Dead Blondes

Dorothy Stratten (Dead Blondes Episode 13) by Karina Longworth

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Our Dead Blondes season concludes with the story of Dorothy Stratten. Coaxed into nude modeling by Paul Snider, her sleazy boyfriend-turned-husband, 18 year-old Stratten was seized on by Playboy as the heir apparent to Marilyn Monroe. She ascended to the top of the Playboy firmament quickly, and just after Hugh Hefner decided to make her Playmate of the Year, she met filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, who fell in love with her and rewrote his upcoming film, They All Laughed, to give Dorothy a star-making role. After filming They All Laughed Dorothy planned to leave Snider and Playboy for life with Bogdanovich -- but her husband had other ideas. 

 

Sources:

The documentary mentioned at the end of this episode is One Day Since Yesterday, directed by Bill Teck. The link above goes to the DVD on Amazon, but it's also available on Netflix and iTunes.

While I was doing the research for this episode, I was able to view many of the images of Dorothy that appeared in Playboy via a tumblr that has since been taken down. Many of these images are still viewable via Pinterest

Other sources:

"The Passions of Peter Bogdanovich", People, January 23, 1989

"The Death of a Playmate", Village Voice, November 5, 1980

"Hugh Hefner: Blows Against The Empire," Rolling Stone, March 27, 1986

"Peter Bogdanovich Doesn't Live Here Anymore," LA Weekly, March 27, 2002

SLIPPERY AS THE DICKENS: PETER BOGDANOVICH ON "THEY ALL LAUGHED", RogerEbert.com

"Behind the Scenes of the Last Picture Show," Entertainment Weekly, September 21, 1990

"Out to Lunch With Peter Bogdanovich," Vanity Fair, March 2014

"Director Bogdanovich Declares Bankruptcy" Los Angeles Times, June 4, 1997

"Peter Bogdanovich's Star Crossed Days," Washington Post, September 25, 1984

Credits:

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Barbara Loden (Dead Blondes Episode 12) by Karina Longworth

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Barbara Loden won a Tony Award for playing a character based on Marilyn Monroe in Arthur Miller’s After the Fall. Like Marilyn, Barbara was a beauty with no pedigree who fled a hopeless upbringing in search of the fulfillment of fame. Like Marilyn, Loden found some measure of security as the mistress (and eventual wife) of a powerful man, in Loden’s case Elia Kazan. But instead of satisfying her, her small taste of fame and her relationship with Kazan left Barbara Loden wanting more, which would lead her to write, direct and star in a groundbreaking independent movie of her own.

Author Arthur Miller, Barbara Loden and Jason Robards Jr., After the Fall, 1964

Author Arthur Miller, Barbara Loden and Jason Robards Jr., After the Fall, 1964

Barbara Loden and Elia Kazan, 1969

Barbara Loden and Elia Kazan, 1969

Barbara Loden, writer-director-star of  Wanda

Barbara Loden, writer-director-star of Wanda

Show notes:

Sources:

I wrote about the restoration of Wanda for the LA Weekly in 2011. Though I did additional research for this episode, I incorporated some text and research from that earlier piece here.

Other sources:

Elia Kazan, A Life by Elia Kazan

Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Leger

Elia Kazan: The Cinema of an American Outsider by Brian Neve

The Mommie Dearest Diary: Carol Ann Tells All by Rutanya Alda

“Conversation on Wanda by Barbara Loden” by Marguerite Duras and Elia Kazan

“The Lonely Female Taxi Driver: Barbara Loden's Wanda” by Jacqueline Valencia

Barbara Loden clippings files, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Credits:

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Grace Kelly (Dead Blondes Episode 11) by Karina Longworth

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The quintessential “Hitchcock blonde,” Grace Kelly had an apparently charmed life. Her movies were mostly hits, her performances were largely well-reviewed, and she won an Oscar against stiff competition. Then she literally married a prince. Was it all as perfect as it seemed? Today we’ll explore Kelly’s public and private life (and the rumors that the two things were very different), her working relationship with Hitchcock, her Oscar-winning performance in The Country Girl, the royal marriage that took her away from Hollywood and Kelly’s very specific spin on blonde sexuality.

