Nils Asther

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Nils Asther
Asther, Nils in Vingarne 1916.jpg
Asther in The Wings (1916), his first film role
Born (1897-01-17)17 January 1897
Hellerup, Denmark
Died 19 October 1981(1981-10-19) (aged 84)
Farsta, Sweden
Occupation Actor
Years active 1916–1963
Spouse(s) Vivian Duncan (1930-1932) (divorced) 1 child

Nils Anton Alfhild Asther (17 January 1897 – 19 October 1981)[1] was a Danish-born Swedish actor active in Hollywood from 1926 to the mid-1950s, known for his beautiful face and often called "the male Greta Garbo". Between 1916 and 1963 he appeared in over 70 feature films, 16 of which were produced in the silent era.


Born in Denmark in the Copenhagen suburb of Hellerup to unknown biological parents,[1] Asther was adopted shortly after birth by a wealthy couple in Malmö, Sweden, where he grew up. As a young man he moved to Stockholm, where he received acting lessons from local star Augusta Lindberg, who also became his mistress even though she was almost 30 years older than he was. Through her he received his first theatrical engagement at Lorensbergsteatern in Gothenburg, and in 1916 Mauritz Stiller cast him in The Wings. This soon lead to a number of film roles in Sweden, Denmark and Germany between 1918 and 1926.

In 1927 he left for Hollywood, where his first film was Topsy and Eva. The film also featured the Duncan Sisters, and in 1930 he married one of them, Vivian Duncan, with whom he had a daughter, Evelyn.[2]

By 1928 his good looks had made him into a leading man, playing opposite such stars as Pola Negri, Marion Davies, Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo, with whom he made two films. He grew a thin mustache which amplified his suave appearance.

With the arrival of sound in movies, Asther took diction and voice lessons to minimize his accent, and was generally cast in roles where an accent wasn't a problem, such as the Chinese General Yen in The Bitter Tea of General Yen.[1]

Between 1935 and 1940 he was forced to work in England after an alleged breach of contract led to a studio-based blacklist.[3] He made six films there. He returned to Hollywood in 1940, and although he made another 19 films up until 1949, his career wasn't the same. In the early 1950s he tried to restart his career in TV, but managed only to secure roles in a few episodes of minor TV series.[1]

In 1958[4] he returned to Sweden, almost destitute. He managed to get an engagement with a local theatre and had four film roles in Sweden and Denmark before finally giving up on acting in 1963 and devoting his time to painting.[1]

In 1988 his autobiography, Narrens väg (The Road of the Jester) was posthumously published in Swedish.[2]

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Nils Asther has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6705 Hollywood Blvd.

Selected filmography[edit]


External links[edit]