Mary Astor

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Mary Astor, 1928

Mary Astor (* 3. May 1906 as Lucile Vasconcellos long Hanke in Quincy , Illinois ; † 25. September 1987 in Woodland Hills , California ) was an American actress and writer . She received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1942 for her appearance in Reversed Luck . One of her best-known films is the film noir classic Die Spur des Falken (1941).

Acting career

The daughter of the German immigrant Otto Ludwig Langhanke from Berlin and his American wife Helen Marie de Vasconcellos won numerous beauty contests as a child. Mary Astor learned to play the piano and at the age of 15 her parents - both taught as teachers - signed a film contract for her in Hollywood . Her father especially encouraged her; she later noticed that her Hollywood career was not her dream, but her father's dream. Her first film role in Sentimental Tommy (1921) was cut from the finished film, but she got significant supporting roles in her next films. Astor's breakthrough came in 1924 with the film The Love Affairs of Beau Brummel on the side of John Barrymore . In 1926 she was selected as a promising young star among the WAMPAS Baby Stars of the Year. Mary Astor succeeded the late 1920s, unlike many of their colleagues silent movie, the leap to sound film . She played a variety of supporting roles and occasionally got a leading role.

Until the late 1930s, however, Astor mostly had to be content with appearances in B-films. The few exceptions included the 1932 melodrama Jungle in the Storm starring Clark Gable and the role of the hero's sympathetic girlfriend in Time of Love, Time of Farewell (1936), where Astor played under the direction of William Wyler . In the 1937 adventure film The Prisoner of Zenda , she starred alongside Ronald Colman and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. a mistress, two years later she starred in Mitchell Leisen's hit screwball comedy Unveiling at Midnight . With the move to Warner Brothers in the early 1940s, her career received a further boost. Bette Davis personally ensured that Astor's role as "the other woman" in the love drama Swapped Happiness in 1941 was expanded. The actress received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1942 for her portrayal of the self-centered piano player in this film . Also in 1941 she played alongside Humphrey Bogart , Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre in John Huston's Dashiell-Hammett adaptation The Trail of the Falcon as the opaque Mrs. O'Shaughnessy, perhaps her most famous role today. Astor thus became the prototype of the femme fatale in film noir of the 1940s and 1950s. The following year she had another success in the role of a confident and mature princess in the comedy Breathless to Florida by Preston Sturges .

With the move to MGM and the role of the understanding mother of Judy Garland in the musical film Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Astor was committed to the portrayal of loving wives and nice mothers. With the exception of Act of Violence , in which she portrayed a bitter, hard-hearted prostitute in 1948, Astor was dissatisfied with the roles offered. In Little Brave Jo , a film adaptation of the novel Little Women , she played the mother of June Allyson and Elizabeth Taylor in 1949 . Then she temporarily withdrew from the screen because of private problems (see section “Private life”). Only in 1954 did she make a comeback with a few television appearances . In the following years she played a few character roles in movies, as well as guest roles on television. After nearly 130 films, Astor retired from the acting business in 1964. Her last role was in Robert Aldrich's thriller Lullaby for a Corpse , in which she played a terminally ill woman with a dark secret. A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6701 Hollywood Boulevard commemorates the actress.

Private life

Mary Astor's grave

Mary Astor was married four times and known for her tumultuous personal life, but still never lost her popularity. As early as the mid-1920s, she began a violent affair with John Barrymore while filming Beau Brummel , which drew a lot of headlines. Her first marriage to the young director Kenneth Hawks , the brother of Howard Hawks , ended with his death in a plane crash while filming in 1930. Her second marriage broke up in one of the biggest social scandals of the 1930s when her husband was in custody Published excerpts from Astor's diaries (the so-called "Purple Diary"). In it she explicitly commented on her affair with the well-known author George S. Kaufman and her remark "Ah desert night" (Oh this desert night!) Became a winged expression for a dissolute love affair. Her third marriage to film editor Manuel del Campo between 1936 and 1941 and her last marriage to Thomas Gordon Wheelock from 1945 to 1955 also divorced.

The actress suffered intermittently from alcoholism and depression, which got so worse in the late 1940s that she had to retire from acting for a few years. In the 1950s she overcame the problems with the help of the psychologist and priest Peter Ciklic, in whose therapy she was to write down her memories. This resulted in two extensive biographies, My Story and Life on Film, in which she openly and relentlessly reported about her numerous affairs and the fight against her alcoholism. Then she worked as an author of other novels.

Astor spent the last years of her life in her cottage on the grounds of the Motion Picture & Television Country House , a retirement home for filmmakers. She died in 1987 at the age of 81 and was buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City .


"When two or three movie lovers meet, the name Mary Astor always comes up, and everyone agrees that she was an actress of special attraction, whose qualities in depth and reality always seemed to illuminate her roles."

“There are five stages in an actor's life: Who is Mary Astor? - Get me Mary Astor. - Get me one that looks like Mary Astor. - Get me a young Mary Astor. - Who is Mary Astor? "

- Mary Astor in her autobiography

Filmography (selection)


  • My Story: An Autobiography. 1959
  • The Incredible Charlie Carewe. 1963
  • The O'Conners. 1964
  • Goodbye darling, be happy. 1965
  • The Image of Kate. 1966
  • A Place Called Saturday. 1968
  • Life On Film. 1969


Individual evidence

  1. Mary Astor. In: Turner Classic Movies . Retrieved November 7, 2018 .
  2. ^ Obituary in the New York Times
  3. ^ Fritz Göttler: The diary that Hollywood greats trembled before . In: . April 1, 2019, ISSN  0174-4917 ( [accessed April 1, 2019]).
  4. ^ Obituary in the New York Times
  5. Interview with Mary Astor's daughter
  6. Lindsay Anderson "Mary Astor", Sight and Sound, Fall 1990, quoted in Paul Ryan: Never Apologise: The Collected Writings, 2004, London, pp. 431-436; engl. Original: "that when two or three who love the cinema are gathered together, the name of Mary Astor always comes up, and everybody agrees that she was an actress of special attraction, whose qualities of depth and reality always seemed to illuminate the parts she played. "
  7. Quoted in: The Purple Diaries: Mary Astor and the Most Sensational Hollywood Scandal of the 1930s , Joseph Egan, 2016

Web links

Commons : Mary Astor  - collection of images, videos and audio files