Anthony Marshall was a diplomat, CIA official and theatre producer who was convicted of conspiring to steal the wealth of his ailing mother, Brooke Astor, the New York socialite and philanthropist, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He received a jail sentence of one to three years but, afflicted by congestive heart failure and Parkinson’s disease, he was medically paroled after serving eight weeks. Once the doyenne of the New York elite, Astor died in 2007 at the age of 105.
In 1953, after two previous marriages, she had married Vincent Astor, heir to the Astor fortune. When he died in 1959, she found herself in receipt of $60 million for herself and at the helm of another $60 million in a trust created for the alleviation of “human misery”. In the following decades she gave nearly $200 million to institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library and the New York Zoological Society.
Educated at prestigious schools, Marshall served with the US Marine Corps in the Pacific during the Second World War, receiving a Purple Heart for wounds sustained at Iwo Jima. During the Cold War he worked for the CIA on the U2 spy plane initiative, obtaining permission from foreign leaders to operate the clandestine programme from their countries.
Like his mother, Marshall was a prolific Republican donor, and in the 1970s he served as ambassador to Madagascar, Trinidad and Tobago, Kenya and the Seychelles. In 1982 he produced a short-lived Broadway production of Alice in Wonderland starring Kate Burton, the daughter of Richard Burton. In 2003, he and his wife Charlene joined veteran producer David Richenthal to produce a Tony-winning revival of Eugene O’Neill play Long Day’s Journey Into Night starring Vanessa Redgrave and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
By that time, Marshall’s mother had begun to show signs of infirmity. In 2006, one of her twin grandsons, Marshall’s son Philip, a college professor, filed a lawsuit to remove Marshall as her guardian. He had turned “a blind eye” to his mother, Philip alleged, “intentionally and repeatedly ignoring her health, safety, personal and household needs, while enriching himself with millions of dollars.” Among other accusations, he accused Marshall of neglecting to fill medical prescriptions, limiting his mother’s carers and allowing her to sleep on a couch stained with urine. Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller filed affidavits in support of Philip, while Whoopi Goldberg, a friend of Anthony’s, wrote a letter to the court on his behalf.
A settlement was reached in which Annette de la Renta, a friend of Astor’s and the wife of designer Oscar de la Renta, and JPMorgan Chase bank, became her guardians. Marshall and his wife resigned as co-executors of Astor’s estate and posted a yacht and a vacation home as collateral against other possible claims.
Marshall’s criminal trial focused on his handling of his mother’s finances. The prosecution depicted his wife, who was not charged, as having encouraged him to pursue his mother’s wealth. He was convicted on 14 of 16 charges, including one count of grand larceny for giving himself a $1 million payment for his assistance with her finances. “It is a paradox to me,” the judge said, “that such abundance has led to such incredible sadness.”
Anthony Dryden Marshall, theatre producer: born New York 30 May 1924; married 1947 Elizabeth Cryan (two sons), 1962 Thelma Hoegnell (divorced 1990), 1992 Charlene Tyler (two stepdaughters, one stepson); died New York 30 November 2014.
© The Washington Post