The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters.

Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Past chats with our guests.

Moderators: Sue Sue Applegate, movieman1957, moira finnie, Lzcutter

Joseph Egan
Posts: 45
Joined: January 17th, 2017, 2:07 pm

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Joseph Egan » January 21st, 2017, 3:05 pm

Regarding John Barrymore

As is known Mr. Barrymore liked young women. He had seen a photo of Astor and asked for her to star with him in Beau Brummel a big expensive 20s silent production. He first met Astor on the set for (I think) costume tests and immediately began his seduction with "You are so beautiful you make me want to faint." Astor had two very controlling parents who basically saw their daughter as their meal ticket and, so, she wasn't allowed friends or to do anything someone her age--she was 17-would normally do. At this point--of the screen--she had never even kissed a boy. In other words she was a total innocent. So, she was much flattered by Barrymore and overwhelmed that a man of his fame and stature within the profession would be interested in her. Eventually Barrymore did go to bed with her and the affair lasted for 17 months. As a lover Barrymore used the bedroom with Astor to educate her not just about sex but about art, music, literature and he gave of himself completely. So, it wasn't long before Astor just wasn't in love with the man but worshipped him. Barrymore wanted to marry her and asked her countless times but she always said no. Astor feared her parents but more importantly had been made to feel so insecure by them by the way they treated her that she didn't have the courage to break away from them as Astor had learned to feel secure only within their dominance of her. Eventually Barrymore told her that she was spineless and didn't have the courage to take control of her own life and so, losing all respect and realizing that she would never break with her parents turned his back on her. While the two worked on Don Juan together he had already taken up with Dolores Costello and when Astor realized it was over she was devastated. So, devastated in fact that she finally began to take charge of her own life. Years later while the two were making Midnight Barrymore told her that it was a good thing for her that because of her parents they never married because he would have ruined her life. He was probably correct about this. Nevertheless, Barrymore remained the great romantic love of her life and, although over the years she discarded so many things she had accumulated over the years she kept all the telegrams Barrymore had sent her while he as on tour with Hamlet and to her dying day was proud of the fact that, as she saw him, this marvelous and incredibly alive man had been in love with her and wanted to marry her. In fact, when she was in the MPCH towards the end of her life she told one of her grand daughters that John Barrymore had saved her because all she had known about sex and love was from her parents and frankly--and this is my opinion--they had were an extremely dysfunctional relationship and marriage. It was Barrymore who had taught her how to love and how to express it. Unfortunately because she had been emotionally stunted by being raised by selfish parents who only saw her in terms of their own needs, all her life Astor remained an emotionally immature woman whose inner needs far outstripped her limited resources to fulfill them.

Joseph Egan
Posts: 45
Joined: January 17th, 2017, 2:07 pm

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Joseph Egan » January 21st, 2017, 3:11 pm

Omit

User avatar
Mrs. Osborne
Posts: 58
Joined: June 14th, 2013, 10:45 am

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Mrs. Osborne » January 21st, 2017, 3:36 pm

Joe-

That was beautifully put.

Thank you.

Joseph Egan
Posts: 45
Joined: January 17th, 2017, 2:07 pm

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Joseph Egan » January 21st, 2017, 4:37 pm

Regarding Kenneth Hawks.

