HOLLYWOOD BABYLON VERSES TRUTH
I should have written the following when my book, The Purple Diaries, was first published. Nevertheless, for reason discussed below I am now finally getting around to it. Let’s begin with the following paragraph from the book’s acknowledgment section.
“The idea of wiring the Purple Diaries was first sparked when I read the Mary Astor Chapter in Kenneth Anger’s hugely successful Hollywood Babylon. It was Angar’s intention to scandalize and he succeeded quite well at this. Thus, the piece on Astor was filled with so many falsehoods, often substituting the salacious for the truth, that I felt that the record should be set straight. Unfortunately this idea languished for a number of years until I read a short piece in New York Magazine on the trial for which Anger’s book was the principal source. In short, Hollywood Babylon and its many falsehoods had, and would continue to be, source material for any writer wanting to discuss the Mary Astor Franklyn Thorpe Custody Trial. This proved to be the ‘kick start’ that I needed to motivate me to sit down and finally write a book that would ‘set the record straight’ which is what I hope I have succeeded in doing.”
Then recently, an Amazon reader wrote the following in part of their review of the book.
“If you’ve read the chapter “Diary in Blue” in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon you’ve basically gotten the gist of the scandal…..Egan even mentions the account in Hollywood Babylon as being full of falsehoods but aside from being more salacious, there is only one glaring mistake when Kenneth Anger spells Mary Astor’s daughter’s name as Marilyn, but then so does Egan at one point in his book.”
Frankly this angered me because it was a blatant untruth and it was exactly this type of misinformed writing which—as mentioned above—had been a principal reason why I wrote The Purple Diaries. Therefore, I simply could not let it go unchallenged. So, below is the complete chapter in Hollywood Babylon referred to by the Amazon reader and the best that I could do to to correct the many untruths contained in it.
THE DIARY IN BLUE
Hollywood Babylon Page 193-Bell Edition
ANGUR: The thirties was endowed with another lady luminary with a pronounced penchant for men, auburn-haired beauty, and poised sophisticate with a sensuous throaty voice: Mary Astor, one of the screens great character actresses.
(Astor was not a character actress…she was a “leading player” who during the 1920s had been an above the title star and would achieve star billing again the Maltese Falcon.)
ANGUR: Since girlhood, Mary Astor’s best friend and confidante had been her diary.
(Astor had begun a simple Day-Date Diary in 1925 at age 19 but began the first volume if her famous Purple Diary soon after her marriage to Ken Hawks in 1928 at age 22.)
ANGUR: She told it everything and delighted in setting down a sublime experience while the memory still glowed. She could relive the moment and mark the high spots of her passage through life. Her Hollywood Diary was bound in blue,
(The Diaries were contained in two red tipped oversized accounting ledger books. They were not blue buy grey. Below is a frame from Desert Fury where Astor holds a similar leger book )
ANGUR: Its pages covered with fine, ultra-feminine flowing script
(Questionable evaluation at best, but you can check her above from her Henrietta Log to determine the validity of this evaluation.)
ANGUR: that graphologists have affirmed is remarkably free from inhibitions.
(The handwriting expert, Shirley Spencer writing in the New York Daily News On August 13, 1936 wrote “Such writing reveals a person who shrinks from reality and then is swept off her feet by a rush of feeling which expresses itself in impulsive rash actions.)
ANGUR: Its contents were as free as her penmanship. The volume for 1935
(There were no separate volumes for each year but two volumes 1928-1930 and 1930 through 1935)
ANGUR: covered her extramarital trysts with witty playwright George S. Kaufman, with whom she found exquisite rapport; it is odd she didn’t keep it well hidden.
ANGUR: The blue book had been kept in a bedroom drawer, in when with Mary’s undies.
(This is Angur fiction. Astor kept the Diaries in adrawer in her bedroom writing table she is shown sitting beside below.)
ANGUR: One day her physician husband was hunting a pair of misplaced cufflinks.
(More Angur Fiction. A servant who had read the latest passage—in which Astor wrote about taking the baby with her when she moved out commencing a divorce—told Thorpe and showed him where the two diaries ere.)
ANGUR: When Dr. Franklyn Thorpe idly opened the leather volume
(Again, they were accounting Ledger Books and not bound in leather)
ANGUR: his glance fell on a passage of extravagant admiration”…remarkable staying power. I don’t see how he does it!”
(These underlined phrases were not in the authentic diary but from forged diary pages leaked to the newspapers.)
