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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YMRT #16: Marlon Brando, 1971-1973

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In the early 1950s, Marlon Brando became the first post-war mega-movie star, redefining screen acting and heralding the end of the star system by refusing to sign a studio contract. But as the studio system fell apart in the 1960s, and a new generation of moviegoers rejected the previous decade’s movie stars, Brando acquired a reputation as box office poison. This is the story of how, with two movies shot in 1971 — The Godfather and Last Tango in ParisBrando turned his career around. He then spent his regained celebrity capital on an act of social activism that simultaneously drew attention to a good cause, and put Hollywood’s culture of self-adoration in its place. 

Show notes!

Today’s episode features excerpts from a conversation between myself and Austin Wilkin, the archivist for the Marlon Brando Estate. I’ve quoted liberally from Brando's own autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me. Of the many, many Brando biographies, Brando's Smile by Susan L. Mizruchi and Marlon Brando by Patricia Bosworth were the most helpful. I’m not sure how seriously to take Alice Marchak’s two self-published books about her time working as Brando's secretary (Wilkin suggested I take them “with a grain of salt”), but I did base some of the section on the 1972 Oscars on Marchak's More Me and Marlon. I consulted Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls to refresh my memory on some aspects of the making of The Godfather; I’ve also written about that film before.

I was a bit shocked to not be able to find an English-language biography of Bernardo Bertolucci (although maybe I shouldn’t have been). I made do with Bernardo Bertolucci: Interviews, and these two articles.

As noted in the podcast, my new book Hollywood Frame by Frame includes images of Brando on the set of The Godfather. The book also includes contact sheets featuring a much younger Brando, on the set of Julius Caesar

Discography:

“Preludes for Piano #2” by George Gershwin

“Exlibris” by Kosta T

“Looped” by Jahzzar

“Feel it All Around” by Washed Out

“What True Self, Feels Bogus, Let’s Watch Jason X” by Chris Zabriskie

“Rite of Passage” by Kevin Macleod

“Jump Into the Fire” by Harry Nilsson

“Be Thankful For What You Got” by Massive Attack

“Blue Lines” by Massive Attack

“Divider” by Chris Zabriskie

“Ghost Story” by Versus

“For Better or Worse” by Kai Engel

“Fiery Yellow” by Stereolab

“money” by Jahzzar

“Cylinder One” by Chris Zabriskie

“Rebel Without a Pause” by Public Enemy

YMRT #15: Madonna From Sean to Warren, Part Two

In the concluding chapter of a two-part episode about Madonna and movies (see part one here), we talk about her mutually beneficial professional and personal involvement with Warren Beatty. In 1989, Beatty, the self-described “president of Hollywood,” was coming off the disaster of Ishtar, and decided to star in and direct Dick Tracy as a way to prove that he still had his finger on the pulse of the culture. Madonna, who was still reeling from the end of her marriage to Sean Penn, saw Beatty and Dick Tracy as her avenue to legit Hollywood movie stardom — but she hedged her bets by producing her own cinematic showcase, Truth or Dare.

(Truth or Dare gif via Madonna Scrapbook)

Show notes!

Side note first: Have you seen Madonna’s Twitter/Instagram? There’s some interesting stuff on it, particularly this image of her and Michael Jackson at the Academy Awards captioned “Time is a whore she screws everyone!” and also multiple posts in which she refers to Rocco, her son with Guy Ritchie, as Spicoli — the character Sean Penn played in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

This episode was originally supposed to be one part, but there was simply too much to say, so I split it in two. So all of the sources cited in Part One’s show notes apply to this one, too. Also: Star: The Life and Wild Times of Warren Beatty by Peter Biskind, and the following articles/magazines:

Tracymania,” by David Ansen and Pamela Abramson, Newsweek, 6/25/1990

He Still Leaves Them Breathless,” by Elizabeth Sporkin, People, 7/02/1990

Peter Biskind’s cover story in the June 1990 issue of Premiere 

Mediography:

Clips from Truth or Dare, directed by Alek Keshishian

Discography:

