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There was little of the national or international news to give context to the work; national depression, international war brewing were never mentioned. There was a lot about movies — she saw double features often and listed each movie, and sometimes the actors. I liked her stories about cars — her brother Art drove for the family and the cars had rumble seats, so fun. She never resolves this issue but implies that his career is speckled with sexual incidences culminating in his termination from his career with the church organization.
Another issue she speaks of and never resolves is finances, and how her parents supported her at the private school, over and above the scholarship from the church. Then again why does anyone publish an autobiography and put themselves out to the public? We got to meet the 94 year old author and she was unexpectedly funny and delightful. She suffers from aging dementia and remembers very little of her writing, but she held her own in the conversation. I want to thank Mary for coming and bringing her pictures to share, and her daughter, Heather, who facilitated our conversation with Mary.
I am almost finished with Journal Number one and can't wait to start the second one. McIntosh has captured my interest viewing what her life was like during the 's. In reading a short bio of Mary McIntosh I found she is 90 years old and just recently turned her journals into books. Her entries in the actual journals are short since she only had space for 5 lines a day.
She includes the entry in the journal and then fills us in on the events. I am a big fan of this period so I am thrilled I am almost finished with Journal Number one and can't wait to start the second one. I am a big fan of this period so I am thrilled to have discovered these books. If you also have a love for the 30's check out the books on Amazon. Jun 06, Bridget Holbert rated it it was amazing. Interesting true I really enjoyed reading this. I wasn't sure what to expect when i first downloaded but i found it well written and addicting!
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She was even more surprised when she got there and saw standing in that room the heads of every studio and their lawyers. They had all gathered to convince Mary Astor to settle the case. It seems that they had been given a copy of the forged diary with sexual performance scorecards and steamy passages and believing this to be the real diary, and, if it went public it would bring down the wrath of the public and Legion of decency as well as the possibility of government intervention and censorship. It should be understood that in that room were the most powerful men in the industry; men who could make or break a career at the drop of a hat.
So Irving Thalberg—this was about a month before his untimely death—spoke for the group and tried to persuade Astor to settle arguing that if the Diary was made public—thinking the pornographic forged one was the real diary—it would destroy the industry. Listening to Thalberg Astor thought the whole thing ridiculous; that her diary would bring down the motion picture industry. And with that, left the room. As an aside, Goldwyn was asked if he would threaten Astor with enforcement of the morality clause in her loan out contract with Columbia.
A-Their affair had ended in the fall of so Kaufman made it a point to avoid Astor as she did him. To the best of my knowledge they never even spoke to each other. But that could be just a rumor. A-Publically she said it was just flirtation and that she and Kaufman were happily married.
This is why neither she nor Kaufman ever again spoke about it publically. She was elderly, tiny, gracious and lovely. When Leueen thought the time was right she divorced him. It seems that Kaufman preferred friends as wives and regarding sex as something to be done outside of marriage. In no way could he be called a conventional man. A-I always liked her but it was not until I began compiling the material for a conceptual piece that I really became interested.
How The Purple Diaries came to be written is an interesting story in itself. A number of years ago I wanted to put together a massive conceptual installation which would consist of a series of paper collage works dealing with the American film Industry from the 20s through the 90s. One collage per decade it would alternate the complete newspaper coverage of a film release verses a Hollywood scandal.
For the 30s Mary Astor.
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I never got around to completing the entire 8 part work as no gallery really had the space and, frankly, I had moved on. Nevertheless, the Astor material intrigued me It was about a woman who, for the sake of her little baby, took on the media and the Hollywood establishment to do what she believed was right. This struck a chord with me. I soon discovered that every book and even magazine article written years after the fact which contained an account of the scandal—either briefly or at length—had never gotten the story right but, more often than not, printed rumor as fact.
Thus, the piece on Astor was filled with so many falsehoods, often substituting the salacious for the truth that I felt the record needed to be set straight. In short, Hollywood Babylon and its many falsehoods had, and would continue to be, source material for any writer wanting to discuss the Mary Astor Franklyn Thorpe Custody Trial. At this point in the process, it was not my intention to write a book. I thought I was merely writing a long form magazine piece of no more than 20, words in which I planned to tell the story in two parts.
The first would deal with the events leading up to the custody battle and the second with the custody battle itself. The writing of the first part was pretty straight forward and took me about a month. I used approximately fifteen sources—mostly books and a handful of newspaper and magazine articles. After reading and thoroughly absorbing this material I quickly determined how I wanted to tell this part of the story.
So, after sitting at my computer, I spread these books and articles on the floor beside me and began to write. When I needed a quote or to clarify some background information, I would stop writing, pick up a book or article, find what I needed and then continue at the computer. Eventually, I produced what would become the first six chapters of The Purple Diaries. The second part—the trial section—unlike the first for which I used a limited number of sources, was extremely complex. It had a large number of players acting simultaneously.
It also concerned some relatively complex courtroom machinations. This all had to be culled, for the most part, from nearly contemporary newspaper articles. There was no way that I could work with this massive amount of material spread out on the floor beside me. Frankly, it was simply too overwhelming. I needed a better solution.
So what I eventually did was sit down and, over a period of about month—article by article—cataloged what each character did and said on a given day as well as what was happening in court. I also noted what the various newspapers were reporting. That done, I then went through it, eliminating repetition so that, when it was completed, I could instantly determine what this or that character was doing or saying on a certain day. But this was a very different kind of writing than I had done for the first part of the envisioned magazine piece.
For the second part I soon learned that the events themselves would determine the story and I would merely act as a Greek chorus clarifying what was happening for the reader. The first step would be to create a bare bones outline to guide me when I actually wrote the book proper. This outline—or superstructure as I liked to call it—was crucial as it would serve as the backbone of the book. So, as the outline and, later, the book grew out of the material, my sensitivity to this fact—and lack of resistance in allowing the material to take on a life of its own—became the key to writing the rest of the book.
Q-As for some of your resources, what did you find helped you in your research? A-Always go for primary and rely on books or articles if written by the sources. And even then check every fact and every date. Never accept material written from memory as fact unless it is thoroughly researched. And if it is not primary, check bibliographies for primary and read them for yourself. Also, through the use of interlibrary loan you can have access to every journal, newspaper, publication and book in the world.
Make sure you are working with a library that has an interlibrary loan service. As of late I have found that a great deal of primary material is on the web including all sorts of Hollywood publications that have been indexed which makes searching much less difficult. During the later stages of writing this book I did much of my research and fact checking through the web. This is a resource that is going to get even better. A-Every single one that refers to the topic you are writing.
Writing a history you have to be nothing less than thorough. Anything else is unacceptable.
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I was fortunate in that I was writing about a specific event and not a biography which would have required infinitely more work. Here again I am quoting from the Purple Dairies website in which I detail the writing of the book. Q-What was the thing that surprised you the most from your research for the book? There are a couple of things that surprised me. Then, how one false story is used as source material for another and then that for another until truth is lost. Surprisingly, this is done by some very respected publications.
Second, how difficult it is to write a book like this and keep your facts straight rather than falsely construe things. This forced me to be hard on myself and almost fanatical about putting down what I knew was fact sure it had happened when facts proved it to be a certainty. Read this little volume and you will see for yourself that this mother love for her child was inestimable.
A-Well it did became a project that overwhelmed me. My editor told my agent that in all his years he never worked with a writer who was more passionate about a project then me. Also, I believed that Mary Astor, someone whom I respect enormously, deserved the best I could do as she never did anything less than the best in whatever she did. This includes both the Court battle and raising her daughter.
She also deserved the best I could do. She is a very great lady and evidence of the good job Astor did raising her daughter. Astor may not have been the perfect mother but as Marylyn told me, she was the only mother Marylyn had and she was also the best mother Marylyn had. In other words confusing reality with the dream factory illusion the studios of the period turned out. There is nothing wrong with that.
The trouble that I have with the book, and this is pretty much based on his chapter on the Custody Case, is that not only did he get the basics of the story wrong but made things up to make the story seem far more salacious than it really was. Q-Do you think a transcript exists for the trial? Your book is so thorough that I was under the impression that you had gotten a transcript. As far as I could find there is no official transcript. Since newspapers and wire services had stenographers in the courtroom the tabloids printed up various portions of the testimony verbatim.
Therefore, utilizing trial coverage from all the L. Y Newspapers, as well as the wire services, I was able to painstakingly reconstruct major portions of the trail transcript. It was one of the most difficult things I did writing this book. Q-Is there any newsreel footage of the trial? I know there are many photos of the trial taken by the swarm of newspaper photographers.
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I cannot imagine the noise and crowd and claustrophobia in that courtroom. I am doing the research for a filmmaker who is working on a documentary about the Custody Battle. Truthfully, the last thing the studios wanted was for this scandal, which could be extremely damaging to Hollywood, to become an even bigger story than it already was by newsreel footage playing in the very movie houses the studios owned.
The script is almost finished and a plethora of photographs and other visual elements have already been gathered. I have great faith in the filmmaker who has forgotten more about films than I will ever know. She is not only a big fan of Mary Astor but is even more enthusiastic about the project than I am which is saying a lot.
I would like to meet Paul Osborne as I have a lot respect for the man but as I am, as they used say, very intense I might be too much for him. My wife tells me this all the time and when we are with people she will say 10 which means most intense and I should calm down. I did meet Molly Haskell a while back and found her to be absolutely delightful. If you are interested in movies she is the person to sit down and have a conversation with. Wonderful, wonderful person with a kind heart. I adored my time with her. Q-After all your research and emotional investment in Astor, did you wish you had the opportunity to interview her?
