Hollywood 1940's

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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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 

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 

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.

Blacklist Flashback: Howard Hughes + Jane Russell by Karina Longworth

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In advance of next week’s episode dealing with Howard Hughes’ role in the blacklist, we revisit our October 2014 episode on Hughes’ relationship with Jane Russell, his wartime efforts to balance his aviation and moviemaking businesses, and his shaky run as head of RKO Pictures. Also: Ava Gardner gets violent, Hughes gets a teenage girlfriend, and Russell’s boobs manage to do what the Spruce Goose couldn’t.

The original show notes for the episode contains sources, soundtrack information and more.

Storm Warning: Ronald Reagan, the FBI and HUAC (The Blacklist Episode #8) by Karina Longworth

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The post-war Communist witch hunt had a big impact on Ronald Reagan’s evolution from movie actor to politician, and from Democrat to Republican. And, Ronald Reagan had a major personal impact on the witch hunt’s manifestation in Hollywood, the Blacklist. This episode will trace the years in which Reagan was primarily known as a movie and TV star, and explore his two marriages to actresses, his testimony to HUAC, his behind-the-scenes work as an informer to the FBI, his late-career incarnation as bridge between Hollywood and corporate America, and more.

Kings Row:

And General Electric Theater. 

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.