Saturday, July 10, 2010

More Mary & Marylyn


The Siren gets a steady trickle of emails from readers who are a little intimidated by what the Mighty James Wolcott called the "cocktail-party bonhomie" of her comments section. And this week one well-loved reader sent along some beautiful, rare photos of Mary Astor, which were duly forwarded to daughter Marylyn Roh.

You see one such above, carefully cleaned up to eliminate a crease. The Siren has never seen it before, and she and Marylyn were mesmerized by the same thing. "Those shoes--do you bet they're red?" asked Marylyn. Yes, I bet they were.

Marylyn has been avidly reading the comments to her interview, but has given up on navigating Blogger's fussy demands about how to log in and respond. (Glenn Kenny has the same problem, and don't even get the Siren started on Mubi, a brilliant site with a comments-registration system that has been merrily blackballing her almost since its inception.) Marylyn emailed some responses, and the Siren posts them here.

I'm bowled over by the responses! Bless all their darling hearts.

The last post I read was from Krystin who is my niece--not my granddaughter as she said. Her dad is my "baby brother." She's another beauty in the family. My brother, Tony del Campo, is the son of Manuel (Mike) del Campo.

For Falcon fans--so many out there! Thank you for your generous remarks and appreciation. I wonder if you know that The Maltese Falcon was used at UCLA California to teach drama, cinematic photography, and related subjects for several years. It was an archetype of detective movies. When Ted Turner managed to ruin the dramatic B&W movies, with fake colorization, Mom's hair turned straw-colored, lipstick was pasty, and the clothes were boring because they were chosen for black & white. All the mystery of the film was squelched to the max.

I can't begin to thank you all for writing. I've never done blogging before! I did want to correct the following: On the web, there are references to me, Marylyn, as named MARYLYN ASTOR THORPE, born June 16, 1932. The extra Y in MarYlyn isn't a typo. It's from MARY, and FrankLYN Thorpe my Dad. My middle name is Hauoli, meaning "happy" in Hawaiian. My parents went on a yacht race from San Pedro, Calif., to Hawaii when Mom was 6 1/2 months pregnant. They came upon heavy weather. They landed OK, but I was born two months early at 4 pounds 11 oz. You can look in the newspaper morgues for dozens of pictures of this event, and also look for the "Purple Diary" news and the custody battle of my parents. I doubt if the REAL truth will ever come out about these things.

For David Ehrenstein, about Fayard Nicholas: :o) When I was little, I went to see Fayard and his brother in every movie they were in; the most brilliant tap dancers on the planet, ever. I was visiting Mom at the MPCH and Fayard, who was living there at the time, came to visit her. I nearly fainted. Mom had never seen me so badly starstruck. We had a great conversation together. He's adorable!

I am reading Larry Harnisch's newspaper article on the custody battle with that picture I've never seen. I also have a picture of 'little Marylyn' sitting on the lap of Goodwin Knight, who because he won the case for Mom, became California's governor in those years.

And, in response to another photo sent by the same reader, Marylyn says:




Your friend has the best of the best of young Mary. Note the early pathos in her bearing. The eyes kill ya, don't they? Little did she know then what she was going to go through in her life.

Now the Siren seizes the chance to post another picture from her email pal and to quote two passages, about the great John Barrymore, from Astor's A Life on Film. Truly, if you have any interest in the nuts and bolts of being an actor in the studio era, the Siren can't recommend this book highly enough. Robert Avrech and Marylyn both cite the chapter about filming a love scene with Clark Gable as their favorite, and certainly no actress ever did a better job of explaining the decidedly anti-erotic nature of shooting a kiss. This next passage, however, is the Siren's favorite, chiefly for the way it gives the lie to the notion that the actors in classic films were all instinct and calculation and no technique.



I remember we were sitting at lunch and I said, 'May I have some more butter, please.' [Barrymore] used it. He said, 'Before any scene--go over how long you've known him--or her. You even say "Pass the butter" differently, according to how you feel. Right now you're bored--I can hear it. There's always something under what you are saying--caused by a million things. How does it make you feel? Suppose, for instance, the guy says--maybe he's your husband--"I've quit my job." And your line is "Pass the butter, please." O.K., now don't giggle like an ass. Listen, there'd be a world of difference if you think, "Well screw him, I'll get somebody else to buy my sable coat." Or if you feel happy that the guy's finally got up nerve to do something that was your idea all along. Now let's try it. Let's improvise. I'll go out and come in and tell you I've quit my job and you invent something and let me see you thinking.'

A few years ago I was working with Actors' Studio people in a TV show, trying to make sense of the nomenclature they used. I asked one of them, 'What do you mean by "subtext?"' He explained. My thoughts whisked back thirty years to 'Pass the butter.'

The Siren already referred briefly to Astor's last meeting with Barrymore, who was in the final stages of his alcoholism; they were doing a radio show together. God knows you can read endless anecdotes about the drinking habits of the great stars, and some of the stories are amusing. And even in our Celebrity Rehab age there's some glamor that clings to tales of dissipated nights at El Morocco. But the Siren finds, as she reads Lee Server's excellent, admiring Mitchum and Gardner biographies, or encounters yet another hell-raising tale of Errol Flynn, that the reality was far less rollicking.

This week, by coincidence, the gossip outlets were rocking with laughter over Lindsay Lohan's travails. In between the bad jokes you could hear people tongue-clucking over Lohan's lack of character. Such beauty, such talent and privilege, recklessly thrown away--as though this is somehow worse than an ordinary person tossing life's small gifts over the hedge. The Siren encapsulated her double reaction in an email to a dear friend: "Basically, I a. do not find drunk jokes funny in general and b. really bleeping viscerally hate a mob of people in high moral dudgeon over someone's personal failings."

If that seems like a strange and contradictory response to a modern actress whose filmography could be kindly described as "inconsistent," the Siren thinks Mary Astor, with her extraordinary talent and troubles, might have understood.

A long bleak fluorescent lighted hall: There was no one else around. I saw him walking alone down the hall ahead of me. I wanted to catch up and say hello, but I didn't. He had stopped, like someone who just couldn't walk another step; he leaned against the wall in sheer fatigue. His body sagged. It was no time to intrude, so I retraced my steps. I couldn't help thinking: Where was everybody? Where were the valets, the little train of admiring hangers-on?...I hated all the Barrymore jokes--the sick ones, the dirty ones. I hated the people who said, "I was with Jack at a bar one night," ready to recount a wild story. This was a giant of a man, one of the few greats of our time. He was someone with enormous dignity, and he never lost it. He occasionally threw it away--for his own reasons. But that was his business. And now, in that long bleak hall, I saw a man who was catching his breath before doing battle, and quite a battle it was, with death.

71 comments:

Gloria said...

I reiterate: You're a public service. Thanks for the post!

Dan Leo said...

Even the way Mary Astor signed her photos was cool.

Vanwall said...

Lovely shots, and somehow I see those shoes as blue, myself.

Ross McDonald's Lew Archer came across an alcoholic actor's place in "The Way People Die":
"What I could see of the linoleum floor was glazed with grime. But most of it was covered with empty whiskey bottles in staggered rows, a sad little monument to Dalling's thirst. many of the bottles were pints and some were half-pints, which meant that Dalling had sometimes had no more than a dollar between him and sobriety."

It's hard to beat the lure.

Belvoir said...

Just so amazing. Looking forward to reading Mary Astor's book, "My Life On Film". Thank you again, Siren. And love to you Marylyn! Thank you for sharing, it's really splendid.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

As for Lindsay Lohan and all that ... I'll try not to be indiscreet with this one, but there comes a certain point in these situations where one (a) acknowledges that a history of substance abuse can bring awkwardness and pain in its wake; (b) says an inward prayer; and (c) hopes, with or without optimism, for the best for all concerned.

For the record, the director/writer for the Lohan-connected Linda Lovelace film -- Matt Wilder -- is a friend of mine.

DavidEhrenstein said...

You got it, Dan! Beautiful pictures.

Re. Lindsay Lohan one recalls the immortal line from Sunset Boulevard: "A hundre press agents working overtime can do terrible thigns to the human spirt." That plus the parents from hell.

