Constance Bennett: Pre-'A Star Is Born Star

Constance BennettConstance Bennett movies on TCM: What Price Hollywood?

Constance Bennett is Turner Classic Movies' Star of the Month of November. TCM will be presenting six Constance Bennett movies tonight, including what is probably the actress' best-known vehicle: What Price Hollywood? (1932). (Please see this evening's schedule below. Photo: Constance Bennett publicity shot ca. early '30s.)

Based on an original story by Hollywood insider Adela Rogers St. Johns, the George Cukor-directed drama tells the story of a young waitress fast on the way up the Hollywood ladder while her alcoholic director / discoverer is just as fast on the way down. If the What Price Hollywood? plot sounds familiar, it's because five years later it was used as the basis for A Star Is Born, which in the ensuing decades led to two official remakes and several other cinematic variations (e.g., Robert Redford / Michelle Pfeiffer's Up Close and Personal). The story, in fact, remains popular. A third official A Star Is Born remake to be directed by Clint Eastwood was announced just a few months ago.

Neil Hamilton, a former D.W. Griffith actor best remembered as the Batman TV series' Commissioner Gordon, is Constance Bennett's leading man in What Price Hollywood?, while the doomed Hollywood filmmaker is played by Lowell Sherman – himself a respected director in the early '30s (e.g., Morning Glory, which earned Katharine Hepburn her first Best Actress Academy Award). Not coincidentally, What Price Hollywood? was produced by David O. Selznick, the independent mogul who was also behind the first A Star Is Born.

Constance Bennett: Pre-Code melodramas

TCM's other Constance Bennett movies this evening include four pre-Code melodramas, all but one RKO releases: Our Betters (1933), with Joel McCrea and also directed by Cukor; Archie Mayo's Two Against the World (1932), a Warner Bros. release featuring Neil Hamilton; another Cukor-directed melo, Rockabye (1932), also featuring Joel McCrea and future Oscar winner Paul Lukas; and George Archainbaud's After Tonight (1933), which has Constance Bennett as a Russian spy who falls in love the enemy – Mexican Gilbert Roland (as an Austrian captain), whom the actress would marry in 1941 and divorce five years later. I should add that the year before After Tonight was released, the similarly themed Mata Hari, starring Greta Garbo and Mexican Ramon Novarro (as a Russian aviator), was a huge grosser for MGM.

Constance Bennett's sixth TCM movie is Law of the Tropics (1941), made after her stardom had become a thing of the past. In this near-B movie, Bennett plays a nightclub singer who marries a South American rubber planter to escape the law. Jeffrey Lynn is her leading man. Ray Enright directed.

Constance Bennett TCM movie schedule PT (Nov. 13)

  • 5:00 PM WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD? (1932). Dir.: George Cukor. Cast: Constance Bennett, Lowell Sherman, Neil Hamilton.
  • 6:45 PM OUR BETTERS (1933). Dir.: George Cukor. Cast: Constance Bennett, Violet Kemble-Cooper, Phoebe Foster.
  • 8:15 PM TWO AGAINST THE WORLD (1932). Dir.: Archie Mayo. Cast: Constance Bennett, Neil Hamilton, Helen Vinson.
  • 9:30 PM LAW OF THE TROPICS (1941). Dir.: Ray Enright. Cast: Constance Bennett, Jeffrey Lynn, Regis Toomey.
  • 11:00 PM ROCKABYE (1932). Dir.: George Cukor. Cast: Constance Bennett, Joel McCrea, Paul Lukas.
  • 12:15 AM AFTER TONIGHT (1933). Dir.: George Archainbaud. Cast: Constance Bennett, Gilbert Roland, Edward Ellis.
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1 Comment to Constance Bennett: Pre-'A Star Is Born Star

  1. John Farr

    The best Constance Bennett movie ever was “Topper” (1937), co-starring a young Cary Grant. And please, yet another remake of “A Star Is Born”? Does contemporary Hollywood have no shame?