Friday, November 11, 2016

Constance's Cosmetics

     Constance Bennett seems to have had a bit of a beauty empire.  Today it seems like every celebrity has a beauty line, from Drew Barrymore's Flower Beauty to what seems like the millionth Britney Spears or J.Lo perfume, celebrities have been in the beauty products game from the beginning.  The footage of Constance using her products survives and is incredibly intriguing.  Unfortunately it appears to be one of the sole surviving remnants.  Bennett's beauty empire lasted approximately a decade - an amazing feat since she began her empire during the Great Depression.  According to the author of The Bennetts, Constance was great at coming up with ideas, but terrible at implementation.  At one point she franchised the product.  The company apparently did a horrible job and ruined the brand's reputation.  Constance and Co. re branded, but was unable to recover from it.

     The Constance Bennett Cosmetics Company was created in Hollywood in 1937.  They also had a New York office at 1775 Broadway (now 3 Columbus Circle) in 1946.  The beauty company went bankrupt and was sold by 1947.  I'm not sure how long the New York office was open.  Perhaps the New York branch was the franchise she sold.   The company wasn't in New York in 1940 and the only year I was able to find Constance Bennett's business in New York was in the 1946 City Directory.  

     Constance Bennett's Cosmetics featured a several part facial system.  She also had compacts, blushes, lipsticks, etc.  Apparently the surviving video of Constance's famous beauty routine was actually a promotional film for her cosmetics.  That really explains why it seems so elaborate and so many products are used.  When viewing it without that context, it could seem like a terribly spoiled and vain star putting tons of cosmetics on to try to gain that one ounce of beauty.  But knowing that it was actually an advertisement for women to buy her beauty products clears things up tremendously.  You would definitely want to advertise as many of your products as you can to customers.

      I think her beauty routine seems fabulous and luxurious.  A modern beauty routine seems to involve more cosmetics to cover up as opposed to Constance's routine, which primarily involved nurturing the skin.  According to Constance, you must start out with a wonderfully healthy base of nourished skin.  If I had the choice between the healthy multi-product skin routine and modern techniques of makeup, I would choose Constance Bennett's in a heartbeat.  People do still use skin care products, including creams and astringents, like Constance's line, just not in the way Constance did, and clearly, not nearly as many creams.  And who wouldn't love to put something so deliciously decadent sounding as Champagne Astringent on their face?

     After looking through a few Los Angeles city directories, I was able to find a few individuals who probably worked on staff at Bennett's Hollywood location.  In 1938 this included:  Jay Horowitz (Chemist), Stewart Noack (Laboratory worker), Hester Bennett (Laboratory worker), and Grace Barton (Laboratory worker).  They were other people included such as secretaries and managers to Carole Bennett Inc., but I could not ascertain if they were employees of her beauty line or employees pertaining to her acting career.

     Searching through the 1942 Los Angeles city directory, we find a few changes.  There is a new company, Constance Bennett Cosmetics.  So between 1937 and 1941 the company probably changed it's name or separated from Constance Bennett's other endeavors.  The address is listed as 533 N Arden in Los Angeles.  It was built in 1921 and currently appears to be a residential property.  New employees appearing were George M. Alderman (Secretary-Treasurer) and Harry Taylor (Vice President).  There is no further staff of any kind listed.  I'm not certain if it is because the operations were moved to New York or the remaining staff were just not listed.  

     The location of her New York headquarters is currently 3 Columbus Circle in New York (formerly 1775 Broadway).  It was formerly a nice brick building, built in 1928, so of course, they covered it up with glass, gutted it, and made it a modern eyesore in 2008 because, classically beautiful buildings can't possibly meet our modern ideas of use and beauty.  The building is technically glass in the same shape as the original building, but it is so cold, lifeless, and ugly.  Those reading this blog for ages know my disdain for modern architecture, so my views of this current building should not be a surprise.  What I find surprising is we worship at the alter of glass skyscrapers today for a view, but we spend less and less time actually outside.  It's almost as we yearn for the loss of our humanity by pretending we are outside.  It's quite the psychological trick.  So instead of building buildings of beauty with our own hands, we seek to find ways for glimpses of the beauty of mother nature.  Mother nature is beautiful, but we should enjoy it in person, not through a plate of glass. 

New York 1946 Manhattan Directory
Cosmetics and Skin
Collecting Vintage Compacts
1939 Los Angeles City Directory
1942 Los Angeles City Directory
553 N Arden Ave
Kellow, Brian, 2004, The Bennetts. University Press of Kentucky.

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