When choosing a star for this year’s Marathon Stars Blogathon I actually had a hard time choosing a star. Choosing Constance Bennett came to me after I had watched two movies with her in them- by coincidence- and like magic, the choice was clear that Miss Bennett was the Marathon Star for me!
Constance Bennett was an actress who transitioned successfully from the silent era to the talkies, but sadly had a career decline once the 1930s were over. Oldest daughter of silent star Richard Bennett and sister to actresses Joan and Barbara, she was first known in movies for the clothes she wore, rather than her performances. It wasn’t until her 1937 breakthrough in Topper (alongside Mr. Cary Grant!) that made audiences and critics see her acting ability. Prior to this Blogathon, I had only seen Constance in Topper, and it was only recently I decided to give the sequels a watch. I then realized, Wow, Constance is a great actress, and I really want to do the Blogathon- so it was a perfect opportunity to watch more of her movies!!
For this marathon I watched:
Topper Takes a Trip (1938)
The sequel to the smash hit Topper, this movie follows the silly ghost shenanigans of Marion Kirby without husband George. While George has moved on due to his good deed in the previous film, Marion has another chance to prove herself by helping Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) win back his wife (Billie Burke). With a trip to Paris, this movie is every bit delightful as the original and even stars
Asta Atlas too!! Personally, it was this movie when I realized Constance can hold her own in a movie, without a being a love interest!
Merrily We Live (1938)
A look at the high-society rich, containing an all-star cast, this movie is one of those great screwball comedies from the 1930s. The Killbourne family’s matriarch (Billie Burke) is constantly hiring ex-convicts to be the household servants, and when the previous butler Grosvenor (Alan Mowbray) steals the silver she then vows to never hire another. However, when a handsome, yet mysterious man named Rawlins (Brian Aherne) shows up at the doorstep, the family is so charmed they decide to make him the new chauffeur!! It gets even crazier when Rawlins falls for eldest daughter Jerry (Constance)!!
Sin Takes a Holiday (1930)
A pre-code in which Constance plays Sylvia, a secretary to Gaylord Stanton (Kenneth MacKenna), a rich divorce attorney, who only has affairs with married women. When Gaylord’s latest gal, Grace (Rita La Roy), says she’ll leave her husband to be with him, Gaylord gives Sylvia a proposition to be married in name only. With Slyvia secretly in love with him, she agrees, and soon after the wedding he sends her alone on a trip to Paris. When in Paris she meets Reggie Durant (Basil Rathbone) and he falls in love with her. But, when Reggie proposes, is Sylvia really willing to divorce her husband?
What Price Hollywood (1932) (slight spoilers)
The prototype to A Star is Born, this movie is a pre code version of the timeless story. However, there are enough differences to make this stand out. While waitressing at the Brown Derby, Mary Evans (Constance) catches the sight of alcoholic director Maximillian Carey (Lowell Sherman), she accompanies him as his date to a movie premiere, and before she knows it, she’s landed herself a screen test for producer Julius Saxe (Gregory Ratoff). While Max is attracted to Mary, he avoids a romance with her fearing his alcoholism will take her down with him. With her newfound fame, Mary catches the eye of polo player Lonny Borden (Neil Hamilton); the two fall in love, and marry despite Max and Julius’s warnings. With fame taking its toll on both their careers, they divorce, and soon Mary is at the top of her game after winning the Academy Award. Her happiness is cut short however after Max commits suicide. With Max’s death plaguing the news, Mary then seeks comfort in her husband and they reconcile.
Ladies in Love (1936)
Three ladies (Constance; Janet Gaynor and Loretta Young) share an apartment and hope to find love and adventure in exotic Budapest. Although the three share an apartment they all wish for something different when Martha (Gaynor) insists they follow gypsy superstition after moving in. Susie (Loretta) wishes for independence and to be a hat shop owner, Yoli (Constance) wants a rich man, and Martha wants it all: the impossible- a home, a man, and kids! Tyrone Power, Don Ameche and Simone Simon also co-star. This film is notable for being the start of the Loretta Young- Tyrone Power film duo.
Looking back, Merrily We Live and What Price Hollywood were stand outs for me! Merrily We Live surpassed my expectations (and was so wonderfully written up by Ginnie in her article!), while What Price was interesting to see what changes and similarities there are to A Star is Born. Sin Takes a Holiday was good- but very slow moving for a 75 minute movie. Constance and Basil had good chemistry but the pacing took forever!! Topper Takes a Trip was in fact so great that I bought it for my collection! Ladies in Love was a bit similar How to Marry a Millionaire in terms of set up and was a film I have never heard of prior to this. It may take another viewing for me to fully appreciate it.
What I do appreciate though is Constance Bennett’s acting. I feel sad that she couldn’t have made the transition like Joan and also have been a Noir Queen- that would have been super cool. Sure she would have looked great in those 40s fashions, but she would have been an even tougher femme fatale! Nonetheless, we have her wonderful movies of the 30s when she was a Queen of the Silver Screen!
Thanks for hosting Ginnie, Crystal and Samantha!!! You’re all super swell!
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