Monday, August 31, 2009

Elaine Astor by Aaron Finestone

Elaine Astor 


Was there a conspiracy to erase Elaine Astor? 

David Goodis was generally believed to have never married.  
Dutch (Harold "Dutch" Silver) said that he had never mentioned a wife.   No wife was mentioned in his obituary. 

Correspondence by attorneys from the Goodis law firm to the New York lawyers consistently state that David had never married and that Herb had been confined toNorristown State Hospital since November 1963.


At the Temple Archives, I found an article from the Philadephia Inquirer Sunday Magazine, dated September 23, 2001, entitled "The Mysterious Elaine."  

The author, Laurence Withers, claims that his mother, Elaine Astor, had been married to David Goodis. The article contains a photograph of Elaine and David. 

According to Withers, Elaine like David was descended from Jews fromRussia.  She grew up in a similar neighborhood.  She married Goodis in California in 1943 and they divorced in 1946. She died in 1986. 

Goodis' biographer, Philippe Garnier, in Goodis La Vie en Noir et Blanc (Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1984), says that Goodis and Astor maried in 1942 and separated in 1943. Garnier could locate neither marriage nor divorce records. 

Was there truth to this story? 

Confirmation, comes from the death certificate for David Goodis, which I found in the 
Temple Archives


It shows that Samuel Goodis is listed as reporting the death. The death certificate was dated January 9, 1967.  A check appears near the box for "divorced."

I found the divorce decree in the attic of City Hall.  The case was captioned, Elaine Astor Goodis v. David Loeb Goodis, Court of Common Pleas No. 3, September Term 1945, No. 1077.

David was living on the 6300 block of North 11th Street and Elaine Astor was living on the 900 block of South Street

The decree was dated January 18, 1946, granting the divorce to Elaine. 

The docket entries show that David had been represented by none other than his cousin, William Goodis, Esquire, who later was co-executor of his estate.   Elaine Astor was represented by S. Regen Ginsburg, Esquire.  I did several research projects for Mr. Ginsberg about 25 years ago. 

The speed of the Goodis divorce suggests that the matter was uncontested. The complaint was filed on September 26, 1945. 

On October 18, 1945, the master's fee of $100 was posted. The matter was referred to a master on October 19, 1945. 

The master filed his report on December 8, 1945. 

The Court approved the master's report on December 20, 1945. 

On January 18, 1946, the divorce was granted. 

In the days before no fault divorce, it was customary in Philadelphia for uncontested divorces to be granted on grounds of "indignities." Property issues were first negotiated by the parties. Then, the complaint for divorce would be filed. 

The Court would appoint a master--a lawyer who would take evidence and make a report to the judge. Where the divorce was not contested, the plaintiff and counsel would present an affidavit to the master setting forth the details of the indignities. The defendant would not contest the evidence. Given the collusion in such cases, the affidavits might not be true. 

Except for the docket entries and the decree, the Goodis divorce file has been destroyed. The parties and their lawyers are now dead. 

We may never know why the marriage failed.

Why was Elaine never mentioned in the obituary or the law suit? 

My guess is the family wrote Elaine out of history so as to protect Herb. The bulk of David's estate was to go to a trust to provide for his mentally disabled brother Herb. 

The estate was worth some $200,000. Moreover, there was the open law suit claiming $500,000 for the Fugitive. 

Had the obituary and law suit papers reflected a divorce, an invitation would be raised for people to ask questions. The ex-wife could appear, claiming that the divorce was invalid. 

Under Pennsylvania law, a spouse can claim approximately a third of the estate, regardless of the terms of the will.  She could claim that Dark Passage (published in 1946) was written during the marriage and therefore she had an equitable interest in the proceeds of the suit for copyright infringement. 

An alleged child of the marriage could come forward, challenging the will. 

When dineros are at issue, anything can happen.  So as to protect Herb, mention of the divorce was omitted. 

Where there were no children, a 21 year old divorce decree and being never married are a distinction without a difference.

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