Sunday 19 August 2018

Nostalgia - Geoff Mayer retrieves the career of Australian born actress Jocelyn Howarth and her US incarnation Constance Worth

Most websites list Jocelyn Howarth’s birth date as either August 19, 1912 or August 19, 1913. However, an article by Nick Murphy lists it as July 19, 1911. 
Jocelyn was born in Sydney to a wealth family. Her first film, Ken Hall’s The Squatter’s Daughter (1933), was probably the high point of her career as she had the lead role of strong-willed owner of a large sheep station. (Click on the photos for enlargement or a slideshow.)
Jocelyn Howarth, The Squatter's Daughter
She followed with a supporting role in The Silence of Dean Maitland, Ken Hall’s controversial 1934 film of a clergyman who impregnates his lover. With limited film opportunities in Australia, Jocelyn sailed for the United States in 1936. 

John Longden, Jocelyn Howarth, The Silence of Dean Maitland
Although she befriended Tyrone Power and established other Hollywood contacts, nothing eventuated until RKO offered her a contract and the lead female role in China Passage (1937). The studio also changed her name to Constance Worth. 

Her next film, the female lead in Windjammer (1937) opposite George O’Brien, in combination with a widely publicized, and messy, divorce from George Brent, probably destroyed any chance of screen stardom. Although Windjammer was an adequate adventure film, Jocelyn was poorly photographed in the film. Her next film, The Wages of Sin (1938), did not improve her standing in Hollywood as it was a cheaply made exploitation film concerning a woman forced into prostitution.

Thereafter Jocelyn/Constance’s film career in Hollywood alternated between uncredited roles in major productions (such as Hitchcock’s Suspicion) and lead and supporting roles in low budget crime films where she perfected a hard-boiled screen persona. 

The shining light in her Hollywood career was the female lead in Republic’s excellent 1943 propaganda serial G-Men vs The Black Dragon. As British agent Vivian Marsh, Constance was a cut above the usual serial heroine (with a few exceptions such Linda Stirling and Lorna Gray) and she held her own with action hero Rod Cameron. There are many highlights in this serial, including director William Witney’s superbly executed cliffhanger to chapter 8 (“Beast of Berlin”)with Vivian strapped to a chair facing a time delay spear gun. Her spectacular entrance in chapter 4, demolishing a factory door while holding an automatic weapon, was also a highlight.

Following another messy divorce scandal in 1946, where she was named as co-respondent, her Hollywood career was virtually over. Prior to this she was excellent as the tough night club owner in love with villain Robert Lowery in Monogram’s uncompromising film noir, Sensation Hunters (1945). Constance’s last film was a supporting role in Johnny Mack Brown’s low budget Western Renegades (1949). Jocelyn/Constance died on October 18, 1963 due to complications arising from cirrhosis of the liver. She was little over 50 years old. There were many indications of her problem with alcohol early in her career and William Witney in his autobiography describes a harrowing experience with Constance late at night while filming on location.  
Constance Worth
Anybody interested in more information on G-Men vs.The Black Dragon, or the other 65 Republic serials, can consult my  Encyclopaedia of American Film Serials  (McFarland, 2017, click on the title for a link to Amazon, cover below) as there are long entries on each serial. 

Thanks to Nick Murphy, Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper for bio information on this largely forgotten Australian born actress. Nick Murphy’s article titled Endless Disappointments posted on his website Forgotten Australian Actresses sums up Jocelyn’s film career.


  1. Back in Sydney (presumably), Jocelyn commented generously on Lottie Lyell in the 1985 documentary survey 'Don't Call Me Girlie'.

  2. Oops, should have checked, the comment in Don't Call Me Girlie is from Marjorie Osborne, not from Jocelyn/Constance.


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