"Born to be Blue" by Chet Baker

"Exchange" by Massive Attack

"Fiery Yellow" by Stereolab

"Laserdisc" by Chris Zabriskie

"Big Deal" by Everything But the Girl

"Down the Depths" performed by Blossom Dearie

“Roughcut” by Tripwire

"5:00 AM" by Peter Rudenko

"I’d Rather Be Your Lover" by Madonna

"The Simple Complex" by Uncle Bibby

"Sooner or Later" by Stephen Sondheim, performed by Madonna

"43 Days" Kemi Helwa

"Hanky Panky" by Madonna 

"Out of the Skies, Under the Earth" by Chris Zabriskie

"Something to Remember" by Madonna

"Divider" by Chris Zabriskie

"snake eyes" by off key

"For Better or Worse" by Kai Engel

"Vogue" by Madonna

"Still" by DNTEL

"Batdance" by Prince

"Make it Drums" by Daedelus 

"Pots and Pans" by The Kills

"9 Mile" by Naram

"(Pray For) Spanish Eyes" by Madonna

"Promise to Try" by Madonna

"Live to Tell" by Madonna

"Love Like a Sunset" by Phoenix

"Last Songs" by DNTEL

"Money" by Jahzzar

"Justify my Love" by Madonna

"Love Don’t Live Here Anymore," performed by Madonna

Download the episode (click the down arrow icon in the player)

YMRT #14: Bacall After Bogart

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Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart fell in love on the set of To Have and Have Not in 1944 and were together until his death in 1957 (see YMRT #13, Bogart Before Bacall). The marriage was blissful, but it required Bacall to put her own acting career on the back burner. When her beloved Bogie died, Bacall was just 32 years old, and at first, she was totally adrift, both personally and professionally. Today on what would have been the former Bette Perske’s 90th birthday, we tell the story of how Bacall spent the remaining 57 years of her life, from the disastrous rebound affair with Frank Sinatra to the almost as misbegotten second marriage, from her midlife reinvention as a musical theater star to her lifelong struggle to find a balance between being Mrs. So-and-So, and being Lauren Bacall

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Show notes!

I researched this episode concurrently with last week’s episode, so there’s not much more to report on the sources front, other than this Guardian articleBacall herself left behind a goldmine in her memoirs, By Myself (which was updated about ten years ago with a new chapter, and re-released as By Myself and Then Some), and Now. Ordinarily I wouldn’t want to use a subjects own autobiographies as my primary sources, but Bacall’s voice is so strong, and her point of view mostly so clear (except for her occasionally blinkered view of her first marriage, but she basically cops to being to blinded by love that she couldn’t report on that objectively, so whatever) that it seemed like the best idea. Also, she just died, and it seemed like the best tribute to her would be to showcase her side of the story. 

Discography

"Preludes for Piano No. 2" by George Gershwin

"An American in Paris" by George Gershwin

After Parties” by DNTEL

"Welcome to Heartbreak" by Kanye West

"Dances and Dames" by Kevin MacLeod

 ”Prelude No. 21” by Chris Zabriskie

"Erik’s Song" by Slowdive

"The Future" performed by Frank Sinatra

"looped" by Jahzzar

"The Best is Yet to Come" performed by Frank Sinatra

"For Better or Worse" by Kai Engel

"Dance of the Stargazer" by US Army Blues

"Single" by Everything but the Girl

"Quasi Motion" by Kevin MacLeod

"Autumn in New York" performed by Chet Baker

"Divider" by Chris Zabriskie

"Benbient" by canton

"Welcome to the Theater" from Applause, performed by Lauren Bacall

"Tikopia" by Kevin MacLeod

"Mesmerizing" by Liz Phair

"Cylinder One" by Chris Zabriskie

"Empty Bottles" by Magik Markers

Download the episode here (click on the arrow on the player)

YMRT #13: Bogey, Before Bacall

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Above: Humphrey Bogart and his third wife, Mayo Methot

