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Mary Astor
Mary Astor-1930s.JPG
Astor in 1933
Born
Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke

(1906-05-03)May 3, 1906
Died September 25, 1987(1987-09-25) (aged 81)
Resting place Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City
Occupation Actress
Years active 1920–1964
Spouse(s)
Kenneth Hawks
(m. 1928; his death 1930)

Franklyn Thorpe
(m. 1931; div. 1935)

Manuel del Campo
(m. 1936; div. 1941)

Thomas Gordon Wheelock
(m. 1945; div. 1955)
Children 2
Relatives
  • Howard Hawks (brother-in-law)
  • William Hawks (brother-in-law)
  • Bessie Love (sister-in-law)
  • Athole Shearer (sister-in-law)
Signature
Autograph Mary Astor.svg

Mary Astor (born Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke; May 3, 1906 – September 25, 1987) was an American actress. Although her career spanned several decades, she may be best remembered for her performance as Brigid O'Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon (1941).

Astor began her long motion picture career as a teenager in the silent movies of the early 1920s. When talkies arrived, her voice was initially considered too masculine and she was off the screen for a year. After she appeared in a play with friend Florence Eldridge, film offers returned, and she resumed her career in sound pictures.

In 1936, Astor's career was nearly destroyed by scandal. She had an affair with playwright George S. Kaufman and was branded an adulterous wife by her ex-husband during a custody fight over their daughter. Overcoming these stumbling blocks in her private life, she went on to greater film success, eventually winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of concert pianist Sandra Kovak in The Great Lie (1941).

Astor was a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract player through most of the 1940s and continued to work in film, television and on stage until her retirement in 1964. She authored five novels. Her autobiography was a bestseller, as was her later book, A Life on Film, which was about her career.

Director Lindsay Anderson wrote of Astor in 1990 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."

Early life

Astor was born in Quincy, Illinois, the only child of Otto Ludwig Langhanke (October 2, 1871 – February 3, 1943) and Helen Marie de Vasconcellos (April 19, 1881 – January 18, 1947). Both of her parents were teachers. Her German father emigrated to the United States from Berlin in 1891 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen; her American mother was born in Jacksonville, Illinois, and had Portuguese roots. They married on August 3, 1904, in Lyons, Kansas.

Astor's father taught German at Quincy High School until the U.S. entered World War I. Later on, he took up light farming. Astor's mother, who had always wanted to be an actress, taught drama and elocution. Astor was home-schooled in academics and was taught to play the piano by her father, who insisted she practice daily. Her piano talents came in handy when she played piano in her films The Great Lie and Meet Me in St. Louis.

In 1919, Astor sent a photograph of herself to a beauty contest in Motion Picture Magazine, becoming a semifinalist. When Astor was 15, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois, with her father teaching German in public schools. Astor took drama lessons and appeared in various amateur stage productions. The following year, she sent another photograph to Motion Picture Magazine, this time becoming a finalist and then runner-up in the national contest. Her father then moved the family to New York City, in order for his daughter to act in motion pictures. He managed her affairs from September 1920 to June 1930.

A Manhattan photographer, Charles Albin, saw her photograph and asked the young girl with haunting eyes and long auburn hair whose nickname was "Rusty" to pose for him. The Albin photographs were seen by Harry Durant of Famous Players-Lasky and Astor was signed to a six-month contract with Paramount Pictures. Her name was changed to Mary Astor during a conference among Paramount Pictures chief Jesse Lasky, film producer Walter Wanger, and gossip columnist Louella Parsons.

Death

Astor died on September 25, 1987, at age 81, of respiratory failure due to pulmonary emphysema while in the hospital at the Motion Picture House complex. She is interred in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. Astor has a motion pictures star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6701 Hollywood Boulevard.

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