Child Star Roadkill is an old story. But now the crack-up gets front page news. Watching her parade before the Paps leands me to belive that she thinks THAT is her work, and she's giving a performance 24/7.

The bottom line was the list of drugs she's taking as read out by the judge at sentencing.

I give her a year -- maybe less.

Karen said...

Oh, geez, that closing passage on Barrymore just wrecked me. Tears and everything.

The photos of Astor--especially the top one (that dress! those shoes! that hair!), but also the one with Barrymore--really DO bring the chills. She was magnificent.

Re Lohan: I find her entire story heartbreaking. My best friend James had a fantasy in which, during the filming of A Prairie Home Companion, Meryl Streep would adopt her and teach her how to be a mensch in all the madness. Clearly, that didn't happen. She appears to be on such a collision course now that I can't imagine what could save her. I find little source for humor in that.

But in being a potential contributor to "cocktail-party bonhomie": that I can take to the bank! Wow!

Rob said...

"Basically, I a. do not find drunk jokes funny in general and b. really bleeping viscerally hate a mob of people in high moral dudgeon over someone's personal failings."
That was beautiful. Really.
I admit I check D-Listed(honestly, just to see if I can guess the blind items)but at this point rarely even know who's being discussed anymore. But the scorn, the venom...

The Siren said...

I don't want to comment too much on Lohan, because I'm not exactly au courant with her work; but I really do have this THING about how the entertainment sites and magazines seem to choose a preferred target. Certain behavior I hold absolutely no brief for (omgMelGibsonomgwtfbbq) but Lohan is sad to me. As someone said in the thread below, time was when stars were protected to an extent just by the limits of what a newspaper could print. Now the only limit is the public's compassion, and apparently there isn't a whole lot out there for some.


And Rob, I'm no gossip-site virgin and some of them are fun. But for me, D-Listed...I'll just say that I never knowingly click on a link to that site. As you say, the venom...

The Siren said...

Gloria & Dan, thanks so much, and I agree, it's fascinating handwriting even.

Vanwall, no way man! Red! I have read Lew Archer but not that one. Great quote, but maybe too sad to read.

Belvoir, if even a handful of people pick up Astor's Life on Film I will be so happy.

MrsHWV, I was intrigued by that Lovelace project no end, and I hope your friend is able to bring it to fruition.

David, I do hope you are wrong this time...

Karen, I had neglected to post Wolcott's link (sorry, Jim!) and had forgotten that he also called us "erudite." **Preens**

I'm crazy about all my commenters (except the @#$! p--n spammers--would you guys KNOCK IT OFF, my mother reads this site!!) but I can't blame someone for peeking in at number 58 or 102 and saying, "I think this party is getting crowded." The downside is that I am not always the fastest gun in the West when it comes to email replies, but I do respond eventually.

I have some other gorgeous photos from the same correspondent but I am saving them for a special occasion; maybe after I view Desert Fury.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I hope I'm worng too, but I've seen far too many child actors crash and burn. Brad Refro was the worst. A great start and then on reaching adulthood he gets picked up by the cops on skid rwo in L.A. trying to score skag. And the heroin being sold down there is likely as not Draino!

Winona Ryder's collapse has been a lot slower. That's because the drugs involved are legal.
And legal narcotics (particularly Vicotin) are worse than Heroin.

Karen -- Altman said that on A Prairei Home Companion he didn't driect Streep at all (when an actor knows what they're doing a director should stay out of the way) and he gave Lohan over to her to guide her performance. The reuslts were very pleasant, particularly her rousing "Frankie and Johnny" towards the film's close. But once the cameras stopped rolling and Meryl went home it was back to the madness.

Gloria said...

David. "(when an actor knows what they're doing a director should stay out of the way)"

Hear, Sternberg! Hear!

Vanwall said...

Actually, I like the fact that this site has lots of comments - it's like reading a delicious little mystery, or an absorbing short story, that just happen to be written by a host of dedicated authors, with humor and insight. It saddens me that someone looking in here would be intimidated, as no one here makes any pretense to being close-minded and trollish - heck, jump in and read it all, you'll be better for it, but be warned: short attention spans need not apply.

The amount of comments also says much for our hostess's choice of subjects - they are unerringly interesting, supremely so, and bring out much info and thought that we would otherwise be without - it's like some kind of, dare I say it, Self-Styled Siren Round Table, where people of wit, film knowledge, and the gift of gab are willing to gather and share all of that in a convivial setting...minus the bread rolls and the Algonquin's bar, sorry.

Keep up the great work, Siren, and
I'll take the shoe color under advisement. ;-)

gmoke said...

Here's Craig Ferguson reacting to Britney Spears' meltdown, a very human, humane, and grown-up response.

swhitty said...

Thanks for this, Siren.

I've so enjoyed these glimpses of Astor's life from her daughter. Like you, I was born too late to meet any of my true idols -- but it's been such a joy along the years to get a note from, say, Preston Sturges' son, or John Garfield's daughter, filling me in on their famous parent's life.

And appreciate your defense of the Troubled Star. It's always a sad thing -- all addiction stories are -- and the last few chapters of the Server biography of Mitchum, a great presence descending into misogyny and bigotry, are particularly hard to take.

Besides, these judgements are best left to others. Barrymore, for example, often sounds like a dreadful person -- at least, judging by his daughter Diana's memories (or self-justifications) of how he hooked her into his lifestyle. But the power to assign blame is hers, not mine.

As for Lohan -- well, all I'll say is that I've interviewed many young stars over the years. And it seems the the ones who have survived -- Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway, Jodie Foster -- were always the ones who decided to take some time off from acting and go to college and expose themselves to the real world...

DavidEhrenstein said...

IT'S OVER! SWISS REFUSE TO EXTRADICT ROMAN POLANSKI!

The Siren said...

David, you know full well the Siren worships you, but for purposes of her comments threads, she wants everyone to pretend that Chinatown, Repulsion, Knife in the Water, Cul de Sac et al were directed by a giant animatronic orang-outang.

X. Trapnel said...

Wow! That first photo is a stunner as the Pre-Raphs would say (and how D.G.R./Watts/Millais [tho' not Holman Hunt] might have limned that hair). I seem to recall an exquisite profile shot of Astor (and Barrymore) in the Vanity Fair volume.

The Siren said...

Xt, there absolutely is such a photo, from Don Juan I believe. (Not a movie that has come up here yet--very erotic seduction scene, in the Siren's view, worth checking out for that alone). But I can't find it online at the moment. If it doesn't turn up I'll scan it from my VF compendium tonight.

Karen said...

This shot should be incentive enough.

Yojimboen said...

FWIW, a link to a short bio of Ms Astor.

I’m sorry, Mrs. Roh, but the more I learn about your grandfather, the more I dislike him. (And conversely, the more I admire your mother.)

Nora said...

Thank you Marylyn and Siren. My appreciation for both Mary Astor and John Barrymore has grown significantly.

And thank you as well for your comments on Lohan. The pain of child actors, even those who exit early and return to "normal" life, find the world changed and not always for the better.

pvitari said...

I love this photo of Charles Farrell and Mary Astor from Victor Fleming's The Rough Riders (1927) -- a movie I've never seen. If anyone has a source for it please post the information. Double please with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/68/76268-050-4E528EE3.jpg

Trish said...

It's none of my business, but I often wonder how much Drew Barrymore knows about her famous relatives...

Nora said...

Pvitari, here's what I found.

Survival Status of Rough Riders:

Prints exist in the Museum of Modern Art film archive, and in the Library of Congress film archive [incomplete print].

Yojimboen said...

Pvitari - This site claims you can watch or download the film for free (though I’m sure there’s some sort of ‘registration’ fee involved).

I’ve never used them, so caveat emptor.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Actually she knows quite a lot, Trish. Drew's a very smart woman, and very together. She ahd substance abuse probelms when young, but cleaned up her act and put herself on top.

She took care of her father< John Barrymore Jr. (unforgettable in Lang's While the City Sleeps and Losey's The Big Night) at the end of his life though she had nothing to do with her upbringing.

John Jr. himself was quite the hard case. Neother parent had much to do with him. He got into movies on his father's name, and got out of them thanks to a career of copious hell-raising. Dean Stockwell, Russ Tamblyn and of course Dennis Hopper were part of his hell-raising posse back in the day.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here I am with Drew in the early days of her fame.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Drew at her acting best.

Trish said...

Thanks, David! I'm curious, because she never mentions much about them. And it occurs to me that she is the spitting image of Ethel (well... not quite ;)).

Trish said...

She was wonderful in Grey Gardens, though to this day I wonder if it was acting or mimicry.

Something else that occurs to me is that maybe she thinks the average person doesn't know who the Barrymores are, so she doesn't talk about them.

What a photo, David! I hope she's drinking milk...

DavidEhrenstein said...

As I recall she was drinking soda -- with one eye peeled for champagne.

I think her performance in Grey Gardens goes beyond mimickry. She really got inot Edie becuase I think she understands one it means to live your life on edge of fame and obscurity. She also said he did it for her many gay friends (Edie being a Gay Icon and all.)

I well recall the premiere of the original Grey Gardens at the New York Film Festival wiht Edie in attendance -- getting the Standing O of all-time.

Here's Christine Ebersole singing my favorite song from the musical version.

Charles Noland said...

I've wondered if the seemingly greater number of actors that have personal problems might be due to something like this - I suspect that people that go into acting may have more ill-defined personal limits on their behavior. The actor is saying something about like this (implicitly that is) - "you want me to say these words, act this way, pretend to be that person? Sure." I just think that attitude must creep into their personal lives, and I'm sure there are plenty of people around them who aren't going to be good influences.

Yojimboen said...

Though I’d always liked Mary Astor for her beauty, her class, her talent and her intelligence, I’d never actually thought of her as hot.

Until now. Now I’m ankle-deep in fallen eye-scales.

Wow!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Correct Mr. Noland. Many people get into acting because the and acting is great way to try on an identity.

On the other hand there are many skillful actors who are totally sane and simply enjoy the fun of creating new identities on stage or before the camera. Meryl Streep is like this. She loves the rush of "pretending to be somebody else." But she has no trouble getting back to being herself when the cameras stop rolling. Alas the same can't be said of Faye Dunaway.

X. Trapnel said...

"Oh, Mr. Juan you do the most wild and unpredictable things!"

It may be Miss Astor's unflattering hairdo in The Maltese Falcon that kept us from appreciating her hotness. Those smouldering tresses cry out for unbounded freedom.

Naturally I've been thinking of Mary astor the past few days and have come to think of her as an actress like Barbara Stanwyck who can do anything. Think of the range: Falcon, Palm Beach Story, Dodsworth, Act of Violence, Meet Me in St. L. How many actresses can match that?

pvitari said...

Thank you Nora and Yojimboen... I already knew the status of the film's prints and believe it or not, had already been to that website. Unfortunately it directs you not to an online version of the 1927 film but a 1997 version with Tom Berenger. So a silent directed b Victor Fleming and starring Charles Farrell and Mary Astor remains tantalizingly out of reach. I suppose it's been screened at Cinecon or Cinefest or Pordenone.

Another Rough Riders picture, courtesy Goldens Are Silent: http://img13.imageshack.us/img13/5621/charliefarrellmaryastor.jpg

pvitari said...

Thank you Nora and Yojimboen... I already knew the status of the film's prints and believe it or not, had already been to that website. Unfortunately it directs you not to an online version of the 1927 film but a 1997 version with Tom Berenger. So a silent directed b Victor Fleming and starring Charles Farrell and Mary Astor remains tantalizingly out of reach. I suppose it's been screened at Cinecon or Cinefest or Pordenone.

Another Rough Riders picture, courtesy Goldensilents.com:

http://img13.imageshack.us/img13/5621/charliefarrellmaryastor.jpg

Vanwall said...

M X - The hairdo in MF was driven by the times - in the book, which was much more in a Teens-Twenties vein, Brigid had long, red hair which she let down when she slept with Spade, another thing left out of the film. I submit, tho, Mary Astor would, and did, look damn good in any 'do.

X. Trapnel said...

Thanks V; I take your point about Miss Astor looking good no matter what, but the Falcon do always makes me think of tree mold or the map of Greenland with the Mercator projections (I suppose like most [ok, many] males I prefer the long, flowing ocean of dreams look [cf. Baudelaire]). I'm hoping for a Siren hair posting in the future that might explain decade by decade some of the odder transformations.

Trish said...

Silents are so endearing! The best ones tell the simplest of stories, often with a high moral tone and the actors clearly believing in what they do. Who could ever consider them outdated and irrelevant? I watched the seduction scene in Don Juan and I'm gob-smacked by the story telling.

Karen said...

Pvitari, that second shot from Rough Riders is gorgeous (well, so was the first, actually), but what is it with Astor and swooning? That's practically the identical pose to the one I posted from the cover of the Don Juan videocassette!

X., your comment about the Baudelaire-esque flowing ocean of dreams look prompted me to take a photo of an old New Yorker cartoon from the early 1930s, which I always think of when I see those long silent locks:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/klg19/4790241049

X. Trapnel said...

Karen, I had a feeling you meant the Seven Southerland Sisters and sure enough. The old (yellow cover) New Yorker Album filled my childhood with many faintly disturbing images, not least "The Sort of Thing that Brings Joy to the Ashman's Black Heart"

Karen said...

Oh, X., I LOVE the ashman's black heart!

That book was a major, major influence in my childhood as well:

http://www.comixology.com/articles/33/My-Comic-History-Part-1-

X. Trapnel said...

"Again you come you hovering forms"--Goethe, Faust

Karen, do you remember any of the following? (Anyone can remember "George, stop mumbling!" or the Arno man in the shower)

1. "Twas Christmas in the Pesthouse"
2. Newbould Morris, Anna Rosenberg (who they?)
3. "You're one of the lucky few with a perfectly normal skin" (never understood that one; still don't).
4. "You're a mystic Mr. Ryan. All Irishmen are" (I hoped I would get it when I was a grown up).

Charles Noland said...

Right David E, there are those actors who seem to have their lives together - Paul Newman, Redford, Jimmy Stewart, and so on. Probably a good way for a guy to meet chicks when he is young, maybe that draws some of them in.

Karen said...

X., I remember ALL of those. Seriously. I don't think there's a single book one earth with which I've spent more time than that New Yorker anniversary album!

I'm not sure there's a joke to "get" with the perfectly normal skin one. That always struck me as just one of those quirky slice-of-life cartoons they sometimes run.

I also loved the multi-page Life magazine satire, with the two models during WW2. And the dog meat series. And Fiorello LaGuardia entering City Hall.

Sigh. I freaking love that book.

Karen said...

Newbold Morris.

Anna Rosenberg.

X. Trapnel said...

That's it, a slice of life. I've always liked "The WPA has commissioned me to paint a mural here." You, Karen, surely know that "here" is East Tassyville.

More:

"Gosh, Jack; that was very careless of you"

The Tomato Surprise

The Green Hat

X. Trapnel said...

Incroyable! I had always imagined Newland Archer in The Age of Innocence to look like Newbould Morris (D-Day L. utterly miscast, but the whole enterprise was a botch) and here he is a relative of Edith W.

How 'bout Mary Astor as Mme. Olenska?

Yojimboen said...

Dayum, Karen, I’d just finished typing a brilliantly edited précis of the lives of Rosenberg and Morris (wryly climaxing with his Edith W connection) and you beat me to the click with a couple of links!

In any case, the other jokes, X, are all hilariously funny. I think you have to be foreign.

Trish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trish said...

I just re-read my post and wonder if I didn't come off as being a tad disrespectful. Let me just say that Ms. Astor, in her few brief scenes, wiped the floor with the other old broads, Davis and de Havilland. And I think she knew it. Another reason to admire her...

Yojimboen said...

This is one of my favorite Photoplay covers of all time.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Saw Maedchen in Uniform at "Outfest" last night -- the 1958 version starring Romy Schneider and Lili Palmer. It's a great example of a remake being vastly superior to the original. The 1931 version was scarcely chopped liver. It's a classic, considered the first real lesbian film. Yes there's Louis Brooks' bisexual chic in Pandora's Box, but this tale of a schoolgirl at a repressive military-style academy gets down to business full bore. It was Romy Schnier's first really grown-up role, after having been a great teenager star in Germany for the Sissi films (celluloid cream puffs about the youth of Elizabeth of Austria that were remakes of a series made famous by her mother Magda) Here she plays a lonely orpahned schoolgirl who falls in love with her beautiful teacher at an academy run by an opressive , and obviously prepressed, older woman. Therea Ghieiza plays this part. Jenni Olson, who has rediscoevred this version and is launching it on DVD shortly (with all manner of exrras) was ther and related that Ghieze was Erica Mann's girlsfriend. She had also worked with Brecht and played many of his classic roles, such as "Mother Courage." This film was produced by Artur Brauner, the biggest producer in Germany of the 50's. No expense was spared. At the same time this film was beingmade Brauner was also producing Fritz Lang's two-part masterpiece Der Tiger von Eschnapur/ Das Indische Grabmal. Romy Schneider puts her heart and soul into this part. When in the climactic scene, after a performance of "Romeo and Juliet" (where she played Romeo) tipsy on inadvertently spiked punch she declares her love to her teacher to the entire school it coems across like a militant political statement. Christine Kaufmann (who starred in Town Without Pity, married Tony Curtis and later went onto do films for Fassbinder and Werner Schroeter) is quite stunning as Romy's rival for Lili's affection.

Altogether not to be missed.

X. Trapnel said...

Karen,

Just read your SPLENDID piece on the NYer Album (how do I find part 2?). So many echoes of my own experience with that and similar curious volumes. In those impressionable years what we see in books blends unobtrusively and naturally into what we see on film and enriches our sense of the past without which the imagination is impoverished (the lack is one reason why contemporary pop culture is so drab and ugly). It was seeing Remember the Night (first time and wonderful it was) this past weekend that made me think of the Tassyville post office.

IA said...

There might be a good article waiting to be written on the films John Barrymore made during his decline. Those works often been dismissed, but Barrymore was capable of stray moments of magic even when in his cups.
Midnight and True Confession have thankfully received some attention; perhaps worthy of further study is his work in Marie Antoinette, Hold That Co-ed (B's "feral" energy has been praised by Tom Sutpen), The Great Profile (frequently dismissed as degrading, but Barrymore is said by Kael to be very funny), and The Invisible Woman (B is said to perform a wicked parody of his intolerable brother).
As for the rest, The Great Man Votes features some of Barrymore's finest acting (the John Greenleaf Whittier speech is beautifully rendered) and the otherwise putrid and truly degrading Playmates features Barrymore giving a recital of "To Be or Not to Be" that just might be the best recorded on film—he foregrounds the weariness in the lines, knowingly keying it to the public perception of his decline, and expertly milks emotion only to dispel it with a winking flourish at the end.

Karen said...

X., you're very kind! There is no official Part 2, but this column on Al Jaffee and this one on Will Elder highlight the influence MAD Magazine had on me.

You'll see that, for me, my experience of comics and my experience of movies are completely inextricable.

Speaking of the Tassyville post office: in the library where I work we have this magnificent mural that was painted in 1935 (Columbia, as Athena, fighting off the demons of ignorance to bring enlightenment to the masses; the masses who, incidentally, are holding exactly two tools: a hammer and a sickle). I see it everyday when I come in to work, and it always makes me think of that cartoon of the WPA artist at the post office!

The Siren said...

Hello friends--the Siren is picking up extra work hours this week so her comment responses may suffer.

Yojimboen, I gather Otto is not a fond memory for most of Astor's descendants; a stage father to match many stage mothers.

I've also often wondered why no one (to my knowledge) has sat down and done an extensive interview with Drew Barrymore about her family's legacy. As in, which movies has she seen? What does she think of their technique, how their stage training affected their screen acting? Did she ever learn anything specific from watching a great John Barrymore performance, like (as IA mentions) The Great Man Votes, or one of my favorites like Dinner at Eight or Twentieth Century?

In short, why do people persist in asking Drew about Tom Green, Charlie's Angels or whatever, when the really good questions would be along the lines of "Did you ever see Counsellor at Law? Whatdidja think?"

I think Drew is a very good actress, by the way, who doesn't get much credit for the unaffected simplicity and belief she brings to most of those rom-com roles, even the ones that are manifestly unworthy of her.

The Siren said...

I'm also so happy the Don Juan seduction scene is, um, up at Youtube--thanks so much Yojimboen. That is one of my favorite Astor scenes and it also altered my attitude toward her as a sex symbol.

And thanks also Pvitari, for bringing The Rough Riders to my attention. Another film out there in limbo somewhere it seems...

DavidEhrenstein said...

A very good question, Siren. I'm sure Drew's familair with her grandfather's work. But tha vagaries fo publicity beign what they are questions are liekly to be confined to the project of the moment. I suspect that down the line a bit a more extensive profile/interview would yiedl a lot from Drew re her feelings about the Barrymore clan.

Come to think of it True Confession woudl be a great film for her to remake -- provided she could find someone to play her grandfather's role.

Hugh Laurie would be good. And lord knows he's "bankable."

X. Trapnel said...

Karen, I too was a devotee of Mad, Jaffee in particular, though even as a ten year old I found Dave Berg's Alan King-style "humor" tiresome and the drawing bland.

Any idea who painted the Columbia mural?

Trish said...

If I were Drew B., I'd be viewing stacks of her family's DVDs every night. They left her quite a legacy, one that should encourage her to pursue better work, if it's out there...

I was introduced to MAD on a family camping trip and became a devoted fan. Hard to believe, but I learned a lot about films reading MAD's movie parodies. I'll never forget "The Sinpiper". I was desperate to see The Sandpiper after reading it, but it was years before that came to pass. I never forgot WHY I wanted to see it.

Yojimboen said...

Messrs Kurtzman, Elder and the magnificent Mort Drucker were some of the more irresistible magnets which drew me across the pond to these golden shores.
That and the thick shakes.

Karen said...

X., the Columbia muralist is Ernest Savage.

Yojimboen, I remember The Sinpiper!

Yojimboen said...

There’s a raft of Mary Astor and John Barrymore films viewable (and downloadable) for free on-line at the Public Domain site: http://www.archive.org/

ASTOR:

The Kennel Murder Case, with William Powell (as Nick Charles) as Philo Vance.

Trapped by Television, a delightful unheard-of comedy (1936)

The Maltese Falcon trailer (1941)

BARRYMORE:

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

The Beloved Rogue (1927)

Svengali (1931)

And the Bulldog Drummond series, where he played 2nd lead to John Howard (but received top billing):

Bulldog Drummond Comes Back (1937)

B.D.’s Revenge (1937)

B.D.’s Peril (1938)

Enjoy

Trish said...

A thousand thanks, Yoji... :D :D :D

X. Trapnel said...

Ernest Savage. Brother of Noble, one wonders. I sought out some other pictures. He doesn't get much beyond earnestness, but clearly the Columbia commission inspired him to go all out.

Karen said...

I lied. It's Eugene Savage. I'm incapable of thinking of him as anything other than Ernest. It must be because he's so important.

He also painted this mural in Yale's Sterling library, but that is not as deliciously site-specific as ours...

VP81955 said...

Two wonderful entries, which I've referred my readers to:

http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/322373.html

More power to Mary, and Marylyn.

Ms. Astor looks to be a worthy subject for further research, especially that "A Life On Film" book. Not many actors from that era discussed the ins and outs of the craft, and I'm certain she has some cogent things to say.

dr.giraud said...

I love BEAU BRUMMELL. Barrymore is brilliant and Astor is touching; the scene when Beau, a broken man, sends her away for the last time is haunting.

THE ROUGH RIDERS, alas, is a lost film. Only outtakes survive, and those are what the archives hold.

Drew Barrymore was on Fresh Air w/Terry Gross around the time Grey Gardens was made. She spoke extensively about her family and her warm feelings for them--she said she has their pictures posted around her home. And she expressed her admiration for DINNER AT EIGHT and some other films, as well.