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The Bennetts: An Acting Family Hardcover – November 26, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
For a while in the early 1930s, Constance Bennett was the highest paid actress in Hollywood; younger sister Joan was an equally prominent star who worked with A-list directors like George Cukor and Fritz Lang. Though the two are not as widely remembered today as other film stars of the period, Kellow (Can't Help Singing: The Life of Eileen Farrell) goes a long way toward addressing the oversight, beginning with their father, Richard, one of the most respected theater actors of the early 20th century and an early proponent of Eugene O'Neill. The family biography also reveals the life of the forgotten middle sister, Barbara, who never made it in show business and slid into acute alcoholism. Kellow's closely critical evaluations of their performances can verge on the cruel, as in the comparison of Constance to "a seasoned drag queen" in her final film appearance, and his judgmental tone occasionally extends to the characters' personal lives, though admirably less so than in other celebrity biographies. In most ways, Kellow is a respectfully restrained biographer, addressing even the most potentially lurid scandals—like Joan's husband shooting her agent because he suspected them of having an affair—with a sense of his subjects' dignity. 32 pages of b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"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
Top customer reviews
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The author has captured the personalities of each Bennett. So many biographers fall into the trap of providing superficial detail around a chronology of the subject's life, but not so Mr Kellow. He has managed to bring alive the autocratic Richard Bennett and his 3 daughters, the troubled alcoholic Barbara, the mercurial, opportunistic Constance and the refined but passionate Joan. The book moves between each of their lives and Kellow benefited from the co-operation of many surviving members of the family. He has also created a vivid sense of the period in which the story is evolving from the girls rebellious behaviour in the roaring twenties, through career highs for Constance in Hollywood in the thirties and Joan's emergence as a femme fatale in the forties to both actresses move to the stage in the fifties as film work dried up. They were much married and all the details about their stormy relationships are vividly recreated, not in a gossipy tone but creating portraits of intelligent woman who were not afraid to take risks, particularly Constance.
This is a very clever well written book.