Hollywood Celebrity Scandals Mary Astor's Diary Part 2

About the Hollywood celebrity scandal of 1936 involving a child custody battle and the diary of Mary Astor


Miss Astor Regrets...-1936

Kaufman's headlines were more usually found in the drama reviews for plays like The Band Wagon, Dinner at Eight, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Night at the Opera, and others of the more than 60 he eventually wrote alone or with collaborators; or for first-run Broadway plays that he directed, like My Sister Eileen, Front Page, Of Mice and Men, and Guys and Dolls.

Although married and sharing a close relationship with wife Bea, he maintained an apartment on 73rd Street for his many affairs. The Kaufmans were at the center of the sophisticated, always interesting people who met around a table at the Algonquin Hotel; who played croquet by special permit in Central Park; and whose parties introduced the young and hopeful to New York.

It was to this sparkling atmosphere that a California-weary Mary Astor came in the summer of 1933. She had been working hard at her contract roles in the film capital. Her marriage of three years was ending. A friend suggested a New York spree to cheer her up, and George Kaufman as someone to show her around.

She "fell like a ton of bricks" for George and found New York exhilarating-the theater; parties where Gershwin could be found previewing Porgy and Bess; new ideas exchanged by some of the country's most intelligent people. Miss Astor, one of Hollywood's most flawless beauties, was accepted without question. She had not yet won her Academy Award for the part of Sandra in The Great Lie, and was still to be kissed by Bogart as Brigid, the fascinating bad woman-"I've always been a liar"-in The Maltese Falcon. She was most often walking through nothing roles in nothing films to fulfill her contract. Now she was offered a play, asked for ideas, treated for once, not as a product, but as a person.

The romance continued when George visited Hollywood as scriptwriter or went to Palm Springs with collaborator Moss Hart to write a musical. The newspaper version of the diary read: "Ah desert night-with George's body plunging into mine, naked under the stars..."

Dr. Thorpe discovered the diary carelessly tossed in a drawer. Shortly afterward he visited his wife's lover, but was so incoherent that George was at a loss as to the real purpose of the doctor's visit. After warning Mary that her husband had discovered their 16-month relationship, he fled to his wife and New York. Bea Kaufman thought it would blow over.

In 1935 the doctor sued Mary for a divorce. One of Mary's friends, hearing of the circumstances, suggested lawyer Roland R. Woolley, who accepted the case. Mary did not contest the divorce but filed a countersuit to prevent giving the legal custody of their daughter to Dr. Thorpe.

The first press coverage appeared in the entertainment section. Soon, even the conservative New York Times acknowledged the impact of the story. The courtroom theme wandered from child neglect to bedroom habits, as Dr. Thorpe's penchant for young blond actresses and Mary Astor's eventful past were explored and distorted. Readers were delighted to hear that John Barrymore was to be summoned. The man who had been 17-year-old Mary Astor's first lover was by this time undone by alcoholism. He had retreated to the quiet of a sanitorium. The scandal touched other prominent figures-most often with only the slightest excuse. The diary was at the core of the accusations and was the cause of the innuendos.

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