Constance Bennett

Bed of Roses (1933)

After getting out of jail, prostitute Lorry Evans (Constance Bennett) and her pal Minnie (Pert Kelton) hop on board a steamship headed to New Orleans.  They could take this moment to get their lives on the straight and narrow, but they have no intentions of doing that.  When they realize they don’t have enough money to get all the way to New Orleans, they find a couple of men on board, get them drunk, and steal their money.  When the captain finds out about what they’ve done, he tries to have them arrested, but Lorry jumps overboard.

She gets rescued by Dan (Joel McCrea), the owner of a cotton barge, but she lost her money in the water.  Dan and Lorry hit it off right away, but rather than pursue a relationship with Dan, she steals his money and goes to see Stephen Paige (John Halliday) when the ship docks in New Orleans.  Stephen is a very wealthy book publisher Lorry had seen on board the steamship and she goes straight to work making herself his new mistress.  He sets her up in a swanky new apartment and a stylish new wardrobe, but she hasn’t forgotten Dan and goes back to repay the money she stole from him.

When Dan finds out why she stole the money, he’s very forgiving and would really like to see Lorry again.  She starts seeing Dan on the side and they fall very deeply in love with each other.  However, he doesn’t know about Lorry’s past.  When Dan proposes, she accepts, but a very jealous Stephen finds out about it, he tells her that her past will only hold Dan back.  Afraid that he might be right, Lorry decides to make a more respectable life for herself and leaves Stephen and his lavish apartment to take a shabby apartment and a job in a department store.  Dan is heartbroken when she doesn’t leave with him as planned and becomes obsessed with finding her again.  Eventually, Dan and Lorry are reunited at a Mardi Gras party thanks to a little help from Minnie.

I really liked Bed of Roses.  Constance Bennett brought so much sass and vibrancy to Lorrie, I absolutely loved her in it.  Not to mention the palpable chemistry she had with Joel McCrea!  Pert Kelton proved to be another excellent co-star for Bennett.  Kelton had just as much sass as Constance and she got some really great wisecracks in there, too.  The writing is razor sharp and has held up very well over time.  Even though the movie is only a little over an hour long, it never feels rushed.  This is a movie that reminded me why I love pre-codes, not that I ever actually needed reminding.

Lady With a Past (1932)

Venice Muir (Constance Bennett) is rich, beautiful, stylish, and very intelligent, so you’d think she’s the kind of woman guys line up to meet, right? Nope. Venice wishes she were more appealing to men, but she’s just too dull to get their attention.  She’s knows darn well that all the men she meets want someone exciting, but how does one get an exciting reputation without actually having to earn it? It turns out the answer is to make one up.

Donnie Wainwright (David Manners) is the man she longs for the most, and Venice’s friend tries to get him to talk to her.  One night at a party, he gets drunk and takes a chance on Venice and talks her into running off to Paris to elope with him. But the next day, he leaves her for another woman. Venice goes ahead with the trip and along the way, comes up with a plan to win Donnie back.

While in Paris, she meets an unemployed American named Guy Bryson (Ben Lyon) and hires him to pose as her gigolo. He helps her concoct a whole new persona with a slew of fake rumors about her love life to go with it.  Sure enough, this plan works and Venice quickly becomes one of the most sought after women in Paris. When Donny comes to Paris for a few days, of course he’s shocked to see that Venice now has a band of admirers, which Venice uses to make Donny very jealous.

However, the plan hits a snag when Rene (Albert Conte), one of Venice’s suitors, proposes to her and she turns him down. He had been very deep in debt and was hoping to marry her to save himself, but when she rejects him, he kills himself.  Meanwhile, Venice is at the train station with Donny, who proposes to her again. But when she hears about Rene, she is devastated. She never meant for her scheme to hurt anyone, so she and Guy head back to America, where they quickly realize that Venice’s new reputation has already made its way overseas. When she goes to a party, all the men flock to her, but Donny doesn’t approve of her new image. She calls him out for being a hypocrite, but he manages to win her over once and for all.

