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
(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.