Stunning chorine turned many heads during her dancing days, but not much could be said of her slim filmography. She married and retired from Hollywood after only a few years of uncredited performances.
Aina Constant was born on September 11, 1914, in London, England, Great Britain, to Edgar Constant and Helen Anna Constant. When she became popular, the press claimed Aina allegedly grew up in London, was educated in private school and that she frequently commuted between the US and Britain while young. While I can’t claim this with a 100% certainty, I am pretty sure they are all bogus claims: her father was a Latvian immigrant (or officially, a Russian immigrant since Latvia was part of Russia then) who married her mother, who was also from Lativa, in the late 1900s. Their first daughter, Austra Constant, was born in cca 1913. Aina’s younger sister, Sylvia, was born in 1917.
The family moved to New York in the late 1910s. They lived in the Manhattan Assembly District 7. Aina grew up in the district and attended high school. She was a pretty girl who liked to dance and dreamed of becoming a professional dancer. She started performing young, before she turned 18. Her parents separated at some point, and the sisters lived with their mother, while their father took up lodgings in Manhattan Assembly District 3.
Aina was a chorine at the Casino De Paree, and she got her first newspaper mention during the tenure. In 1938, she was one of the many chorines who tried to make their fortune in the UK. In 1939, she was chosen the most beautiful brunette (alongside Adele Jergens, who was voted the most beautiful blonde), at the New York World Fair. This gave her a chance to become an actress.
Aina’s firts and foremost value in Hollywood was her body, and she was cast accordingly.
Bathing Beauty is the seminal Esther Williams movie. Here she has the perfect partner – Red Skelton, one of the premier comedians of the time. Their movies are never intellectually stimulating nor first class art, but if you like funny, breezy films, do not miss! And the “aquatic” numbers Esther excelled in are a feast for the sore yes even today, more than 60 years later!
You like hammy, over-the-top performances? Then you’ll love The Canterville Ghost, a movie loosely based on the Oscar Wilde story of the same name. And who the big ham is, you wonder? Why, Charles Laughton, of course! Laughton plays a ghost, and has a blast while doing it. It’s the type of a movie where the story is non existent, but the charming cast make the most of it. Except Laughton, there is Margaret O’Brien and
Those Endearing Young Charms is a okay movie. Yep, I said okay, yet, I wholeheartedly agree with several of the reviewers who wrote that Robert Young (who plays the lead, a smooth talker and ladies man who wooes Laraine Day away from her fiancee), was never truly at ease at playing cads. Somehow, him innate placid, kind and calm nature always comes across, no matter what the role. This is not necessarily a god thing for an actor – great for typecasting, sure, but not for somebody who wants to play a broad range of roles. I always have trouble buying the story that he is a womanizer and rake. Same for this movie. I love Laraine Day, and find her one of the most sincere, gentle actresses ever to grace Hollywood, so having her act in any movie is only a bonus in my eyes.
The Body Snatcher is Aina’s only horror film. It’s a good movie, much deeper in terms of plot and the underlying message it wants to share, than most people expect from a horror movie (the author of the original story, Robert Louis Stevenson, shares the same “malady” – today he is considered little more than a children’s adventure books writer, when in fact he is a fine stylist and a artist of great depth). The legendary Boris Karloff gives one of his best performances, and Henry Daniell is superb as the man doctor (the Body snatcher of the title).
Ziegfeld Follies is a movie I wrote about what likes seems a hundred times, and since it was am mecca for uncredited girls, obliviously I will be seeing it more in the future, but I have no idea what more I can write about it 🙂
Johnny Angel is a George Raft movie all the way, but an uneven one. Raft was no great actor for sure, but when a director knew his strength, he could use him and make a true tour de force moments. While Raft does have these moments in this movie, the story changes lines mid movie and never really gets back on track. A plus is a incredibly imaginative and sophisticated cinematography, and a true “noir” atmosphere, dark, tense and rotten somewhere deep inside.
The Bells of St. Mary’s are a breed of movie you rarely see today. There are no bad guys, no action, but alot of heart and soul. it’s a simple, warm movie, while not very realistic at least not totally impossible, and with a stunning cast (Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, Henry Travers, William Gargan, Ruth Donnelly and others). The plot is very straightforward, dealing with the friendly rivalry between Bing’s priest and Ingrid’s nun, both working at the same catholic school. This is a companion piece to Going my way, and both movies share the same happy-go-lucky tone and pleasant atmosphere.
Ding Dong Williams is a low quality comedy, made with the sole purpose of entertaining the audience of the day with a few songs and some good looking actors. Not really recommended for viewing, unless you have to see all classic movies you get your hands on.
Aina retired from the movies to marry and raise a family.
Aina claimed that she was a natural girl, who only used a bit of rouge when she was off stage. She was a also a sugar lover, using 10 lumps of sugar in her tea, and only cutting down to six when she was dieting. As far as sports go, Aina was a passionate cross country cyclist, especially when she was in the UK.
By 1939, Aina was already a seasoned man eater, having gone abroad in 1938 and returning with quite a bit of jewelry. Not on her chorine paycheck, as it seems. Tall, slim and lovely, she was a natural man magnet, much like her blonde counterpart, Adele Jergens. She and Adele even gave an interview about it to the press, lamenting that titled and moneyed men are much harder to find in 1938 and they were in the 1920s. Imagine that! It seems that 1930s really were a golden age for being a chorus girl, especially if you went across the pond and entertained the wealthy gents of England.
Aina went zig zag from continent to continent, but soon the war started and the golden days of popping to London to have a tea with an earl or two were over. She did her work for the war effort, like many of her fellow chorines.
In 1943, Aina was just one of many girls who dated the well known Lothario, Greg Bautzer. Afterwards she took up with James Everett. On November 29, 1944, she officially became an US citizen.
Aina married Alexander MacMillan Shields in 1946. That was the first time anybody mentioned them dating, let alone engaged! Alex was the son of Henry Howard Shields and Grace Ste. Marie, born on October 21, 1917. He had an younger sister, Barbara, born on January 30, 1918. His parents divorced, and his mother remarried to Kenneth W. Pope. He lived with Pope, his mother and sister in San Mateo, California.
Aina Shields died on June 25, 2009 in New York.
Her widower Alexander Shields died on August 13, 2010.