Cinema: Thorpe v. Astor

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On view last week was another of those scandals which periodically afford U. S. film followers an intimate glimpse of high & low life in Hollywood. While the cinema colony shamefully hung its tail between its legs, while circulation managers of the tabloid Press howled with delight, Mary Astor and Dr. Franklyn Thorpe battled for the custody of their 4-year-old daughter in a mud-slinging contest in which the purpose of each was to make the other appear grossly immoral.

Lucille Langhanke was born in Quincy, Ill. 30 years ago. When she grew up pretty, her parents started to train her for the films. Running second to Clara Bow in a beauty contest, Lucille went West. In 1925 Douglas Fairbanks chose her for leading lady in Don Q. Thereafter, as Mary Astor, she enjoyed a profitable, if not sensational, cinema career. In 1930 Miss Astor's first husband, Director Kenneth Hawks, was killed in a plane smash. Recovering from this shock, Miss Astor was attended by Dr. Thorpe, a dressy Hollywood gynecologist, whom she married within a year. In 1934 Miss Astor's parents, who evidently regarded their daughter as a speculative investment, complained in court that she had failed to keep them in luxury (TIME, April 2, 1934). Pacified with an extra-legal settlement, the old folks retired to a goat ranch near Hollywood. Meanwhile, Mary Astor's and Franklyn Thorpe's child was born, named Marylyn.

Last year Miss Astor gave Dr. Thorpe an uncontested divorce, custody of little Marylyn, a property settlement of $60,000. Last month the dark, willowy young actress suddenly petitioned the Los Angeles Superior Court for full custody of her child, an annulment of her marriage and divorce. Each of these objectives Dr. Thorpe promptly opposed.

The "Astor Case" began conventionally enough with the mother telling the court that the father was no fit parent because he had "shaken the baby so hard that her teeth rattled." To that the father replied that on those occasions when the mother cared for the child it was not fed the diet which he, as a physician, had recommended. Then the case passed from the nursery to the boudoir as each of the disputants began telling not the judge but the Press how oversexed the other was.

A tattling nurse produced by Miss Astor named four women who at various times after the divorce had apparently spent the night with Dr. Thorpe. One of these, a blonde onetime showgirl named Norma Taylor*, was also recalled by a Los Angeles policeman. Dr. Thorpe had summoned him in after Miss Taylor, intoxicated, had invaded his dining room when he was eating with his daughter, brandished a candlestick, chased him upstairs, cornered him in a bathroom, plunged a fork into his thigh.

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