what I think.
For me she exists only onscreen. I bet she hung around with Dean Jagger and Menjou - they would be just the sort of reactionary pair she'd draw to.

mndean said...

Gee, years after my brother robbed me blind (he was rather clever at finding ways to drain my bank account), he didn't want to talk about it, either. I don't get her reason for not doing so, though. It doesn't seem she had any conscience at all. It's the one difference between you and me, Siren. This stuff doesn't do much for me - these people with their twisted motivations and ugly behavior are like watching lowlifes with too much money and time on their hands, and when it comes to their "class", it's always affectation, either married or bought.

Karen said...

I think I have to side respectfully with mndean on this one. I've adored Constance Bennett for years, for her sheer beauty and grace, and for her knockout performances in What Price Hollywood? and Our Betters (aided nobly in the latter by Hattie Carnegie's spectacular gowns: there are many memorable moments in that film, but few more so than Constance draped in a doorway in a magnificently-sleeved dark gown, with shining chains draped across it), and her great comedic turn in Topper.

But this story makes me sad, and makes me feel I can't quite ever look at her again the same way. I would be sorry not to be able to greet her with the same love as before.

D Cairns said...

We have to accept that movie stars are NEVER as adorable as the people they play. I'm not sure anybody could be. Accepting that, it starts to become a strange pleasure to find out how twisted they sometimes are. It's like Sweet Smell of Success or something, where it's less about character sympathy and more about "How low can they go?" And since we don't have to hang out with these people, it's possible to gain a weird kind of affection for their monstrous behaviour. Sometimes.

Campaspe said...

David, you put it perfectly, thanks very much. It certainly isn't that I read about Constance and think "damn, wish I'd been her friend!" but there is a part of me that can't help but be awestruck. Look, Hollywood was a man's world where a woman's desirability was her chief currency, and it came with a shelf life somewhere between milk and yogurt. Constance was certainly no more ruthless than the people she was working for. (Which is why, Vanwall, I loved reading about her ability to clean them out at poker. You are right, the boys shoulda known better.) And do note, M., that I didn't say a word about her "class" -- I don't think she had much. She just mesmerized me--I kept thinking, how's she gonna top this? And then she did. Kellow compares her to Becky Sharp AND Cousine Bette and I think both are pretty darned apt. But then again, I loved Becky and Bette both.

After I do Constance's movies I plan to write about Joan, who was definitely the better actress and a woman so nice she could handle both Constance and Fritz Lang. You can consider her a palate-cleanser.

the editor., said...

Hi! Self-Styled Siren,
I also liked her(Constance Bennett) "turn" in the 1947 film noir "The Unsuspected" with actor Claude Rain, actresses Audrey Totter and Joan Caulfield.
Btw, I wanted to list it(The film the Unsuspected) under the letter "U" when I created my Alphabet meme, but the use of the word "The" and ("Fletch"...haha!) prevented me from listing it!

p.s. Wow!...her (C.B.) private life was very interesting too!...While her sis, Joan Bennett, placed her "petite" feet in Film noir
and boy!...did she leave an imprint!

Tks,
darkcitydame ;-)

Peter Nellhaus said...

I'm looking forward to the next installment. I've only seen a couple of films with Constance Bennett. She was certainly hot in Topper.

mndean said...

The affectation of class what Hollywood SOP in that era (why do you think so many female stars were looking to marry royalty?). It's more interesting when they didn't care about it and were unaffected. Besides, I got the notion of affected class not from you, but from others. The last time I heard it was from (ducking) Robert Osborne, but he wasn't the only one.

mndean said...

Um, I mean WAS Hollywood SOP. I hate deleting posts for a stupid editing error.

Karen said...

I wouldn't say that I expect actors to be as adorable as the characters they play. I've never been given much cause to believe they would be, past or present.

But I do enjoy illusion, me. I like the lights and the paint and the costumes, and the fake stories that are so real they cut like a knife. Did you know that St Augustine, in the Confessions, mourned the fact that the stories he watched in the theatre elicited a more emotional reaction from him than real events did?

Lord knows I'm aware that there are ugly realities behind the illusion. I just prefer not to dwell on them. I like reading some of the history of the business (like Gabler's An Empire of Their Own) and I confess I took a certain delight in reading Esther William's reminiscences, and many of the Siren's anecdotes have brought me great joy. But, for me, I prefer to talk about the product that's brought me so much pleasure, and not the flaws of the people who labor in its fields.

Yojimboen said...

Granted, although Constance was probably hotter in every way than her kid sister, it’s always been Joan who had me at hello. (I look forward to part two.)

Among Joan’s achievements were causing her then husband Walter Wanger to shoot her agent/lover Jennings Lang. (Anyone who can cause a producer to shoot an agent is AOK in my book.) The subplot was that Joan and Jennings Lang enjoyed most of their assignations in a small flat Lang ‘borrowed’ from a junior exec at his agency; which anecdote later gave inspiration to a certain Billy Wilder (by his admission) for a movie he entitled The Apartment.

So thanks are due to Ms Joan Bennett for that at least – and, due to the sad but inevitable reality that she found it difficult to get work after the shooting, she wound up in a throwaway little Michael Curtiz comedy called We’re No Angels – affording yours truly the second opportunity this month to trumpet the best Christmas movie of all time.

Campaspe said...

oh dear Karen, I can see this was a bad idea. I was done with the "omg look at Constance's life" bit, and only halfway through looking at the 5 or 6 movies I've seen, and figured that rather than going dark for a time I would just throw up an uncharacteristically bio-focused piece. It's going to take a day or two to finish up the other stuff but sit tight. I swear this isn't becoming a gossip blog. I just really did find her entertaining in her monstrousness. Even Louise Brooks, who couldn't stand Constance, said she learned how to enter a room by watching Constance swan into a nightclub. (The trick was to stand in the entry for a moment, as though minutely adjusting one's furs, meanwhile becoming the object of all gazes.)

Taking the twins to a birthday party now, will return with more thoughts.

Belvoir said...

(The trick was to stand in the entry for a moment, as though minutely adjusting one's furs, meanwhile becoming the object of all gazes.)

Hey, I thought that was my gimmick!

I really enjoyed your bio sketch of Constance. Indeed, finding someone intriguing is not the same as approving of their behavior. Alluring bad girls are fascinating, let's face it.

Belvoir said...

By sheer coincidence, after reading this I stumbled across a picture of an old (1932) Photoplay at the Allure blog.
It's Constance, and the cover headline is, "Why Constance Bennett Is Unpopular In Hollywood"
:)

link:

http://operator_99.blogspot.com/2007/12/asides-earl-christy-was-on-roll-in.html

DavidEhrenstein said...

In Gavin Lambert's essential On Cukor Mr. Cukor expressed suprise that the moviegoing public thought Constance the embodiment of elegance and style. To him she was apprently common. And he directed her in What Price Hollywood ? and the fascinating Our Betters.

Joan is quite a different story. Not just for her films but her off-screen life, which produced the greatest single line in Hollywood history: "Oh for God's sake, Walter -- he's only an agent!"

mndean said...

To me, I like someone like Clara Bow a lot more - after a nightmare childhood and being worked incessantly by B.P. Schulberg (ahem, I guess that is an unintentional double entendre), she got stardom and was a pretty frank hedonist, and I can't blame her. Any pleasure she got in life must have seemed like manna. That I can understand, but the airs and phony class of a lot of Hollywood types (actresses and producers/studio bosses seemed to be the most susceptible to this behavior) grates terribly on my nerves. Male actors had a different set of standards to live up to, usually either being suave, tough or fatherly, and the tough guys I find more amusing as the most dangerous thing most ever had to face was that their stuntman might get hurt.

As I once said elsewhere, if we knew all about everyone in old Hollywood, many of us would throw up - it would be that sickening. There was a thread over at TCM, "best Hollywood deaths", and I put down Louis B. Mayer and Harry Cohn. Well, they didn't specify fictional.

VP81955 said...

I recently did an entry that showed a november 1938 Los Angeles Times story on how the special effects in the "Topper" films were done so that Constance Bennett could disappear (and reappear). I quipped that if Carole Lombard had the services of special effects whiz Roy Seawright in 1929, she could've made Connie Bennett "disappear" when she bumped Lombard off the Pathe roster.

http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/160350.html

(the end is "160350.html")

katie said...

I love the Bennetts!

Karen said...

No, no, Siren, never second-guess your divine self! And I never thought you were changing into a gossip blog; perish forbid (as an old friend used to say)! Besides, I was responding far more to D Cairns than I was to you.

I know that many people find it adds layers to their enjoyment of film and the film industry to probe the personalities more deeply than I prefer to; it's just a matter of taste. Sometimes, for me, it's just distracting. Today, for the first time, I saw the film Adventure ("Gable's back--and Garson's got him!"). I was reminded that, ever since I learned that Gable had ill-fitting dentures that gave him bad breath, I've not been able to get that fact out of my head while watching him in a clinch. I guess I just don't compartmentalize as well as others do.

But your posts are never bad ideas, no matter what the topic, and I am far from the only audience for your work. I will sit in blissful anticipation, however, for the post on Constance's films!

DavidEhrenstein said...

mndean did you know that after she left Hollywood Virginia Weidler (look up her credits on IMDB) refused to discuss it with anyone in any way shape or form? It was just that horrible to her.

mndean said...

David,
I knew I recognized that name, it was that cute kid in The Philadelphia Story. I don't blame her for that. It was even tougher on the kids, because they grew up. Like old Louis B. put it, Judy Garland was an MGM property to be exploited. Bennies to be up for the workday, barbiturates for that good night's sleep, all from obliging studio croakers who had no interest in her health whatsoever, just get her on that set to perform. Who cares what happened to her after she was no longer of use to MGM? Louis B.'s Metro was into using scum like Eddie Mannix for the inevitable coverups, which showed they were more thugs than the classy studio they wished to portray themselves as.

Jonathan Lapper said...

I love Topper and What Price Hollywood. The first time I saw the latter, about twenty years ago on videotape, I must have rewound the suicide "life flashing before his eyes" scene a hundred times. It is a stunning piece of editing work and varying camera speed that provides a jolting emotional effect. But on to Constance...

Lordy, she sounds awful. I never knew about the trust fund but to show off my geekiness, I have an inflation calculator (doesn't everyone?) and the $300,000 in 1952 would be $1,676,192 in today's dollars. That was just for the curious, which was probably just me. Anyway, that's a lot of money to go through but when it's not even yours to begin with then it just becomes horrible in a way that I can barely fathom.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts (well, reading them) on What Price Hollywood, and when you get to Joan, Scarlet Street.

Yojimboen said...

I absolutely second Karen’s sentiment. Rip out the rearview. Onwards! Just dipping a toe into David Shipman’s pocket bios of les soeurs Bennett confirms these actresses were and are seriously interesting women. And it’s abundantly clear that Constance’s private life and her work are inextricably linked, and not solely because she played more bad girls, more ladies of dubious character - unwed mothers by the car-load (I believe the term used to be ‘roundheels’ - my favorite non-PC insult from the good old days) than all the good girls portrayed by Helen Hayes, the Gish Sisters and Jennifer Jones combined!

If all we learn from Shipman is that Constance worked as long as she felt like it and quit when she no longer did, that's a good start.

We eagerly await the melange of dish and filmography.

mndean said...

I don't want to be a moral scold, but just what is so fascinating about the worst things a person can do? It's so easy to do just that, it should be utterly banal. Just reading what Constance did here, she would do her best to hurt people who couldn't do anything to her. For no reason at all except perhaps to feel power over that individual. ISTM you'd have to be an entomologist to be fascinated by such behavior. The problem is when does fascination become sneaking admiration? Admiration can then become worship, and then the rot sets in. Maybe I know I've already lost. I begin to think a personal code is a liability. A person who does good works for much of their life dies, and they get a small writeup in the paper and are soon forgotten. The monsters who get away with everything and live to a ripe old age are always remembered, and often envied their power in life. Even the pettiest have their admirers.

operator_99 said...

Belvoir mentioned the article that was on the front cover of Photoplay, February 1932, entitled "Why Constance Bennett is Unpopular in Hollywood". For those interested, I have scanned the article and you can get it here - http://www.box.net/shared/static/xuma12p8vo.zip . It is three pages, each a separate jpeg. Get the real story :-)

Campaspe said...

Yojimboen, indeed the Bennetts were extremely interesting women, on and off screen. The fascination with Joan comes from the fact that she flowered as an actress quite, quite late, after she'd been in the business for many years giving performances that were occasionally engaging but usually not much more. And then, Lang--who drove so many actors crazy but proved the making of her. But I don't want to get ahead of myself.

M., I do think you are being too hard here. I don't think understanding equals admiration at all. To paraphrase the great Renoir, every woman has her reasons. I don't usually analyze personalities on here but the explanation for Constance's behavior is right there in the bio, and the name is Richard Bennett. She'd have been a tough customer in any case but the effect of growing up with a wholly unreliable parent given to binge drinking, open affairs and terrifying outbursts of temper is no light matter. I probably should have included the time when he lined up all three girls against a wall, pointed a gun at them and threatened to kill them unless they changed their ways. This was prompted by the 13-year-old Constance coming home late, by the by. Constance could have turned out a lot worse. And Joan was positively miraculous, although she was not great at the fidelity thing as we shall see. The one who really reaped what Richard sowed was poor Barbara.

X. Trapnel said...

Generally I'm in agreement with mndean on Constance Bennett, but I don't think the Siren is suggesting that CB's "classiness" outweighs the pain she caused. Still, our culture suffers from the sentimental idea that "bad" is automatically "more interesting" than good (or, as in the moral universe of that arch sentimentalist Graham Greene, closer to grace). From this we also get the tiresome pop kulcher trope of the "good bad boy" (or is it the "bad good boy"?) Goodness, as opposed to niceness or virtue, is rarer, more difficult to achieve as this world goes(just ask Plato). Joan B. sounds far more interesting. Intereting also is that Dan Duryea was in real life the was antithesis of his screen character. The sets for Scarlet Street and Woman in the Window would make for an interesting study in contrasting personalities.

mndean said...

It's an explanation of a sort, but it still doesn't answer my question. I've known people who got almost sociopathic pleasure in doing the worst they could, and had stable loving parents as role models. That the Bennett sisters upbringing turned them into three different women tells something right there - i.e. they made choices of how they were going to get on in life, and their futures weren't set in stone by Richard. Others in Hollywood with worse childhoods didn't revel in stabbing the helpless in the back.

Campaspe said...

Actually, if you read the bio knowing of such matters, the three Bennett sisters fit the child personality types associate with alcoholic parenting to a textbook "t": the caretaker (Joan), the acting out (Barbara) and the hero (Constance).

mndean said...

I can agree with you and not agree at the same time because I know some classic types as you do, but I have some pretty good counterexamples - types you describe from normal parents and absolutely normal people from alcoholic, abusive parents. So, I'll say I agree with some reservations.

D Cairns said...

Bed of Roses is Constance Bennett, isn't it? Astonishing pre-code smut, with some kind of poetic heart beating inside ("Frankie and Johnny" sung on a barge in the mist...) She's incredible in that.

Yojimboen said...

Hey-ho, devil’s advocacy is a rotten job but somebody has to etc…

Rex Harrison, W.C. Fields, Raimu, Wallace Beery, Fernandel, Chaplin and Brando were all at one time or another known to be cruel and/or insufferable bastards; and that’s only the actors. Actresses were another species; granted perhaps with Connie Bennett as champion of the breed. So what?
Plus ça change…

As a toiler in the Hollywood vineyards I could, from personal knowledge, name at least a half-dozen currently working superstars whose manifest contempt for their co-workers would make C.B. look like Mother Theresa.

Repeat. So what? Frank Sinatra, Arthur Miller and Paul Newman all dumped wives and kiddies to marry ‘trophy’ brides. Do we negate their work because we don’t approve of their bed or table manners? I hope not; that would be sad and silly; sort of a nose/spite/face kinda thing, no? I’m just sayin’…

DavidEhrenstein said...

I wouldn't call Joanne Woodward a "trophy."

X. Trapnel said...

Yojimboen,
The difference between CB and Sinatra, Brando, Chaplin, et al. is that her career is ultimately pretty negligable. If she were a star/actress of greater magnitude the same allowances would probably be made as for her male peers (those you listed made an indelible mark on film and culture generally).

mndean said...

That's the other problem. Outside of some precodes and Topper, I just don't see much there for CB. I have watched a couple of other code-era films with her, and they were not brightened by her presence one lick. In fact, in one of them I caught myself thinking she really wasn't that good an actress as I was watching the film. She had excellent support in the Topper films (Cary Grant and the ever-underrated Roland Young in the first, and Young in the second). That was before I knew anything of her personal life whatsoever. After that I stuck her in the category "code casualty" and pretty much didn't bother with her except in precodes.

Oh, and for Wallace Beery - NOTHING forgives murder. Not even Dinner at Eight.

Karen said...

Well, to each their own, as they say. I know that I'll plug anything into the DVR that has Constance in the cast. I just love watching her at work.

Campaspe said...

Karen, the more I see of Constance the more I like her. I think she definitely had something on screen.

allowe said...

I share the same birthday, October 22, with Constance Bennett.
The people born on this day, are, to say the least, interesting.
They are:
Christopher Lloyd, Catherine Denueve, Annette Funicello, John Reed, who inspired the movie REDS, Jeff Goldblum, Timothy Leary and Curly Howard of the Three Stooges.
And me.

allowe said...

Here are some things I learned about Constance from a book James Robert Parish wrote 34 years ago, The RKO Girls.

1. In May, 1945 she publicly commented that she didn't want to see son Peter again because he remained loyal to Gilbert Roland.

2. She made many appearances during the early days of TV and was reunited in 1952 with Roland Young on a panel show, It's New to Me. (They also appeared together in the supporting cast of Two Faced Woman, starring Garbo.

3. She alienated the press.

4. She once negotiated her own contract, a juicy one, with MGM.

5. Joan Bennett attended Constance's funeral and then appeared on stage that night in a New Hampshire production of Never Too Late. She reasoned that the show must go on and "Connie would have wanted it that way."

mndean said...

My birthday may not have that many interesting folks - just Connee Boswell, Anna Sten, Sven Nykvist, Jean-Luc Godard, Daryl Hannah, and Julianne Moore. And just to add spice, Patricia Krenwinkel.

mndean said...

Oh, and Dede Allen and Andy Williams.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"If Sam Goldwyn can with great conviction
Instruct Anna Sten in diction,
Then Anna shows
Anything goes."

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

I wonder if "Smart Woman," which CB produced as well as playing the leading role, has anything memorable to it.

It was, I believe, Alvah Bessie's last pre-blacklist writing credit under his own name.

donna said...

I've just discovered this wonderful slice of heaven and am enjoying what I find very much, indeed.

Constance, to me, has always been ice, contrary to sister Joan's warmth (though she's not so nice in Woman in the Window and other films). I will look forward to your second posting on Constance's career.

It is sister Joan that is a soft spot for me, if for no other reason, Dark Shadows. I worked backwards regarding her career. It's been decades since I've seen Trade Winds, I really must see if that is available.

donna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Maiden said...

I'm so glad that I decided to read some of your past entries. Indeed, I have a fascination with the Bennett family too and can understand your interest in Constance, especially. I love Joan as well. What an actress, really!

billy said...

Joan was a fox!