Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gertrude Astor (from my unpublished FADEOUT: The Final Film of ...)

Tall, handsome rather than beautiful, and always dressed to the nines (she and the equally statuesque Lilyan Tashman were for years known as Hollywood's most fashionable), Gertrude Astor vamped her way through more than 300 films in a screen career that lasted from the early days of Universal in 1915 through 1961. Usually, Astor plied her trade for comedic purposes but she could be dramatic as well, notably as Mrs. St. Clare in the extant UNCLE TOM'S CABIN (1928), her own favorite. Shortly before she died on her ninetieth birthday, Astor was feted with a banquet by her old studio, Universal. "I am very proud," she said on the occasion, "I thought that life was over and I should just crawl in a corner and die. I have no family. I haven't a soul on earth to enjoy this with, but I'm going to do plenty of that." The ever-popular Gertrude Astor died of a stroke at the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA.

The final film of Gertrude Astor:

THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (Paramount, 1962) D: John Ford. CAST: James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmund O'Brien, Andy Devine, Woody Strode, Gertrude Astor (extra). Along with most of John Ford's coterie of former silent stars, including Ruth Clifford and Eva Novak, Astor was merely a background extra in this taught Western in which citified (and unarmed) lawyer Stewart attempts to clean up a lawless town. But not, it turns out, without a little help of aging gunman Wayne.

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