Show notes:

Sources:

High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly by Donald Spoto

Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies by Donald Spoto

Grace Kelly: The Secret Life of a Princess by James Spada

Credits:

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Barbara Payton (Dead Blondes Episode 10) by Karina Longworth

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In our Joan Crawford series, we talked about Barbara Payton as the young, troubled third wife of Crawford’s ex Franchot Tone, whose inability to choose between Tone and another actor brought all three of them down into tabloid Hell. Today, we revisit Payton’s story, and expand it, to explore her rise to quasi-fame, and the slippery slope that reduced her from “most likely to succeed” to informal prostitution, to formal prostitution, and finally to a way-too-early grave.

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Barbara Payton entering California Hospital to see Franchot Tone after his fight with Tom Neal, 1951, Photo Courtesy of Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Barbara Payton entering California Hospital to see Franchot Tone after his fight with Tom Neal, 1951, Photo Courtesy of Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

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Show notes:

I wrote our first episode on Barbara Payton, during the Joan Crawford series, while I was living in London, and I couldn’t get my hands on an actual copy of I Am Not Ashamed, Payton’s ghostwritten autobiography. Shortly after I returned to Los Angeles, I found a copy at Larry Edmunds Bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard -- apparently it was re-released, in the US at least, in paperback shortly before I made the original episode. So though this was originally intended to be a re-run, this episode is now more new than old.

Sources:

I Am Not Ashamed by Barbara Payton

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye by John O’Dowd

Notes From the Unashamed by Kim Morgan, Sunset Gun 

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Jayne Mansfield (Dead Blondes Episode 9) by Karina Longworth

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More famous today for her gruesome car crash death than for any of the movies she made while alive, Jayne Mansfield was in some sense the most successful busty blonde hired by a studio as a Marilyn Monroe copy-cat. Mansfield’s satirical copy of Monroe’s act was so spot-on that it helped to hasten the end of the blonde bombshell, paradoxically endangering both actress’ careers. But she did manage to star in Hollywood’s first rock n’ roll movie, Hollywood’s first postmodern comedy, meet The Beatles, experiment with LSD, cheerfully align herself with Satanism for the photo op, and much more.

Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield, 1957

Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield, 1957

Jayne Mansfield in  The Girl Can't Help It  (1956)

Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can't Help It (1956)

Anton Lavey and Jayne Mansfield, 1966

Anton Lavey and Jayne Mansfield, 1966

Marilyn Monroe: The End (Dead Blondes Episode 8) by Karina Longworth

Marilyn Monroe by Bert Stern, 1962

Marilyn Monroe by Bert Stern, 1962

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How did a star whose persona seemed to be all about childlike joy and eternally vibrant sexuality die, single and childless, at the age of 36? In fact, the circumstances of Marilyn Monroe’s death are confusing and disputed. In this episode we will explore the last five years of her life, including the demise of her relationship with Arthur Miller, the troubled making of The Misfits, and Marilyn’s aborted final film, and try to sort out the various facts and conspiracy theories surrounding her death.

Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, 1959

Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, 1959

Credits:

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Special guest appearance by Rian Johnson as John Huston. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Marilyn Monroe: The Persona (Dead Blondes Episode 7) by Karina Longworth

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How did Marilyn Monroe become the most iconic blonde of the 1950s, if not the century? Today we will trace how her image was created and developed, through her leading roles in movies and her featured coverage in the press, looking specifically at the ways in which Monroe’s on-screen persona took shape during the height of her career.  We’ll pay special attention to the films Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, and Bus Stop, and the struggles behind the scenes of Seven Year Itch and The Prince and the Showgirl.

Marilyn Monroe in  How to Marry a Millionaire

Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire

Marilyn Monroe,  The Seven Year Itch

Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch

Marilyn Monroe: The Beginning (Dead Blondes Flashback) by Karina Longworth

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Today we begin the first of three episodes on the most iconic dead blonde of them all, Marilyn Monroe. We’ll start by revisiting our episode on Marilyn from our series on stars during World War II, in which we traced the former Norma Jeane from her unhappy, almost parentless childhood through her teenage marriage, her work in a wartime factory, her hand-to-mouth days as a model, her struggles to break into movies and, finally, the sex scandal that made her a star.

This episode originally debuted in February 2015. The original show notes for this episode can be found here

Marilyn in 1946.

Marilyn in 1946.

Tom Kelley's nude Marilyn photos, 1949

Tom Kelley's nude Marilyn photos, 1949

Carole Landis (Dead Blondes Episode 5) by Karina Longworth

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Carole Landis was a gifted comedienne, a decent singer, and -- once she dyed her natural brown hair blonde -- perhaps the most luminous beauty in movies of the early 1940s. Plus, she was one of the most dedicated USO performers of WWII, and her elopement with an Air Force pilot on her travels became the inspiration for a book, movie and long running tabloid narrative. But then Landis fell into an affair with Rex Harrison -- and this affair turned out to be Landis’ last.

