At one point in the early 1930s, Constance Bennett was the highest-paid actress in Hollywood. (In her early Warner Bros. movies, Bette Davis was clearly modeled after Bennett.) Following a series of risque – but generally dismal – tearjerkers, mostly at RKO, Bennett’s stardom had all but fizzled out by 1935.
Turner Classic Movies will be showing several of such Bennett vehicles on Friday early morning/afternoon, in addition to the comedies Topper, Merrily We Live, and Topper Takes a Trip, which revived the actress’ career in the late ’30s.
Topper, which co-stars Cary Grant and Roland Young, is enjoyable, but it needed an Ernst Lubitsch to fully bring it to life. Topper Takes a Trip, though much inferior to the original, is harmless enough.
What Price Hollywood? is the best one among the tearjerkers. Directed by George Cukor, this tale of a waitress who finds success and heartbreak in Hollywood was based on an original story by Adela Rogers St. Johns, a Hollywood insider since the 1910s.
A Star Is Born, though officially an “original” story, was based on What Price Hollywood?. Both movies were produced/executive produced by David O. Selznick.
Schedule (PT) and synopses from the TCM website:
3:00am Lady With A Past (1932)
A good girl raises her popularity when she pretends to be bad.
Cast: Constance Bennett, Ben Lyon, David Manners, Don Alvarado Dir: Edward H. Griffith BW-80 min.
5:45am What Price Hollywood? (1932)
A drunken director whose career is fading helps a waitress become a Hollywood star.
Cast: Constance Bennett, Lowell Sherman, Neil Hamilton, Gregory Ratoff Dir: George Cukor BW-88 min.
7:15am Outcast Lady (1934)
A spoiled rich girl sacrifices her reputation to preserve her dead husband’s memory.
Cast: Constance Bennett, Herbert Marshall, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, Hugh Williams Dir: Robert Z. Leonard BW-77 min.
8:45am Topper (1937)
A fun-loving couple returns from the dead to help a henpecked husband.
Cast: Constance Bennett, Cary Grant, Roland Young, Billie Burke Dir: Norman Z. McLeod BW-98 min.
10:30am Topper Takes a Trip (1939)
A glamorous ghost helps a henpecked husband save his wife from gold-digging friends.
Cast: Constance Bennett, Roland Young, Billie Burke, Alan Mowbray Dir: Norman Z. McLeod BW-80 min.
12:00pm Merrily We Live (1938)
A society matron’s habit of hiring ex-cons and hobos as servants leads to romance for her daughter.
Cast: Constance Bennett, Brian Aherne, Billie Burke. Dir.: Norman Z. McLeod. Black and white. 95 min.
1:45pm [Suspense/Mystery] Unsuspected, The (1947)
The producer of a radio crime series commits the perfect crime, then has to put the case on the air.
Cast: Joan Caulfield, Claude Rains, Audrey Totter, Constance Bennett Dir: Michael Curtiz BW-103 min.
3:30pm It Should Happen To You (1954)
A dizzy model in love with fame rents a billboard and puts her name on it.
Cast: Judy Holliday, Peter Lawford, Jack Lemmon, Michael O’Shea Dir: George Cukor BW-87 min.
Turner Classic Movies website.