She is best known today as a character actress, but Mary Astor was a STAR.
She was the bad girl for Bogie. The villain to Bette Davis. The mother to Judy Garland. The lover to John Barrymore. She was, in short, one of the most versatile stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
She was also quite a lusty lady off screen, who scandalously celebrated her roll in the nighttime hay with one of America’s most famous playwrights (hint here).
But it’s her Brigid O’Shaughnessy tour de force in 1941’s The Maltese Falcon that sticks most in the memory, an enchanting portrait of a thoroughly amoral femme fatale. Astor enjoyed a lengthy screen career with much offscreen drama along the way.
How much do you know about her? Let’s get to our Monday Quiz to find out. As usual, answers tomorrow.
1) Question: The tremulous and slightly giddy characterization of Brigid O’Shaughnessy was almost entirely Astor’s invention and a welcome surprise to Falcon director John Huston. a) True; or b) False.
2) Question: Although many think Astor was an American actress, she was actually born in England, and played on the stage there. a) True; or b) False.
3) Question: Astor was accomplished at playing fallen but sympathetic women as she did opposite Van Heflin in the 1949 MGM film noir, Act of Violence. Why did his character seek her’s out? a) Astor’s character was a prostitute; b) Her character was a psychiatrist; c) She played a policewoman; or d) none of the above.
4) Question: Like so many classic female stars, Astor’s career was jumpstarted by a beauty contest appearance. How old was she when she entered her first pageant? a) 19; b) 23; c) 14; or d) 21.
5) Question: Which one of the following was Astor’s most famous first lover offscreen? a) John Barrymore; b) Charlie Chaplin; c) Harold Lloyd; or d) John Gilbert.
6) Question: Which one of the famous Round Table group of writers and intellectuals of the 1930’s was Astor’s most celebrated offscreen lover, ecstatically extolled by the actress herself? a) Harpo Marx; b) Alexander Woollcott; c) George S. Kaufman; d) Dorothy Parker.
7) Question: Following a suicide attempt, Astor turned formally religious, converting to which one of the following faiths? a) Roman Catholicism; b) Greek Orthodox; c) Judaism; or d) Buddhism.
8) Question: Astor won her best supporting actress Oscar for which role? a) Brigid O’Shaughnessy on The Maltese Falcon; b) Mrs. Edith Cortwright in Dodsworth; c) Alberta Marlow in Across The Pacific; or d) Sandra in The Great Lie.
9) Question: After her movie career petered out, Astor took up which one of the following professions to keep herself financially afloat? a) Bartender; b) Manager of a chain of Southern California florists; c) Fiction writer; or d) Television commentator.
10) Question: Astor’s last movie was which one of the following? a) A Stranger in My Arms; b) Youngblood Hawke; c) Return to Peyton Place; or d) Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte.