Thursday, April 4, 2013

Nils Asther (from my unpublished FADEOUT: The Final Film of ...)

Promoted by MGM as the “male Garbo,” this Swedish import was even prettier than his leading lady and that would eventually prove his downfall. They co-starred in WILD ORCHIDS (1929) and THE SINGLE STANDARD (1929), both empty star vehicles, and the studio punched up the shared glamour for all it was worth. But despite a brief marriage to vaudeville entertainer Vivian Duncan, Nils Asther was unabashedly gay, to the point where Garbo supposedly begged him to treat her on screen “like one of your sailors.” Despite his Swedish accent, the Danish born, Stockholm reared actor made the transition from silents to sound with ease and played the title role in Frank Capra’s THE BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN (1952), a miscegenation melodrama with Barbara Stanwyck that was chosen to open New York’s giant new flagship theater, Radio City Music Hall. But in reality, Asther's luxurious Latin Lover looks already belonged to a bygone era and the next two decades found him drifting from one cheap movie to the next, usually playing dyed-in-the-wool villains, charming but utterly corrupt. He was reduced to working as a $1 an hour delivery clerk by 1949 and hightailed it back to Europe where his name still meant something at the box-office. Offers, however, remained few and far between and the increasingly gaunt actor ended his screen career in a little-known Danish potboiler.

The final film of Nils Asther:

GUDRUN (Denmark, 1963) D: Anker. CAST: Birgitte Federspiel, Paul Reichardt, Jørgen Buckhøj, Laila Andersson, Yvonne Ingdal, Nils Asther (Mr. Roscoe). A young secretary finds herself the object of amorous attention from not only her boss but also a lesbian landlady and a British business tycoon (Asther). GUDRUN was released to the art trade in the US in 1967 as "Suddenly, A Woman!" Although not popular at the time, the drama did garner ingénue Laila Andersson the Danish equivalent of the Oscar. Oddly, the actress then stayed away from films for fifteen years.

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