08
Mar
10

mary astor

a nice appreciation by dan callahan at bright lights journal

We first hear Edith as a warm voice in the dark, talking to Walter Huston’s American abroad; she’s swathed in furs, a touch melancholy, a bit badly used, just drifting along with modest hopes, and wise enough to never overplay her hand in any situation. When she zings Mrs. Dodsworth (Ruth Chatterton) about her age, she does it because it seems necessary, not because Edith particularly enjoys catty exchanges. In an instant, she understands that Mrs. Dodsworth is about to cheat on her husband; in the next instant, she faces her and says, “My dear . . . don’t,” in Astor’s dark, sensible voice. That moment is the ultimate in a rare sort of sophistication and fair play that Astor herself has mastered for Edith, a very particular person and also a kind of feminine ideal. The last shots of the film are of Edith when she realizes Dodsworth has returned to her; Astor fills her whole face and body with relief and joy, her left arm raising up, up, up! into the air. “And I was never so happy in my life,” wrote Astor, of this scene. “Me, me — and Edith Cortright, for her happiness and mine had fused.”

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