[Journey] A Personal Preface
How and why I became fascinated by the Constance story
|Cynthia Giles||Nov 1, 2020|
The last movie Constance Dowling made was the first movie I can clearly remember from my childhood: the 1954 science fiction flick Gog. She plays a sort of scientific security agent who wears a peculiar jumpsuit (and a truly terrible hairdo) while helping onscreen boyfriend Richard Egan save a super-secret Cold War research facility from enemy spies.
That’s Constance, fainting backward in the lower right-hand corner of the poster.
Gog made a big impression on me at the time because there were women doing experiments and saying science-sounding things, instead of screaming and being chased by monsters.
In fact, Gog was one of three intelligent movies related to a fictional “Office of Scientific Investigation,” all of which were produced by Ivan Tors, who will play an important part later in the story. One of the other two (Riders to the Stars) also featured a strong female character—this time, a space scientist played by Martha Hyer.
So that’s two thirtyish blondes playing two smart, professional women in two films by one producer. These weren’t the most brilliant movies of 1954 by any means, but in a certain way they had the strongest female characters.
Which made me very curious.
While trying to find out more Tors, I accidentally learned two things about Constance Dowling—the two things everyone finds out, even with the most cursory search.
First: She had a seven-year affair with Elia Kazan—a famous, very serious American director.
Second: She had a two-week liaison with Cesare Pavese—a famous, very serious Italian writer.
Which might sound just vaguely interesting, unless . . . you push a little further and find out that Dowling is permanently famous in Italy as “that woman” for whom the nationally beloved Pavese wrote his most memorable poems—a few months before committing suicide.
So now one question had turned into several. Why did these famously serious fellows become so enthralled by an actress of no seeming distinction? How did she end up wearing a peculiar jumpsuit in Gog? What happened to her after that?
I finally found some (but not all) the answers to these questions, and many others. But there is no simple way to tell the story—it really is a journey, even if that sounds trite.