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“The Goose Woman” (1925)

“The Goose Woman” (1925) is a silent drama starring Louise Dresser, Jack Pickford, and Constance Bennett. Directed by Clarence Brown, this film was inspired by the notorious Hall-Mills murder case in which a woman known as the “Pig Woman” was wheeled into court on her sickbed to provide damning testimony. In this film, Louise Dresser plays Marie de Nardi, a celebrated opera diva who loses her voice and her reputation after giving birth to an illegitimate son. Returning to her given name of Mary Holmes, she goes back to her hometown living in a filthy shack and raising geese. Years later, a headline-making murder case is played in her town. Hoping to get publicity and restart her career, Mary claims to be a witness to the murder. Unfortunately, her dreams of glory fade when she discovers that her son Gerald, played by Jack Pickford, is implicated in a crime he did not commit.

 

“The Goose Woman” is a true tearjerker that is worth watching just for Louise Dresser’s top-notch performance. Dresser is very poignant as a woman who turns to drink and brings up her illegitimate son with neither love nor affection. Both Jack Pickford, Mary Pickford’s brother, and Constance Bennett, who plays Pickford’s fiancée, give subtle but moving performances. An excellent film, “The Goose Woman” is a great story of mother-love and redemption. Unfortunately, the quality of the Televista print is not the best, and may deter some from enjoying the film. Born on October 22, 1904, in New York City, Constance Bennett was the eldest of the three daughters of Richard Bennett and Adrienne Morrison, both stage players. All three Bennett sisters, Constance, Joan and Barbara, were brought up in the theatrical tradition, and it was no surprise when all three took up the family trade. Constance grew up attending the best schools. She made her first screen appearance as a nymph in her father’s film “The Valley of Decision” (1915). She briefly wed Chester Moorhead in 1921, but that was quickly annulled. At 18, Constance embarked on her film career, making two small appearances in “Reckless Youth” and “Evidence,” both in 1922. She worked her way slowly up the cast lists, playing supporting roles, and by 1925, Constance began getting starring roles. One of Constance’s first hits, “Sally, Irene, and Mary” (1925), showed her unusual star quality. She appeared in an impressive nine films in 1925 and signed an MGM contract late in the year before suddenly giving it all up for Philip Plant, whom she married that same year. Their son Peter was born in 1929, the same year their marriage ended. In 1929, Constance was ready to resume her career. She signed with Pathe and stayed with the studio through the early 30’s. During her time at Pathe, Constance starred in the society drama, “Rich People” (1929), the romantic comedy, “This Thing Called Love” (1929) and the glamorous drama, “Common Clay” (1930). When Pathe was bought out by RKO in 1931, Constance made six films, most of them racy and sophisticated women’s pictures like “The Common Law” (1931) and “Rockabye” (1932) with Joel McCrea and “Our Betters” (1933) and “After Tonight” (1933) with future husband Gilbert Roland. In most of her pre-Code films, Constance wore gorgeous clothes while she loved and suffered. Women flocked to see her movies and made her one of the most popular female stars of the 1930’s. In the 1940’s, Constance made fewer films, working in radio and theater. Married a total of five times, Constance’s fourth husband was actor Gilbert Roland, the father of her two daughters. Constance died soon after filming “Madame X” (1966) on July 24, 1965. She was 60 years old. I’ve enjoyed watching many of Constance’s films through the years, and my favorite is “What Price Hollywood?” (1932), which I consider her best performance.

13 Comments

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gagman66

26 May 11, 03:36 PM


Louise Dresser was also great in Clarence Brown's THE EAGLE as the older Catherine The Great, chasing after Rudolph Valentino, who is smitten with Vilma Banky. Also as the Mother of Ralph Forbes and Gertrude Olmstead, in Chaney's MR. WU. And I would be remiss not to mention her as the delightful Rosa, Corinne Griffith's adoptive Mom in Lewis Milestone's THE GARDEN OF EDEN which TCM just aired a couple weeks ago.
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blmcdiar

26 May 11, 03:10 PM

Constance Bennett is a superb actress.  She once claimed to have wanted to become a nun, what a loss it would have been for us film fans.  She did make great pre-codes, and I'd sure like to see her in some of her silents.  Thanks sff, for another wonderful review.

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gagman66

26 May 11, 12:26 AM

By the way, I would sure love to see TCM debut the original Silent version of SALLY, IRENE, AND MARY. With not just Constance Bennett, but also Joan Crawford and Sally O'Neil. Not to mention William Haines. This is not a lost film, but hasn't turned up on TCM yet either.


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gagman66

26 May 11, 12:16 AM

I wish we could see the new 35 Millimeter UCLA restoration. The cheapo Televista (Bootleg), DVD version is a crummy 5th generation 16 Millimeter print, processed at much to slow of a speed.

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clara_bow

25 May 11, 11:58 PM

Wow how funny, I was just about to watch this! I love Jack and Constance; can't wait to see this film :)

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Joel

25 May 11, 01:02 PM

Thank you for a very interesting review!  Your biography of Constance Bennett is an exquisitely revealing eye opener.  I checked Jack Pickford's career and was appalled by what a bum he was!  All kinds of substance abuse leading to an early death.  Director Clarence Brown is a very familiar name.  He signed with MGM not long after this picture and remained at Metro for 25 years.  He directed many, many high profile pictures starting with Flesh and the Devil, and continuing with Anna Christie, A Free Soul, National Velvet, and The Yearling.  His last film was Plymouth Adventure in 1952.  His reputation endures through his impressive filmography.


Job well done! Wink

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Jlewis

24 May 11, 11:38 PM

I remember reading about the "pig woman" story ages ago... the roaring twenties were loaded with sensational murder and sex scandals profiled in print. Sure wish more Universal silent features were in better quality... looks like one worthy of preservation treatment and a revived showing on TCM.

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joanmk

24 May 11, 04:12 PM

I love that this film is inspired from true events. It sounds so intriguing, I'd love to see it. This is a great biography of Constance Bennet. I didn't know she had made so many pre-code films. I know her mostly from the Topper films and Merrily We Live (1938). Constance had a great figure and wore those glamourous clothes so well. Thanks for another excellent review! Smile

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mloyfan

24 May 11, 11:59 AM

I've seen Constance in the Topper films and a few precodes and would like to see more.  Thanks for the Blog.

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hepclassic

24 May 11, 12:12 AM

As always, thank you for the education. The only Bennett I know is Joan, her sister, right?

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Roberta109

23 May 11, 10:22 PM

Would like to see this film. Nice review and bio of Constance Bennett. I didn't realize she made so many films transitioning from silents to pre-codes.  If Constance Bennett has not been SOTM or had a day's tribute on TCM, she certainly has been overlooked and deserves the airtime and TCM recognition. Thanks for the post and photos!

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doctom666

23 May 11, 09:56 PM

http://www.allrovi.com/name/kevin-brownlow-mn0001830867


OH....that KEVIN BROWNLOW...


what an interesting film...great post...this was B4  FLESH AND THE DEVIL???

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gagman66

23 May 11, 08:34 PM


This movie was recently restored in 35 Millimeter by UCLA. The prints that have been floating around are forth and fith generation 16 millimeter dupes. And transferred to video at to slow of a frame-rate. But I understand that the new restoration looks beautiful. THE GOOSE WOMAN is one of Kevin Brownlow's favorite films. A couple years ago, He was trying to get Universal to release the new restoration. It has only had a couple live screenings, and will be run at the San Franciso Silent film festival in July. Here is a link.


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