Constance Bennett

  1. Katharine Hepburn, Morning Glory, 1933.    “I’ve already bought it for Connie,” said associate producer Pandro Berman. “Has she seen it?” asked Kate, who had swiped the script from his office  to read it. ”Not yet.” “Then, it’s for me. I’m Eva Lovelace.  Me!  Me! ME!” Bennett turned  up during Little Women that year and slapped Hepburn’s face “That’s for stealing Morning Glory from  me.”  CUT to 1940:  Kate turns up on the set of her lover Garbo’s  finale, Two-Faced Woman, and slaps Bennett off-balance. “Now that’s a slap. Not a peck on the cheek like you gave me.”  
  2. Katharine Hepburn, Little Women, 1933.    Breaking salary records with $150,000 for Two Against The World, 1936, soothed her loss of Jo.  Her sister, Joan, played Amy.
  3. Carole Lombard, Twentieth Century, 1933.    Wise move. By Lombard! (Constance had made her film debut in The Valley of Decision, 1915, a real family affair co-starring her sisters Barbara and Joan and their parents, Richard Bennett and Adrienne Morrison).
  4. Claudette Colbert, It  Happened One Night,1933.    Wiser than most, she offered to buy it and restyle it for herself.  Director Frank Capra finally understood everyone’s rejection.  He made the woman more sympathetic and Katharine Hepburn’s longtime lover  agreed for $50,000, twice her usual fee. “Tough dame, that lovely frog,” said Capra of Colbert.   Also in  the Ellie loop were Miriam Hopkins, Myrna Loy, Margaret Sullavan.
  5. Carole Lombard, My Man Godfrey, 1935.  Who should be Irene Bullock opposite William Powell’s titular butler?  Director Gregory La Cava juggled  Constance Bennett, Marion Davies and Miriam Hopkins.  “No,” said Powell. “I’lll call Carole.” They had divorced three years before but she immediately agreed, quitting Frank Capra’s Mr Deeds Goes to Town three days before he started shooting.  Capra wasn’t happy. The ex-Powells were. For the first time, one movie  collected  all four Oscar acting nods for Powell, Lombard, Mischa Auer and Alice Brady.
  6. Bette Davs, That Certain Woman, 1937.  “I’m like one of those unfortunate gals you only read about in those dime novels… she only loved once.” For the re-tread of Gloria Swanson’s first talkie, The Trespasser, 1928, Bennett ”lobbied” for the role of Mary Donnell. No, luv. Not with Bette around…. to be the dead gangster’s moll going straight as a lawyer’ss secretary and running off with his son, Henry Fonda, no less.
  7. Jean Harlow, Saratoga, 1937.   The Anita Loos script  was first bought by RKO-Pathe in 1929 for Bennett. Not her best scenario. Indeed, it is only remembered today because the shining light that was Harlow was extinguished in mid-shoot – dead at 26! MGM finished shooting with Mary Dees as Harlow (or her body) and Paula Winstone as her voice. By chance, the last words from the real and tragic Harlow on-film are: Good-bye.
  8. Pola Negri, Hi Diddle Diddle, 1942. Lupe’s burlesque queen became Constance Bennett’s nightclub singer – but not when she heard her songs were to be dubbed.   Negri didn’t care who was singing for her supper. This was her first US film in ten years and her last until The Moon-Spinners… in 1963.
  9. Susan Hayward, Hit Parade of 1943, 1942. Republic Pictures’ plan for Bennett and Milton Berle became Paramount’s Susan Hayward and MGM’s John Carroll. Not the same thing at all. (Berle was funny – sometimes – Carroll never was). Republic staged a contest for the worst possible song title. Winner was… wait for it… Autumn Leaves in the Gutter, Never Again Will They Flutter.
  10. Miriam Hopkins, Old Acquaintance, 1943.   Frantic at working with Bette Davis, Miriam now demanded twice her salary, among other perks. A tentative search started for a replacement until the studio decided there was no better bitch available.
  11. Helen Walker, Nightmare Alley, 1947.  Ya cain’t always get wot ya wanna… In  handwritten  note dated February 1947, head  Fox Darryl Zanuck suggested Bennett, Luise Rainer  or even Marlene Dietrich as  Lilith. New York Sun critic  Gary Giddins said in 2005: “Considering the material – degradation, adultery, alcoholism, murder, larceny, spiritualism, high-stakes cons, and child abuse, set against the Depression scrim of anarchy, racism, desperation, and top-down corruption – we may marvel that the film was made at all.”
  12. Ava Gardner, The Sun Also Rises, 1956.    There are two main characters in Ernest Hemingway’s first novel. He wrote it in 1925.  They took forever to reach the screen. They are part of the post-WWI “lost generation.”  Jake Barnes is impotent. Lady Ashley  is  a nymphomaniac. Words, said Hollywood censors, “not proper for screen presentation.”  Ann Harding first won the rights in 1934  to co-star Leslie Howard. She sold out in 1944 to Constance Bennett, who  quit before finding her Jake.  By 1949, the couple were Montgomery Clift- Margaret Sheridan. Dewey Martin was a ‘52 Jake. There followed Gregory Peck-Jennifer Jones, Robert Stack-Dana Wynter – ultimately Tyrone Power-Jennifer Jones – she split for another Papa Hemingway heroine, Catherine  Barkley, A Farewell to Arms. Ava Gardner took over only to be   replaced by  Susan Hayward (rivals in Papa’s Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1952) Hemingway insisted Ava was Brett  and no one  else.  And the offensive words? Producer Darry F Zanuck promised they would be un-uttered. He (half) lied.  Impotent was spoken, as a doctor explained his war wounds to Jake.  And Brett, well, she was no longer a nympho, just a lush.  Papa’s review? “It’s pretty disappointing and that’s being gracious.”


 Birth year: 1904Death year: 1965Other name: Casting Calls:  12