Did you know, for example, that she and Katharine Hepburn bonded in eternal friendship during the making of 1937’s Stage Door, an RKO picture about backbiting actresses sharing a rooming house.
Constance Collier (there she is above and below) was a British actress twenty years Kate’s senior, wrote Axel Madsen in his 1995 book The Sewing Circle: Female Stars Who Loved Other Women.
Connie was cast as a wonderful old actress and drama coach, hard up but still proud. Madsen quotes in his book another author, Charles Higham:
With her gypsyish black hair and dark eyes, heavy figure, and delicious extravagant humor, Connie fascinated Kate, and her adoration is visible in their many scenes together in (‘Stage Door’) itself…a now softer, more tender and considerate Kate learned to draw from Constance Collier’s vast experience of the British and American stage, giving her in return a sense of understanding of her worth that was not easily found in Hollywood.
Hepburn and Collier remained both personally and professionally close until the latter’s death in 1955.
Ok, on to the answers to our Constance Collier Quiz. Here we go:
1) Question: When Collier first arrived in Hollywood in the late 1920’s she was NOT employed as an actress. For which of the following occupations was she hired? a) Irving Thalberg’s secretary; b) A costume designer; c) A script supervisor; or d) A voice coach.
1) Answer: (d) Collier was first hired as a drama and voice coach, working with a host of silent movie actors unaccustomed to having their voices recorded for “the talkies.” In time she became a foremost, go-to Hollywood tutor. Among her pupils was actress Luise Rainer and, much later, a very young Marilyn Monroe.
2) Question: Collier is perhaps best remembered for her supporting role in which one of the following Alfred Hitchcock films? a) Shadow of a Doubt; b) Rope; c) The Paradine Case; or d) Spellbound.
2) Answer: (b) Need we say more? (See below.)
3) Question: The photo below shows Collier with a distinguished British actor who starred in producer David Selznick’s 1936 production of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Can you identify him. (Hint: his name begins with an initial.)
3) Answer: C. Aubrey Smith.
4) Question: Which of the following did Collier NOT appear with onscreen? a) Bob Hope; b) Shirley Temple; c) Betty Hutton; or d) Ginger Rogers.
4) Answer: We admit it. This is a trick question. Collier appeared at various time with all of the above.
5) Question: Katherine Hepburn, once a protege of Collier’s, wound up becoming lifelong friend. a) True; or b) False.
5) Answer: a) True. (See introductory remarks.)