Today is Part 1 of a piece on Mary Astor, an actress I have always loved.
I loved this bit:
Mary Astor always conveyed a sense of having lived in the real world, as opposed to those who were just play-acting. When she came through the sound-stage door, she brought an aura of reality with her. A lot of that may have been the luck of a face that bespoke experience, or a manner that suggested past hopes ended in disappointment.
Also (and this is not covered in the essay – although maybe it will be in Part 2) … it’s rather remarkable that the enormous scandal about her sex journal (chronicling her affair with George S. Kaufman) being found and published in the tabloids left her relatively unscathed. It was a feeding frenzy. But she went on, and it’s so wonderful (and funny) to see her performance in Meet Me in St. Louis and to know that she had once upon a time been held up as the Hester Prynne sex maniac of Hollywood, marriages ruined, words like “fuck” being printed in the newspaper – and it was in HER journal, not HIS – shocking!! A lady using words like that? In her own private diary? What is the world coming to? But after all that … there she was in Meet Me in St. Louis, glorious hair up in a pompadour, voice mellifluous, part of a great ensemble, graceful, funny, specific. Her acting is superb. She IS that Victorian-era woman.
Survival. She’s a great example of it.
She’s the one who said the famous thing which has been attributed to so many people that who the hell knows who actually said it. I’ve heard that Kim Stanley said it as well, but she may have been quoting Astor, who certainly had a long enough career to go through every phase:
Mary Astor said:
“There are five stages in the life of an actor: Who’s Mary Astor? Get me Mary Astor. Get me a Mary Astor Type. Get me a young Mary Astor. Who’s Mary Astor?”
Smart cookie, that one. Didn’t have a smooth road … but she survived.