One of Hollywood’s first scandals was nearly its last.
1936 looked like it would be a great year for the movie industry. With the economy picking up after the Great Depression, Americans everywhere were sitting in the dark watching the starsand few stars shined as brightly as one of America’s most enduring screen favorites, Mary Astor.
But Astor’s story wasn’t a happy one. She was born poor, and at the first sign that she could earn money, her parents grabbed the reins and the checks. Widowed at twenty-four, Mary Astor was looking for stability when she met and wed Dr. Franklyn Thorpe. But the marriage was rocky from the start; both were unfaithful, but they did not divorce until after Mary Astor gave birth to little Marylyn Thorpe.
What followed was a custody battle that pushed The Spanish Civil War and Hitler’s 1936 Olympic Games off of the front pages all over America. Astor and Thorpe were both ruthless in their fight to gain custody of their daughter, but Thorpe held a trump card: the diaries that Mary Astor had been keeping for years. In these diaries, Astor detailed her own affairs as well as the myriad dalliances of some of Hollywood’s biggest names. The studio heads, longtime controllers of public perception, were desperate to keep such juicy details from leaking.
With the complete support of the Astor family, including unlimited access to the photographs and memorabilia of Mary Astor’s estate, The Purple Diaries is a look at Hollywood’s Golden Age as it has never been seen before, as Egan spins a wildly absorbing yarn about a scandal that threatened to bring down the dream factory known as Hollywood.
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About the Author
Joseph Egan is something of a renaissance figure. Soon after earning a degree in film and theatre, he wrote for and edited a weekly entertainment newspaper. In addition, he is the editor of a privately printed anthology, has edited several college literary magazines, worked as a freelance editor, and is a professional researcher. Mr. Egan has also worked in motion picture promotion, has had several film scripts optioned, and served as a judge at an international independent film festival. As a conceptual artist, he has presented installations in New York City as well as in the Midwest.
Joseph Egan is also a close personal friend of Marylyn Thorpe Roh, the child at the center of this famous custody case. He is an expert on a wide range of subjects, including the motion picture Heaven’s Gate , producer David O. Selznick, inventor Nikola Tesla, and of course, Mary Astor. Mr. Egan and his wife live on the side of a mountain in Dutchess County, New York, where their daily visitors are restricted to white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, chipmunks, rabbits, raccoons, and a rather reclusive family of possums.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Purple Diaries is absolutely fantastic. From the moment I started it, I truly could not put it down. Admittedly, I am fascinated by this time period in Hollywood and have recently read a number of books about this era so the subject matter appeals to me very much. Before I read The Purple Diaries, I knew very little about Mary Astor and her long, varied life and careers. Joseph Egan conducted an incredible amount of research to write this book, and his attention to detail really adds a lot. There is so much drama that the story reads like a well-written soap opera that involves various famous actors, actresses and other Hollywood players from that era. Throughout the story, Egan includes a number of photos and newspaper articles which significantly contribute to the storyline. Without these additions, I would not have enjoyed the story quite as much – it truly makes the story come alive, and I loved pouring over the old photos. The focus of The Purple Diaries is the custody dispute between Mary Astor and her second husband Franklin Thorpe over their young daughter Marylyn. The story is not a particularly happy one, but the independence and strength Mary Astor showed to pursue such an issue as a female in the 1930’s was nothing short of amazing. The fact that she was able to endure such controversy during that time period and continue with her career as an actress (she even goes on to win an Academy Award) is quite impressive. Egan interviewed and communicated with Marylyn Thorpe while writing the book and includes a chapter at the end that conveys Marylyn’s thoughts on her childhood and relationship with both her mother and her father. In addition to summarizing the rest of Mary Astor’s life, Egan also takes the time to quickly follow the timeline of several other of the major characters in the drama including Franklin Thorpe and his parents, George Kaufman, and Ruth Chatterton. I really appreciated knowing how their lives played out too. I highly recommend The Purple Diaries; Joseph Egan spent a substantial amount of time and effort researching Mary Astor with a particular focus on the custody dispute, and it really paid off. Thanks to Diversion Books and NetGalley for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Fascinating trial about one divorce of Mary Astor. The book is very readable. I like the way the author gave a mini follow-up of the major players in Mary's trial. The 1930s court system was interesting also. Her diary was taken by her discusting husband and she never got it back. The book gives lots of gossip and tells about some weird Hollywood players. Highly recommended. The book deserves an A+++++++