Constance Towers

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Constance Towers
US Navy 110728-N-HQ755-104 Rear Adm. Alton Stocks, commander of Navy Medicine East and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, speaks about Navy Medicine'.jpg
Towers during a visit to the set of the television show General Hospital as part of Los Angeles Navy Week 2011
Born Constance Mary Towers
(1933-05-20) 20 May 1933 (age 83)
Whitefish, Montana, U.S.
Occupation Actress, singer
Years active 1952-present
Spouse(s) Eugene McGrath (1959–66) (divorced); 2 children
John Gavin (1974–present); 2 stepchildren
Children Christina Gavin (b. 1960)
Maria Gavin (b. 1963)[1]

Constance Mary Towers (born May 20, 1933[2]) is an American actress and singer. In a six-decade career, her roles have included Anna in a Broadway revival of The King and I, matriarch Clarissa McCandless on the daytime drama Capitol, and villainous Helena Cassadine on General Hospital.

Early life[edit]

Towers was born in Whitefish, Montana,[3] the daughter of Ardath L. (née Reynolds) and Harry J. Towers (both born in Ireland according to the 1940 U.S. census).[4] According to her official website, she was offered a contract with Paramount Pictures at age 11, but the offer was declined by her parents. She later attended Juilliard School of Music and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.[5] She studied singing with well known voice teacher Beverley Peck Johnson.[6]


Towers in the play The King and I (1977)

After several film, television and stage roles (including a West Coast tour of Guys and Dolls), Towers made her Broadway debut playing the title role in the short-lived 1965 musical, Anya, and appeared as Julie in a 1966 production of Show Boat at Lincoln Center. She also starred in Carousel in 1966 and The Sound of Music in 1967. She played Anna Leonowens in 1968 briefly, and later opposite Yul Brynner in a long-running revival of The King and I on tour and then on Broadway (1976–1978). [7] Clive Barnes praised Towers in the role,(subscription required)[8] and theatre writer John Kenrick calls her performance on the 1977 cast album "great".[9] In 1985, she played the role of Phyllis in a tour of Stephen Sondheim's Follies with Tony Award-winning actress Judy Kaye cast as Sally.

Constance Towers in The Horse Soldiers (1959)

Towers starred in number of movies, including The Horse Soldiers (1959) opposite John Wayne, Sergeant Rutledge (1960), Shock Corridor (1963), Fate Is the Hunter, and The Naked Kiss (1964). Having portrayed sophisticated ladies in the past, Towers was cast against type in two lurid roles by writer-director Samuel Fuller, as an exotic dancer in Shock Corridor and as a prostitute with a shaved head who kills a man in The Naked Kiss.

In later years, she has had supporting roles in The Next Karate Kid (1994) and A Perfect Murder (1998).

Towers's first television appearance was in 1948 on the Ed Sullivan Show. She starred in several television soap operas, playing Marian Hiller, the wheelchair-bound wife of Dr. Sanford Hiller in Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1971-72); John Abbott's former secretary, Audrey North, on The Young and the Restless (1996) and Madame Julianna Deschanel on Sunset Beach (1997). She had a starring as noble widow Clarissa McCandless in Capitol (1982-1987, the show's entire run), playing rival to the scheming matriarch Myrna Cleggg (Carolyn Jones, Marla Adams, Marj Dusay) in trying to see her son succeed in politics and the long-term love of powerful Senator Mark Denning (Ed Nelson). A memorable storyline had her being shot by Mark's mentally ill wife Paula (Julie Adams) and later finding out that her husband Baxter (Ron Harper) was still alive. For this part, she received a Soap Opera Digest Nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Her best-known soap part is as villainous Helena Cassadine, a role originated by Elizabeth Taylor, on General Hospital which she began playing late in 1997, continuing on and off ever since. [5] During her stint, it was revealed that Helena had murdered the mistress of her husband Mikkos, slicing her throat in full view of Alexis Davis (Nancy Lee Grahn) who was Mikkos's illegitimate daughter. She was also involved in the deaths of several other major characters on the show in her efforts to protect the Cassadine legacy, making Helena perhaps the most dangerous woman on soaps. In 2001, a storyline involving Helena's bringing late son Stavros (Robert Kelker Kelly) back from the dead was ended early because of the 9/11 attacks and certain similarities about terrorism where the storyline had been slowly heading. While her appearances were greatly reduced, Constance would appear as storyline dictated, even becoming a cohort of the not-quite-as-villainous Tracy Quartermaine (Jane Elliot) to keep Emily Quartermaine from marrying her grandson, Nikolas. The role appeared to end in early 2013 when her character was allegedly shot to death by longtime rival Luke Spencer. Constance made several "flashback" appearances on the show after the character died, and in 2014 was revealed to have been brought back to life, being crucial in a storyline where Luke developed a second personality and utilized Helena in his schemes to take over ELQ. While that storyline ended in early 2015, Towers returned as part of Anthony Geary's sendoff on July 9th. She returned once again the following November when a bedridden Helena cursed her enemies and allegedly died, although Towers would return for the filmed reading of Helena's will and several nightmare sequences of various characters.

