Hollywood 1930s

Lupe Velez (Fake News: Fact Checking Hollywood Babylon Episode 14) by Karina Longworth

Velez, Lupe_01.jpg

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Mexican actress Lupe Velez was the victim of one of Anger’s cruelest invented stories. His fabrication of her manner of death lays bare a vicious racism in addition to Hollywood Babylon’s usual sexism. Today we will sort out the fact of Velez’s life from Anger’s fiction, and consider the star of the Mexican Spitfire series as comedienne ahead of her time.

Lupe Velez and Douglas Fairbanks in The Gaucho (1927) Gaucho

Lupe Velez and Douglas Fairbanks in The Gaucho (1927) Gaucho

Lupe Velez with Johnny Weissmuller, 1934

Lupe Velez with Johnny Weissmuller, 1934

Music:

The music used in this episode, with the exception of the intro and outro, was sourced from royalty-free music libraries and licensed music collections. The intro includes a clip from the film Casablanca. The outro song this week is “Spanish Eyes” by Madonna.

Excerpts from the following songs were used throughout the episode:

Southern Flavors 3 - Martin Gauffin
Club Noir 2  - John Allen
Come Over To Me - Tommy Ljungberg
One Two Three 5 - Peter Sandberg
Yellow Leaves 5 - Peter Sandberg
Latin Passion - Håkan Eriksson
Amor De Danca 3 - Martin Carlberg
El Que Quiera Bailar 2 - Martin Landh
Unsolved - Mythical Score Society
Neblina 4 - Anders Göransson
A Time To Remember 3 - Martin Landh
Eventually Maybe - Oakwood Station

Studio publicity portrait of Lupe Vélez for film Mexican Spitfire, 1940.

Studio publicity portrait of Lupe Vélez for film Mexican Spitfire, 1940.

Credits:

This episode was written, narrated and produced by Karina Longworth.

Editor: Cameron Drews.

Research and production assistant: Lindsey D. Schoenholtz.

Social media assistant: Brendan Whalen.

Logo design: Teddy Blanks.

Stills from Andy Warhol’s 1966 film LUPE starring Edie Sedgwick

Stills from Andy Warhol’s 1966 film LUPE starring Edie Sedgwick

Mary Astor's Diary (Fake News: Fact Checking Hollywood Babylon Episode 13) by Karina Longworth

Screen Shot 2018-12-07 at 3.55.00 PM.png

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In 1936, actress Mary Astor (who had not yet made her most famous film, The Maltese Falcon) and her husband went to court to fight for custody of their four year-old daughter. The trial made international news thanks to both sides’ use of Astor’s diary, in which she had recorded details of her affair with playwright George S. Kaufman. How much did Astor truly reveal in her diary, and what role did the scandal play in her life and career?

Mary Astor testifies in court, 1935 | Photograph by the Los Angeles Times

Mary Astor testifies in court, 1935 | Photograph by the Los Angeles Times

Mary Astor and Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, 1941

Mary Astor and Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, 1941

Music:

The music used in this episode, with the exception of the intro and outro, was sourced from royalty-free music libraries and licensed music collections. The intro includes a clip from the film Casablanca. The outro song this week is “Secret” by Madonna.

Excerpts from the following songs were used throughout the episode:

Club Noir 2  - John Allen
One Two Three 2 - Peter Sandberg
One Two Three 5 - Peter Sandberg
A Playful Mood 2 - Peter Sandberg
Yellow Leaves 5 - Peter Sandberg
In The Lounge 05 - Lars Olvmyr
In The Lounge 02 - Lars Olvmyr
Downtown Alley 2 - Magnus Ringblom
Say It Is So - Magnus Ringblom Quartet
Tomorrow I'll Be Gone - Franz Gordon
City Fashion 3 - Björn Skogsberg
Eventually Maybe - Oakwood Station

Mary Astor in a still from the trailer for The Great Lie (1941)

Mary Astor in a still from the trailer for The Great Lie (1941)

Credits:

This episode was written, narrated and produced by Karina Longworth.

Editor: Cameron Drews.

