Eve Golden / New Queen of the Dead

 

constance_bennett

A photo of Constance Bennett has been listed on EBay as Buy It Now for $18.75.

 


The New Queen of the Dead

No, I have not died and been succeeded by the Princess of the Dead. But I found that the four-obits-a-week thing was getting stale, and I was just churning them out. Not fair to me, or Larry, or my Gentle Readers (if indeed there are any out there—c’mon, people let’s hear some comments!).

I will still mention, from time to time, notable passings, but I want to use one of the few 21st century innovations I approve of—YouTube—to highlight performers of note (or, sadly, not enough note). When I was a young tot [you may insert joke here about the McKinley Administration], I could tell people about, say, Winnie Lightner or Skeets Gallagher, and receive blanks stares. I still receive blank stares—a lot of them, actually; do you think it’s me?—but now I can send people YouTube links, and they either politely pretend they have watched them (and I know who you are) or e-mail back, “OMG, I loved that, am forwarding it to my friends, and am Googling Skeets Gallagher as we speak!”

So for the next few weeks—or months, if your approval is met—I’d like you to meet and greet some old friends. I’m going to get the ball rolling with

Constance Bennett

(1904 – 1965)

Connie Bennett was one of those actresses—like Joan Crawford—who was so high-octane glamorous that people never gave her any credit for her considerable talent. She was from a famed theatrical family and was herself a movie star by the age of 20. She was serious about her art—I interviewed her delightful son, Peter Plant, ages ago and he assured me that she studied her scripts, was always on time and yes, really thought about her characters. But unlike Bette Davis, James Cagney and others, she did not fight for good roles. So today on TCM we mostly see Constance Bennett starring in a lot of turgid crap.

The first of her films I have seen is Sally, Irene and Mary (1925, and no, I did not see it when it first opened). Already, at 21, Constance had Bone Structure of Death and held the camera like a Star. She worked steadily—talkies were good to her and her cultured voice—but really good roles were few and far between. You must—must!—see her in the 1932 What Price Hollywood?, the precursor to all the A Star in Borns and the best of the lot as far as I’m concerned (Lowell Sherman as the Norman Maine-type character is brilliant, too). She is a delight as madcap ghost Marion Kerby in Topper (1937—a role she bad-lucked into when Jean Harlow died).

 After that? Not so much. A few lovely scenes in Two-Faced Woman—which she stole from under Garbo’s uplifted nose—and one last posthumously released camp delight, in Madame X, telling poor Lana Turner to get her white-trash ass back to the trailer park where it belongs. Bliss! I am going to introduce you to Connie, however, with this delirious short she made in 1937 to market her own brand of beauty products (that sort of thing goes back hundreds of years, it didn’t start with the perfume that Snooki is no doubt rolling out any minute).

 Peter Plant told me the products failed, as she did not insist on overseeing the quality “and it all wound up as nothing but lanoline and perfume.” But it did leave us, thank goodness, with this short:  from the moment Constance rolls out of bed covered in more makeup than RuPaul ever wore in his life to the final “I wish you all loads and loads of loveliness,” what we have here is five minutes of Constance Bennett as I wish to remember her: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rr0DbvZvBeM I, too, would be lost without my Glow Base.

–Eve Golden

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
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25 Responses to Eve Golden / New Queen of the Dead

  1. mark says:

    The Queen is dead! Long live The Queen! Love the new format.

  2. Great new format! Using You Tube to illustrate the amazing and unique stars we have lost is a fine way to introduce them to new fans. TCM has done a great job of showcasing Contance’s many films and yes, they are tedious by our standards. But they were a tonic for the ladies, weary from the Depression, drinking in this glimpse of Hollywood glamour. I think of Mia Farrow’s character in “Purple Rose of Cairo” as the truer characterization of moviegoer back then. And for you to have interviewed her son, too. Keep going!

    • Eve Golden says:

      Thanks you! I am trying to find good, unusual and decent-quality YouTube clips that are not too long and really show off what I like about these folks. Frustratingly, there are some people I would like to highlight who either have nothing on YouTube, or only two-hour-long “clips.” Or slideshows with horribly-chosen background music from well-meaning fans.

  3. sherry smith says:

    While I enjoyed Constance, Joan was by far my favorite of the sisters. Can you sort out the feud between them, if indeed there really was one. How about a piece on Ann Sheridan?

  4. Rogét-L.A. says:

    Your Majesty: While I appreciate the new format and love discovering rarely-seen vintage clips from the golden age of Hollywood, I hate change. I will miss terribly your thoughts and musings on the current passings of well- and lesser-known celebrities of the day. Could you possibly find time to do both concurrently?

    • Eve says:

      Certainly, if someone dies I have strong feelings about–one way or the other!–I hope Larry will let me post those. It was just that finding four of them a week was a bit wearing on the nerves.

