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The Purple Diaries: Mary Astor and the Most Sensational Hollywood Scandal of the 1930s Paperback – Illustrated, November 22, 2016

4.3 out of 5 stars 448 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


"This candid account of the case, drawn from materials in Astor’s estate and written with the support of her family, will fascinate fans of the golden age of films." ―Booklist

"Joseph Egan gives a detailed account of the custody battle that, for a time, pushed the Spanish Civil War and Hitler’s Olympic Games off the front pages of America."
The New York Post

"Joseph Egan gives a detailed account of the custody battle that, for a time, pushed the Spanish Civil War and Hitler’s Olympic Games off the front pages of America." --
The Huffington Post, Best Film Books of 2016

"The Purple Diaries is a Red Hot Read!" --

"Cinema and celebrity buffs,..will revel in Joseph Egan's account of Mary Astor's life" --
Broadway World

"The Purple Diaries is a fascinating piece of Hollywood detective work, a character study of a forward-thinking and sexually liberated woman and an examination of the tabloid press." --
Shelf Awareness

"Egan tells Astor's story with smooth efficiency. He captures important nuances, facts and emotions, but he doesn't weigh his narrative down with unnecessary details. The players in this drama are fleshed out like characters in a play..."
A Classic Movie Blog

"As much as Astor’s fans liked reading about her romantic exploits, they loved seeing her in the role of martyred mother even more: the woman who was willing to gamble her reputation in order to save her relationship with her child."
The New York Post

"Newspaper clippings and family photos pepper The Purple Diaries, providing a glimpse into the lost world of Old Hollywood and the pandemonium the court case caused. It’s this wider scope that makes The Purple Diaries endlessly fascinating. Now if the present-day Hollywood could just adapt it to the screen." --
Entertainment Weekly

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.
Always the perfect gift

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Diversion Books; Illustrated edition (November 22, 2016)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 300 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1682302997
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1682302996
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 11.2 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 448 ratings

About the author

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The genesis of this book was sparked when a friend with two sons offhandedly remarked that his wife wondered what it would have been like to raise daughters. I knew the answer because, as a result of my second marriage, I had inherited three. Although I don’t keep diaries I am a compulsive emailer. My emails are long, chatty and rather candid even about personal matters. Thus, over the previous five years I had written to friends and acquaintances on an almost daily basis voluminously about my terrible teen experiences with the youngest of my three step-daughters. So, as a favor to the man’s wife, I compiled most of the emails that I had written about my step-daughter Loretta, and sent them off to my friend’s wife. That should have been that.

But, as it often can happen, this little ‘off the cuff’ project took on a life of its own. A German friend to whom I had sent excerpts likened it to the “Reality TV” programs that are so popular in his country. He wrote me that nothing even remotely like this sort of thing happens in Germany. Surprised to hear this, I eventually sat down and read this collection and was pleasantly surprised. What I had complied turned out to be a first-hand record of my daughter’s maturation from childhood into womanhood. And, what’s more, by reading about it I re-experienced those years with the eye of an objective observer.

This was somewhat peculiar for me because, at the time it was happening, I felt as though my wife and I were going through a kind of personal hell to which only we and we alone had ever been subjected. Now, when reading about it, I immediately realized that, in actuality, this had been a universal experience to which many parents were, are, and will eventually be subjected. Also—and this was something quite astounding for me to understand much less accept but—during these difficult years, my daughter had been no different from many other teenagers who at that age had their own particular quirks and foibles as they struggled to find their own unique pathway into adulthood. In short, my daughter was a perfectly normal teen and not some human anomaly bent on destroying her mother’s and my sanity.

Strangely, what I enjoyed most about this little email collection and what provides the book’s highly comic viewpoint was my often bewildered reaction to all this as well as the mistakes, sheer stupidity and, on rare occasions, wisdom that I exhibited in the face of the seemingly insurmountable adversity of teenage angst with all its pitfalls for both this teen and her parents. To sum up, this collection of emails is about me as much as it is about my daughter growing up and a clear indication of how difficult it was for me to tread water in a situation in which I was clearly way over my head. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I didn’t. I will let you, the reader, be the judge which and when.

Finally, this book is a sort of love letter to my youngest step-daughter. Through these emails written over a period of six years, the reader will watch firsthand as she transforms from a girl into a woman. It wasn't an easy transformation for her mother and me. and especially my daughter, but looking back--contrary to how I felt at the time--I wouldn't have missed it for the world.


How The Purple Diaries came to be written is an interesting story. A number of years ago I put together a massive conceptual installation which consisted of a series of paper collage works dealing with the American film Industry from the 20s through the 90s. For the 1930s The Mary Astor Custody Battle was chosen. Over the years the Astor material intrigued me. It was the story of a woman who, for the sake of her little baby, took on the American media and the Hollywood establishment to do what she believed was right. I soon discovered that every book and even magazine article had never gotten the story right but, more often than not, printed rumor as fact. The idea of writing about the custody battle was sparked when I read the Mary Astor chapter in Kenneth Anger’s hugely successful book, Hollywood Babylon. It was Anger’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 the record needed to be set straight. Unfortunately this idea languished until I read a short piece on the trial in New York Magazine 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 provided me with just the motivation I needed to write a book that would finally ‘set the record straight’. The result is an exhaustively researched and compelling courtroom drama. You can learn more about the book and about Mary Astor by visiting: and

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
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