Hollywood Remains to Be Seen

Mary Astor
1906 - 1987

Holy Cross Cemetery

Mary Astor is best known for her role as the femme fatale in "The Maltese Falcon" (1941), but she is also known for her role in off-screen scandal.

After winning a beauty contest, Astor made her film debut at the age of 14, in a bit part in "The Scarecrow" (1920), a comedy starring Buster Keaton. After appearing in small roles in dozens of films over the next few years, Astor got her first major role in "Beau Brummel" (1924), co-starring with John Barrymore, and there were rumors of an off-screen romance between the 42-year-old actor and his 18-year-old co-star. Astor appeared in a number of costume dramas and swashbuckling adventures over the next few years, including "Don Q, Son of Zorro" (1925) and "Don Juan" (1926). Astor made a successful transition to talkies, and appeared in dozens of films in the early 1930s, including "Runaway Bride" (1930), "Behind Office Doors" (1931), "The Lost Squadron" (1932), "Red Dust" (1932), "The Kennel Murder Case" (1933) and "Dodsworth" (1936).

Astor made headlines in a different way in 1936, when she was in the midst of divorce and custody battle with her second husband. Admitted as evidence at the trial was Astor's diary, which included a graphic and detailed account of Astor's 16-month affair with playwright George S. Kaufman, and the case became the most publicized and talked-about scandal in Hollywood in the 1930s. But rather than end Astor's career, the trial publicity seemed to energize it, and she next appeared in "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1937), "The Hurricane" (1937), "Midnight" (1939) and "Turnabout" (1940), before co-starring with Humphrey Bogart in Dashiell Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon" (1941). For her performance in her next film, "The Great Lie" (1941), Astor won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

By the mid-1940s, Astor was making the transition from roles as the elegant and sophisticated leading lady to character and supporting parts, including roles in "The Palm Beach Story" (1942), "Thousands Cheer" (1943), "Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944), "Desert Fury" (1947), "Little Women" (1949) and "A Kiss Before Dying" (1956). Her last film was "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte" (1965).

Astor was born Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke on May 3, 1906, in Quincy, IL. She died on Sept. 25, 1987, in Woodland Hills, CA.

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