Lady With a Past is far from being great cinema, but it is a pretty likeable bit of fluff.  By far, the most far-fetched thing about this movie is that we’re supposed to believe that no man is interested in Constance Bennett.  I thought it was interesting that they didn’t try to make Venice even the slightest bit dowdy; she was glamorous and stylish the whole time. Venice is a bit socially awkward at first, but come on! Plenty of men would let that slide for a woman who looks like that.  But if you’re able to suspend your disbelief, Constance, David Manners, and Ben Lyon do a good job of making the movie fun to watch.

The Common Law (1931)

When Valerie West (Constance Bennett) grows tired of being Dick Carmedon’s (Lew Cody) kept woman, she decides to try to make it on her own, even though she has no skills and no work experience.  One thing she does have is good looks so she starts looking for modeling gigs.  When she goes to visit painter John Neville (Joel McCrea) to see if he needs a model, it proves to be kismet for both of them. Valerie just happens to be exactly the kind of model he needs for a painting he’s working on so he hires her on the spot.

As John works on his painting, he and Valerie become very good friends, which eventually turns to love.  Valerie even becomes John’s muse and he wants to marry her.  However, one thing he doesn’t know about her is that she used to be Dick’s mistress. When John does find out, he’s extremely jealous and she’s hurt by his reaction and leaves him.

After spending some time apart, Valerie and John run into each other again at a party and Valerie tries to patch things up. Before long, they’re living together and John once again has marriage on his mind, but Valerie wants to be sure both of them are absolutely sure it’s what they want. Meanwhile, John’s sister Claire (Hedda Hopper) has heard about John’s relationship with Valerie so she sends John a letter telling him to come home to their sick father. After a while, Claire gets in touch with Valerie to invite her to join her, John, and their father for a yacht party. Valerie goes, but when she and John realize that Claire has also invited Dick and Stephanie, John’s ex-girlfriend, to the party, they realize what Claire’s true motives are.

For the most part, I liked The Common Law.  Constance Bennett and Joel McCrea were excellent together, it’s got plenty of classic risqué pre-code moments, but I got a little bored with the movie about halfway through.  I had no problem paying attention in the beginning, but it just couldn’t hold my interest. The scenes involving the party on the yacht were a bit tedious and dragged on longer than they needed to. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s one I’d only recommend to people who are already interested in the pre-code era.

What’s on TCM: November 2012

Happy November!  Even though this isn’t one of my favorite months on TCM, it’s still a pretty busy month.  First of all, Constance Bennett is the Star of the Month, which I’m pretty happy to see.  Her movies will be shown every Tuesday night in November.

If you’re a fan of seeing how films compare to the novels they were based on, you are going to love this month.  Every Monday and Wednesday night will be full of movies based on books and the adaptations will continue until prime time on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I love the idea of this series, but I would have liked to have seen it done on Mondays and Thursdays instead, just because it’s kind of an avalanche of book adaptations during the first part of the week.

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What’s on TCM: October 2010

Happy Halloween!  Before we get to the TCM schedule for October, it’s time for a little site news.  To celebrate Halloween, I’ll be reviewing a different horror film every Wednesday this month.  I promise it will be a mix between some typical Halloween favorites and some more unusual choices, so be sure to check that out.

Now, back to the TCM schedule.  Since it’s October, I’m sure it’s not at all surprising that there will be tons of horror movies this month.  Every Friday night is a night of horror classics from Hammer Film Productions.  Fredric March is the star of the month, which I’m pretty geeked up for.  Every Monday and Wednesday night is Critic’s Choice night, where two notable film critics pick two of their favorite movies to play.  Some of the critics include Leonard Maltin, Roger Ebert and Mick LaSalle and they’ve made some pretty great choices.

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My Top 100, 80-71

It’s Friday again, which means it’s time to count down ten more of my favorite movies!  All I really have to say about this bunch of movies is that almost all of my favorite types of movies are represented here.  Silents, musicals, foreign, film noir, drama, comedy, they’re all there.  The only way this week’s bunch could be more ‘me’ is if I had worked in some offbeat B-movie in there somewhere.  Now, onto number 80…

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