Having broken away from her parents dominance Astor finally began making friends and was part of a circle that included Irving Thalberg, Norma Shearer, Frederic March and his wife Florence Eldridge and several others. She also took up with a number of men just to prove that she was over Barrymore and even had a short engagement with Irving Asher who later married Laura La Plante. Eventually she met Ken Hawks, brother of Director Howard Hawks, who was a producer at Fox. Astor had never met a man like Hawks before. A Yale graduate he was cultured and well lettered as well as champion sportsman. But, unlike Barrymore, instead of treating Astor like a student, he treated her like an equal and it wasn't long before the two fell in love. Hawks was a straight arrow and it was agreed that no sex until marriage. Instead they dated, became engaged and grew very, very close. For the first time Mary Astor was loved for herself and understood what real love was. So, they were married in January 1928 in a big Hollywood wedding but unfortunately, Hawks had a very low if non existent libido. Their wedding night consisted of a goodnight kiss. The sex that they did have was infrequent and, after having been John Barrymore's lover, not particularly satisfying for Astor. So, thinking this would save the marriage, Astor had an affair and became pregnant. She had an abortion but Hawks having found out what Astor was doing and feeling that he was letting his wife down began drinking. Astor, racked with quilt and realizing that she was causing Hawks so much pain, broke off the affair. She also realized that she had to accept the sexual limitations of the marriage in order to feel the sense of protection and care her husband was giving her. So, she learned to tailor her sexual needs to what her husband could provide and was soon both happy and satisfied. It should also be understood that while she was married to Hawks he never accepted a dime she made and at that time Astor was earning $4,000 a week. The two lived only on the money he made and her paychecks went right to her father who was living like a millionaire in a mansion with three servants and a chauffeured driven limousine. As Astor didn't want to battle with her oppressive father she just let it slide happy to be with a man who loved her for herself and not her paycheck. Then in January 1930, Hawks--who like his brother Howard--was now directing, was killed in an airplane accident while filming a scene for a movie he was directing. Astor was devastated beyond words. She felt she had lost everything. She couldn't even go back to their house and get her things. She just left everything there and moved to an apartment. She knew that being in that house with all the memories of her life with Ken Hawks would have been unbearable. Earlier, when sound came in, because her voice was considered too deep, she hadn't worked for a year but at the time of Hawks death she was doing a play and the job offers finally came. So, Astor lost herself in her work and in a series of empty affairs. She was eventually diagnosed with physical exhaustion, had lost a great deal of weight and was in the early stages of TB. The doctor who diagnosed her was Franklyn Thorp. Desperate for someone to take care of her, and someone she could love, Astor literally forced Thorpe to marry her and he became her second husband in June 1931. It was with Thorpe that she had her baby in 1932 and a year after their 1935 divorce she sued for Custody of the baby which led to the famous 1936 Custody Battle which is what I wrote about in THE PURPLE DIARIES.

User avatar
Mrs. Osborne
Posts: 58
Joined: June 14th, 2013, 10:45 am

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Mrs. Osborne » January 21st, 2017, 4:58 pm

Joe -

So the trial was NOT a divorce trial but a child custody trial.
Was Astor working on film projects at the time of the trial in 1936?

thanks,
Mrs. O

User avatar
Steve Hayes
Posts: 29
Joined: October 14th, 2016, 9:38 pm

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Steve Hayes » January 21st, 2017, 5:55 pm

Dear Joseph;
First of all congratulations on your fabulous book. As an ardent Mary Astor fan, I'm thrilled that not only is there an in depth look at the scandal, but a new interest in the career of thsi fascinating and brilliant actress. Were you always a Mary Astor fan and what are your favorite roles? After the scandal, did Mary ever run into Kaufman again sociolly? Also what was the reaction of Bea Kaufman, when her husband's sexual exploits were suddenly all over the front pages? On a side note; years ago , when they did a revival of "You Can't Take It With You" on Broadway, I found myself sitting next to Kaufman's last wife Leueen MacGrath. She was elderly, tiny, gracious and lovely.
Steve Hayes
"Tired Old Queen at the Movies"

User avatar
moira finnie
Administrator
Posts: 8175
Joined: April 9th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Location: Earth
Contact:

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby moira finnie » January 21st, 2017, 6:02 pm

Hi Joe,
Thanks for visiting and for your detailed responses. I am almost done with your book, which is often surprisingly touching and very well done. Mary Astor's acting range was exceptional, but I suspect that Mary may have been hyper-critical of herself. I hope she understood how good she really was--though reading your account and her own books in the past, I doubt it.

Do you believe that her acting changed after the scandal described in your book?

Could you please cast a light on how a mature Mary Astor regarded her early life and her acting over the years? Did she have moments when she appreciated how much she had grown as a film actress? Did she prefer comedy or drama?

Aside from John Barrymore, what other actors did she enjoy working with on screen?

I know most people identify her with The Maltese Falcon (1941) and The Great Lie (1941), but when I think of Astor, her beautiful acting in three films in three decades stands out in my memory: Dodsworth (1936), Act of Violence (1949) and--believe it or not---Return to Peyton Place (1961) are among my favorite films featuring her work. I guess she went from archetypal angel to whore to madonna (albeit a bit demented in the latter) in these movies, but she infused each of them with such humanity, they left an indelible impression on me. Do you have a favorite role featuring Mary Astor?

