You Must Remember This

You Must Remember This

The secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood's first century.
A storytelling podcast by Karina Longworth.
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Follies of 1938, Chapter 2: Kay Francis, Pretty Poison (YMRT# 10)

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In May 1938, the Independent Theater Owners Association published a full-page paid editorial in The Hollywood Reporter, branding a number of big stars — including Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn and others — as “poison at the box office,” and urging the studios to cut their ties to expensive names who no longer had the drawing power they once did at the box office, in part because they symbolized a type of glamour which seemed, in 1938, to be falling out of fashion.

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All of the above named stars, while damaged by the bad press in the moment, went on to make “comeback” movies that helped to cement their legacies. That wasn’t the case for another actress mentioned in the ad, Kay Francis, who in 1938 was still Warner Brothers’ highest paid star — even though she had tried to sue the studio the previous year for casting her in too many bad movies. After roaring her way through New York in the 1920s as a flapper it girl, Kay Francis hit her career peak in 1932, the year she starred in Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise, but eventually she essentially lost her spot in the movie star firmament to Bette Davis. Today we’ll talk about the idea of box office poison, trace how and why Kay Francis became the embodiment of the meeting of 1930s movie star glamour and a devil-may-care pursuit of pleasure that marked pre-Code Hollywood, and explain why that magical combination wasn’t long for the world of the studio star system.

!!!Show notes!!!

For the first time, I’m going to suggest that if you haven’t already listened to the first episode in our 1938 series, you might want to go ahead and do so before you hit up this one. I mean, you don’t have to, but it will give you a better understanding of the general scene in 1938, and the context of the now-infamous “box office poison” scandal. 

That episode was heavily sourced from Catherine Jurca’s Hollywood 1938: Motion Pictures Greatest Year, a book which served as a starting point for this chapter. The other two MVP texts this week were Kay Francis: A Passionate Life and Career by Lynn Kear and John Rossman; and A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960 by the great Jeanine Basinger. The former is a fun, dishy read, making stellar use of Francis’ own, incredibly bawdy diaries. The latter is simply one of my favorite film books, the best kind of historical criticism with a personal bent. They’re both available as e-books, and would make for great summer reads. 

Kay Francis appeared in over 60 films, and I’ve only been able to see less than 10 of them. In fact, this episode was delayed by at least a full day due to my difficulty getting my hands on a few films I felt I needed to see. After giving myself a very mini Francis Film Festival this week, there are two films that I cannot urge you strongly enough to seek out. First, there’s Jewel Robbery, a William Dieterle romp that’s in the vein of Trouble in Paradise (I’m not sure which film she actually shot first; they both came out the same year), but more vulgar. There’s a touch of stoner comedy in it, and Kay’s character is almost as, shall we say, sex positive as she apparently was in real life. That movie is good. One Way Passage, directed by Tay Garnett, is fucking great. I thought I had maybe seen this last summer in a Garnett retrospective at the Paris Cinematheque, but turns out I was mixing it up with two other madcap love-at-sea movies, Trade Winds and China Seas. Tay Garnett is really good at romantic-comedic-semi-tragic boat movies, and One Way Passage is, I think, the best of them. And short! 

One problem I had this week is that the supposed best currently operating video rental store in San Francisco only carried one Kay Francis film, Trouble in Paradise. I ended up buying a few DVDs from the Warner Archive (including One Way Passage), and watching a few others (including Jewel Robbery) on iTunes. There are still other films that I want to see that I haven’t yet been able to find. 

Totally coincidentally, TCM devoted part of two days to her earlier this week, but that did me no good because the apartment I’m subletting doesn’t have cable. Still, the only film they showed that I regret not being able to see was Frank Borzage’s Stranded. These YouTube clips are all I’ve seen of either of Francis’ Borzage movies; by the looks of it, Living on Velvet has more of Kay as I like her. Day Callahan and Farren Nehme Smith have seen far more of Francis’ films than I have, and their writings on her are an invaluable guide to separating Francis’ wheat from her chaff. 