A-You know that is the most interesting question I have been asked since the book came out. She was a woman, even in her last years who lived in the present. I think once we turned to books—especially hers—and ideas she would have opened up more. In fact Moss Hart back in the early 30s called her the smartest gal in California—referring to Hollywood. Therefore, I think I would have been very intimidated by her. It helped her to keep her sanity during the Custody Hearing because it was being made at the same time. She could concentrate on her role and get her mind off of what was happening in court.
Remember during most of the Custody Battle she was living in on the U. I think by getting into the role as much as she did it kept her mind off one of the most difficult episodes of her life. In fact the character that she played in the film became the model for how she conducted herself in court—cool and dispassionate which was the complete opposite of how she really felt. A-She respected Huston obviously because he was the total pro. As he got older it became less and less affected and more natural.
The two of them were great on screen and they got along. In fact Huston treated her to a champagne farewell on her last day of shooting. So, that has to say something about their relationship. The empathy of the cast and crew must have given Mary strength to continue her dedication to the struggle for custody.
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A-That is quite true—especially with Ruth Chatterton. Despite the possibility of being harmed by the scandal Chatterton was with Astor in that courtroom all but two days of the Hearing. Outside of Chatterton and a few others Mary Astor was pretty much alone during this time and it took great strength, determination and commitment to follow through.
Chatterton comes alive on the pages of that book. Ruth was a woman who demanded control of her life and lived life entirely on her terms. She was a feminist before the term was even coined. She was also a rabid individualist who cared little what others thought of her. Ruth never saw herself as just a woman. She saw herself as a person first and equal to any man…and frankly, better than most. So she returned to the theatre and never looked back. She eventually became a bestselling author writing about controversial subjects that she believed in and even wrote book reviews of the New York Times.
Chatterton proved a very good friend to Astor and was, according to Astor a great help during the trial. A-I think that was because Ruth was a very strong person who very much controlled her career and Davis admired that. In time, when she was at Warner Bothers Davis became much the same way. In any case they were both individualists and one of a kind personalities. Astor worked with and admired both women. Her acting improved radically after the Court Battle. She had been working at if for quite a long time and by had really learned her craft.
By the 40s she had become a superb technician working in comedy as well as Drama. She was so good in Meet Me In St. She believed it her job was to give a director exactly what they wanted. You can see this in her performance. Q-Astor undoubtedly had many of her nerves tested during the production of this film because of the scandal.
What do you think was her greatest strength at this time? A-I think at that time it was her determination. She may not have wanted the Diaries it to come into evidence but if they did they did. She really was going for broke and had, essentially pushed all her chips into the pot. Now, that is strength and my admiration for that is one of the reason why I wrote the book.
Do you have any comments on why that was allowed? Was it because of the novel by Sinclair Lewis? In a code approved film someone could have all the affairs they wanted as long as in the end they were punished for it. The film dealt with it in a very subtle manner so that you could construe that the two had a chaste relationship. So Huston leaves her to return Astor leaving a shattered Chatterton devastated.
And that is how they got around the censorship issue. She even wore glasses in one scene which Astor wore all the time unless a photo was being taken and then she took them off. And it was the same in front of the movie camera. Off came the glasses. The only problem was the script. For example, the Nevada scenes were written almost entirely by the two women. Consequently, Astor infused Sondra with many of her own personality traits and psychological issues. Like Sondra Astor presented herself to the world as a self-assured woman and like Sondra used work to cope with her personal demons.
In this respect, there is a very telling scene early in the film. He leaves and Sondra walks to her Piano. It is obvious that Sondra is using her music to cope with deep seated feelings of inadequacy much as If you know her life story Mary Astor used acting. In these scenes the chemistry between Astor and Davis is extraordinary. It is in the kitchen scene—Sondra is caught eating pickles—where Sondra is finally revealed for what she is, an emotional child. Initially shouting her protest at being told what to eat, Sondra suddenly breaks down in a flood of tears.
From beginning to end Astor brings absolute authenticity to these emotions. Then, following a storm when the two are playing double solitaire, a frightened Sondra suddenly turns hysterical culminating in the famous slapping scene with Bette Davis. A-I never heard or read about that. Now, it should be understood that Davis helped this happen as she thought that it would be best for the film.
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In later years Astor would have preferred Maltese Falcon but in truth that type of genre film rarely wins awards although in time they are thought to be the best films to come out of Hollywood. How did a mature Mary Astor regard her acting over the years? This was especially the case with her silent films and especially the films she made during her three year contract with Warner Brothers.
Q-Aside from John Barrymore, what other actors did she enjoy working with on screen? A-She liked Bogie and thought him more accomplished than many thought him to be. She thought Claudette Colbert was a very skilled light comedian. She had a high regard for Cagney although they only worked together once. Eddie Robinson of course.