Names Worn by Mary Astor

Mary Astor

Starting out, my posts featuring "Names Worn By" by different actors and actresses (usually vintage ones) were some of my favorite! I can't really say what caused me to stop writing them, but I would love to get back to it! So for my first new one, I've chosen the beautiful Mary Astor.

Born on May 3rd, 1906 as Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke to a father who immigrated from Germany and an American mother, Mary's first foray into film was when she auditioned for Lillian Gish, who was so enamored of her recitation of Shakespeare that she shot a thousand feet of Astor. She went on to make her film debut at the tender age of fourteen in Sentimental Tommy, but her small scene ended up being cut. After being dropped by Paramount and starring in some small films, she was eventually picked back up and went on to star in Beau Brummell at the behest of John Barrymore who saw her photo and demanded she be cast. The couple would end up having a long affair (despite Mary being only seventeen) and would eventually become secretly engaged. Fortunately, her parents saw that it was ended. Mary, however, had had enough of her father, who was not only controlling but physically and emotionally abusive, and so she did what any girl would: climbed out of second-storey hotel window and escaped. 

With the invention of "talkies", the studio deemed Mary's voice too masculine and it ended up costing her eight months of work. Luckily, Mary had no want of friends, and it was one of these friends who ended up recommending her for a role, and as they say, the rest is history.

Even after four doomed marriages and a well-publicized custody battle, Mary Astor is rightly remembered for not her oftentimes dramatic life, but for her amazing film career, which lasted for forty-five years and saw her star in over 109 films. She died in 1987 at the age of eighty-one from respiratory failure.

Director Lindsay Anderson said of Astor in 1990 (that when) "two or three who love the cinema are gathered together, the name of Mary Astor always comes up, and everybody agrees that she was an actress of special attraction, whose qualities of depth and reality always seemed to illuminate the parts she played."

Narcissa - "The Bright Shawl" - Best known as Draco Malfoy's mother, Narcissa is a feminization of Narcissus, which possibly comes from the Greek narke, "sleep, numbness". Narcissus is of course the young man from Greek mythology that fell in love with his own reflection and eventually wasted away, turning into the narcissus flower, also known as the daffodil.

Mirza - "Two Arabian Knights" - While they did get the origin right, it is indeed Arabic, it also just so happens to be a boy's name! Mirza means "prince" in Persian.

Fidele - "Scarlet Saint" - The only Fidele I found was actually Fidèle, the French form of the Spanish Fidel. It means "faithful".

Follette - "The Lost Squadron" - This name is a variant of the surname Follett. It comes from the French foll, which was used as a nickname for a strange or eccentric person, and means "mad, foolish".

Odette - "I Am a Thief" - Odette is believed to be a French nickname for Oda or Odilia. I think this is such a beautiful name, and was surprised that it isn't in the top 1000 for the U.S. It should be much more popular, I think.

Virgilnie - "A Stranger in My Arms" - I originally thought this one was a typo! I haven't found it any place else, but suspect it is a feminization of Virgil.


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