Humphrey Bogart is perhaps the most enduring icon of grown-up masculine cool to come out of Hollywood’s first century. But much of what we think of when we think of Bogart — the persona of the tough guy with the secret soft heart, his pairing on-screen and off with Lauren Bacall — coalesced late in Bogart’s life. Today we take a look at how Humphrey Bogart became Bogey, tracing his journey from blue blood beginnings through years of undistinguished work and outright failure (both in the movies and in love), to his emergence in the early 1940s as a symbol of wartime perseverance who could make sacrifice seem sexy. Finally, we’ll look at what it took to get him to take the leap into a fourth marriage that seemed to saved his life … until the world’s most glamorous stoic was faced with cancer. Next week, we’ll present the sequel to this story: Bacall, After Bogey.

Download this episode at InfiniteGuest.org (click the download button on the player)

Show Notes!

This episode was researched in part at the Warner Brothers Archives at USC. Thanks to Brett Service for inviting me to make use of the Archives and for helping me find what I needed. 

As I noted last week, each episode in this season has some connection to Hollywood Frame by Frame, the book I worked on which compiles previously unseen contact sheets of Hollywood still photographers. The admittedly rather flimsy connection to this week and next week’s episodes is that there are images in the book of Bogart and Bacall on the set of The African Queen. Pre-order the book now! </blatant plug>

There are a lot of biographies of Humphrey Bogart. I’ve flipped through many of them over the years, and I’m not sure there’s a single definitive or really great one. But, the most recent, Stefan Kanfer’s Tough Without a Gun, at least does the work of sorting through most of the previously published sources and comparing versions of the truth. Bogey by Clifford McCarty was one of the few film books my parents had around when I was a kid, and it was disappointing to open it during research for this episode and find that it had more pictures than text, although that also makes it pretty emblematic of the wave of Bogey image worship that sprung up in the late-60s and 1970s, which we’ll talk about in next week’s episode.

I became interested in the idea of exploring Bogey’s life before Bacall through City of Nets, Otto Friedrich’s beautifully written book on Hollywood in the 1940s. which dramatizes Bogart’s relationship with his third wife, Mayo Methot. Other sources relevant to this episode include By Myself by Lauren Bacall, Who the Hell’s In It and Who the Devil Made It by Peter Bogdanovich, Humphrey Bogart by Nathaniel Benchley, Bogart and Bacall by Joe Hyams, Slim: Memories of a Rich and Imperfect Life by Slim Keith with Annette Tapert. and finally, the chapter on Bogart in Louise Brooks’ Lulu in Hollywood. After his death, more than one Bogart biographer disputed Brooks’ impressions/interpretations of her old friend Humphrey Bogart, who she insisted was not the same man as the Bogey the world thought they knew. Of course, Brooks’ recollections are self-serving, but I always think first-hand accounts are interesting, especially when they challenge or add shading to a legend. And that’s the thing about Bogartography: for all that’s been written about the man, his life and his work, there still seems to be so little that we actually know. 

Discography

"Intro" by The Big Sleep

"Fourty Four" by The Kills

"Dances and Dames" by Kevin MacLeod

"Out of the Skies, Under the Earth" by Chris Zabriskie

"Divider" by Chris Zabriskie

"Melody" by Serge Gainsbourg

"Love Like a Sunset" by Phoenix

"roughcut" by Tripwire

"Life Round Here" by James Blake

"Your Impersonation This Morning of Me Last Night" by Joan of Arc

"Rite of Passage" by Kevin MacLeod

"For Better or Worse"Chris Zabriskie

"Intelligent Galaxy" by The Insider

"Looped" by Jahzzar

"Shadow of a Doubt" by Sonic Youth

"Cyllinder One" by Chris Zabriskie

"Theresa’s Sound World" by Sonic Youth

"Will Be War Soon?" by Kosta T

"Prelude No. 21" by Chris Zabriskie

"Tikopia" by Kevin MacLeod

"Benbient" by canton

click the download button on the player)”Don’t Fence Me In,” by Cole Porter, performed by Frank Sinatrac

