Happy 110th Birthday, Mary Astor!

Mary Astor, born Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke 110 years ago today in Quincy, Illinois, is probably best remembered now for her portrayal of Brigid O’Shaughnessy opposite Humphrey Bogart in John Huston‘s 1941 cinematic adaptation of Dashiell Hammett‘s The Maltese Falcon, but she had an impressively long career, appearing in more than 120 motion pictures, including 45 silent films, and notching more than 30 credits on television in the 1950s and ’60s. Astor won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar for her work in The Great Lie (1941).

Mary Astor also was the author of five novels, an autobiography and a career memoir.

Happy birthday, Ms. Astor, wherever you may be!

Mary Astor

Direct(orial) mail

Stamps depicting Frank Capra, John Huston, John Ford, and Billy WilderIt’s the first day of issue for a set of four postal stamps honoring a quartet of great (native or naturalized) American motion picture directors, and we can’t argue with the selection of a single one of them. Here’s what the USPS has to say about the occasion:

These Great Film Directors (Forever®) stamps honor four great filmmakers who captured the many varieties of the American experience. Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, and Billy Wilder created some of the most iconic scenes in American cinema. They gave audiences an unforgettable (and in some cases, deeply personal) vision of life.

These four filmmakers received multiple Academy Award nominations, 15 Oscars, and numerous other honors during their lifetimes. But their greatest accomplishment lies in the vitality and artistry of the stories they told through film. The stamp art combines a portrait of each man with a scene from one of his most iconic works.

The background art for the stamp honoring Frank Capra shows a scene from It Happened One Night, a comedy in which a runaway heiress (played by Claudette Colbert) and a reporter (Clark Gable) compare their hitchhiking skills.

For the John Ford stamp, the background recalls a scene from The Searchers, an influential Western starring John Wayne and making Ford’s characteristic use of the American landscape.

The Maltese Falcon inspired the background art for the John Huston stamp. In this classic mystery, gumshoe Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) goes up against various unscrupulous characters (among them Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet).

And for Billy Wilder, the background artwork was inspired by Some Like It Hot, a farce about two male musicians (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) who seek refuge from gangsters by posing as members of an all-girl band featuring luscious singer Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe).

Art Director Derry Noyes designed these stamps using art by award-winning illustrator Gary Kelley, who created the images using pastels on paper.

You can purchase these stamps, along with First Day of Issue color postmarked envelopes and other related items, here.

The stuff that dreams are made of

Mary Astor is perhaps best remembered today for her role as femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy in the third — and, of course, by far best known — version of Dashiell Hammett‘s The Maltese Falcon, John Huston‘s 941 remake in which Astor starred opposite Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet.

But Astor was a veteran actress by then, having already made 97 movies, more than 40 of them silent pictures, starting with 1921’s Bullets or Ballots.

If you’re not familiar with Astor’s rich and varied career, now’s your chance to get caught up just a bit. Turner Classic Movies is celebrating Astor’s 104 birthday by airing some of her pre-Falcon movies all day tomorrow — Monday, May 3.

Here’s the line-up:

6:15 a.m. — Beau Brummel (1924)
In this silent film, the legendary dandy takes on British society to court a lady above his station. Cast: John Barrymore, Mary Astor, Willard Louis. Dir: Harry Beaumont. BW-128 mins

8:30 a.m. — The Runaway Bride (1930)
A criminal gang goes after the jewels their dying leader stashed in a woman’s handbag. Cast: Mary Astor, Lloyd Hughes, David Newell. Dir: Donald Crisp. BW-66 mins

9:45 a.m. — The Sin Ship (1931)
A ship’s captain fights to protect a female passenger from his crew. Cast: Louis Wolheim, Mary Astor, Ian Keith. Dir: Louis Wolheim. BW-65 mins

11:00 a.m. — Smart Women (1931)
A woman plots to make her cheating husband jealous. Cast: Mary Astor, Robert Ames, Edward Everett Horton. Dir: Gregory La Cava. BW-68 mins

12:15 p.m. — Dinky (1935)
A military school cadet’s mother is framed and sent to prison. Cast: Jackie Cooper, Mary Astor, Roger Pryor. Dir: D. Ross Lederman. BW-65 mins

1:30 p.m. — Woman Against Woman (1938)
A divorcee decides she wants her husband back after he’s re-married. Cast: Mary Astor, Herbert Marshall, Virginia Bruce. Dir: Robert Sinclair. BW-61 mins

2:45 p.m. — There’s Always a Woman (1938)
While working on a simple case, married private eyes uncover a murder. Cast: Joan Blondell, Melvyn Douglas, Mary Astor. Dir: Alexander Hall. BW-81 mins

4:15 p.m. — Midnight (1939)
An unemployed showgirl poses as Hungarian royalty to infiltrate Parisian society. Cast: Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Mary Astor. Dir: Mitchell Leisen. BW-94 mins

6:00 p.m. — The Great Lie (1941)
Believing her husband to be dead, a flyer’s wife bargains with his former love to adopt the woman’s baby. Cast: Bette Davis, Mary Astor, George Brent. Dir: Edmund Goulding. BW-108 mins
Warm up those DVRs, pronto!