Carole Landis with World War II troops

Carole Landis with World War II troops

Show notes:

Sources specific to this episode:

Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl, by Eric Gans

Fatal Charm: The Life of Rex Harrison, by Alexander Walker

Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley, by Jeffrey Spivak

Lovely Me: The Life of Jacqueline Susann, by Barbara Seaman

This is the issue of TIME Magazine mentioned in the intro.

The book containing the claims about Pat DeCicco’s violent involvement in Carole Landis’ changed nose is Carole Landis: A Tragic Life In Hollywood by EJ Fleming. Other than citing this one specious claim, I did not use this book as a source precisely because Fleming has a tendency to phrase conjecture as though it is fact. 

Credits:

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Rex Harrison and Carole Landis

Rex Harrison and Carole Landis

Veronica Lake (Dead Blondes Episode 4) by Karina Longworth

Veronica Lake by George Hurrell, c. 1942

Veronica Lake by George Hurrell, c. 1942

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Veronica Lake had the most famous hairdo of the 1940s, if not the twentieth century. Her star turn in Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels and her noir pairings with Alan Ladd made her Paramount’s biggest wartime draw behind Hope and Crosby, but behind the scenes, Lake was a loner with a drinking problem who didn’t give an F about Hollywood etiquette. Bankrupt and without a studio contract, in the early 1950s she consciously quit movies. She claimed she left Hollywood to save her own life -- so how did she end up dead at 50?

Veronica Lake, publicity shot for  I Wanted Wings,  1941.

Veronica Lake, publicity shot for I Wanted Wings, 1941.

Show notes:

Sources specific to this episode:

In researching this podcast, I always try to approach my sources with due skepticism, and in choosing details to include in these episodes, I’m very careful to note facts that are disputed or reported differently by different sources. If I have any doubt about whether or not an incident really occurred, I’m either transparent about my doubt, or I just won’t include it in the episode. In the case of Veronica Lake, there are only two books available to use as biographical sources: there’s Lake’s autobiography, Veronica, which was ghost-written and authorized by a woman who was penniless and whose life was dominated by the alcoholism that would soon kill her; and a book called Peekaboo by Jeff Lenberg, which uses as a main source Veronica’s mother, with whom she had an extremely combative relationship. This latter book, at least in the edition I purchased, is rife with typographical errors, and is also without footnotes or a section on sources. If I were to recommend either of these books, I would have to go with Veronica; unfortunately it is out of print, the copies on the open market are quite expensive, and it seems that the two copies once held by the Los Angeles Public Library system have gone missing.

It would be a stretch to call it a "source," but my understanding of the psychiatric landscape and the potential life of treatment awaiting the mentally ill in the mid-20th century was informed by Luke Dittrich's riveting Patient H. M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets.

Other sources:

Between Flops by James Curtis

“How to get Brie Larson’s Veronica Lake Hair” by Kathryn Romeyn, The Hollywood Reporter, January 9, 2017

“The Sad Tragic Fate Of Veronica Lake” by Dick Siegel, National Enquirer, January 22, 2015

“Working Toward Veronica Lake” by Laura Holson, New York Times, January 7, 2009

“Lake: To Work . . . and to Live” by Bill Gale, New York Times, August 24, 1969

“Spoonful of Ashes Inspires Town to Recall the Veronica Lake Look” by By Corey Kilgannon and Janon Fisher, New York Times, October 17, 2004

Veronica Lake Biography, Turner Classic Movies, TCM.com

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets by Luke Dittrich 

Credits:

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Veronica Lake at Paramount Studios, early 1970's

Veronica Lake at Paramount Studios, early 1970's

Jean Harlow (Dead Blondes Flashback) by Karina Longworth

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Jean Harlow was the top blonde of the 1930s, and even though she didn’t survive the decade -- she died in 1937 at the age of 26 -- she’d inspire a generation of would-be platinum-haired bombshell stars. Today we revisit our 2015 episode on Harlow, to set the stage for the relentless forward march of Dead Blondes through the Twentieth Century.

