YMRT #25: The Short Lives of Bruce and Brandon Lee by Karina Longworth

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A martial arts master on the verge of major movie stardom, Bruce Lee died suddenly in 1973, at the age of 33; the official cause was “death by misadventure.” Twenty years later, Bruce Lee's son, BrandonLee, died suddenly in an accidental shooting on the set of The Crow — the movie which was poised to turn Brandon into a major star. These parallel tragedies have led some to suggest that the Lee family have been the victims of a curse, or a conspiracy. In this episode, we’ll explore what really happened to Bruce and BrandonLee, and discuss what happened over several decades, so that an extraordinary talented artist who was essentially run out of town thanks to Hollywood’s racism came to be one of the industry’s biggest moneymakers long after his death. 

Show notes!

This episode marks a couple of different landmarks for You Must Remember This. It’s our 25th episode. It’s the last episode of our second season, which has been devoted to stories loosely or not-so loosely related to my book, Hollywood Frame by Frame — making this also the last time I’ll mention the book in or around the podcast (there are pictures from the set of The Crow in it and you can buy it here. </plug>.) And, it’s our final all-new episode of 2014. We will have a special not-all-new episode next week, then we’ll take a week off and be back with the first episode of a new season on January 6. 


There are a lot of books about Bruce Lee, and, honestly, I had trouble wading through them to figure out which were the most substantive/reliable. As I mention in the episode, the the demand for information about Lee after his death created a financial incentive to publish which didn’t necessarily support fact checking. I ended up putting more stock in newspaper/magazine articles written from the perspective of the future. Matthew Polly’s Playboy feature Chasing the Dragon was an important source for this episode, as were the LA Times and Entertainment Weekly’s extensive coverage of Brandon Lee’s death on the set of The Crow, particularly this story by Mark Harris. Also, I watched the documentary I Am Bruce Lee, as well as, um, this Unsolved Mysteries episode about the Lee deaths. 


Atmosphere by Joy Division

Intelligent Galaxy The Insider

Strict Machine by Goldfrapp

Cyllider One by Chris Zabriskie

Money by Jahzzar

The Insider Theme by The insider

5:00 AM by Peter Rudenko

Laserdisc by Chris Zabriskie

These Days by Joy Division

Auto-Suggestion by Joy Division

Private Hurricane (Instrumental Version) by Josh Woodward

Undercover Vampire Policeman by Chris Zabriskie

For the Damaged (coda) by Blonde Redhead

Wonder Cycle by Chris Zabriskie

Dead Souls by Joy Division

YMRT #6: Isabella Rossellini in the 1990s by Karina Longworth


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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. 

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


"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