Table of contents for The Bennetts : an acting family / Brian Kellow.

Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog.

Note: Contents data are machine generated based on pre-publication provided by the publisher. Contents may have variations from the printed book or be incomplete or contain other coding.

Prologue 1
Chapter One: 1870 1900 
Chapter Two: 1900 1904 
Chapter Three: 1904 1914 
Chapter Four: 1914 1920 
Chapter Five: 1920 1924 
Chapter Six: 1925 1927 
Chapter Seven: 1927 1929 
Chapter Eight: 1929 1930 
Chapter Nine: 1930 1931 
Chapter Ten: 1931 1932 
Chapter Eleven: 1933 1935 
Chapter Twelve: 1934 1937 
Chapter Thirteen: 1937 1940 
Chapter Fourteen: 1941 1943 
Chapter Fifteen: 1944 
Chapter Sixteen: 1945 1947 
Chapter Seventeen: 1948 
Chapter Eighteen: 1949 1950 
Chapter Nineteen: 1951 1952 
Chapter Twenty: 1953 1958 
Chapter Twenty-One: 1959 1965 
Chapter Twenty-Two: 1966 1971 
Chapter Twenty-Three: 1972 1990 
Feature Films 
Selected Television Appearances 
Selected Bibliography 
When I was a student at Oregon State University, the English Department sponsored an
every-Friday-night International Film Series. There I first encountered many marvelous foreign-
language films of the period, including Bread and Chocolate, Spirit of the Beehive, Jonah Who
Will Be 25 in the Year 2000, and Seven Beauties. But occasionally the department's
interpretation of "international" was opened up slightly, to include films of European-born
directors working in Hollywood, such as Billy Wilder and Ernst Lubitsch. And one chilly Friday
night in October 1978, the film shown was Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window. I became
entranced with the movie on the spot, and ultimately it led me to many of the other glorious
examples of 1940s film noir, including Lang's startling Scarlet Street and Max Ophuls's
remarkable The Reckless Moment, both of which boasted the same leading lady, Joan Bennett.
 Ten years later, by this time launched on a career in journalism, I met Joan Bennett at her
home in Scarsdale, New York. My encounter with her was memorable as well as slightly
disappointing. She was courteous and charming, but fuzzy on details of her glamorous past, and
she seemed apologetically conscious of this. Nevertheless, I was always aware that I was in the
presence of a star: although she gave me very little information, her few deep-toned observations,
mysterious silences, and long, slow drags on her Carltons somehow made a potent impression on
me. I sensed that there was a great deal in what she wasn't saying, and I decided to find out on
my own. In the back of my mind was the vague notion that if what I discovered seemed
interesting enough, I might try to undertake a book about the entire family. As it turned out, it
was, and I did.
 By the time I began my research in earnest in 1998, I had already read two books that
were to be of the utmost importance to me. The first was The Bennett Playbill, Joan's own
history of her family, written with actress-author-director Lois Kibbee and published in 1970. It
has proven a very useful guide to the Bennett family history. Matthew Bernstein's admirable
biography of Joan's third husband, Walter Wanger: Hollywood Independent, surely one of the
most painstakingly researched studies of exactly how films get made, was also a welcome anchor
as I began work on my book.
 At numerous archives, my queries were placed in capable and trustworthy hands. For
information on Richard Bennett's early life, I am indebted to Martha Wright of the Indiana State
Historical Society and Patricia Al-Wahaili of the Indiana State Library.
 I spent a fascinating week at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, where Walter
Wanger's papers are housed; there I received an enthusiastic reception from Maxine Ducey and
her staff. I also owe deepest thanks to the staffs of the Film and Television Archives at the
University of California at Los Angeles, the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts, the
Library of Congress, the Lilly Library at Indiana University, the Sterling Library at Yale
University, and the motion picture department of The George Eastman House. Thanks also to
Barbara Hall of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Annette Fern of the Harvard
Theater Collection, Martin Jacobs of the Museum of the City of New York, Steve Wilson and the
staff of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Collection at the University of Texas at Austin
(in particular, my research proxy, Bill Fagelson), Sean D. Noel of the Special Collections Staff of
Boston University, Stephen Reynolds of the Duke of York's Theatre, and Raymond Wemmlinger
of the Hampden/Booth Theater Library of The Players. Special thanks to Ned Comstock of the
University of Southern California Cinema and Television Archive. Ned did many special favors
for me, including dredging up materials from USC's Warner Bros. archive and tracking down
financial reports from Constance Bennett's RKO years.