Next week, I’m going to do a Howard Hughes/1938 crossover episode, and then the week after that, jump far, far ahead in time. After that, I’m going to take a couple of weeks off, and then come back in mid-to-late August with new episodes, and (hopefully) a slightly revamped website. If you have any requests or suggests, that’s what Twitter is for

Music:

"Preludes for Piano #3" by George Gershwin

Of Separation from the Heat soundtrack, by Elliot Goldenthal

"Roads" by Portishead

"Moonlight Saving Me," performed by Blossom Dearie

"Soul le soleil exactemente (orchestre)," by Serge Gainsbourg

"Born to Be Blue," performed by Chet Baker

"The Operation," by Morrissey

"White," by Frank Ocean

"Gymnopedie (piano) No. 3 - Lent et Grave," by Eric Satie, performed by Frank Glazer

"Halo," by Loveliescrushing

Theme from Dark Victory, performed by Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra.

"Teardrop," by Loveliescrushing

"Gnossiennes No. 1," by Eric Satie, performed by Frank Glazer

"Sex and Dying in High Society," by X

The Many Loves of Howard Hughes, Part 2: The Many Loves of Ida Lupino (YMRT #9)

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In this second installment of our ongoing series, The Many Loves of Howard Hughes, we explore the life, loves and work of Ida Lupino. Hughes dated Lupino when she was a teenage starlet; nearly 20 years later, after Lupino had become the only working female feature director in 1940s Hollywood, Hughes signed his ex-girlfriend’s production company to a deal at RKO. Hughes supported Lupino as a director, but also helped to kill off her second marriage. We’ll explore how Ida’s relationship with Hughes, and other men in her life, alternately enhanced her career and complicated it. Also: haunted houses, HUAC, The Twilight Zone, post-traumatic stress, polio, more shitty pettiness from Harry Cohn, more high-minded anti-Hollywood talk from Robert Rossellini, and much more.

Show notes!

This week’s episode is quite dense with information, and I don’t have much to add. My primary sources were Ida Lupino: A Biography by William Donati; Howard Hughes: The Untold Story by Peter Harry Brown; and the Senses of Cinema profile of Lupino by Wheeler Winston Dixon. The photographs that inspired the storyline are above. I used clips from this episode of The Twilight Zone, and Robert Aldrich’s The Big Knife.

Lupino’s last indie directorial effort, The Bigamist, is I think, in the public domain, and watchable on YouTube, where you can also find a few segments from Lupino and Howard Duff’s CBS sitcom  Mr. Adams and Eve.

Music:

"It’s Love," performed by Blossom Dearie

"The Continental," performed by Blossom Dearie

"Naive Song," by Mirwais

"Prelude," by Gene Harris

"Melody," by Serge Gainsbourg

"Hairy Trees," by Goldfrapp

"Involution," by Mirwais

"Walking Wounded," by Everything But the Girl

"Night and Day," performed by Lena Horne

"Fable of the Elements," by Joan of Arc

"Stars" by Xx

"Keechie," by No Age

"Emperor Tomato Ketchup," by Stereolab

"Sea Within a Sea," by The Horrors

"Repeat Defender," by Don Caballero

"Butterfly," by The Verve

"Rock My Boat (Roger O’Donnell Mix)," by Dntel

"Tara," by Roxy Music

"Shatter,"by Liz Phair

"Puma," by Dntel

"Capri," from the score for Contempt, by Georges Delerue

"Off You," by The Breeders

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Today in Blurbs: Entertainment Weekly Likes Us!

Have you seen this week’s Entertainment Weekly, the one with Halle Berry on the cover? We’re in it! The magazine named You Must Remember This to their Must List of The Top 10 Things [They] Love This Week!

Perhaps not coincidentally, this weekend we also hit a new high on the iTunes Film & TV Top 10!

Nice blurbs are nice, but it’s nicer that all of y’all are downloading the podcast and, apparently, enjoying it. As I’ve said before, I started this thing with no longterm plan, and no idea if it was actually going to work. This is probably the first time in my life that I’ve done something exactly the way I want to do it, without anyone else’s direction, and without any concession to or even thought about how to make it succeed. It feels pretty great to do something without compromise and have people actually like it. So, thanks! End mush.

Follies of 1938, Part 1: Hollywood’s Greatest Year (YMRT #8)

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This micro-episode sets up a topic we’ll be exploring throughout the summer: the films, stars and scandals of 1938. By midway through that year, Hollywood was in such a desperate downswing — and so concerned that Americans were losing interest not just in specific movies but in moviegoing as a habit — that the studios banded together to launch a massive PR campaign to convince the public that 1938 was Motion Pictures’ Greatest Year. It wasn’t. 

Show Notes!

This episode is shorter than usual, and not as polished as I would like it to be, particularly in terms of the recording quality, and these things are related. Mr. You Must Remember This has a new job, for which we are in the process of temporary relocating to San Francisco. I was short on time this week, and by the time I got around to recording, I was in Los Angeles and parts of my usual recording set-up were en route to our new home. All should be back to normal by next week. I hope. 

The primary research source for this episode was Catherine Jurca’s fascinating book Hollywood 1938: Motion Pictures’ Greatest Year. I basically piggybacked on her extensive, awe-inspiring research, and tried to synthesize it into something more anecdotal. This book gave me the idea to do a series of episodes stemming from the events of 1938, and so, while most of those future episodes won’t necessarily have much to do with the MPGY campaign, I thought telling that story would be the best possible way to begin a series called Follies of 1938. 

Next week, we’re going to return to our other ongoing series, The Many Loves of Howard Hughes. The tentative plan for the next few weeks is to alternate between series, but I reserve the right to mix it up, too. 

Music!

"Preludes for Piano #1" by George Gershwin

"Concerto in F Major for Piano and Orchestra I - Allegro" by George Gershwin, performed by Oscar Lavant with New York Philharmonic

"Preludes for Piano #3" by George Gershwin

"Preludes for Piano #2" by George Gershwin

"Lady Be Good," performed by Count Basie and his Orchestra

"Concerto in F Major for Piano and Orchestra II - Andante Co Moto" by George Gershwin, performed by Oscar Lavant with New York Philharmonic

"You Go To My Head," performed by Marlene Dietrich

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YMRT #7: The Many Loves of Howard Hughes, Chapter 1

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The first episode of a multi-part series on the Hollywood romances of Howard Hughes traces Hughes’ arranged marriage at age 18 to Southern society belle Ella Rice; his affairs with silent star Billie Dove and Jean Harlow, who Hughes helped to establish as a sex symbol whose body was used to evoke both money and military might; and his attempt to invent himself as the most powerful independent producer in town, with his directorial debut, Hell’s Angels

Show Notes!

Key research texts this week included Howard Hughes: The Untold Story by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske; and Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos and Letters, by Richard Hack. There were few discrepancies in terms of the way these two books depicted this time period in Hughes’ life, and I take them somewhat more seriously than another book which I mention in the episode, Darwin Porter’s Hell’s Angel: America’s Notorious Bisexual Billionaire (typing this, I’m realizing I got the subtitle slightly wrong in the podcast; sorry!) 

This week, I watched Hell’s Angels for the first time, and was really pleasantly surprised by it. The UCLA restoration currently available on DVD is *gorgeous,” and the dialogue scenes, directed by James Whale, have a kind of vulgar, inelegant honesty to them. 

I wouldn’t consider them direct research materials, but more than nonfiction sources, I picked up the feeling of 1920s Hollywood from a number of novels, including (of course) The Day of the Locust, but also a few lesser-discussed books I’ve read over the past year: The Big Money by John Dos Passos, Hollywood by Gore Vidal, and The Western Coast by Paula Fox. I highly recommend them all. 

