Sunday, June 21, 2009

Meet Joan and Constance Bennett

Mrs. Banks???: Joan Bennett, early 1930s.


The lovely Bennett sisters are two actresses I'm intrigued by, though my exposure to them has been rather limited. Both Constance and Joan were stunningly beautiful and both adept at melodrama and comedy. Connie's career cooled off by the mid-1930s with the changing tastes from melodrama to screwball comedy and musicals, while Joan's roles slowed in the 1950s after her husband, producer Walter Wanger (responsible for Susan Hayward's 1950s success) shot Joan's agent and alleged paramour, Jennings Lang (guess where he was shot!), who was quite the ladies' man; Kate Hepburn among his many interests.

Joan (1911-90) is the one with whom I'm most familiar, as her role as Ellie Banks in Father of the Bride (on TCM tonight!) shows her low-key but effective sense of humor, but I'd like to see her earlier work from the 1930s and 40s. She's also well-known for her role on the Gothic TV soap opera Dark Shadows, which I just found out about!


Glamour Every Night: Joan Bennett prepares for some fancy outing in the 1940s


Sizzle: Connie, early 1930s.


Connie (1904-65) has two George Cukor-directed movies I have yet to see, Our Betters (1933; July 7 on TCM!) and What Price Hollywood? (1932), which is an early take on the A Star is Born formula. The excerpts I've seen look promising, and I am quite the Cukor admirer. I have seen her in 1937's Topper, but apparently that didn't make an impression on me. She gets another chance when I see her in her early-1930s peak.

I'm open to your suggestions and recommendations for these two ladies' finer films, and would appreciate all feedback on this most-pressing matter! I need me some Bennett sisters!


Ravishing: Connie in her early-thirties prime.

5 comments:

  1. I'm intrigued by these two ladies as well. Joan was especially mesmerizing in Film Noir, where her work with Fritz Lang was a highlight - all four are great films in so many aspects.

    With Constance, it really is in the Pre-Code Cinema where you can find her at her most interesting.

    cheers! Sebina

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  2. Constance WAS pre-Code cinema! Even the fan magazines of the day had some very spicy comments to make about her.

    It's not her fault, about Topper. Read the book, it's a lot hotter than the script. :-D

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  3. For Joan: Ophuls' The Reckless Moment, Sirk's There Always Tomorrow which is absolutely fantastic, Lang's Scarlet Street and The Secret Beyond the door (probably the others as well, but I never saw them)

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  4. I'm so grateful that you chose to spotlight these two lovely ladies of the cinema. I too am more familiar with Joan, as she is my favorite movie star (a tie with Jeanne Crain). Take any opportunity to see her pre-FATHER OF THE BRIDE work, as the 30's and 40's were her heyday and contain some really great films. Thanks again.

    Rupert

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  5. I am a Constance Bennett fan; to me she's one of the great beauties of the 1930s, although I understand that offscreen she could be a piece of work. (She made up for it by organizing entertainment tours for American troops stationed in Europe after WWII.)

    I'll recommend two films of hers -- "Bed Of Roses" (1933) a pre-Code drama with some comedic overtones, where she and Pert Kelton (who's wonderful in an Una Merkelesque role) play a pair of southern prostitutes, and "Topper Takes A Trip," in which Connie reprises her role as sexy ghost Marion Kerby. Aside from a flashback or two, there's no Cary Grant this time, but there is Asta, playing "ghost dog" Mr. Atlas. And Roy Seawright does another great job with special effects.

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