 I was unprepared for the generosity extended to me by many well-respected writers on
film. Donald Spoto was among the first to encourage me to write about the Bennett family. I am
also indebted to Jeanine Basinger, James Harvey, Roy Moseley, Robert Osborne, Barry Paris,
Sam Staggs, James Watters, and most of all to Ronald L. Bowers, who spent many hours
recalling his close friendship with Joan Bennett. Ron also telephoned me with numerous leads
and ideas, and lent me many out-of-print volumes from his vast collection of cinema books. His
enthusiasm for Hollywood's golden age is boundless. Thanks also to Howard and Ron
Mandelbaum of Photofest, Jerry Ohlinger, and Bill Sprague, for providing me with a copy of
Barbara Bennett's hard-to-find film Syncopation, and to Tom Toth, for sharing his print of
Constance's silent hit Sally, Irene and Mary.
 For help in negotiating the legal maze regarding Philip Plant's estate, I owe deep thanks
to Jackie Zeppieri of the New London, Connecticut, Probate Court, and Helen Falvey and Alice
Schroeder of the Groton, Connecticut, Probate Court; Ms. Schroeder was particularly helpful in
laying hands on depositions related to Constance Bennett's 1943 battle with Mae Hayward.
 Given the fact that so many individuals that Constance and Joan Bennett worked with are
deceased, it was crucial that I secure the cooperation of surviving family members. Here I was
extremely lucky. The book would not have materialized without the participation of Joan's eldest
daughter, Diana Anderson, who was enthused about the project from the beginning and lent
unfailing support. On two different occasions, she opened up her home to me while I was in Los
Angeles on fact-finding missions. Together we spent hours talking about all the Bennetts;
Diana's shrewd perceptions and strong family feeling helped immeasurably in creating the
backbone of the book. I am also delighted to have had the contributions of all five of her
children: Amanda Anderson, Timothy Anderson, Cynthia Anderson Barker, Lisa Anderson, and
Felix Werner.
 I met Constance's son, Peter Plant, at a birthday party for Diana in New York in 1997.
Over the years, Peter had spoken about his mother with only a handful of writers, and then only
on very limited topics. Once I described my concept of the book to him, however, he gave me his
fullest cooperation. I came to admire his honesty, humor, fairness, and precision; his answers to
my questions were always carefully weighed and scrupulously considered, and together we made
our way through some of the more baffling episodes in his mother's life. That I was able to earn
his trust means a great deal to me.
 I am also pleased to have secured the participation of Constance's two daughters, Lorinda
Roland and Gyl Roland, both of whom gave generously of their time Lorinda at her artist
hideaway on Orcas Island, Washington, and Gyl at her Los Angeles apartment. Their
perspectives contrasted sharply with one another, but in the end, both were tremendously helpful
in putting together a portrait of their complex mother.
 Thanks, also, to Joan's second daughter, Melinda Markey, who spoke with me by
telephone from her home in South Carolina. I am also grateful to Joan's two youngest daughters,
Stephanie Wanger Guest and Shelley Wanger, who met with me several times in New York.
 Michael Downey is the oldest and only surviving child of Barbara Bennett and Morton
Downey. From the outset, Michael made it clear that he guarded his privacy zealously and that
his participation would be quite limited. I was not allowed to have his telephone number; instead,
I was to send my questions via letter and wait for a call from him. Once we connected, however,
he was willing to share his memories, and I am happy that he was.
 I met with David Wilde, Joan's fourth husband, several times at his home in Scarsdale,
New York. Sadly, David did not live to see the book reach publication; overcome by depression
and declining health, he committed suicide late in 2001.
 Deepest thanks to the many other people who took the time to speak with me: Iris Adrian,
Hartney Arthur, Nancy Barrett, Mary Cooper, Arlene Dahl, Tony de Santis, Carmen DiRigo,
Edward Downey, Keir Dullea, Alice Faye, John Frankenheimer, James Fraser, Penny Fuller,
Henry Garson, Janet Fox Goldsmith, Louise Gore, James Graves, Jane Greer, Peter Haskell,
Helen Hayes, Charles Hollerith, Marsha Hunt, Alexandra Iles, Salome Jens, Marta Eggerth
Kiepura, Jack Klugman, Susan Kohner, Florence Kriendler, Paula Laurence, June Lockhart,
Patricia Coulter McElroy, Ellie and Victor Morrison, Julian Myers, Patricia O'Connell, Neva
Patterson, Jim Pierson, Donald Pippin, Vera Hruba Ralston, Charles Nelson Reilly, Hilda Rolfe,
Kathryn Leigh Scott, Daniel Selznick, Harvey Silbert, Erica Silverman, Penny Singleton, Anne
Slater, Peggy Sobel, Maureen Stapleton, Jan Sterling, Risë Stevens, Gloria Stuart, William
Studer, Bazey Tankersley, Audrey Totter, Marie Wallace, Robert Wallsten, Arthur Whitelaw,
Victoria Wilson, William Windom, Teresa Wright, and Jane Wyatt. Of all those I interviewed, I
am especially indebted to Joan's good friend Richard Stack. As the book progressed, I leaned
heavily on Richard, and always welcomed his insights and points of view. He has in turn become
a great friend of mine.
 Four colleagues at Opera News were of enormous help. F. Paul Driscoll, the magazine's
editor-in-chief, was a valued resource throughout the writing. He possesses an astonishing
command of film and theater history, and as the book progressed, he was never too busy to
discuss a point that was perplexing me at any given moment. Elizabeth Diggans, Opera News's
associate art director and an inveterate film-lover, lent welcome humor and encouragement along
the way. Assistant editor Betsy Mingo helped me with much of the research always thoroughly,
always promptly.
 Many of the Bennett family's films I viewed with my good friends Tracy Turner and Arlo
McKinnon, who offered insightful comments and, as always, good company. Other friends who
helped in a variety of ways include Patricia Adams, Craig Haladay, Jessica and Omus Hirshbein,
James M. Keller, Brenda Lewis, Eric Myers, Karen Kriendler Nelson, David Niedenthal,
Rebecca Paller, Monica Parks, Brooks Peters, Cynthia Peterson, Fred Plotkin, Robert Sandla,
Helen Sheehy, and James Whitson.
 I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Joel Honig, who died in September 2003
and whose absence is sorely felt. For years, dozens of authors enjoyed the benefit of Joel's adroit
editing, impeccable research skills, and depths of arcane knowledge. He was a busy freelance
copy editor (including a nineteen-year association with Charles Scribner's Sons), and always he
labored to make the books he was entrusted with as good as they possibly could be. He was a
superb writer himself; for many years, I had the pleasure of working as his editor at Opera News.
With The Bennetts, the tables were turned, and Joel played his role with relentless brilliance,
always pressing me to go further, to make the story of the Bennetts more incisive, illuminating,
and alive.
 I am lucky to have the sustaining presence in my life of my family. My parents, Jack and
Marjorie Kellow, and my brother and sister-in-law, Barry and Kami Kellow, have always
encouraged my writing pursuits and my interest in the performing arts, and I am grateful.
 Most of all, I was blessed to have Bill Braun by my side throughout my work on the
book. He endured watching many old movies that he easily could have done without, always
asking, in vain, if tonight's selection might be in color. He didn't complain while I neglected
house and yard to concentrate on research, brought me back to earth when I panicked over
deadlines, and endured my need for solitude as I bore down on the final chapters.
"There are only three great actors still alive in America today," Richard Bennett told a
reporter in the early 1930s. "Maude Adams, Feodor Chaliapin, and Lionel Barrymore. Four if
you count me!" Bennett could afford to be immodest at the time he made that comment, he had
racked up a record of achievement that few other actors could match. Along with John
Barrymore, he was probably the most important American-born stage actor of his generation.
Bennett's stardom had slightly preceded Barrymore's and would outlast it by several years. Yet
by the mid-1920s, when Bennett had reached the zenith of his acting career, he believed that the
most glorious era in the American theater had come and gone. To him, the stage was haunted by
ghosts: Joseph Jefferson, who had trouped around the country for decades treating audiences to
his classic portrayal of Rip Van Winkle, died in 1905. The noble, dark-eyed tragedian Edwin
Booth, the most celebrated Hamlet of his day, had been dead since 1893. Charles F. Coghlan,
Lester Wallack, Nat Goodwin, and Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart, and dozens of other actors
whose work had been an inspiration to Bennett, had long since faded from the scene.
 Richard Bennett's own stage debut had come in 1891, and although he might have had
every good reason to feel nostalgic for the great stars of the period, the plays themselves were
often best forgotten. While Shakespeare, in the hands of actors such as E.H. Sothern, Julia
Marlowe, Viola Allen, and Otis Skinner, was a staple on the New York stage to a degree that
seems unimaginable to us now, it was creaking melodrama, often running to five acts or more,
that provided much of the meat of the American theater scene. Because so few of the great stars
of the last years of the nineteenth and the first decade of the twentieth centuries have left any
permanent record of their work, we are forced to rely chiefly on written accounts from the period
to gain any sense at all of what they were like onstage. These tell us, among other things, that it
was an age of great personalities, in which player dominated playwright. Many stars became so
identified with a single role that their demanding and unimaginative public refused to accept
them in anything else. James O'Neill, father of Eugene, once a promising young actor, made such
a success in an 1883 production of The Count of Monte Cristo that he became essentially a one-
trick pony, doomed to play the same role over and over for the remainder of his career. Phoebe
Davies played the role of Anna Moore in Lottie Blair Parker and Joseph R. Grismer's rip-roaring
1898 melodrama Way Down East some four thousand times during the course of her career. And
Bennett's own father-in-law, Lewis Morrison, played Mephistopheles in Faust, virtually without
a break, from 1885 until his death in 1906.
 Many of the leading stars of this period performed in a florid, heart-on-sleeve style
perhaps most accurately described as "heroic," relying on richly individual personalities, charm,
and highly cultivated voices. Joseph Jefferson, one critic commented, "could have recited the
alphabet in a way to make his hearers shed sympathetic tears." They were out to please the public
first, last, and always. (Critics, at this time, were of fairly little importance in determining the fate
of a play; only later would they ascend to positions of power. One reason Richard Bennett
scorned critics during his peak years was because he remembered the early days when they had
not mattered so much.)
 Whatever the caliber of these performers, one condition did make theirs a golden period:
they had unprecedented opportunities to perform. By the mid-1890s, New York boasted thirty-
nine legitimate theaters. By 1900, the number of theaters spread out over the entire nation totaled
approximately five thousand. No matter how modest their condition, these theaters added
immeasurably to the cultural life of both small and large towns. In those days, the road was an
integral part of the theater. Both major stars and third-rate stock players traveled the length and
breadth of the country. It was a bountiful era, and in his old age Richard Bennett was consumed
by nostalgia for it. Writing about those long-gone days in his unpublished memoirs, from the
perspective of an elderly man whose career had nearly reached its end, he insisted that he could
"count on five fingers even the near-greats of today. They are not artists . . . nor nearer art than
photography is to oil paintings."
 This is a curious statement, and perhaps it can be attributed to nothing more than an
actor's bitterness over his failing powers and fading fame. Certainly the 1920s was one of the
most remarkable decades the American theater has ever known, and the one in which Richard
Bennett reached his peak. True, the rapid growth of the film industry had reduced the sheer
quantity of stage productions available. By the time D.W. Griffith's immensely successful The
Birth of a Nation was released in 1915, over six thousand nickelodeons were operating around
the country, while the number of professional playhouses had shrunk to something under fifteen
hundred. Nevertheless, Broadway in the 1920s was a thriving industry. Exciting and innovative
plays would take the theater in thrilling new directions, and the decade's leading stars did not
make occasional appearances they were constant, returning one season after another, providing
the real backbone of Broadway.
 If Richard Bennett regarded this embarrassment of riches as a time of artistic bankruptcy,
he was slighting some of his own brilliant contributions to the theater something he surely
never would have intended to do. Although he had appeared in many important plays during the
first two decades of the century, the 1920s was a vintage period for him. Beginning with
O'Neill's Beyond the Horizon in 1920, Bennett set forth on a series of successes that gave him
ample opportunity to display his acting prowess as never before. In 1921, he starred as Andrew
Lane in Gilbert Emery's The Hero, a searing drama set in the aftermath of World War I. There
was Leonid Andreyev's He Who Gets Slapped in 1922, a highly imaginative and lyrical work
produced by the Theatre Guild, one of the most enterprising new organizations of the day. While
visiting New York, Konstantin Stanislavsky attended a performance of He and proclaimed
Richard Bennett the finest American actor he had ever seen. The following year brought Gerald
DuMaurier's The Dancers, in which Bennett scored another success as Tony, the Canadian
saloonkeeper who inherits an English title. In 1924, Bennett starred as Tony Patucci, the Italian-
American vineyard owner in the Theatre Guild's production of Sidney Howard's They Knew
What They Wanted, a work that challenged audiences' ideas of acceptable morality. Of lesser
literary quality, but a success with audiences, was Charles Beahan and Garrett Fort's Jarnegan
(1928), a sensational exposé of Hollywood, in which Richard's youngest daughter, Joan, was
introduced to Broadway.
 It was an impressive string of achievements, and by the end of the 1920s, few in the
profession would have doubted that Richard Bennett would one day take his place among the
theater's immortals. Yet by 1930, his glory days were behind him, and only a handful of stage
appearances lay in his future. In 1931, he settled in Hollywood, where two of his three daughters,
Constance and Joan, were carving out successful movie careers. (At the time, Constance was
billed as Hollywood's highest-paid actress, commanding $30,000 a week.) Richard went to work
in a series of mostly forgettable films. Although he grandly referred to his time in Hollywood as
his "noble experiment in the sun-drenched hills," few of his movies gave him any reason to be
proud. He was dismayed to see how quickly Broadway would forget about him, how capably the
theater could continue in his absence. Good riddance, he claimed. "My God," he had said only in
the mid-1920s, when his middle daughter Barbara was attracting attention as an exhibition
ballroom dancer, "the day may come when I'll be known as the father of the Bennett girls. It
would damn well serve me right!" Speaking of Bought!, a mediocre 1931 movie he made with
Constance, he said, defensively, "I wouldn't give up my part in this picture for anything on
Broadway." In fact, he missed the stage desperately. Like an impulsive lover, he had turned his
back on the world that had meant so much to him, and eventually seemed unable to return to it.
No show business fame can fade quite so quickly as theatrical stardom, and year by year, Richard
saw his own stunning achievements recede into a dimly remembered past.
 In the end, Richard Bennett failed to take his place among the immortals of the stage.
Theater histories that devote ample space to the accomplishments of the Barrymores, Paul
Robeson, and Laurette Taylor often sum up Richard Bennett's career in a footnote, or omit
mention of him altogether. By 1940, he was largely forgotten, financially dependent on family
and friends, living a sadly reduced existence in southern California. His prediction had come
true: to the extent that he was remembered at all, it was as the father of movie stars Constance
and Joan Bennett. No doubt he did not feel that such a fate "served him right" at all. It must have
seemed an unjust end for someone who had given so much to the theater, and gotten so much in

Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:

Bennett, Richard, 1873-1944.
Bennett, Constance, 1904-1965.
Bennett, Joan, 1910-.
Bennett, Barbara, 1906-1958.
Actors -- United States -- Biography.