As previously noted, this is intended to be the first episode in a multi-part series about Hughes’ Hollywood relationships. Right now the plan is to alternate episodes on Hughes with installments of another series, which I plan to launch next week (however, I’m traveling tomorrow-Monday, so it’s possible my production schedule will get messed up.)

As always, if you like it, put a ring on it by subscribing to and/or rating and reviewing the podcast at iTunes, and tell your friends to follow us on Twitter @rememberthispod

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Music

“Ill Build a Stairway to Paradise” performed by Whiteman and his orchestra

“Safe in Heal,” performed by Sonic Youth

“Paris,” performed by Dirty Beaches

“S’Wonderful,” performed by Eddie Condon and his orchestra

“Summertime,” performed by the Sidney Bechtet Quintet

“Shadow of a Doubt,” performed by Sonic Youth

“Frelon Brun,” performed by Miles Davis 

“Life Round Here,” by James Blake

“Keechie,” by No Age

“The Man I Love,” performed by Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France

"Skeletons," by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

"Dramamine," by Sebadoh

"Fogbow," by Joan of Arc

"A Foggy Day," performed by Cyril Grantham with Geraldo and his orchestra

"Cemetary Party," by Air

"Drippy Eye," performed by Black Moth Super Rainbow

"Zoetrope," by Boards of Canada

"Alice," by Sunn O)))

"Big Louise," by Scott Walker

"With Plenty of Money and You," performed by Tony Bennett

"I Got Plenty of Nuthin’," performed by Avon Long

"Baby Vampire Made Me," by Helium

"Girl/Boy Song," by Aphex Twin

"This Hollywood Life," by The London Suede 

YMRT #6: Isabella Rossellini in the 1990s

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Today we celebrate the 62nd birthday of actress/model/filmmaker Isabella Rossellini. She was born into Hollywood scandal: her mother, Ingrid Bergman, was denounced on the floor of Congress for her adulterous relationship with Isabella’s father, Italian neorealist director Roberto Rossellini. Isabella herself would go on to have romances with Martin Scorsese and David Lynch, finding her signature film role in the latter’s Blue Velvet. But her parentage and romantic relationships are only part of the story. She made her own fortune modeling, a career which the former scoliosis patient started at the relatively advanced age of 28, ultimately serving an unprecedented 14 years as the face of Lancome. In the 1990s — a decade which began with her being dumped by David Lynch and ended with her launching a company which she referred to as “a secret feminist plot” against the beauty industry — Isabella Rossellini took her legacy into her own hands. 

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Show notes!

This podcast was inspired by an image I stumbled across, from the brochure produced in 1999 to publicize Manifesto, Rossellini’s short-lived “feminist” cosmetics line. Also, I’m always happy for a chance to talk about Death Becomes Her, about which I wrote an entire chapter in my book about Meryl Streep

I wanted to try to tell at least parts of Isabella’s story like a short story, which, practically, meant that instead of doing a lot of research from various angles, as I’ve done in previous episodes, I wanted to try to get inside my main subject’s point of view. So, one of my key sources was Isabella’s own 1997 memoir, Some of Me. This seems to be out of print, but if you’re interested in her I highly recommend it. It’s a little nutty, charmingly so, and also beautifully illustrated (it has made me obsessed with a certain 90s-vintage Dolce and Gabbana bra.). Isabella’s 1997 Fresh Air interview, which I’ve excerpted liberally within in the podcast, synthesizes a lot of the key themes of the memoir, as do many of her extended interviews, including this live chat with John Anderson, from which I excerpted a bit in which she talks about becoming a model at age 28.

It didn’t play a huge role into my research for this, but Ingrid Bergman’s autobiography is also very good. 

