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.  

     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.   The company wasn't in New York in 1940 and the only year I was able to find Constance Bennett's business with a New York address was in the 1946 City Directory.  

     Constance Bennett's Cosmetics featured a several part facial system.  She also had compacts, blushes, lipsticks, etc.  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 wish 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 involves 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.  Who wouldn't love to put something so deliciously decadent sounding as Champagne Astringent on their face?

     After searching 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 others listed such as secretaries and managers to Carole Bennett Inc., but I could not figure out if they were employees of her beauty line or acting career.

     Searching through the 1942 Los Angeles city directory, we find a few changes.  There is a new company, Constance Bennett Cosmetics.  Between 1937 and 1941 the company changed it's name or separated from Constance Bennett's other endeavors.  The address listed is 533 N Arden in Los Angeles.  It was built in 1921 and currently is a residential property.  She hired new employees 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 in the directory.  

     The location of her New York headquarters is currently 3 Columbus Circle in New York (formerly 1775 Broadway).  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.  

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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