Constance Mary Towers was born on May 20, 1933 in Whitefish, Montana. This elegant singer/actress initially had designs on becoming an opera singer. These aspirations led her to actually turn down a contract from Paramount Pictures at age eleven. "Here I was, this scrawny little girl who sang...and the Paramount executives made an offer. Though I could have killed myself ten years later for turning down the contract, at the time I wanted no part of it." She appeared on radio as a child singer. Her family moved to New York where she subsequently studied at the Julliard School of Music and the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts (AADA). A chance casting in a summer production of Carousel led her away from her operatic aspirations and into the musical theater arena. Before she settled into this, however, she gained early exposure on the chic nightclub circuit and fostered an attempt at stardom via films. She co-starred with Frankie Laine playing a school teacher in the modest movie musical Bring Your Smile Along (1955), and appeared in exceptionally strong ingénue roles in the movie dramas The Horse Soldiers (1959) starring John Wayne and William Holden, and Sergeant Rutledge (1960) opposite Jeffrey Hunter. Director Samuel Fuller cast her against type in some of his highly offbeat dramas in the early 1960s. She played a stripper girlfriend in Shock Corridor (1963) and in The Naked Kiss (1964) gave a no-holds-barred performance as a former prostitute trying to clean up her act. Films, however, were few and far between.
By this time she was starting to settle in as a pristine musical leading lady. After a 1960 performance as missionary Sarah in Guys and Dolls, Constance made her Broadway debut in Anya (1965), in which she played the title role of the Russian princess Anastasia. Heralded performances in Carousel (1966) and The Sound of Music (1967), in which she won the Outer Critics Circle Award as Maria, not to mention a Broadway revival of The King and I opposite Yul Brynner truly put her on the musical map. Her run with Brynner lasted nearly 800 performances. She had earlier played the school teacher Anna off-Broadway opposite Michael Kermoyan in 1972. Other sterling stage appearances included Kiss Me Kate, 42nd Street, Oklahoma!, Camelot and Mame. She also starred in the musical Ari, an adaptation of the Leon Uris novel Exodus.
TV proved a sturdy medium as well. In her early days she made singing appearances on Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town, and in dramatic roles, was a frequent glamorous suspect on Perry Mason. As she matured, her sharp, glacial, strikingly handsome features also worked very well for her in unsympathetic an/or aristocratic roles on daytime. Winning regular spots on Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, The Young and the Restless and Sunset Beach, she did her most consistent work on Capitol (1982), in which she played Clarissa McCandless for five seasons. She is currently courting favor with audiences and stealing scenes on a regular basis on General Hospital, in which she plays the inherently wicked Helena Cassadine, a role originated by the legendary Elizabeth Taylor. Recent films have included The Next Karate Kid (1994), The Relic (1997) and A Perfect Murder (1998) starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow, in which she played Paltrow's mother. Constance also enjoyed a resurgence on prime time TV with a sprinkling of guest parts on L.A. Law, Designing Women, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Caroline in the City, Frasier, Baywatch, Providence, Criminal Minds, and The 4400. She received an Emmy nomination for her role in the single episode drama special Once in Her Life. During the 1960s and 1970s, Constance hosted a daily discussion show on New York radio station WOR.
Constance has been married since 1974 to one-time actor, former Mexican ambassador and businessman John Gavin. It was the second marriage for both. The handsome couple share four children: Cristina and Maria Gavin from Mr. Gavin's first marriage, and Michael and Maureen McGrath from Constance's prior marriage to Panamanian businessman Eugene McGrath. They have three grandchildren. As a result of her current husband's civic work, she became actively involved in a multitude of charities. "Project Connie" not only offered aid to those in need of medical and rehabilitation assistance after the Mexican earthquake of 1985, it has served as an adoption placement agency to hundreds of children from Mexico to El Salvador. She has also involved herself with the Children's Bureau of California, the National Health Foundation, and the Red Cross and the Blue Ribbon of Los Angeles.
Constance and her husband, John Gavin, are currently featured in chapters of the fabulous, must-read book by Tommy Lightfoot Garrett,
So, You Want to be in Pictures: The Making of Hollywood Idols.
Classy Constance Towers is a fan tribute created by Meredy.