Constance Weiler

Unfortunately, there is a shortage of information about the lovely Constance Weilver, and this is going to be one slim post, so bear with me. While I dislike writing short posts, I fell in love with the above photo of Constance, and I just had to profile her. So let’s learn more!

EARLY LIFE

Constance Ellen Uttenweiler was born on September 17, 1918,in Toronto, Canada to Lebret Joseph Uttenweiler and Mable Wilson. Her older sister Bernice was born on May 11, 1917. Her younger brother Robert would be born in 1921. Her father was American, born in Michigan, her mother was a Canadian. The family lived in Toronto, where Constance spent her early years.

On April 30, 1927 at the age of 8 she immigrated to the US with her parents, arriving in Detroit by boat. They went to live with their paternal grandfather, Robert Wilson, in Detroit, Michigan.

In April 1929, her parents divorced, and a few days later her mother married Joseph Kirzinger. Two more children were born of this union (son Lawrence and daughter Iris). Only young Robert went to live with the Kirzinger newlyweds – the sisters remained with their dad and lived in Detroit (I wonder how the story went – why didn’t Bernice and Constance go on to live with the Kirzingers and Robert did? Smells like an unusual story!)

At some point, Constance landed in New York and found work there as a theater receptionist (have no idea which theater). Constance was signed to a term contract with MGM after talent scouts spotted her in a New York night spot in 1943.

CAREER

Connie signed with MGM, the most prestigious studio at the time, and made her debut in 1943 in The Man from Down Under, a Charles Laughton movie. In many ways, it’s a typical wartime propaganda movie – on the other hand, in many ways it’s not a typical propaganda movie. What makes it stand out, if only so slightly, is the fact that it deals directly with Australians and their bit in WW2. Tell me named of three movies about Australia from the golden age of hollywood. You see, hardly any springs to mind. Constance’s second movie was the more prominent I Dood It, a Red Skelton comedy classic.

Constance then made a string of well-regarded musicals – Broadway Rhythm and Bathing Beauty. No story, little character development, lots of singing and dancing. Constance returned to propaganda movies with This Man’s Navy, about  U.S. Naval Airships (Blimps) and featuring Tom Drake, who for a time seemed like the hot new thing then faded quickly into obscurity.

During this time, Constance was featured in several movies by the great but troubled actor, Robert Walker – The Clock (a superb, intimate drama with Walker and Judy Garland), Her Highness and the Bellboy (a so-so musical about a princess, played by Hedy Lamarr, and the unrequited crush the hotel bellhop, played by Walker, harbours towards her).

In 1946, the war was over and Constance’s career entered a new phase. Her first post war movie was Up Goes Maisie, a continuation of the adventures of brassy showgirl Maisie (played by Ann Sothern). Constance continued appearing in high quality movies that never hit top-tier. Meaning, she never acted in a movie that ended up a classic, but she did work in solid movies with a solid if sometimes phenomenal cast.

Such two movies were The Hoodlum Saint, a morality tale about a WW1 vet (played by William Powell) who will do anything to get rich (and the consequences of his actions) and Two Smart People, an unusual noir romance film, directed by Jules Dassin and headed by John Hodiak and Lucille Ball as two con artists in love.

The Arnelo Affair is actually a mediocre effort somehow undermined by the wooden acting of the female lead, Frances Gifford. The story is the same old cautionary tale for wives – don’t cheat on your husbands, and if you do… Well, you get the picture. John Hodiak is solid as the “bad guy”/affair of the title, and Eve Arden and Dean Stockwell are wasted in sub par roles. MGM could definitely do better than this! Sadly, It Happened in Brooklyn, her next movie, wasn’t quite the high quality movie to follow-up on a dismal one. It’s a nice enough musical, but the story and characters, being paper-thin, weight it down tremendously. Good musicals should have a simple but effective story, not some pastiche

Constance had a minor role (literary) in The Beginning or the End, a docudrama about the atomic bomb (and again shared the screen with Robert Walker).

Constance’s last movie made under the MGM helm was The Romance of Rosy Ridge, perhaps the most superior film of the post-war lot. Why? Well, for one thing, it deals with subjects that Hollywood often tended to avoid – the post-war animosity and hatred that still burns deep in the people. While it was made post-WW2, the plot is set after the American civil war, and illustrates nicely how people lived in Missouri in the mid 19th century. it’s surprisingly authentic for a Hollywood production of the 1940s, and despite a few song and dance numbers, never falls into the sappy/sweet routine. The leads are played by the young, fresh-faced Janet Leigh and Van Johnson – a good combo!

I guess Constance went freelancing, but appeared in only two more movies – a great one and a sadly lukewarm one. The great one was The Asphalt Jungle, a top-notch heist film, dark, gritty, intense, one of the best movies John Huston made. The lukewarm one was Three Guys Named Mike, a fluffy and brain-dead rom com with Jane Wyman as a stewardess who has to choose between three guys named Mike. It’s much better than most rom-coms today, mind you, still not enough to warrant a second look.

And that was it from Constance!

PRIVATE LIFE

This here is pretty thin. There were no articles about her love life, so I can’t say whom she dated while in Hollywood in the early 1940s… However, there was a short article about her in 1946:

Constance Weiler, on the set of “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” telling John Garfield and Leon Ames the thrill of flying one’s own plane. After six weeks, she’s just made her first solo hop. The payoff is she can fly a plane but doesn’t yet know how to drive an automobile.

Funny, she never appeared in the movie, at least it’s not among her credits. Constance’s career effectively ended in 1947, although she did bits and pieces afterwards, from 1946 onwards, there were no mentions of her in the papers.

Next thing we know, Constance married Douglas la Franco on June 7, 1957, in Los Angeles. Her career had been over for almost a decade by then, and she was consistently out of the limelight. Anyway, La Franco was born on September 25, 1929 to Ceferino la Franco and Edna Pullion. His father was from the Phillipines, his mother from Oregon (what a combo!). He grew up in California and was never married before he wed Constance.

Unfortunately, the marriage lasted a very short time, and they divorced in 1959. They did not have any children. In 1960, Douglas married his second wife, Pearl Colberg. Constance did not remarry and lived for the rest of her life in San Francisco.

Constance Weiler died on December 10, 1965 in San Francisco, California. Constance’s former husband, Douglas la Franco, died in 2006.