Towers guest-starred in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Forsaken" in 1993. She has had guest roles on a number of popular television programs, including five episodes of Perry Mason. In her first two appearances she played the murderer: Jonny Baker in "The Case of the Missing Melody" (1961) and Esther Metcalfe in "The Case of the Prankish Professor" (1963). She also appeared in Designing Women, Frasier, Baywatch and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Other television roles include State Trooper, Hawaii Five-O, The Rockford Files, L.A. Law, The 4400, and Cold Case.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Towers was first married to Eugene McGrath, and since 1974 has been married to actor and former ambassador to Mexico John Gavin. She has two children from her first marriage and two stepchildren by her marriage to Gavin.[5]

She serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Blue Ribbon of the Los Angeles Music Center.[11]



Year Title Role Notes
1955 Bring Your Smile Along Nancy Willows
1956 Over-Exposed Shirley Thomas
1959 The Horse Soldiers Miss Hannah Hunter of Greenbriar
1960 Sergeant Rutledge Mary Beecher
1963 Shock Corridor Cathy
1964 Fate Is the Hunter Peg Burke
1964 The Naked Kiss Kelly
1974 Once in Her Life Joan Baldwin Television film
Nominated – Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Special Program
1985 Fast Forward Jessie Granger
1985 Sylvester Muffy
1991 Memories of Midnight Television film
1992 The Nutt House Mrs. Henderson
1992 The Sands of Time Television film
1994 The Next Karate Kid Louisa Pierce
1995 Thunder in Paradise 3 Cavanna
1997 The Relic Mrs. Blaisedale
1998 A Perfect Murder Sandra Bradford
2008 The Awakening of Spring Mrs. Gable
2013 A Fuller Life Herself Documentary film
2015 Aghápe Mature Leean Short film