This episode originally debuted in October 2015. The original show notes for this episode can be found here

Thelma Todd (Dead Blondes Episode 2) by Karina Longworth

Thelma Todd, c. 1930s

Thelma Todd, c. 1930s

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Thelma Todd -- a curvaceous white-blonde who predated Jean Harlow -- was a sparkling comedienne who began in the silent era and flourished in the talkies, both holding her own opposite the Marx Brothers and playing straight woman in one of cinema’s first all-girl comedy teams. She was also an early celebrity entrepreneur, opening a hopping restaurant/bar with her name above the door. But today, Thelma is best remembered for her shocking 1935 death, which was deemed an accident but still sparks conspiracy theories that it was really murder.

Thelma Todd and Buster Keaton in Speak Easily (1932)

Thelma Todd and Buster Keaton in Speak Easily (1932)

Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Café, c. 1930's, Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library Images

Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Café, c. 1930's, Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library Images

Show notes:

Sources specific to this episode:

With so much misinformation and speculation surrounding Todd’s death, it seemed ultra-important to approach my research for this episode with a critical eye. I ended up using as my main source William Donati’s The Life and Death of Thelma Todd. I was previously a fan of Donati’s biography of Ida Lupino, and his book on Todd seems to me to be the most objective analysis of the facts, with the least amount of speculation and hysteria. As noted in the episode, his informed ability to knock down the Lucky Luciano theory is particularly useful.

Garage where Thelma Todd Died, 1935, Herald-Examiner Collection, Los Angeles Public Library Images

Garage where Thelma Todd Died, 1935, Herald-Examiner Collection, Los Angeles Public Library Images

Other sources include:

A Blog For Thelma Todd includes many photos, scanned articles, links and information about Todd and theories about her death.

“Murder Of `30s Starlet Thelma Todd No Longer Mystery” by Frank Sanello, Chicago Tribune, May 05, 1991

“A Mystery Revisited, A building that figured in the unsolved death of actress Thelma Todd is for sale” by Robert W. Welkos, Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2002

“A Blonde in Babylon: The Death of Thelma Todd” by Benjamin Welton, Crime Magazine, Feb 10, 2014

Gloria Vanderbilt’s books The Rainbow Comes and the Rainbow Goes and It Seemed Important at the Time contain the most substantial observations of Pat DeCicco and his reputation that I’ve found. My understanding of DeCicco relationship to and work for Howard Hughes stems from my research for my book, particularly depositions and testimony given by DeCicco himself and his cousin, Albert Cubby Broccoli, in 1978 and 1983 as part of the long-running legal battles to determine control of Hughes’ estate. These documents were observed by me in the Texas State Archives in Austin.

Outro song: “She’s Not Dead” by The London Suede

Credits: 

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

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Peg Entwistle (Dead Blondes Episode 1) by Karina Longworth

Peg Entwistle, c. 1932, Collection of Bruce Torrence

Peg Entwistle, c. 1932, Collection of Bruce Torrence

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This season we’re going to explore the stories of eleven blonde actresses who died unusual, untimely or otherwise notable deaths -- deaths which, in various ways, have outshined these actress’ lives. Today we’ll explain why we’re doing this, and will tell the story of Peg Entwistle -- idol of Bette Davis, successful stage star turned movie aspirant, and one of the first Hollywood blondes who became more famous in death than in life.

Peg Entwistle, Everett Collection/REX

Peg Entwistle, Everett Collection/REX

Hollywoodland Sign, c. 1920s, Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Hollywoodland Sign, c. 1920s, Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

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Show notes: 

The key source for this episode was the book Peg Entwistle and the Hollywood Sign Suicide by James Zeruk Jr., an excellently written and well-researched fleshing out of Entwistle’s life story in contrast to and in conversation with her legend.

As part of the book I’m writing about Howard Hughes and the women in his life, I came across RKO’s memos about Katharine Hepburn’s casting in Bill of Divorcement -- and Selznick’s order that Cukor screen test Peg Entwistle -- at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library. For the same project, I’ve done a great deal of research on the texture of early Hollywood (the city, and then the film colony), much of which hasn’t ended up in my book draft, but some of which I’ve used in this episode. Some recommended sources include The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History by Gregory P. Williams; The Parade’s Gone by Kevin Brownlow; Lois Weber in Early Hollywood by Shelley Stamp; Material Dreams: Southern California through the 1920s by Kevin Starr; and Go West Young Women: The Rise of Early Hollywood by Hilary Hallet.

Here is a music video for Dory Previn’s song inspired by Peg, “Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign,” which features an actress (who looks nothing like Peg) acting out Peg’s approach to the sign.

This is the image in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon labeled “Peg Entwistle”:

This episode contains selections from the album Industry, by Unheard Music Concepts. Used in accordance with Creative Commons: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Credits:

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks