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Pre-Code Connie, two 'Topper' tales and an ersatz 'Godfrey'



This is Carole Lombard's Paramount portrait p1202-69, from late 1930. It was early in Carole's somewhat successful seven years at the Melrose Avenue studio, but there's long been conjecture she wouldn't have landed at Paramount had she not been dismissed from Pathe in the fall of 1929, after she had made three talking features there.

Why was she let go? No official report was given at the time, but many suspect it was due to a starlet Pathe had just signed who didn't want any competition from blonde ingenues. Her name: Constance Bennett.



Tomorrow, Oct. 22, marks the 116th anniversary of Bennett's birth. For a while in the early 1930s, she was on the top rung of Hollywood stars -- and paid at that scale. She fell out of favor a bit in the second half of the decade, but had enough star power to team with Hal Roach when he decided to leave the business of two-reelers.

Turner Classic Movies will honor Connie with nine of her movies during the day. She's a solid actress with ethereal beauty, though she wasn't the easiest person to get along with (something Bennett herself would've admitted). If you're unfamiliar with her work, check out these films. The first six are from the pre-Code era, when she was at her commercial peak, followed by a pair of "Topper" ghost comedies, and concludes with a comedy in the style of "My Man Godfrey." (Universal wanted Connie as the female lead in "Godfrey," but William Powell was aware of her flighty ways and successfully pushed for ex-wife and close friend Lombard. You know the rest.)

The schedule (all times Eastern):

* 6 a.m. -- "Three Faces East" (1930)
* 7:30 a.m. -- "Born To Love" (1931)
* 9:30 a.m. -- "The Common Law" (1931)
* 10:30 a.m. -- "Rock-A-Bye" (1932)
* 11:45 a.m. -- "Bed Of Roses" (1933)
* 1 p.m. -- "Our Betters" (1933)
* 2:30 p.m. -- "Topper" (1937)
* 4:15 p.m. -- "Topper Takes A Trip" (1939)
* 5:45 p.m. -- "Merrily We Live" (1938)

"The Common Law" features Bennett at her sexiest. "Bed Of Roses" is plenty of fun, although Pert Kelton steals the film as Connie's wisecracking partner in prostitution in New Orleans.



"Topper" was one of the films that put Cary Grant on the map in 1937, although Bennett plays a major part in the movie's success by making Marion Kerby an incredibly sexy ghost. She made the sequel "Topper Takes A Trip" without Grant, but with a canine partner in "ghost dog" Mr. Atlas, played by Skippy, aka Asta. Both films were aided by Roy Seawright's terrific special effects. They're shown in the Nov. 27, 1938 Los Angeles Times.



"Merrily We Live" was somewhat different from "Godfrey," and has its share of defenders.

It's a nine-pack of Constance, well worth watching...especially since no World Series game is on that day.
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