Image
Mary Astor over time in (l-r) Dodsworth, Act of Violence & Return to Peyton Place.

Thanks for any insights you can share.
Avatar: Frank McHugh (1898-1981)

The Skeins
TCM Movie Morlocks

User avatar
Steve Hayes
Posts: 29
Joined: October 14th, 2016, 9:38 pm

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Steve Hayes » January 21st, 2017, 6:32 pm

Hi Joe;
Steve Hayes again. I was wondering if there was talk in 1941 about nominating her as Best Actress for "The Maltese Falcon' as well as Supporting Actress for "The Great Lie?" The following year they nominated Teresa Wright in two catagories. In "A Life On Film" she said that if she'd had her druthers, she'd rather have won for Brigid than for Sandra. Any idea?
Thanks;
Steve

User avatar
Mrs. Osborne
Posts: 58
Joined: June 14th, 2013, 10:45 am

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Mrs. Osborne » January 21st, 2017, 6:36 pm

Joe-

After all your research and emotional investment in Astor, did you wish you had the opportunity to interview her?

Mrs. O

User avatar
Sue Sue Applegate
Administrator
Posts: 3315
Joined: April 14th, 2007, 8:47 pm
Location: Texas

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » January 21st, 2017, 6:40 pm

Joe, your insightful comments reveal how much in-depth detail you have included in your wonderful book. I have always been deeply touched my Mary Astor's performance in Dodsworth. Can you share a little about how that performance was affected by the scandal with our members? Did she and Walter Huston have a congenial relationship?

Dodsworth was one of the first times, if not the first time that a man is seen to leave his marriage and not suffer egregious consequences under the Production Code. Do you have any comments on why that was allowed? Was it because of the novel by Sinclair Lewis?

Image
Also, in her memoirs, Mary Astor observed that Chatterton's character "was that of a woman trying to hang onto her youth--which was exactly what Ruth herself was doing. It touched a nerve." Mary Astor undoubtedly had many of her nerves tested during the production of this film because of the scandal. What do you think was her greatest strength at this time?
Blog: http://suesueapplegate.wordpress.com/
Twitter:@suesueapplegate
TCM Message Boards: http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/ ... ue-sue-ii/
Sue Sue : https://www.facebook.com/groups/611323215621862/
Thelma Ritter: Hollywood's Favorite New Yorker, University Press of Mississippi-2018
Avatar: Ginger Rogers, The Major and The Minor

Joseph Egan
Posts: 45
Joined: January 17th, 2017, 2:07 pm

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Joseph Egan » January 21st, 2017, 6:56 pm

Regarding trial and divorce.

This is a bit of a story. A tor had wanted to divorce Thorpe as far back as Early 1933 nine months after the baby was born. It is my belief the after the baby was born, the genuine feelings that it drew from Astor put what she really felt about Thorpe into sharp relief. She did like the man but was no longer in love with him or physically attracted. Her marriage had essentially been an act of desperation as was her plan to leave acting when Thorpe's medical practice (she paid to start it) became lucrative enough to support them decently. It never did. In addition, except for Ken Hawks, Astor was more in love with being in love than actually able to love and for her that meant sex. When desire faded for Astor love had faded and she felt a need to move on. In early 1933 after THorpe begged her not to divorce him she told Thorpe regarding a divorce that she would put it off hoping that things would change. But, to herself she now felt free to take up with other men to satisfy her sexual needs. So that May on a trip to New York she met George Kaufman, America's most successful playwright. What Kaufman lacked in looks he more than made up in charm. It took him a week but they began an affair that lasted--off and on--for the next two years. It should be noted that Kaufman had many woman at the same time and Astor was just one among many. But to Astor--with her insatiable need to love and be in love--she built it up in her mind as the love of the century. In September 1934 Astor finally told Thorpe about the affair when he told her about the affair he was having with an old flame, Lillian Miles. He also told Astor that he had given Miles an abortion. (Thorpe was a gynecologist.) By this time the two had a de-facto open marriage.