ANGUR: The admiration was not for Dr. Thorpe. As Dr. Thorpe turned the pages he learned that the man with such fantastic staying power was the urbane Kaufman, man-about-New York. He and Mary had met at the Algonquin during a New York Shopping spree
(In the Late Spring of 1933 Astor had gone to New York for a two week vacation not on a shopping spree but to meet people and see the sights.)
ANGUR: she had indulged in during the summer
(It was late spring and not summer )
ANGUR: of 1933. This meant the good doctor had been a good cockold for a good sixteen months. Mary recorded her first encounter with her paramour-to-be introduced by friend Miriam Hopkins.
(Not Hopkins but Miriam Spitzer a writer at Paramount and close friend of Astor.)
ANGUR: in glowing terms:
(The following passages pages are from the Photostat that Thorpe leaked to the press on August 10, 1935. I’ve underlined Angurs fictional additions with explanations that follow.)
ANGUR: “His first initial is G. – George Kaufman—and I fell like a ton of bricks. I met him Friday…Saturday he called for me at the Ambassador and we went to the Casino for lunch and had a gay time!”
ANGUR: After taking in a performance of Kaufman’s of Thee I Sing at the Music Box, Mary and George did the town for the next nights –clubs, dives, penthouse parties. The disillusioned doctor’s popped as he read his wife’s own record of her sexual itinerary
(This is nonsense, Thorpe was surprised and he used the word “astounded.”)
ANGUR: “Monday – we ducked out of the boring party…it was very hot so we got a cab and drove around the park a few times and the park was, well, the park, and he held my hand and said he’d like to kiss me but didn’t…” Tuesday night we had dinner at Twenty-one and on the way to see Run Little Chillun he did kiss me – and I don’t think either of us remember much what the show was about. We played kneesies during the first two acts, m hand wasn’t in my own lap during the third…It’s been years since I’ve felt up a man in public, but I was just carried away….
(The underlined wording was not in the actually in the diary and as I have never read them any place in but Angur, it is apparent the writer made it up.)
ANGUR: Afterward we had a drink someplace and then went to a little flat in 73rd Street where we could be alone and it was all very thrilling and beautiful. Once George lays down his glasses, he is quite a different man. His powers of recuperation are amazing, and we made love all night long…It all worked perfectly and we shared our fourth climax at dawn…
(Here again the underlined wording was not in the actual the diary and again made up by Angur.)
ANGUR: I didn’t see much of anybody else the rest of the time – we saw every show in town, had grand fun together and went frequently to 73rd Street where he fucked the living daylights out of me…
ANGUR: One morning about 4 we had a sandwich at Reuben’s, and it was just getting daylight, so we drove through the park in an open cab, and the birds started singing and it was pretty heavenly to pet and French..right out in the open…
(Here again the underlines wording was not in the actually in the diary and an Angurs words and not Astor’s.)
ANGUR: Was any woman every happier? It seems that George is just hard all the time…I don’t see how he does it. He is perfect. …
(Here again more of Angur’s fiction as none of this is in the Diary passages.)
ANGUR: Dr. Thorpe then discovered that the heady New York affair continued right near his own back yard. Kaufman and Moss Hart passed a few days in Hollywood in February 1934 before setting up their winter writing headquarters in Palm Springs. One morning, when Mary told Thorpe she was going Warner’s for a costume fitting she raced instead to Kaufman hotel.
(There is no mention of this in the diary extracts or anyplace else and obviously more Angar fuction)
ANGUR: Monday I went to Beverly Wilshire and was able to see George alone for the first time. He greeted me in pajamas and we flew into each other’s arms. He was rampant in an instant, and in a few moments it was just like old times…he tore out of his pajamas and I never was undressed by anyone so fast in all my life…
(Complete fiction and nowhere in Astor extracts ot anyplace else so more Angur fiction.)
ANGUR: Later we went to Vendome for lunch, to starioner’s shop….then back to the hotel. It was wonderful to fuck the entire sweet afternoon away…
(Underlined Angur fiction and nowhere in Astor extracts or anyplace else.)
ANGUR: I left at 6 O’clock.
ANGUR: One subsequent weekends in Palm Springs.
ANGUR: “Sat around in the sun all day—lunch in the pool with Moss and George and the Rogers – dinner at the at Dunes – a drink in the moonlight WITHOUT Moss and Rogers, Ah, desert might – with George’s body plunging into mine, naked under the stars…
(Underlined Angur fiction and nowhere in Astor extracts or anyplace else.)
ANGUR: When Thorpe confronted his wife with his discovery, one might suppose the blue-bound book would go blank for spell. But Mary couldn’t wait to wait to record her husband’s reaction:
(This is inaccurate and misleading. In March 1935 Thorpe stole the diaries and the entries stopped. Earlier, a year after Astor met with Kaufman in Palm Springs, (It was now 1935) Kaufman was back in Hollywood staying at the Beverely Wilsire. Thorpe Showed up there and told Kaufman to break off the affair with his wife. Sometime later, Astor and Thorpe went out to the Trocadero to discuss their marital problems—Astor had been asking for a divorce for quite a while. Thorpe’s trip to visit Kaufman at the Beverly Wilshire came into the conversation and that was what the fight was about with Thorpe announcing that he would declare Kaufman as co-respondent if he didn’t have shared custody of the baby. Thus, Thorpe’s reaction as mentioned below was after this argument after the two agreed to divorce.)
ANGUR: He was Very badly broken up for several days, used his final weapon with me. “I need you,” with tears. For the sake of peace and respite from all this emotionalism, I told him I would do nothing at the present. My main reason for saying that is, quite honestly, I want to be able to see George for the rest of his stay here without being all upset – looking like hell. I want to have the last few times of completely enjoying him…..
ANGUR: Mary’s refusal to break off the affair caused Thorpe to retaliate; soon he was being seen with so many starlets that his digressions became the talk of the town.)
(The underlined is Angur fiction. Thorpe had a long standing affair with Lillian Miles going back to 1925 and saw other women but he was always discrete and never did his affairs become the talk of the town.)
ANGUR: When Thorpe sued Mary for divorce in April 1935 and demanded the custody of their daughter Marilyn (adored my Mary) hundreds of eyebrows were raised.
(Thorpe had possession of the Diary from March 1935 on and the reason Astor gave up custody of the baby. Thorpe had driven her into a near state of hysteria screaming at her day and night for weeks that unless he got what he wanted he would use the Diary to destroy both her career and the careers of all her friends mentioned in the ledger books as well as shame them all in a massive scandal. Finally a bullied and exhausted Mary Astor acceded to his wishes and taking the baby with her moved to a small rented house on Tower Road in Beverly Hills.)
ANGUR: Mary did not contest the divorce. Thorpe had appropriated her tell-all Diary before she moved out of their Beverly Hills Mansion.
(They lived in North Hollywood, in the Toluca Lake district and not Beverly Hills. In addition, this is a sloppy mixing up of events. This is the proper sequence. 1, they were going to divorce, 2 she was seeing Kaufman, 3, Thorpe was threatening to name Kaufman has co-respondent if he didn’t get shared custody. 4, he took possession of the diaries, 5, he threatened to use it against Astor if she didn’t give him what he wanted which was full custody of the baby and control over all their assists and half interest in the their Toluca Lake home. 5, she agreed.)
ANGUR: It was devastating evidence. She could not face the prospect of being deprived of her daughter. She filed counter-suit on July 15, to retain custody of the child.
(Again Angur confuses dates. Astor filed for custody on July 14, 1936 and not 1935. In addition over the preceding 15 months Astor had the baby in her care for all but six months during which time Thorpe continually threatened to take the baby away from her permanently if she didn’t do what he ordered regarding the baby. In addition he was also very hard in his punishments of the child to the point of leaving bruises on her body and often taking out his anger on the baby. These were the reasons Astor went back to court.)
ANGAR: Thorpe’s lawyers revealed the existence of the Diary the first day of the trial.
(The diary or “writings” as it was put in the court papers was filed the day before the Custody Hearing—not a trial.)
ANGUR: The judge, “Goody” Knight, took a peek at the book and excluded it as evidence.
(The Judge did not have possession of the diaries until the end of the hearing when he took chage of it so that it could be sealed by the court and he only looked at it to make sure that the two volumes were complete. The second volume had been taken apart for photo sating and certain pages concerning Thorpe giving Miles an Abortion were missing. What was finally handed to him was the complete two volumes.)
ANGUR: But Thorpe’s lawyer leaked excerpts to the press which left little doubt as to its tenor; among them was the “Ah desert night…” passage which quickly entered into folklore.
(What Thorpe’s Attorney did was hand out Photostats to the press on the Monday of the Third week of the hearing as he had been prevented from submitting the Diary of evidence by Astor’s Attorney because an incomplete or mutilated document was inadmissible. Thorpe was hoping that he could charge Astor with perjury if what she said on the stand contradicted what was in the excerpts handed out to the press and printed in in almost every newspaper in the country.)
ANGUR: The tabloids gave the Diary full coverage, long excerpts sprinkled with Asterisks.
(There were no asterisks. Astor had a habit of using dashes instead of periods or semi colons and the newspapers included them. Astor did refer to asterisk’s in her book “My Story” but that book was written from memory 20 years later and she didn’t have the newspaper clippings in front of her.)
ANGUR: The public had a ball filling in the dots itself.
ANGUR: Older fans recalled another of Mary Astor’s passionate affairs de Coeur, a decade earlier before her marriage, when as a budding film star (During the making Don Juan) she had been John Barrymore’s young mistress.
(This is again more Angur fiction. The affair with Barrymore was kept secret even from Astor’s parents. The first time it came to light was in Astor’s 1959 autobiography. The affair had begun during the making of Beau Brummel in 1923 and by the time of Don Juan in 1926-7 it was over and Barrymore had already taken up with Dolores Costello who he would later marry.)
ANGER: The court got an earful when the nurse of Mary’s daughter related what had been going on chez Thorpe after Madame Thorpe moved out. The nurse described a scene with starlet Noma Taylor who got into a jealous brawl with Thorpe in front of The Child. At the time Norma had on red toenails Polish and nothing else.
(More Angur fiction. This occurred during the six months that Thorpe had the baby with him as per a verbal agreement made at the time of the divorce. Norma Taylor had come from a party on the other side the Toluca like at actor Richard Arlan’s house. She was intoxicated wearing “cream white lounging pajamas of a Chinese pattern and wore sandals.”)
ANGUR: Her Nurse reported that not only Norma but three other blonds Busby Berkley showgirls has “slept in the doctor’s bed” on succeeding nights.
(This busby Berkley girls business is Angur fiction. One of the women was Lillian Miles, Another the wife of Thorpe’s roommate and the third woman had no connection to the film business. Norma had been New York Showgirl who had appeared in the Ziefield Folles and danced in Texas Guinan’s New York speakeasy. The extent of her movie career were a few parts in some forgettable B films.)
ANGUR: nd Thorpe’s whereabouts? Her deadpan reply was “He’s was right there in his bed too.”
(More Angur fiction. This was never said in testimony. As seen in the photo above the bedroom contained double beds and the nurse discussed which beds were rumpled in the morning and serving breakfast in bed to Norma and the others with Thorpe occasionally with them.)
ANGUR: Mary got back the mansion and Marylyn,
(At the time of the divorce in April 1935 each had been given half interest in the house. In May 1936, in order to keep the baby’s environment stable, Astor bought Thorpe’s share of the house so the baby could remain there and Astor then had 100 percent ownership.)
ANGUR: In spite of all the Diary revealed of her passion for Kaufman. However, the court did not return her Dearest Friend. The diary was adjudged “pornography” and consigned to the courthouse stove.
(The underlined is more Angur fiction. Nether Astor nor Thorpe wanted the other to have possession the diary—Thorpe wanted to make sure that if Astor tried to obtain full custody at a later date he still had the diary to give her pause and Astor didn’t want her friends careers ruined if its contents were leaked by Thorpe. So, a deal was worked out whereby the court took possession and would seal the volumes so no one could see or use them unless the custody case was reopened. It never was and the Diaries were burned soon after Marylyn turned 21.)
AUGUR: It is significant that these revelations did not injure Mary Astor’s career. Far from it. Then year’s earlier, a case like that would have finished off any star but the Depression had been a factor, albeit painful, in promoting greater public maturity. In a few years, Mary would score one of her greatest success as the seductive villainess in The Maltese Falcon.
Kaufman had taken a powder during the courtroom proceedings; he sat them out in New York with Hart. He dodged queries concerning the case but once, when cornered by reporters at the stage door to the music Box, he allowed, “You may say I did not keep a diary”
(Again some more Augar fiction. After Kaufman snuck back to New York he came out of hiding once the case in California had been resolved and he called a news conference in his East 94th street Townhouse where he answered reporters’ questions in hope that once the questions were asked and answered he would be left alone which he was. The comment about not keeping a diary was made at this news conference. Hart remained in California and Kaufman, before coming out of hiding, had stayed with Hart’s parents in their New York Apartment. After being served with a Subpoena, but before he had to be in court, Kaufman snuck out of town. When he didn’t appear in court a warrant was issued for his arrest. It was withdrawn seven months later. Below is a photo of Kaufman in his Manhattan townhouse that appeared in the New York Mirror.
Finally, if the above proves insufficient evidence to refute that “aside from being more salacious, there is only one glaring mistake” in Angurs recounting for the story then I would love to hear someone argue otherwise.