Madonna, From Sean Penn to Warren Beatty, Part 1 (YMRT #12)

The biggest female pop star of the last decades of the monoculture, Madonna was also perhaps the first and last contemporary pop star who was also a serious Classical Hollywood cinephile, to extent that, for awhile, she seemed to be using pop music as a vehicle for a kind of conceptual art about movies and movie stardom. When she kept her passion for Hollywood cinema in the realm of celebration, commentary and critique, Madonna was able to engineer a number of truly transcendent images and cultural moments; when she aimed for straight movie stardom, however, her efforts more often than not fell flat. Over the course of two episodes, we will explore the high-cinephile period of Madonna’s life and work, roughly bracketed by her relationship with Sean Penn (whom she met on the set of the “Material Girl” video, while dressed as Marilyn Monroe), and ending with the dissolution of her rebound affair with Warren Beatty, as documented in the self-consciously Felliniesque tour film Truth or Dare. Here in part one, we start with Madonna’s typecasting in Desperately Seeking Susan, trace her tumultuous and allegedly abusive relationship with Penn from “Material Girl” through Shanghai Surprise and beyond, and explore how processing her first divorce through the concept album Like a Prayer led to Madonna’s highly cinematic collaborations with David Fincher, including the zenith of her public cinephilia, the video for “Vogue.”

Download the episode here (click the down arrow link on the media player)

Welcome to the first episode of our second season! There will be new episodes every Tuesday for twelve weeks, then we’ll take a brief hiatus around Thanksgiving, and come back with season three. Each episode in this second season has some relationship to Hollywood Frame by Frame, a book I worked on which is being released in September. The book complies contact sheets from still photo sessions related to Hollywood movies from the early-50s through the mid-90s; I researched each individual image and wrote captions, and also wrote supporting essays about the history of Hollywood still photography and the use of contact sheets in the film industry during that time. Some of the episodes will be inspired by or related to images in the book (for instance, the book contains contact sheets from the set of Desperately Seeking Susan, which is the connection to this episode), while others will deal with other great moments in Hollywood still photography/promotional image making.

This episode in particular grew out of another book project I started working on, a proposal I wrote for the 33 1/3 imprint's last call for entries, in which I outlined a plan to write about Like a Prayer as a visual phenomenon, suggesting that all of the imagery created in relation to the album and its promotion — including music videos, paparazzi and red carpet photographs, TV appearances, Truth or Dare, and even the packaging of the album itself — were in a sense engineered by Madonna as a visual, pop artist. I made it to the semi-finals, but the proposal was not chosen, which was sort of a relief — just because I would have had to abandon a lot of other things (including this podcast) in order to get the book done. That said, when I decided to try to funnel some of the research that I had done for the proposal into an episode of You Must Remember This, it was challenging to find an appropriate structure. Hence, Madonna from Sean to Warren, which gave me a finite period of time to work within, and also seemed of a piece with a lot of our previous episodes, in which relationship between an artist’s personal life and their work is shown to be symbiotic. But I did have to cut out a lot of commentary about work itself, particularly the music videos produced for Like a Prayer. Maybe someday I will find a venue in which to do the full study of Madonna as a visual artist. Or maybe, after the second half of this episode (coming in four weeks), I will be pretty burnt out on Madonnaology and will be desperate to move on. Time will tell.

Soundtrack

Eric Satie’s “Gymnopedie No. 3,” performed by Kevin MacLeod

"Vogue," by Madonna

"Divider," by Chris Zabriskie

"Make it Drums," by Daedelus

"Contre le Sexisme," by Sonic Youth

"AAA" by DiSloCaTed

"Into the Groovey" by Ciccone Youth

"Into the Groove" by Madonna

"Fiction Romance" by The Buzzcocks

"Material Girl" by Madonna

"Readers, Do You Read?" by Chris Zabriskie

Ghost Dance performed by Kevin MacLeod

"The Simple Complex" by UncleBibby

"9 mile" by Naram

"Out of the Skies, Under the Earth" by Chris Zabriskie

"Papa Don’t Preach" by Madonna

"White Heat" by Madonna

"Calabash" by Co.fee

"She Ionizes and Atomizes" by Modest Mouse

"What True Self, Feels Bogus, Let’s Watch Jason X" by Chris Zabriskie

"Melancholy Aftersounds," by Kai Engel

"Undercover Vampire Policeman," by Chris Zabriskie

"Oh Father" by Madonna

"Like a Prayer" by Madonna

"Oceanic Dawn" by DJ Masque

"Love Song" by Madonna featuring Prince

Mediography

Madonna on America Bandstand

Marilyn Monroe performing Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friends, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Clip from Fast Times at Ridgemont High

"Material Girl" music video, directed by Mary Lambert

Bibliography

Madonna: An Intimate Biography by J. Randy Taraborrelli

Madonna Illustrated by Tim Riley

Sean Penn: His Life and Times by Richard T. Kelly

Rocking Around the Clock: Music Television, Postmodernism and Consumer Culture by E. Ann Kaplan

"Madonna’s Back" Harper’s Bazaar, October, 2013 

"Is Madonna still in love with Sean Penn, the man who beat her up with a baseball bat?" Daily Mail, March 1, 2009

We’re Joining American Public Media’s New Podcast Network!

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Now it can be told. At the end of July, I announced my plan to take a 2-3 week summer hiatus. While I was on that hiatus, I was approached by some nice people at American Public Media and invited to join a new podcast network launched under their auspices, which would include radio shows like The Splendid Table, Dinner Party Download and Wits, as well as new podcasts from Sherman Alexie, The Emily Post Institute, and much more. I accepted, and decided to hold my Season 2 debut a little bit longer in order to match their launch schedule. And now, it’s happening: the Infinite Guest network is now live! And Season 2, Episode 1 of You Must Remember This will debut on Tuesday.

What’s going to change? There will be some branding in the podcast, and eventually, a mid-roll ad or two. but otherwise, the content of the podcast will be exactly the same. I will still do all the writing, hosting and editing myself, from my home office in LA or wherever I happen to be. I’m on the hunt for additional collaborators (both people to interview and people with voice talents), and I need to compile a library of podsafe music. But do not fear: Noah will still play Howard Hughes.

I will continue posting show notes here, and if you subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, you should find that nothing has changed. But you can also bookmark the pod’s page over at the Infinite Guest site, where you can also find other podcasts on topics such as food, sports, video game soundtracks, indie hip hop and more. 

Oh, one more thing: I had to re-edit each of my previous episodes slightly in order to minimize the use of copyright music. I had a computer disaster and lost the original project file for our “pilot,” the episode on Kim Novak, so I couldn’t re-edit it and it’s thus not part of the archive on the network. You might be able to find that episode somewhere else on the internet, at least for the time being, but I will probably have to go to those places and delete those files eventually. 

A Mid-Summer Progress Report (and Late-Summer Hiatus)

At the beginning of June, I announced my intention to ramp up my focus and produce an episode of this podcast every week until the end of July. With two days left in the month, I’ve hit a bit of a research stumbling block (in short: I’m in San Francisco and don’t have access to library materials I need, which are in Los Angeles), meaning that there will not be another new episode before July ends. So, it seems like a good time to tally the results of this experiment.

I managed to complete seven episodes in seven weeks: The Last Days of Judy Garland; Isabella Rossellini in the 1990s; The Many Loves of Howard Hughes, Chapter 1;  The Follies of 1938; Ida Lupino (The Many Loves of Howard Hughes, Chapter 2); Kay Francis and “box office poison”; and the fall and rise of Katharine Hepburn (Howard Hughes, chapter 3). It was difficult, but doable. I have definitely streamlined my production process and can now breeze through the editing in half the time it was taking me a month ago. Research and writing are now the toughest, most time consuming parts — which is probably as it should be. 

The effort seems to have paid off, in that people seem to be finding the podcast, and liking it. (Did you see us in Entertainment Weekly? That was exciting because my dad knows what it is!) So, I’m going to keep doing it!

But first, I need to take a few weeks off. There are some changes that I want to make to our web presence (as I noted on the Village Voice Film Club podcast, I want to add a wiki to allow listeners to suggest and lend support to episode topic ideas). Also, for my own sanity, I need to take some time to create a better organizational system for my ideas and research process. Also, we’re moving back to Los Angeles from San Francisco next week, and that will make for a stressful few days. Also, it’s about to be August, and I need a little bit of a vacation. 

My tentative plan is to be back with new, weekly episodes starting August 20. In the meantime, I may repost remastered versions of our first few episodes. Stay tuned for those, and for any news I have to report, by following us on Twitter

The Many Loves of Howard Hughes: Katharine Hepburn, 1938 (YMRT #11)

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A crossover episode, uniting our two ongoing series, The Many Loves of Howard Hughes and Follies of 1938, focusing on Hughes’ relationship with Katharine Hepburn, which peaked and crashed in 1938. Introduced by Hughes’ close confidant, Cary Grant, Hepburn and Hughes became a celebrity couple in the modern mold: mutually attracted in part based on the fame of the other, they were hounded by paparazzi, their rumored impending nuptials dissected by outsiders until the relationship itself frittered away. By 1938, Hepburn’s “woman wearing the pants” image had transitioned from merely controversial to cripplingly unfashionable, and when she was named in the infamous "box office poison" ad of May 1938, her career sunk as low as it would go. (Though her fame had not: note the above magazine cover, in which Kate and Howard are the glossy cover image under a tease referring to the movie quiz from the decidedly less glamorous Motion Pictures’ Greatest Year campaign — a campaign designed to help Hollywood recover from losses ostensibly incurred from the fading of stars like Hepburn.) Even as their romance was falling apart, Hughes helped to resurrect Hepburn’s career by purchasing for her the rights to the film that would change her life. He also rebounded from Hepburn by romancing two of her rivals, Bette Davis and Ginger Rogers, while proposing to just about every major female star he could find. 

!!! Show Notes !!!

If you have not already, listen to the previous episodes in these two series. First, in Follies of 1938, there was an overview of 1938 and the “Motion Pictures Greatest Year Campaign,” and then Kay Francis and box office poison. Previously in The Many Loves of Howard Hughes, we talked about the arranged marriage that got Hughes to Hollywood, and then explored the life and work of Ida Lupino, Hughes’ sometime teenage girlfriend turned pioneering film writer/director/producer. 

This episode covers some of the same events that were dramatized in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator — a film which I deliberately did not watch this week while I was working on the episode. Maybe it would have been interesting to compare Scorsese’s presentation of the Hepburn/Hughes relationship to the version presented by Hughes and Hepburn’s various biographers, but I felt I had enough on my plate just dealing with the sometimes overlapping, sometimes contradictory facts laid out in my sources. Those sources included: Kate, The Woman Who Was Hepburn by William Mann; Me, by Katharine Hepburn; The Untold Story of Howard Hughes by Peter Harry Brown; Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos and Letters by Richard Hack; and, of course, Hollywood 1938: Motion Pictures’ Greatest Year by Catherine Jurca.  

Also, Noah Segan is quite invested in his recurring role as Hughes. There was no need to bring Leo into the mix. 

Music:

"Divider," by Chris Zabriskie

"Off to Osaka," by Kevin MacLeod

"Out of the Skies, Under the Earth," by Chris Zabriskie

"Undercover Vampire Policeman," by Chris Zabriskie

"Prelude No. 21," by Chris Zabriskie

"Ghost Dance," by Kevin MacLeod

"Dances and Dames," by Kevin MacLeod

"Gymnopedie No. 3," by Eric Satie, performed by Kevin MacLeod

"If You Don’t Want My Love," covered by DNTEL

All of the above tracks, with the exception of the DNTEL cover, were sourced from the Free Music Archive.

Download this episode (right click and save)

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. Dan 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

Download this episode (right click and save)