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Mary Astor: What a Revelation!


whistlingypsy
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TCM is, of course, a great resource for fans of every film genre. There is the opportunity to see newly restored or newly discovered films. There is also the opportunity, as tastes or interests change, to ?discover? films that previously held no interest. These films offer a chance to discover stories that are new and fresh, and a chance to see certain actors of actresses in a new and fresh light.

 

Mary Astor is probably best known for her role as Brigid O?Shaughnessey in ?The Maltese Falcon,? and for her roles as the matriarch in sentimental favorites such as ?Little Women? and ?Meet Me in St. Louis.? She also turned in strong performances in ?Red Dust? and ?The Hurricane.? Earlier in her career she had small roles in fun films such as the Philo Vance mystery ?The Kennel Murder Case? and the Perry Mason mystery ?The Case of the Howling Dog? (but have you seen her as Pat, the sympathetic drunk, in ?Act of Violence? with Van Heflin?) In recent months, I have seen two films featuring Mary Astor that have caused me to see her in a different light. I have always thought that she was a graceful actress in enjoyable films, but I can?t say that I watched any film specifically for her.

 

The two films that caused me to change my modest opinion towards Mary Astor are, ?Dodsworth? and the silent film ?Beau Brummel.? I saw her in the role of Edith Cortwright in the film ?Dodsworth? several months back, and while it is neither a stunning performance nor a stunning film, she is so much softer and approachable than her O?Shaughnessey character?quite a counter-point to Ruth Chatteron as Dodsworth?s scheming and faithless wife. I was engaged enough in the relationship between Huston and Astor?s characters that I found myself, unlike the ending of The Maltese Falcon, hoping that she ends up with the leading man. I found myself talking to the television and encouraging Huston to ?get off the ship, get off the ship.?

 

I watched the newly scored silent film Beau Brummel when it aired last Tuesday night. I am a big fan of silent films, so any opportunity to see a newly restored or newly scored film is a big treat. I was thrilled at the thought of seeing this John Barrymore film for the first time, but the real revelation was Mary Astor. I was vaguely aware that she appeared in silent movies, but this was my first opportunity to see one of her silent titles. She plays the love interest of the title character but their love is doomed when she is forced to marry another. Her early scenes with Barrymoore are brief but heartbreaking, and I believed that his love for her could remain throughout his ?reckless? life (the two apparently carried on an affair for years after the film.) She was but seventeen at the time she appeared in this film and she is simply stunning?in one scene she reminds me of the painting ?Mrs. Siddoes as the Tragic Muse? by Joshua Reynolds. . .all I can say is: Mary Astor is a true revelation.

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CineMaven, thanks for recommending ?Desert Fury.? This is exactly what I had in mind. I?m a big fan of both Lizabeth Scott and John Hodiak, but this is one film that I have never seen. (I can?t say that I was even aware of this title.) I see that a few other favorites are in this film, specifically Burt Lancaster and Wendell Corey.

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ssos, I completely agree! I would like to see her featured as the Star of the Month. I would like the opportunity to explore the evolution of her career over a month?s time. I would also like to she more of her silent films, if more prints exist and are available.

 

How does TCM select the star of the month? Can viewers vote for their selections, perhaps in a poll, or is this strictly a programming decision?

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Fred C, thanks so much for the link. I enjoyed watching the scene featuring Mary, Lizabeth and John; I?m really looking for to watching the entire film. While watching this scene I was reminded of another film about untamed passions under the desert sky, ?Lightning Strikes Twice? with Ruth Roman, Richard Todd, Zachary Scott and Mercedes McCambridge.

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I first saw Mary Astor as the perfect mother in LITTLE WOMEN and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. Then I saw her in films such as THE MALTESE FALCON and DODSWORTH and realized what incredible range she had as an actress. I recently watched her in two films from the early 1930's--THE SIN SHIP, in which she very convincingly plays a con artist (so well that I was surprised when it was revealed), and the first version of HOLIDAY, in which she plays Ann Harding's sister. There was a sophistication about her that was so natural and unforced.

 

Oh, and I love her playing silly in THE PALM BEACH STORY! Mary Astor could do it all. So underrated.

 

I would LOVE to see her as Star of the Month on TCM! Great idea!

 

Sandy K

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I just finished watching DESERT FURY this afternoon and all I can say is ?WoW!? I?m still fairly new to this, and although I?m no neo-ludite, the resources available to the film fan constantly amaze me. The comments and recommendations made by others here at TCM have opened new avenues to explore favorites, both old and new, in films and acting. I had previously been aware of ?You Tube,? but I never thought to explore films available through them. I can only say thanks again for making me aware of them.

 

Cinemaven, you asked me to share my thoughts on the movie and I?m happy to oblige you. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order and probably full of non-sequiters, but it should be fun to share my most immediate impressions without all that troublesome censoring.

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The film: I mentioned the film LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE after watching the DESERT FURY clip. I stand by that recommendation and I encourage you to see it if you have a chance, but I think this is the better film. I really enjoyed this clever, fast-paced and suspenseful film with its elements of melodrama and film noir (can a color film have noir elements?) plus a few horses thrown in for the desert theme.

 

I am not an expert in the technical aspects of filmmaking, not by any means, but I can speak about what I like in a film. I thought the cinematography was extraordinary; films based in the desert simply demand beautiful shots of the landscape for the sole purpose of making it a character within the story. The scenes with Lizabeth Scott and Burt Lancaster riding through the desert landscape were lovely. I thought the dialogue was snappy, clever and really set the tone of the film. One of the opening scenes featuring Lizabeth Scott, and snooty pedestrian and, later, Burt Lancaster is a classic:

 

LS: Window shopping?

 

SP: Yes, but we don?t like what we see. . .it?s too cheap.

 

LS: (I?ll show you!) releases brake and OOPS!

 

BL: I oughta give you a ticket for that.

 

LS: It?d be worth it. The way they jumped. . .like two hens.

 

BL: You might have killed them.

 

LS: It was self-defense. They were throwing knives at me.

 

BL: There?s still one in your back. . .let me pull it out for you.

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The actors: The purpose of your recommendation was to introduce me to some of Mary Astor?s obscure or less well-known films and you succeeded brilliantly! Her portrayal of the maternally challenged Fritzi is worlds away from Marmee and Anna Smith. Someone pointed out to me, in a different thread, that Mary played Pat, in ACT OF VIOLENCE, at the same time she played Marmee. . .talk about range!

 

Fritzi: this might have been Bridig O?Shaughnessy?s life if she had never taken that trip to San Francisco. Am I the only one who made a connection between Fritzi?s name and her cigarette holder? Where is her monocle? (sorry, I couldn?t resist.)

 

Eddie: one tormented and confused fellow. . .still, the only man I can see pulling off that mustache!

 

Paula & Tom: What can I say? Two such lovely people should be in love. Which two lovely people? I think that of the two ?hair ing?nues? I prefer Lizabeth Scott to Veronica Lake. Don?t get me wrong; I have always enjoyed Ms. Lake?s performances but I prefer the smokey-voiced Ms. Scott.

 

Johnny: introducing Wendell Corey. This movie was as much a discovery of Wendell Corey as it was of Mary Astor?s role. I had never taken Wendell Corey seriously as an actor until very recently. I saw him at Christmas time in HOLIDAY AFFAIR (also with Burt Lancaster,) and last month in THE FILE ON THELMA JORDAN and I have since revised my opinion of him.

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