[Narrow Focus] Part One: American Dreams

Timeline, chapter previews, cast of characters, related stories . . .

American Dreams

Part 1 covers key events up to 1950, exploring Constance’s early life, her relationship with Elia Kazan, her friendship with Shelley Winters, her personal qualities, and her career in Hollywood. It also discusses the personal and professional options available to women during this period and the culture of wartime Hollywood.

Chapter 1: Ambitions

Broadway, Hollywood—and Elia Kazan

A little about Constance’s early life, then: Starting out as a teen in New York theater—from chorus dancer and usherette to minor dramatic roles. How she met Shelley Winters and Elia Kazan. Her affair with Kazan—first and second parts—plus a lot about his life and career. How Constance was “discovered” and promoted by producer Samuel Goldwyn. The move to Hollywood, the process of becoming a “starlet,” and what happened to her first two movies.

Chapter 2: Unraveling

Careers, affairs—and the question of Constance

A change in fortunes. Sister Doris and best friend Shelley Winters (also now in Hollywood) are making career progress in 1945. But Constance has been dropped from her Goldwyn contract, and though she picks up a few unremarkable parts from other studios, her career is faltering. Kazan, who had joined her in Hollywood, drops her abruptly (again)—but he still can’t get over her. So the second half of Chapter 2 delves into what made Constance such a compelling person.

Chapter 3: Reset

Coming soon . . . .

Cast of Characters: American Dreams

Major players enter

  • Shelley Winters—Oscar-winning actress, Constance’s lifelong close friend

  • Doris Dowling—Constance’s sister, noted for several successful roles as a supporting actress

  • Elia Kazan—Celebrated stage and film director, founder of the Actors Studio, Constance’s lover (most years) from 1937 to 1945

Cameo appearances

  • Molly Day Thacher Kazan—Minor playwright, wife of Elia Kazan from 1932 until her death in 1963

  • Burgess Meredith—Well-known character actor, member of the Actors Studio

  • Billy Wilder—Successful film director, Doris Dowling’s lover, 1944-1945

  • Robert Capa—Famed photojournalist, occasional friend of Doris and Constance

  • John Houseman—Noted producer, director and actor, longtime friend of the Dowling sisters

  • Samuel Goldwyn—Powerful Hollywood producer

American Dreams: Related Stories

[Sidelight] The Smith-Dowling Family: A Brief Genealogy