Research and production assistant: Lindsey D. Schoenholtz.

Social media assistant: Brendan Whalen.

Logo design: Teddy Blanks.

Mary Astor, c. 1920’s

Mary Astor, c. 1920’s

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

b27b025c8981f19790c0047af5b58e77.jpg

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

Lena Horne + Paul Robeson (Blacklist Episode #12) by Karina Longworth

Horne and Paul Robeson look over plans for a June 1946 rally at Madison Square Garden, hosted by the Council on African Affairs.

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Horne's last years at MGM overlapped with the first HUAC hearings. Horne, an outspoken proponent of equal rights, who from the beginning of her career had associated with leftists and “agitators,” got caught up in the anti-communist insanity. One of those agitators was Paul Robeson, a singer, actor and political firebrand who was a mentor and friend to Horne. But once the red panic began to heat up, that friendship became problematic for Lena, and like so many others, she was forced to choose between her career and her friendships.  

Lena Horne and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a party Ms. Horne gave in Dr. King's honor in 1963.

Show notes:

Here is a list of published sources that the entire season draws from:

The Red and the Blacklist: An Intimate Memoir of a Hollywood Expatriate by Norma Barzman

Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical by Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo

Trumbo: A biography of the Oscar-winning screenwriter who broke the Hollywood blacklist by Bruce Cook

When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics by Donald T. Critchlow

Odd Man Out: A Memoir of the Hollywood Ten by Edward Dmytryk

City of Nets by Otto Friedrich

Hollywood Radical, Or How I Learned to Love the Blacklist by Bernard Gordon

I Said Yes to Everything by Lee Grant

Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War by J. Hoberman

Naming Names by Victor S. Navasky

West of Eden: An American Place by Jean Stein

The Inquisition in Hollywood: Politics in the Film Community, 1930-60 by Larry Ceplair
 

Sources specific to this episode:

The Hornes: An American Family, by Gail Lumet Buckley

The Undiscovered Paul Robeson: An Artist’s Journey, 1898 – 1939 by Paul Robeson Jr.

Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne by James Gavin

Lena by Lena Horne and Richard Schickel

“The Politics of Cafe Society” by David W. Stowe The Journal of American History Vol. 84, No. 4 (Mar., 1998)    

Lena Horne, interviewed by Gene De Alessi, April 12, 1966, Pacifica Radio Archives

Ed Sullivan, “Ed Sullivan’s Little Old New York,” The Pittsburgh Press, Oct. 11, 1951.

“Negroes Won’t Fight Russia, Robeson Says,” Los Angeles Times, Apr. 21, 1949.

Paul Pushkin, “Robeson Pleased With the Soviet Social Scheme,” Baltimore Afro-American, Jan. 19, 1935.

John Meroney, “The Red-Baiting of Lena Horne,” The Atlantic, Aug. 27, 2015,

“Negro Leader Takes Issue With Robeson,” Los Angeles Times, Apr. 21, 1949.
 

This episode includes excerpts from the following:

Clip from Show Boat of Robeson singing "Ol' Man River."

Robeson's post-1938 version of the lyrics:

Lena Horne interviewed on KPFA radio, 1966:

Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music:

Lena Horne talking to Shirley Eder in 1969:

Credits:

This episode was written by Karina Longworth and Matthew Dessem, and edited by Sam Dingman. Our production and research assistant is Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

He Ran All The Way: John Garfield (The Blacklist Episode #6) by Karina Longworth

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John Garfield was Brando before Brando -- a Method-style actor who repped the New York working class while becoming a major sex symbol in film noir and World War II films. Garfield was not a Communist; most of his friends -- and his wife -- were, but they mostly thought “Julie” was well meaning but not a serious political animal. HUAC disagreed, and in the early 1950s, Garfield became the biggest star to be blacklisted.

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

Comments and Corrections, March 8, 2016 by Karina Longworth

Sometimes we get emails with comments and corrections that we think our listeners should be aware of. Here are a couple in reference to the first few episodes of our Blacklist series. 

