Just a few words of tribute for one of my favorite Pre-Code stars, Constance Cummings (Constance Cummings Halverstadt, 1910-2005).
The daughter of a concert soprano, Cummings started out in regional theatre in the San Diego Stock Company’s 1926 production of Seventh Heaven, which had been a Broadway hit from 1922 through 1924. Her Broadway debut was as a chorus girl in Treasure Girl (1928-29) with Clifton Webb, Gertrude Lawrence, and Walter Catlett. Her first speaking role was in the short-lived This Man’s Town (1930), produced by George Jessel. This led to her first Hollywood film The Criminal Code (1930), with Walter Huston.
Cummings’ classic movies include Frank Capra’s American Madness (1932); Movie Crazy (1932) opposite Harold Lloyd; Washington Merry-Go-Around (1932) with Lee Tracy (written by Jo Swerling, directed by James Cruze); Night After Night (1932) with George Raft and Mae West; The Mind Reader (1933) with Warren William; Broadway Through a Keyhole (1933) with Blossom Seeley, Texas Guinan, Russ Columbo, Gregory Ratoff, Eddie Foy Jr, and Barto and Mann; Haunted Honeymoon (1940) with Robert Montgomery; and Blithe Spirit (1945) with Rex Harrison.
Cummings moved to England with her husband British playwright/screenwriter Benn Levy in 1936. Levy had written the screenplay for James Whale’s Old Dark House (1932) and dialogue for Hitchcock’s Blackmail (1929). Levy became a member of Parliament in 1945. The pair remained married until his death in 1973.
Cummings continued to act in British theatre, film, and television through the mid 1980s. Her most notable American credit of her last years was as the star of Arthur Kopit’s Wings (1979) on Broadway, a performance which earned her a Tony, an Obie, and a Drama Desk Award. When she died in 2005 she was the ripe old age of 95.
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