But, what bothered Thorpe was that he was hearing talk about the affair with Kaufman and that September 1934 had asked a friend to talk to Kaufman about it. The friend refused. In early 1935 Kaufman came to Hollywood to work on A Night At The Opera for MGM at $10,000 a week making him the highest paid writer in history. Astor now took up with him openly not caring who knew and soon items began appearing about the two in he press without mentioning names. This upset Thorpe enormously. He and his wife were now engaged in serious discussions about a divorce which to him--a man very much a product of his times--was unthinkable. This and the talk around town about his wife and Kaufman, made Thorpe decide to pay Kaufman a visit and basically threaten to name Kaufman as co-respondent if Thorpe and Astor divorced. As Kaufman was guarded about his private life be found this upsetting and told Astor. She blew her top and confronted Thorpe and a major fight ensued. Divorce was the main topic and he would only give it to her if he had shared custody of the baby which she was not agreeable to do. AS the fight went on all night, by morning she agreed to hold off while secretly concluding that she would go through with the divorce after Kaufman left Hollywood--so that she could have a trouble free time with the playwright--and then she would rent a house and move out with the baby.

She had written this in volume two of her diaries. A servant read it about her planning to leave with the baby and told Thorpe. Thorpe then stole the diaries and read them. In them Astor had written in everything and learning things about his wife's affairs dating back to the 1920s Thorpe was stunned and felt that he had been played as a "Sucker" by his wife. Also in the diaries were passages about the private life of many of Mary Astor's friends. Thorpe was incensed and now threatened to make the diaries public and scandalize his wife if she didn't give him FULL custody of the baby and control of all their property and assets. He went on like this for weeks screaming and shouting for hours on end and driving the woman to distraction. Finally, sick with a flu and a high temperature and barely able to get out of bed she simply couldn't fight him anymore and felt she was licked. IF made public the diary could ruin her and ruin the careers of friends who had nothing to do with this. So, with Thorpe agreeing to let her have the baby for six months a year she gave him custody and everything else he wanted and moved out with the baby. The divorce was granted in April 1935

Then, over the next 16 months seeing how he was treating the baby--hitting her for nothing and constantly undermining Astor's Authority as a mother-- she made a decision that she no longer cared about her career and if she had to she would become a buyer for a department store. Despite the diaries Mary Astor was going to make sure that her baby bay was raised properly. So, going for broke, in July 1936 she filed a petition to re Dear Joseph;

Joseph Egan
Posts: 45
Joined: January 17th, 2017, 2:07 pm

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Joseph Egan » January 21st, 2017, 6:57 pm

Regarding Questions about my interest in Astor and feelings about the Kaufman's reaction.

1-Please, write an Amazon review. They are helpful.

2-I always liked her but it was not until I began compiling the material for a conceptual piece that I really became interested. I’m quoting from the book’s website

How The Purple Diaries came to be written is an interesting story in itself. A number of years ago I wanted to put together a massive conceptual installation which would consist of a series of paper collage works dealing with the American film Industry from the 20s through the 90s. One collage per decade it would alternate the complete newspaper coverage of a film release verses a Hollywood scandal. For the 30s Mary Astor. I never got around to completing the entire 8 part work as no gallery really had the space and, frankly, I had moved on. Nevertheless, the Astor material intrigued me It was about a woman who, for the sake of her little baby, took on the media and the Hollywood establishment to do what she believed was right. As I read and reread this material as well as Astor’s two auto-biographies, I learned about the woman’s emotionally deprived childhood—and how tremendously difficult it had been for her to go to court and fight for her baby. This struck a chord with me
I soon discovered that every book and even magazine article written years after the fact which contained an account of the scandal—either briefly or at length—had never gotten the story right but, more often than not, printed rumor as fact. The idea of utilizing the Astor material to write something about the custody battle was sparked when I read the Mary Astor chapter in Kenneth Anger’s hugely successful book, Hollywood Babylon. It was Anger’s intention to scandalize and he succeeded quite well at this. Thus, the piece on Astor was filled with so many falsehoods, often substituting the salacious for the truth that I felt the record needed to be set straight. Unfortunately this idea languished for a number of years until I read a short piece on the trial in the April 9, 2012 issue of New York Magazine for which Anger’s book was the principal source. In short, Hollywood Babylon and its many falsehoods had, and would continue to be, source material for any writer wanting to discuss the Mary Astor Franklyn Thorpe Custody Trial. This proved to be just the motivation which I needed to write something that would finally ‘set the record straight’.