Of the many magazine articles I read this week, these were the most useful:

Isabella Makes a Fresh StartVanity Fair, January 1991

Isabella Rossellini, INDEX, 1999

Daddy’s GirlThe Guardian, April 30, 2006

Have Makeup Will TravelSF Gate, January 11, 2000

Isabella Rossellini Makes a Beauty Statement With Manifesto LineLA Times, January 7, 2000

“Isabella Rossellini’s Manifesto: anatomy of a commercial fragrance failure” Examiner, March 15, 2010

Music:

"Blue Velvet," performed by Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet theme, by Angelo Badalamenti

“Single,” by Everything But the Girl

“Weightless,” by Washed Out

“Jump Into the Fire,” by Harry Nilsson

“But The World Goes Round,” performed by Liza Minnelli in New York, New York

Theme from Cousins, by Angelo Badalamenti

“Middle of the Road,” by The Pretenders

“Theme d’Amour” from Alphaville, by Paul Maraki

“Jonathan,” by Fiona Apple

“Spread Your Wings,” by Spiritualized

“Apartment Song,” by Possum Dixon

"Justify My Love," by Madonna

Death Becomes Her theme, by Alan Silvestri

"Moon River," performed by Morrissey

"Blue Lines," by Massive Attack

"Les Yper Sound," by Stereolab

"Flower," by Sonic Youth

"Naked Eye," by Luscious Jackson

"A Party Able Model Of," by Joan of Arc

"Blue Velvet," performed by Lana Del Rey

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We Are the (26th) Best!

Behold - You Must Remember This has cracked iTunes’ Top 50 TV & Film Podcasts! 

Also, check out this interview with Karina, in which she talks about how the podcast comes together, why it exists, etc! 

YMRT #5: The Lives, Deaths and Afterlives of Judy Garland

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Today we’re commemorating the life and career of Judy Garland, who died 45 years ago this month. Signed to a studio contract at the age of 13, encouraged to become a pill addict as a teenage MGM contract player, crowned a superstar by The Wizard of Oz at age 17 and married for the first time at 18, Garland lived more than her share of life before reaching legal maturity. But today, we’re going to pay particular attention to the last two decades of her life, the post-MGM years, during which Garland battled through one comeback after another, ultimately establishing intimate relationships with her fans on TV and in live performances that would cement Garland’s legacy as one of the most powerful performers of all time. These triumphs were, at the time, usually overlooked by an essentially paternalistic mainstream media which, much to Garland’s dismay, delighted in the negative and the tragic. We’ll explore Garland’s struggles to assert herself within an industry that nearly killed her, and against a media which seemed to be out to get her. We’ll also take a look at Garland’s rise as a gay icon, and the connection between Garland’s death and the Stonewall Riots, which took place the night of Garland’s funeral. 

This episode is a little bit different than previous episodes. For one thing, it includes material from interviews with two different experts: Anne Helen Petersen, who writes about Garland in her new book, Scandals of Classic Hollywood, and Peter Mac, a Judy Garland tribute artist whose act features detail-oriented recreations of Garland’s live performances, and who is incredibly well-versed in Garland’s life, work and legacy. 

Also, at two different points, I have Friend of You Must Remember This Noah Segan reading excerpts from William Goldman’s The Season. The first of these excerpts is an example of the way that Garland often functions as a kind of folk hero, the star of cocktail party anecdotes that become something like tale tales. The other excerpt is more problematic — it’s basically a document of vicious homophobia, although it wouldn’t have been called or recognized as that at the time — and I debated whether or not to include it. Ultimately I decided that I wanted to have it in there because it helped me to remember how significant Stonewall really was, by showing how much it needed to happen, and how much has changed (although of course there’s still a long way to go). This kind of completely casual reporting on “fluttering fags” shows us how different the world that Judy Garland lived in is from the world that began to come into being after her death. There’s some debate as to whether or not there’s a literal, causal relationship between Garland’s death and Stonewall, but there’s no question that the dividing line between the Before Stonewall and After Stonewall eras coincides exactly with the dividing line between Judy Garland’s existence in the world as a living, breathing human being and her post-death existence as a symbol, angel, martyr, whatever. As I’ve tried to show here, I think it’s the emotional connection, the connection in the public imagination, that really matters. 