Year Title Role Notes
1952 Tales of Tomorrow Martha Episode: "Seeing-Eye Surgeon"
1957 State Trooper Doris Woodley Episode: "Beef ala Murder"
1958 Mike Hammer Jean Barr Episode: "Overdose of Lead"
1957-1958 The Bob Cummings Show Patricia Plumber Episodes: "Bob Gives Psychology Lessons" and "Bob's Forgotten Fiancée"
1960 Adventures in Paradise Laura Knight Episode: "Sink or Swim"
1961 Zane Grey Theater Beth Woodfield Episode: "Knight of the Sun"
1964 The Outer Limits Laura James Episode: "The Duplicate Man"
1965 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Louise Menke Episode: "Exit from a Plane in Flight"
1961-1965 Perry Mason Various roles 5 episodes
1971-1972 Love Is a Many Splendored Thing Marian Hiller Series regular
1975 Hawaii Five-O Mrs. Thorncrest Episode: "Death's Name Is Sam"
1977 Lanigan's Rabbi Vinnie Barcas Episode: "In Hot Weather, the Crime Rate Soars"
1979 The Rockford Files IRS Agent Sally Sternhagen Episode: "The Big Cheese"
1979 Fantasy Island Shirley Forbush Episode: "Hit Man/The Swimmer"
1981 Fantasy Island Maggie Dunphy Episode: "Perfect Husband, The/Volcano"
1982-1987 Capitol Clarissa McCandless Series regular
1986 On Wings of Eagles Margot Perot Miniseries
1987 Murder, She Wrote Margaret Witworth Episode: "Murder, She Spoke"
1988 The Loner Kate Shane Pilot
1987-1988 L.A. Law Charlotte Kelsey Episodes: "Rohner vs. Gradinger" and "Full Marital Jacket"
1989 MacGyver Francine Leyland Episode: "Ma Dalton"
1989 Midnight Caller Teresa Chandler Episode: "Blood Red"
1990 Designing Women Louise Pollard Episode: "The Mistress"
1991 Matlock Alice Windemere Episode: "The Suspect"
1992 Baywatch Maggie James Episode: "Sea of Flames"
1992 2000 Malibu Road Camilla O'Keefe Series regular, 6 episodes
1992 Civil Wars Harriet Guilford Episode: "Das Boat House"
1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Taxco Episode: "The Forsaken"
1994 Frasier Clarice Warner Episode: "Slow Tango in South Seattle"
1994 Thunder in Paradise Cavanna Episodes: "Deadly Lessons: Part 1" and "Deadly Lessons: Part 2"
1994 Silk Stalkings Karen Krane Episode: "Ask the Dust"
1995 Caroline in the City Barbara Episode: "Caroline and the Folks"
1995 High Society Boatie Episode: "Tomb with a View"
1996 The Young and the Restless Audrey North Recurring role
1997 Sunset Beach Madame Julianna Deschanel Recurring role, 9 episodes
1997–2007, 2009–13, 2014—present General Hospital Helena Cassadine Series regular (1997-2002), Recurring guest star (2003—)
Nominated – Daytime Emmy Award for America's Favorite Villain (2002)
1998 Kelly Kelly Kate Episode: "The Kilt Show"
2000 Providence Candice Whitman Episode: "Syd in Wonderland"
2006 Criminal Minds Deb Mason Episode: "Riding the Lightning"
2007 The 4400 Audrey Parker Episode: "Audrey Parker's Come and Gone"
2009 Cold Case Caroline Kemp Episode: "Libertyville"
2013 1600 Penn Bunny Thoroughgood Episode: "So You Don't Want to Dance"
2014 Men at Work Mary Episode: "Suburban Gibbs"
2016 11.22.63 Old Sadie Episode: "The Day in Question"


  1. ^ Bacon, Doris Klien (August 29, 1983). "John Gavin Is Our Man in Mexico and Constance Towers Is His Woman in the (TV) Capitol". People. Time Inc. Retrieved January 22, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Constance Towers". Master Works Broadway. Retrieved January 22, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Constance Towers". Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen. Retrieved January 22, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Constance Towers profile at". Film Reference. Retrieved September 3, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c "Constance Towers Playing Helena Cassadine on General Hospital -". Retrieved October 1, 2013. 
  6. ^ Anthony Tommasini (January 22, 2001). "Beverley Peck Johnson, 96, Voice Teacher". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). 
  7. ^ "Biography - Constance Towers". American Theatre Wing. Retrieved October 1, 2013. 
  8. ^ Barnes, Clive (May 3, 1977). "King and I, reminder of golden age". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. p. 50. Retrieved January 30, 2014. 
  9. ^ Kenrick, John. "Comparative CD Reviews: Part III. The King and I" (Copyright 1998–2003), accessed January 30, 2011
  10. ^ "Constance Towers Credits". TV Guide. NTVB Media (magazine) CBS Interactive (CBS Corporation) (digital assets). November 28, 2012. Retrieved October 1, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Los Angeles Music Center: Blue Ribbon: Board of Directors". Music Center. Retrieved January 22, 2016. 

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