Constance Cummings

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Constance Cummings
Constance Cummings 1934.jpg
Cummings in 1934
Constance Cummings Halverstadt

May 15, 1910
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
DiedNovember 23, 2005(2005-11-23) (aged 95)
Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom
Years active1928–1999
Spouse(s) Benn Levy (1933–1973; his death); 2 children

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


Early years

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]

Seattle City in Washington, United States

Seattle is a seaport city on the West Coast of the United States. It is the seat of King County, Washington. With an estimated 730,000 residents as of 2018, Seattle is the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America. According to U.S. Census data released in 2018, the Seattle metropolitan area’s population stands at 3.87 million, and ranks as the 15th largest in the United States. In July 2013, it was the fastest-growing major city in the United States and remained in the Top 5 in May 2015 with an annual growth rate of 2.1%. In July 2016, Seattle was again the fastest-growing major U.S. city, with a 3.1% annual growth rate. Seattle is the northernmost large city in the United States.


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]

Samuel Goldwyn Polish-American film producer

Samuel Goldwyn, also known as Samuel Goldfish, was a Polish-American film producer. He was most well known for being the founding contributor and executive of several motion picture studios in Hollywood. His awards include the 1973 Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1947, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1958.

Harold Lloyd American film actor and producer

Harold Clayton Lloyd Sr. was an American actor, comedian, director, producer, screenwriter, and stunt performer who is best known for his silent comedy films.

<i>Movie Crazy</i> 1932 film by Harold Lloyd, Clyde Bruckman

Movie Crazy is a 1932 American Pre-Code comedy film starring Harold Lloyd in his third sound feature.

She was married to the playwright and screenwriter Benn Levy from July 3, 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 ]

Benn Levy British politician

Benn Wolfe Levy was a Labour Party Member of Parliament in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and a successful playwright. He was educated at Repton School and University College, Oxford and served in uniform in both World Wars.

<i>Blithe Spirit</i> (film) 1945 film by David Lean

Blithe Spirit is a 1945 British fantasy-comedy film directed by David Lean. The screenplay by Lean, cinematographer Ronald Neame and associate producer Anthony Havelock-Allan is based on producer Noël Coward's 1941 play of the same name, the title of which is derived from the line "Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! Bird thou never wert" in the poem "To a Skylark" by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Noël Coward English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer

Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise".

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 ]


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 January 1, 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]


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

Complete filmography


1926Seventh HeavenprostituteStage debut in Seattle, WA
1928 Treasure Girl chorus ensembleMusical comedyBroadway debut
1930June MoonMiss RixeyTin Pan Alley comedy [12]
1930This Man's TownCarrieDrama
1934 Sour Grapes first appearance on London stage.
1934 Accent on Youth Linda BrownComedy
1936Young Madame ContiNella ContiMelodrama
1937Madame Bovary Revival Emma Bovary Restoration Comedy
1938 If I Were You Nellie BluntFarce
1938 Goodbye, Mr Chips KatherineDrama
1939 The Jealous God
1939–1940 Romeo and Juliet Juliet Tragedy
1939–1940Old Vic Theatre Season
1939 Joan of Arc JoanDrama
1939 The Good Natur'd Man Miss RichlandDrama
April 22, 1940Shakespeare Birthday Festival
1943The Petrified ForestGabbyDrama
1945 One Man Show Racine GardnerDrama
1946 Clutterbuck Comedy
1948 Don't Listen Ladies Farce
1949 Before the Party LauraComedy
1950 Return to Tyassi
1952 Winter's Journey
1953 The Shrike Drama
1957 Lysistrata Greek Comedy
1957 The Rape of the Belt Antiopeplayed at Piccadilly Theatre (1957), and then Martin Beck Theatre, NY (1960).<ref> "Obituary of Constance Cummings". November 26, 2006. Retrieved June 1, 2017.
1962Social Success
1964 Huis Clos InezDrama
1965 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Martha
1966 Public and Confidential
1967 Fallen Angels Jane BanburyComedy
1969 Hamlet Gertrude Shakespearean Tragedy
1969 The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore Mrs Flora GoforthTragedy
1970 The Visit Claire ZachanassianTragi-comedy
1971 Amphitryon 38 LedaGreek Drama
1971 Long Day's Journey into Night Mary Tyrone
1971–1972National Theatre, London, Repertoire SeasonClassical drama
1972–1973National Theatre, London, Repertoire Season
1973The Cherry OrchardMadame Ranevsky
1974National Theatre, London, Repertoire Season
1979 Wings Emily Stilson Tony Award, Obie Award, Drama Desk Award
1979National 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 MaughamHer last appearance on Broadway
1996–1999 Uncle Vanya MamanHer last stage appearance.

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  6. 1 2 Shorter, Eric (November 25, 2005). "Obituary: Constance Cummings". The Guardian. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  7. 1 2 Willis, John; Hodges, Ben (July 1, 2008). 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   978-0-19-860672-7.
  9. "("Constance Cummings" search results)". Drama Desk. Archived from the original on December 29, 2017. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  10. Strachan, Alan (November 26, 2005). "Constance Cummings". Independent. Archived from the original on December 29, 2017. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  11. "Constance Cummings". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on December 29, 2017. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  12. "Obituary of Constance Cummings". November 26, 2006. Retrieved June 1, 2017.