American actress, Mary Astor was born 106 years years ago today, May 4, 1906. And though I’ve seen several movies she has starred in, I never really knew much about this beautiful and talented woman. So being as it is her birthday, I decided to do some research.
And here’s what I found out! Mary Astor had a very successful film career starting when she was only 15 , that spanned several decades. She had an overbearing, over controlling Dad who pushed her into show business so that he could financially benefit from Mary’s talents.Her life was literally like a soap opera, rife with scandals, a seriously dysfunctional family, affairs, multiple divorces, health issues and alcoholism.
It’s quite amazing, with all the turmoil in her life, that she was able to play some of the most famous roles in film history and play them very well, including the part of femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy in the Maltese Falcon(1941) with Humphrey Bogart. And that same year winning best supporting actress for The Great Lie, a film she starred in with Bette Davis. It’s truly a testament to her resilient personality that she could maintain such a high level of professionalism despite continual personal problems that would send most people right over the edge!
Mary Astor in publicity photo for The Wise Guy (1926)
Source Self Styled Siren
Here’s Mary with John Barrymore in Beau Brummel(1924). She was 17, he was 42 and married when they began their torrid affair during filming. He supposedly told her during her screen test “You’re so goddamned beautiful you make me feel faint!” Now I ask you, what young and impressionable young lady could resist such a handsome smooth talking superstar? The poor girl didn’t stand a chance!
Here is Mary Astor as Barbara Willis, a prim and proper wife married to an engineer, and Jean Harlow as a prostitute named Vantine in the movie Red Dust(1932). Set on a rubber plantation in French Indochina, things really heat up when both women vie for the attentions of Dennis Carson, the plantation owner played by Clark Gable. Even though Barbara is married, once Dennis sends her husband off into the jungle, he tosses Jean Harlow aside and ardently pursues Mrs. Willis, who is powerless to resist Mr. Gable’s advances. Things spiral out of control from there. Love this film, great acting and gorgeous 1930s fashions designed by Gilbert Adrian. IMO, any film with costumes by Adrian is definitely worth watching!
Source~A Certain Cinema
Below is Mary Astor in Dodsworth (1936) Her gorgeous gown is very much in the iconic feminine silhouette of the 30s with its sheer full bias cut skirt and flutter sleeves worn over a silky curve hugging slip. Ooo La La! I discovered Omar Kiam was the costume designer for the movie. He designed for many Hollywood films, including Stella Dallas and Wuthering Heights, before heading to New York to design luxurious, sophisticated fashions for the Ben Reig label.
Image source~ AllPosters
One of the greatest detective stories of all time, The Maltese Falcon, starred Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade and Mary Astor as the devious dame named Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a.k.a. Miss Wonderly. Love that name and love the movie! Wardrobe was by the Oscar winning Hollywood designer, Orry Kelly, who also designed the costumes for Casablanca, Oklahoma, American in Paris, Les Girls and Some Like it Hot, along with hundreds of other films.
And here she is in The Great Lie (1941). She won an Oscar for her role as Sandra Kovak, a concert pianist who is pregnant by a man who ends up married to Bettie Davis’s character, Maggie. After her husband’s plane is lost in South America, Maggie pays Sandra at visit hoping to talk her into giving the child up to her when it it born in exchange for money. It’s all I’m saying. You’ll have to watch it to see what happens! Gowns designed by Orry Kelly in this film too.
She also played Anna Smith, mother to Judy Garland (Esther) and her sisters and brother, in the musical Meet Me in St Louis, (1944) another of my favorites films with great actors, songs and costumes.. Wardrobe designed by Irene Sharaff, who also designed for many other famous films, including the King and I, West Side Story, Cleopatra, Hello Dolly and Funny Girl.
Prominent film critic turned director, Lindsay Anderson, said of Mary “When two or three who love the cinema are are gathered together, the name of Mary Astor always comes up and everyone agrees that she was an actress or special attraction whose qualities of depth and reality always seemed to illuminate the parts she played.”
A lovely testament to one of Hollywood’s finest actresses.
Have you had the pleasure of seeing any Mary Astor films? Which is your favorite?