 In reference to episode 3, Dorothy Parker, Ron Radosh writes:

"I am a historian and author or co-author of 17 books, including the one I wrote with my wife Allis Radosh, Red Star Over Hollywood, which is about the Communists in Hollywood and the blacklist.

For that, we spent an entire day and in addition had many phone conversations with the late Budd Schulberg. We taped the day long interview, held in his home way out in Long Island.

Budd told us, and emphasized that he had never made this public or told anyone before, but he wanted everything previously hidden or not known to finally come out.

What he told us is that he personally recruited Dorothy Parker to the Communist Party, and it was decided for various reasons that she, like many others, would remain a secret member who simply appeared as a fellow-traveler or someone who had a friendly attitude towards Communist positions. He also said he was assigned the task, since he recruited her, to meet with her each week to collect her Party dues.

Budd was a serious, honest man, who to the last days of his life, considered himself both anti-Communist and anti-fascist. He went ballistic when Ann Coulter praised Joe McCarthy and asked me how to get in touch with her so he could let her know how little he thought of her.

So for what it's worth, my wife and I both believe Budd was telling us the truth. He was not the kind of person to make up things and tell false stories."

 In reference to episode 2, The Hollywood Ten, Bob Shayne writes:

 "You got one important matter wrong. The Ten refused to answer citing the First Amendment, not the Fifth Amendment. If they had taken the Fifth, they would not and could not have been indicted, as the Fifth is what prevents anyone from being forced to testify against themselves in case of criminal activity. But the feeling among the Ten (or 19 originally) and their lawyers was that they had done nothing criminal and hence should not hide behind the Fifth. Further, if the First protects free speech, then it must protect the freedom not to speak. If must convey the right to privacy. That’s the theory with which they invoked the First.

It was that theory that the Supreme Court ruled against when they ruled against the Ten. Two liberal justices who were expected to rule in the Ten’s favor on that theory had died before the case got to the Court, as you stated."

This error was made in the portion of the episode toward its end, describing the downfall of J. Parnell Thomas, the ringleader of HUAC during the 1947 hearings:

 A few months later, Thomas himself was brought before a grand jury to answer to charges of corruption; there were accusations that he had sold government jobs to relatives, and that he had also put the names of non-existent people on federal payrolls so that he could embezzle their salaries. Thomas, who had ensured that the Hollywood Ten would be cited for contempt of congress for invoking their Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating themselves, took the stand in his grand jury trial and plead the Fifth. He was convicted of misuse of government funds, and sent to the same federal prison where Lester Cole and Ring Lardner Jr were serving their sentences. In 1951, in consultation with the American Legion, the collected studios agreed to add a provision to the blacklist guidelines set forth in the Waldorf Declaration: now they would deny employment to anyone who hid behind the Fifth Ammendment.

I regret all errors, of course, but at least I can sort of explain why this one happened. I confused the first and fifth amendments in part due to my personal dyslexia over numbers, and in part because both were used by HUAC witnesses at different times. To quote from Naming Names by Victor S. Navasky:

From that day [in 1951] forward those called to testify were advised by their attorneys that they had three choices: to invoke the First Amendment, with its guarantee of free speech and association, and risk going to prison for contempt of Congress like the Hollywood Ten; to invoke the Fifth Amendment, with its privilege against self-incrimination, and lose their jobs (Howard Da Silva and Gale Sondergaard, who followed Parks onto the stand that day, refused to answer the Committee, citing the Fifth Amendment, and were quickly excused and quickly blacklisted); or to cooperate with the Committee and name names and hope to continue working (as Sterling Hayden did, the first witness after Larry Parks to name names). The ground rules for the decade were set. 

We appreciate the correction and will clarify this issue in a future episode.  

 In reference to episode 5, Barbara Stanwyck, Kenton Bymaster writes via Facebook: 

"I just listened to this latest podcast, and you said that Karen Morley was married to King Vidor, but she was actually married to the director Charles Vidor."

