Nils Asther

Active - 1922 - 1967  |   Born - Jan 17, 1897   |   Died - Oct 13, 1981   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Crime, Mystery, Comedy

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Biography by Hans J. Wollstein

Almost impossibly handsome, Danish-born, Swedish-reared Asther had the misfortune to be tagged the "male Greta Garbo." He did two films with his famous counterpart: The Single Standard and Wild Orchids (both 1929), and what an exotically handsome couple they made. Like Garbo, a protégée of Finnish-born director Mauritz Stiller, Asther had made a name for himself in Swedish theater and films before arriving in Hollywood in 1927 (via London and Sorrell and Son with another Swedish expatriate, Anna Q. Nilsson). He married his co-star in Topsy and Eva (1927), vaudeville headliner Vivian Duncan, and they had a daughter, Evelyn. But rumors of homosexuality would dog him throughout his American career and may in fact have been the reason why top stardom proved so elusive. Asther's talkie career became an up-and-down affair, from starring opposite Barbara Stanwyck in Frank Capra's evocative miscegenation drama The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1932) to Poverty Row quickies in the 1940s. But whatever the setting, Asther always delivered a carefully modulated performance. He returned to Scandinavia when even television work dried up and became a fixture at the Great Northern company of Copenhagen in the early '60s. A very honest autobiography, Narren's Väg (The Road of the Jester), was published posthumously in Sweden in 1988.

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