3-Kaufman made it a point to stay away from Astor as she did him. She had a child to raise and didn’t want anything about that hearing to pop up again. To the best of knowledge they never even spoke to each other again.

4-Secretly Beatrice was embarrassed as now it was public that she was not really a “wife” to her husband and this pointed up to her inadequacies. This is why neither she nor Kaufman ever spoke about it publically again.

5-About Kaufman’s second wife. She was no Beatrice and when she thought the time was right she divorced him. It seems that Kaufman preferred friends as wives and regarding sex as something done outside of marriage. In no way was he a conventional man. 

Joseph Egan
Posts: 45
Joined: January 17th, 2017, 2:07 pm

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Joseph Egan » January 21st, 2017, 7:00 pm

Regarding Divorce Verses trial.

No, the divorce was in April 1935 and the Custody battle occurred in July-August 1936. A lot of people get confused about this because many writers don’t get it right because they haven’t done their research. This is one of the reasons why I wrote the book.

Joseph Egan
Posts: 45
Joined: January 17th, 2017, 2:07 pm

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Joseph Egan » January 21st, 2017, 7:25 pm

For Moira Finnie

Again; If you like the book, please write an Amazon review.

1-Her acting improved radically after the Court Battle. She had been working at if for quite a long time and had learned her craft. But it was only after she worked with a director like Wyler that she was able to display all that she had learned. By the 40s she was a superb technician. What Astor didn’t get in the early days but got working with Wyler and Huston were rehearsals. She was so good in Meet Me In St. Louis because Minnelli shot so many takes that she could rehearse on camera as she did with Wyler.

2-She thought most of early rolls were forgettable and couldn’t even remember making many of them. Her favourite film was Dodsworth and if you see the film you will understand why. It also helped her to keep her sanity during the Custody Hearing as it was being made at the same time. She could concentrate on her role and get her mind off of what was happening in court. In fact the character that she played in the film became the model for how she conducted herself in court—cool and dispassionate which was the complete opposite of how she really felt.

3-She liked Bogie. She thought Claudette Colbert was a very skilled light comedian. She had a high regard for Cagney although they only worked together once. Eddie Robinson of course. She thought Bette Davis was tops. She had very good words Eileen Heckart and James Dean, She mentions a lot of them in her book A Life In Film which is, in my opinion, is one of the very finest books of its kind—the nuts and bolts of Working in Golden Ae Hollywood.

4-I am embarrassed to say that since writing the book I haven’t seen Return to Peyton Place. I saw it when I was teen but really don’t remember it. A good friend whose opinion I deeply respect also says that she was good in it as well. I plan to catch it the next time it comes on TCM which is about the only place you kind find vintage films on TV these days. I call it the Museum OF Modern Art of TV.

5-My absolutely favourite Astor role is Desert Fury. She is dynamite in a film that is remembered for little else than her performance. It’s interesting that I always liked it and then I found out from Astor’s daughter Marylyn, that Fritzi, the character in the film she plays was—of all Astor’s film roles—the most like her mother in real life. She even wore glasses in one scene which Astor wore all the time unless a picture was being taken and then she took them off. And of course almost never on film.

Joseph Egan
Posts: 45
Joined: January 17th, 2017, 2:07 pm

Re: Welcome Joseph Egan for a Q & A on Mary Astor 1-21 & 1-22

Postby Joseph Egan » January 21st, 2017, 7:34 pm

For Steve Hayes.

I never heard or read about that. It should be understood that Maltese Falcon was considered an OK movie at the time of its release but it gained it’s incredible following over the years helped by the Bogie cult in the 1950s. On the other hand The Great Lie displayed a Mary Astor no one ever saw before and she accomplished the amazing feat of outshining Bette Davis in scene after seen. That just doesn’t happen. Really, when Astor is on screen you don’t even see Davis. Now, it should be understood that Davis helped this happen as she thought that it would be best the film. I believe that Astor’s performances—and especially her appearing be “playing” the piano so effectively on screen—was a surprise to everyone in Hollywood and thus the reason why she won the award. In later years Astor would have preferred Maltese Falcon but in truth that type of genre film rarely wins awards although years later they come to become thought of as the best films to come out of Hollywood.


Return to “Archived Guest Stars”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest