Tuesday, March 04, 2014

TCM Star of the Month: Mary Astor

The March Star of the Month on Turner Classic Movies is Oscar-winning actress Mary Astor.

Well over 50 Astor films will be shown in 24-hour marathons beginning Wednesday evening, March 5th.

Mary Astor was born in 1906 and as a teenager began working in bit parts in silent films; her last screen role came over four decades later, in 1964. She could really do it all, from searing dramatic roles to hilariously funny comedic performances.

Astor chronicled her life and career in the fine books MY STORY: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY and A LIFE ON FILM. She passed away in 1987.

The tribute to Astor's wonderful career gets underway on March 5th with the highly regarded William Wyler film DODSWORTH (1935), followed by THE GREAT LIE (1941), for which she won the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress. THE GREAT LIE costars Bette Davis and George Brent.

Other films that evening include the silent film DON JUAN (1926), with John Barrymore, and a role as Elizabeth Taylor's mother in CYNTHIA (1947).

This first batch of films wraps up with A KISS BEFORE DYING (1956), which I also mentioned in my overview of the month yesterday. It's an entertaining film in which Astor plays the adoring and oblivious mother of a bad, bad son (Robert Wagner).

On March 12th the evening kicks off with another of Astor's classic films, THE MALTESE FALCON (1941). I imagine most classic film fans have seen this one, but it's a film that's always good for another visit. And those who are new to it should make it a point to see this one, "the stuff dreams are made of."

Other titles airing that night range from John Ford's THE HURRICANE (1937) to the Melvyn Douglas-Joan Blondell comedic mystery THERE'S ALWAYS A WOMAN (1938) to the Esther Williams film FIESTA (1947). Mary plays Esther's mother in FIESTA, another of the many times she played a mother on film.

Along with THE MALTESE FALCON, the gem of the evening on the 12th is the timeless classic THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1937), costarring Ronald Colman and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., as well as Madeleine Carroll, David Niven, Sir C. Aubrey Smith, and Raymond Massey. Don't miss it.

On March 19th the evening kicks off with Astor's hilarious performance in THE PALM BEACH STORY (1942), for which I believe she should have rated an Oscar nomination. It's a bit mind-blowing comparing her giddy role in THE PALM BEACH STORY with the previous year's femme fatale in THE MALTESE FALCON.

The 14 films airing on the 19th and into the 20th range from the silent BEAU BRUMMEL (1924) to the early '40s comedy YOUNG IDEAS (1943) to the business melodrama THE POWER AND THE PRIZE (1956).

The final 14 films on March 26th start off with Astor's role as Marmee in the MGM version of LITTLE WOMEN (1949), followed by her role as Mrs. Smith in one of the greatest musicals ever filmed, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944).

Also airing on the 26: the classic pre-Code comedy-drama RED DUST (1932), with Clark Gable and Jean Harlow, and her highly regarded performance in Fred Zinnemann's ACT OF VIOLENCE (1949).

Click any of the links above for past reviews of Astor's films. For more on TCM this month, please visit TCM in March: Highlights and the complete schedule.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mary Astor heaven!
Love that poster (lobby card?) from Meet Me in St LOUIS.

10:59 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

It occurs to me that lobby card must have been posed strictly for the photographer, because there are no place settings for Tootie, Lon Jr., or Mr. Smith!

Best wishes,

11:15 PM  

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