I’ve listed my sources as usual below, but I should also note that my fascination with Judy Garland is longstanding, and though I didn’t pick them up this week, there are a few texts that I’ve basically internalized over the years. One is Ronald Haver’s book on the production, destruction and restoration/reconstruction of A Star is BornA Star is Born is my favorite film, and Haver’s book is definitely amongst the most impactful books about filmmaking, celebrity, the culture of Hollywood and Hollywood’s ability to create culture, that I’ve ever read. Then there’s an article by Adrienne L. McLean which ran in Film Quarterly in the Spring of 2002, called “Feeling and the Filmed Body: Judy Garland and the Kinesics of Suffering.” This article was the final straw that made me decide to apply to graduate schools, and it’s still a gold standard for me in terms of relating what’s happening in a person’s life off-screen to what they make visible on-screen.

Special thanks to Anne Helen Petersen and Peter Mac for making the time to talk to me. Anne’s book is available for pre-order and will be released in September. If you have an opportunity to see Peter’s show, I highly recommend it. I first saw him perform at The Other Side, a piano bar in the LA neighborhood of Silverlake, which opened in the late 1960s and, sadly, closed in 2012. In that small room, where we would usually sit and drink around the piano, Peter’s note-perfect renditions of songs like “The Man That Got Away” were known to make me cry. He’s headlining a fundraiser for the L. Frank Baum Foundation in Syracuse, New York in August.

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Music in this episode:

“After You’ve Gone” performed by Judy Garland

“Moonlight Saving Me” played by Blossom Dearie

“The Boy Next Door,” played by Blossom Dearie

“I Feel a Song Coming On,” performed by Judy Garland

“Over the Rainbow” performed by Judy Garland

“Come Rain of Come Shine,” performed by Judy Garland

“Preludes for Piano #2,” performed by George Gershwin

“The Man That Got Away,” performed by Judy Garland, from A Star is Born

“The Man That Got Away” instrumental

“Medley: This is The Time of the Evening/While We’re Young,” performed by Judy Garland

“Stormy Weather,” performed by Judy Garland live at Carnegie Hall

“Olv 26” performed by Stereolab

“My Orphaned Son,” performed by DNTEL

“Who Cares,” performed by Judy Garland live at Carnegie Hall

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Text sources:

Scandals of Classic Hollywood, by Anne Helen Petersen

The Season, by William Goldman

Get Happy, by Gerald Clarke

A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli, by Mark Griffin

"Judy Garland and Gay Men," by Richard Dyer. From Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society; also available here.

Jeff Weinstein on Judy Garland and Stonewall (Special thanks to Jeff for making the Obit article available to me when it wasn’t online)

"Did Judy Garland start a riot?" by Andrew Alexander, Creative Loafing

"Does Judy Garland still matter?" by Jesse Green, New York Magazine

The (Suddenly, This) Summer Experiment!

I started this podcast in April, and have managed to produce four episodes in two months. I didn’t know what I was doing at first, technically (as I’ve noted elsewhere, I taught myself how to use GarageBand by editing the first episode), but also in a larger sense. I wasn’t sure what this even was, but I knew I needed to do something creative, and that I had to start making it in order to figure it out.

I think I’m still figuring it out (technically, and otherwise), but the response has been encouraging (thanks, you guys!), at least encouraging enough that I’ve decided to try something. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been working a job which more or less ends today. I have nothing planned, work-wise, starting next week (although I do have a book coming out in September and I figure I’ll probably need to devote some time to asking people to pay attention to it around then). So, for the next two months, I’ve decided to do nothing except for work on this podcast. My goal is to try to crank out one episode per week, beginning next week (although realistically, the episode I’ve just started to work on might not be ready for publishing until Monday June 9) and continuing through the end of July. I want to get faster, in terms of how long it takes to make these, and I want the storytelling to be a little tighter. Most of all, I want to see if it makes sense to treat this like a full-time job.

Wish me luck! And if you haven’t already, please subscribe to the podcastcheck out our website, and/or rate and review us on iTunes.

You Must Remember This Episode 4: (The Printing of) The Legend of Frances Farmer

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During the last year of his life, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was obsessed with Frances Farmer, an actress from his hometown of Seattle who died in 1970. Farmer’s beauty and unique screen presence made her a star, but her no-bullshit ballsiness made her a pariah — and a target of the hostile media — in 1930s Hollywood. Farmer’s career went down the tubes in the 1940s when a couple of incidents of inconvenient drunkenness led to her being committed to an insane asylum by her own mother, and given a lobotomy.

Or, so Cobain and his wife, Courtney Love, frequently told journalists while Cobain was promoting In Utero, the Nirvana album that includes Cobain’s tribute to the actress, “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” (Love also claimed to have been married to Cobain whilst wearing a dress once owned by Farmer, and the couple named their daughter Frances, although that was likely at least co-inspired by Frances McKee of The Vaselines). Unbeknownst to them, the notion that Farmer was lobotomized was a fiction invented by a biographer with ties to Scientology, a lie which was then dramatized in an Oscar-nominated, Mel Brooks-produced movie which helped to make Jessica Lange a star. By the time Kurt and Courtney were championing Farmer as a proto-punk martyr in the 1990s, the legend of Frances Farmer as patron saint of…well, women like Courtney Love, had been printed so many times that it had swallowed up the truth of Farmer’s experience, and loomed much larger than her actual body of movie work. Today we’ll explore how, and why, that legend got printed, and try to explain how Frances Farmer became the patron saint of beautiful, bright, potentially batshit women whose self-destruction can be traced back to their signing of a studio contract.

We have special guest stars! Nora Zehetner (Brick, Grey’s Anatomy, Mad Men and most recently IFC’s Maron) played Frances Farmer; Brian Clark played Kurt Cobain, and Noah Segan IS Rex Reed.

And now for a few Show Notes:

Farmerology is a tricky field, because each new contributor to the canon seems to make a point of debunking those who came before them…and also quotes those same predecessors as though their works are unchallenged fact. So while the goal of this episode was to explain how and why Frances Farmer’s legend got printed, I’ve also used aspects of that legend (such as clips from the movie Frances) as “evidence.” When in Rome?

The main texts examined in this episode are Shadowland by William Arnold, and Will There Really Be A Morning? by “Frances Farmer.” As explained in the episode, these texts cannot be taken at face value, and the following resources were invaluable in providing additional information and context: 

“Shedding Light on Shadowland” by Jeffrey Kauffman

“Burn All The Liars” by Matt Evans, The Morning News 

Frances Farmer: The Life and Films of a Troubled Star by Peter Shelley http://www.amazon.com/Frances-Farmer-Life-Films-Troubled/dp/0786447451

Also cited within and/or relevant:

Hollywood Babylon, by Kenneth Anger

“Dark Side of the Womb, Part 2” Melody Maker, August 28, 1993

“Strange Love” Vanity Fair, September 1993

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, by Lawrence Wright

In the podcast, I’ve included a quote in which Kurt Cobain admits that he is worried that what happened to Frances Farmer could happen to his wife, Courtney Love. I could do a second episode just on that, but if you’re at all interested in what’s happened to Courtney after Kurt, read Nancy Jo Sales’ excellent November 2011 Vanity Fair profile, “Courtney Love in a Cold Climate.”

Music used in this episode

“Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” by Nirvana

“Knife Fights Every Night” by Joan of Arc

“Night City”  by Dirty Beaches 

“Paracosm” by Washed Out

“Lenny Valentino #3” by The Auteurs, remixed by Mu-ziq

“Prelude” by Gene Harris

“ Oh Brother #3” by Joan of Arc

“Pennyroyal Tea [Demo]” by Nirvana

“Rub Til it Bleeds” by PJ Harvey 

“Big Day Coming” by Yo La Tengo

“Asking For It” by Hole

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