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The Bennetts: An Acting Family

by Brian Kellow

Availablecloth$45.00s 978-0-8131-2329-5
576 pages  Pubdate: 11/26/2004  6 x 9  photos

The Bennetts: An Acting Family is a chronicle of one of the royal families of stage and screen. The saga begins with Richard Bennett, a small-town Indiana roughneck who grew up to be one of the bright lights of the New York stage during the early twentieth century. In time, however, Richard’s fame was eclipsed by that of his daughters, Constance and Joan, who went to Hollywood in the 1920s and found major success there. Constance became the highest-paid actress of the early 1930s, earning as much as $30,000 a week in melodramas. Later she reinvented herself as a comedienne in the classic comedy Topper , with Cary Grant.. After a slow start as a blonde ingenue, Joan dyed her hair black and became one of the screen’s great temptresses in films such as Scarlet Street . She also starred in such lighter fare as Father of the Bride . In the 1960s, Joan gained a new generation of fans when she appeared in the gothic daytime television serial Dark Shadows . The Bennetts is also the story of another Bennett sister, Barbara, whose promising beginnings as a dancer gave way to a turbulent marriage to singer Morton Downey and a steady decline into alcoholism. Constance and Joan were among Hollywood’s biggest stars, but their personal lives were anything but serene. In 1943, Constance became entangled in a highly publicized court battle with the family of her millionaire ex-husband, and in 1951, Joan’s husband, producer Walter Wanger, shot her lover in broad daylight, sparking one of the biggest Hollywood scandals of the 1950s. Brian Kellow, features editor of Opera News magazine, is the coauthor of Can’t Help Singing: The Life of Eileen Farrell . He lives in New York and Connecticut.

A reliable, straightforward biographical study of a prominent acting family that might, perhaps, be compared to the Barrymores. -- Anthony Slide

A particular strength of this book is Kellow's discussion of the Bennett family within the changing contours of American theater and the motion picture industry. -- Choice

A fascinating book, the perfect summer read. -- Gay City News

An engrossing new page turner. . . . Theater people don't get more interesting, and it's a true tale well told. -- Hollywood Reporter

Does justice to all the aspects of their lives, which is about all you can ask from such an accomplished and pleasurable family biography. -- Las Vegas Sun

Kellow, a diligent researcher and a perceptive, graceful writer, covers their careers and sometimes tumultuous private lives. . . . A terrific read. -- Los Angeles Times

A fabulously written page-turner about one of the most glamorous acting families of the 20th century by a writer who knows how to pen a compelling narrative while dishing the dirt. -- Next Magazine

A splendid bio. -- Playbill

Though the two [Bennetts] are not as widely remembered today as other film stars of the period, Kellow goes a long way toward addressing the oversight. . . . In most ways, Kellow is a respectfully restrained biographer, addressing even the most potentially lurid scandals -- Publishers Weekly

Serious film historians will want to examine The Bennetts . . . . Bliss for buffs. -- Toronto Globe and Mail