Tender Comrades: The Prehistory of the Blacklist (The Blacklist Episode #1) by Karina Longworth

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Welcome to our new series: The Blacklist. This first episode will trace the roots of both communism and anti-communism in Hollywood, through the Depression, union struggles and scandals, and World War II. The major characters of the series will be introduced, including members of the Hollywood Ten like Dalton Trumbo and Edward Dmytryk, two Party members who collaborated on a film called Tender Comrade, which starred one of Hollywood's proudest Conservatives, Ginger Rogers. Tender Comrade epitomizes the political evolution that made the Blacklist happen: considered patriotic American propaganda during the War, the film was recast as problematically anti-capitalist after the war, and its makers branded with the epithet "prematurely anti-fascist."

Show notes:

This season deals with a complicated, controversial and still contested period in American history. My goal is to present the fairest picture of events that I can, based on my understanding of what I've read. I've been working on the research for this series for several months already, but even in that time, I could only make a dent in the enormous amount of words written about these events, from many different perspectives. As the series continues, I'm going to try to tell many people's stories, and I hope to be able to provide what feels like a full picture of what it felt like to be alive while this was happening, to play a part in it and have one's life changed by it. I try very hard to get the facts right. But, I can't include everything, and I will probably inevitably have to omit, exclude or overlook some details. And, I will probably offer prospectives that some people won't like. If you'd like to start a discussion about anything in any episode of this show, that's what our Forum is for. 

The research for this season grew out of archival work that I've been doing for a book that I'm writing on Howard Hughes. Hughes made blacklisting a major feature of his tenure as the owner of RKO, and he did so more proudly (and obsessively, and arguably recklessly), than most other men who controlled studios at the time. I visited the Writers Guild of America West to read previously unpublished files about Hughes' challenge to the Guild's right to arbitrate screen credits, and I ended up spending a lot of time looking at the research done on the Blacklist by Howard Suber for his 1968 UCLA PhD thesis, The Anti-Communist Blacklist in the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry. Special thanks to Hilary Swett at the Writers Guild of America West's Library, who pointed me towards a box of documents relating to Suber's work, and to Suber himself, who gave me permission to use these documents. 

Here is a list of published sources that the entire season draws from:

The Red and the Blacklist: An Intimate Memoir of a Hollywood Expatriate by Norma Barzman

Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical by Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo 

Trumbo: A biography of the Oscar-winning screenwriter who broke the Hollywood blacklist by Bruce Cook

When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics by Donald T. Critchlow

Odd Man Out: A Memoir of the Hollywood Ten by Edward Dmytryk

City of Nets by Otto Friedrich

Hollywood Radical, Or How I Learned to Love the Blacklist by Bernard Gordon

I Said Yes to Everything by Lee Grant

Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War by J. Hoberman

Naming Names by Victor S. Navasky
 

Sources specific to this episode:

Ginger: My Story by Ginger Rogers

“Die, But Do Not Retreat” Time Man of the Year 1942 Cover story. Accessible here, but only via subscription

Stalin’s speech of February 9, 1946

Through Suber’s thesis, I was alerted to the existence of The Girl From Hollywood, a novella Dalton Trumbo wrote under the name Robert Rich (the same pseudonym under which he wrote the Oscar-winning script for The Brave One) which satirizes Hollywood via a writer’s relationship with an actress named “Susannah Richards,” who seems to be modeled on Ginger Rogers. There’s a draft of this piece in the Dalton Trumbo Papers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; special thanks to Amy Sloper and Mary Huelsbeck for helping me to access it remotely. I didn’t have space to include my thoughts on The Girl in this episode (I may write about it elsewhere, or include those thoughts in a future episode), but it informed how I thought about Trumbo and his blacklist-era attitude toward Hollywood, the purpose of writing and the fantasy world occupied by huge stars (although the story is ultimately very kind to the Rogers-esque character).

This episode includes an audio clip from Tender Comrade, which pops up on TCM every now and then, but is otherwise very difficult to find. There doesn’t seem to be an in-print version in English on DVD; the version Amazon sells is dubbed in Spanish (I found this out the hard way). You can, however, rent it on VHS or DVD at Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee.

This episode was edited by Henry Molofsky, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz.