Monday, March 15, 2010

A Word About Constance Bennett

Probably best known now as a fun-loving ghost in the 1937 comedy Topper, Constance Bennett was glamourous, shrewd and outspoken, a combination that made a favorite with both audiences and tabloids throughout the 1930s. The older sister of the better known Joan Bennett, Constance made fifty-six films in a career than spanned six decades.

Born in New York to actor parents, Bennett made her silent film debut in 1916 at the age of twelve, and appeared in three more New York-based silent films before she caught the eye of Samuel Goldwyn and moved to Hollywood in 1924. A brief marriage (her second of five) interrupted her career, but she returned after the introduction of talkies, starring in the now lost drama, Rich People. In 1931, her two-picture deal with Warner Brothers, valued at $300,000, temporarily made her the highest-paid actress in Hollywood.

Her first great role was in the 1932 drama What Price Hollywood? The story of a waitress who becomes a star after she befriends an alcoholic movie producer—later reworked into the classic A Star Is Born—the movie was a breakthrough for director George Cukor who had served a rocky apprenticeship at Paramount before leaving to work with producer David O. Selznick at RKO Pictures.

Bennett excelled in comedies such as Topper, Merrily We Live and Two-Faced Woman (the latter remembered mostly as Greta Garbo's last film), but showed her versatility in the 1947 noir thriller, The Unsuspected, co-starring Claude Rains.

Bennett didn't work much once the United States entered World War II, spending most of her time touring with the USO, both during and after the war. In 1946, she married future Brigadier General John Theron Coulter to whom remained married until her death. Except for a small role in the 1966 movie Madame X (released after Bennett's death), she made no movies after 1951, concentrating instead on marriage and lucrative business ventures. She died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Fort Dix, New Jersey, at the age of sixty. She is buried in Arlington Cemetery.


Zoe said...

I've been wanting too see what price Hollywood for a couple of years, ever since i saw The Men who Made movies:George Cukor.

have you seen what Price? apart from the male being a producer is it much different from a star is born?

Mythical Monkey said...

The biggest difference is that she doesn't marry the alcoholic producer, she marries a rich playboy instead who resents the times she spends on her career. There's also a pregnancy, but there is a suicide -- what would this story be without a suicide?

I won't tell you whose though ...