  5. Joe Yranski says:

    Constance Bennett was alive and shining at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood this weekend when her film THE GOOSE WOMAN, was screened. Co starring Jack Pickford and Louise Dresser the film drew a wonderful ovation. Not only does she look breath-taking, but she could hold her own next to her talented co-stars.

  6. Mary Mallory says:

    Really nice, Eve. Constance is interesting in the great 1925 silent film THE GOOSE WOMAN, which I’ve seen at UCLA, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and Cinecon. Her part is small as the love interest, but she makes a good impression.

  7. keith greene says:

    A guided journey to a virtual movie palace with Miss Eve as our chatty usherette! How grand. I wonder what will be on the marquee next week??

  8. lee rivas says:

    Comments? You want comments? I’ve been reading you and Larry daily for a couple of years. It makes my day. But, I never knew my two cents were that important. Anyway, great job. Love the new format.

  9. Tad says:

    Fantastic new format (loved the old one, too.) Can’t wait to see who you profile next week.

  10. Donna says:

    Yay! I’m SOOOOOO IN!

  11. mark says:

    Eve, that’s your cue to say “You like me, you really like me”, gushingly.

  12. Lee Ann says:

    Have you seen the divine Constance in The Unsuspected (1947)? She has some great quips that she delivers with just the right attitude. Her co-stars, Claude Rains, Joan Caulfield, and Audrey Totter are pitch perfect, too.

    • Eve says:

      No, I have not seen that one–but I have often imitated her ladies’-room mirror shriek from Two-Faced Woman, by far the best moment ion the film.

  13. Gregory Moore says:

    I welcome the next face of Eve…but I have to admit, I’ll miss the arcane obits (well, arcane to anyone but “us”!). I imagine it was tough on certain weeks to find four truly notable passings, but your constant wit and clever take on things made it all seem effortless.

    In the latter decades of the last century, it seemed hardly a week went by without the passing of yet another eminence of the Golden Era of Cinema. When Barbara Kent died last year, it truly did rather signal “The End” of the Silent Era (save for the kiddie stars, such as Diana Serra [Baby Peggy], et. al. ). It seems that the only notable celebrity deaths that matter now are the self-immolated “reality TV stars” and the like. Did anyone else notice that “Entertainment Tonight,” that self-appointed arbiter of all-things-Hollywood didn’t even MENTION Tony Martin’s passing recently…or Chad Everett’s…or…or… Which is why I especially looked forward to the Monday morning “wrap-up” of the week’s body-count, provided by EQOTD. I will look forward to seeing where you go in this next incarnation. We’re with ya, gal!
    I can’t, however, let your assertion that “What Price Hollywood?” is the best of that particular franchise go unchallenged. I saw it recently on TCM for the first time and found it a mess…almost unwatchable, except for Connie’s fine performance. I thought it was all over the map as far as what “tone” it was trying to convey (comedy? tragedy? drama?). And Lowell Sherman was just…BAD! To this viewer, George Cukor had 22 years to re-think some of his initial ideas before REALLY nailing it with his 1954 remake with Judy Garland and James Mason…which to me, atleast, is among the greatest films ever made (blatant butchery not withstanding). BUT TO EACH HIS/HER OWN! And it’s your column….so off my soapbox I descend.

    Bottom line: GOOD LUCK with the new format, m’dear!

    • Eve Golden says:

      Well, there’s where we disagree, and wouldn’t it be awful we we all agreed on everything? I thought the Neil Hamilton subplot in What Price Hollywood? was dreary, but I adore Lowell Sherman and thought he was as good as John Barrymore’s better late performances in this–not to give anything away, but his last few moments in this film were chilling (in a good way).

      I like the 1930s and ’50s Stars Are Born (hate the 1970s A Bore is Starred, of course), but I thought that even the chopped-down ’50s one was too long and a bit self-indulgent (and I love Judy Garland, so it’s not that).

      That’s why I love this blog–a place where civilized film people can get together over tea and Pepperidge Farm cookies and discuss old movies!

  14. Kevin King says:

    “Merrily We Live” has become one of my favorite 1930s screwball comedies thanks to Constance Bennett heading a big cast of terrific actors. It’s feather-light but very funny, especially in the little “throwaway” lines. And I was always fascinated by that featurette on Miss Bennett’s beauty regimen. Such a lot of work but glamor is worth it. For “Madame X,” didn’t she get lots of work done and end up looking much younger than poor Lana Turner?

  15. la peregrina says:

    I have to say my favorite Constance Bennett movie is “What Price Hollywood?.” I have not seen “Merrily We Live” but any movie that includes her along with Ann Dvorak, Billie Burke, and Alan Mowbray has to be good.

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