Constance Cummings

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Constance Cummings
Constance Cummings 1934.jpg
Cummings in 1934
Born Constance Cummings Halverstadt
15 May 1910
Seattle, Washington, United States
Died 23 November 2005(2005-11-23) (aged 95)
Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom
Years active 1928–1986
Spouse(s) Benn Levy (1933–1973; his death); 2 children

Constance Cummings, CBE (15 May 1910 – 23 November 2005), born Constance Cummings Halverstadt,[1] was an American-born British actress, known for her work on both screen and stage.

Early years[edit]

Cummings was born in Seattle, Washington, the only daughter and younger child[2] of Kate Logan (née Cummings), a concert soprano, and Dallas Vernon Halverstadt, a lawyer.[3] After her parents separated when she was 10 years old, she never saw her father. She attended St. Nicholas Girls' School in Seattle.[2]

Career[edit]

The San Diego Stock Company gave Cummings her initial acting opportunity in a "walk-on part" playing a prostitute in a 1926 production of Seventh Heaven.[2]

She debuted on Broadway as a chorus girl,[4] a member of the ensemble[5] in Treasure Girl (1928) by the age of 18.

While appearing on Broadway, she was discovered by Samuel Goldwyn, who brought her to Hollywood in 1931. Between 1931 and 1934, Cummings appeared in more than 20 films, including the Harold Lloyd films Movie Crazy and American Madness, directed by Frank Capra.[6]

She was married to the playwright and screenwriter Benn Levy from 3 July 1933[2] until his death in 1973.[7] As Levy was from Britain, Cummings moved there and continued acting, both in films and on the stage, in Britain. Few of her films were hits in the US, although Blithe Spirit, adapted from the Noël Coward play, was popular. Levy went on to write and direct films for Cummings, such as The Jealous God (1939); he also served in the UK Parliament from 1945-50 as the Labour MP for Eton and Slough. They had a son and a daughter.[citation needed]

She played Mary Tyrone in the Royal National Theatre's production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night opposite Laurence Olivier, and later recreated the role for television. She also originated the role of Martha in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in its London debut.[citation needed]

Recognition[edit]

In 1979, Cummings won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Emily Stilson in the drama Wings (1978–79) (written by Arthur Kopit), a play about a former aviator (Stilson) who has suffered a stroke, from which she struggles to recover.[6] This role also brought her Obie and Drama Desk awards and an Olivier nomination.[8] In 1982, she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play for her work in The Chalk Garden.[9]

She received an Evening Standard Best Actress Award for her performance in Long Day's Journey into Night.[10]

On 1 January 1974, Cummings, who resided in Britain for many decades until her death, was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her contributions to the British entertainment industry.

She was a committee member of the Royal Court Theatre and the Arts Council. She has a star in the Motion Pictures section on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6201 Hollywood Boulevard. It was dedicated on February 8, 1960.[11]

Death[edit]

Constance Cummings Levy died in Oxfordshire, England, on 23 November 2005, aged 95,[7] from natural causes.

Selected filmography[edit]

Theatre[edit]

Year Play Character Type Comments
1926 Seventh Heaven prostitute Stage debut in Seattle, WA
1928 Treasure Girl chorus ensemble Musical comedy Broadway debut
1930 June Moon Miss Rixey Tin Pan Alley comedy [12]
1930 This Man's Town Carrie Drama
1934 Sour Grapes first appearance on London stage.
1934 Accent on Youth Linda Brown Comedy
1936 Young Madame Conti Nella Conti Melodrama
1937 Madame Bovary Revival Emma Bovary Restoration Comedy
1938 If I Were You Nellie Blunt Farce
1938 Goodbye, Mr Chips Katherine Drama
1939 The Jealous God
1939–1940 Romeo and Juliet Juliet Tragedy
1939–1940 Old Vic Theatre Season
1939 Joan of Arc Joan Drama
1939 The Good Natur'd Man Miss Richland Drama
22 April 1940 Shakespeare Birthday Festival
1942 Skylark Lydia Drama
1943 The Petrified Forest Gabby Drama
1945 One Man Show Racine Gardner Drama
1946 Clutterbuck Comedy
1948 Don't Listen Ladies Farce
1949 Before the Party Laura Comedy
1950 Return to Tyassi
1952 Winter's Journey
1953 The Shrike Drama
1957 Lysistrata Greek Comedy
1957 The Rape of the Belt Antiope played at Piccadilly Theatre (1957), and then Martin Beck Theatre, NY (1960).<ref>"Obituary of Constance Cummings". 26 November 2006. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
1961 J.B. Sarah
1962 Social Success
1964 Huis Clos Inez Drama
1965 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Martha
1966 Public and Confidential
1967 Fallen Angels Jane Banbury Comedy
1969 Hamlet Gertrude Shakespearean Tragedy
1969 The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore Mrs Flora Goforth Tragedy
1970 The Visit Claire Zachanassian Tragi-comedy
1971 Amphitryon 38 Leda Greek Drama
1971 Long Day's Journey into Night Mary Tyrone
1971–1972 National Theatre, London, Repertoire Season Classical drama
1972–1973 National Theatre, London, Repertoire Season
1973 The Cherry Orchard Madame Ranevsky
1974 National Theatre, London, Repertoire Season
1974 Children
1979 Wings Emily Stilson Tony Award, Obie Award, Drama Desk Award
1979 National Theatre, London, Repertoire Season
1980 Hay Fever Comedy
1981 The Golden Age
1985 The Glass Menagerie
1986 Fanny Kemble at Home
1992 The Chalk Garden Mrs St Maugham Her last appearance on Broadway
1996–1999 Uncle Vanya Maman Her last stage appearance.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Room, Adrian (2012). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins, 5th ed. McFarland. p. 127. ISBN 9780786457632. Retrieved 29 December 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d Goldman, Lawrence (7 March 2013). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2005-2008. OUP Oxford. pp. 274–76. ISBN 9780199671540. 
  3. ^ Profile, filmreference.com; accessed 30 April 2018.
  4. ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 163. ISBN 9781557835512. Retrieved 29 December 2017. 
  5. ^ "("Constance Cummings" search results)". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 29 December 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Shorter, Eric (25 November 2005). "Obituary: Constance Cummings". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 June 2018. 
  7. ^ a b Willis, John; Hodges, Ben (2008-07-01). Theatre World 2005-2006: The Most Complete Record of the American Theatre. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 341. ISBN 9781557837080. 
  8. ^ Kennedy, Dennis (2003). Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. p. 338. ISBN 0-19-860672-9. 
  9. ^ "("Constance Cummings" search results)". Drama Desk. Archived from the original on 29 December 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017. 
  10. ^ Strachan, Alan (26 November 2005). "Constance Cummings". Independent. Archived from the original on 29 December 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017. 
  11. ^ "Constance Cummings". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on 29 December 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017. 
  12. ^ "Obituary of Constance Cummings". 26 November 2006. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 

External links[edit]