Murder

Ramon Novarro (Fake News: Fact-Checking Hollywood Babylon Episode 19) by Karina Longworth

Listen, download this episode, or find on Apple Podcasts.

Ramon Novarro was a Mexican actor and singer whose stardom at MGM in the 1920s and 30s was not impeded by his offscreen life as a gay man. In Hollywood Babylon, Anger focuses only on Novarro’s grisly murder in 1968 -- which outed Novarro to a public that had largely forgotten him--and needlessly embellishes a crime scene that was already pretty horrible. Today, in our final episode of Fact-Checking Hollywood Babylon, we will explore the llife which Anger left out of Hollywood Babylon, and correct that book’s version of Novarro’s death.

Ramon Novarro, Francis X Bushman, and Kathleen Key in  Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ , 1925

Ramon Novarro, Francis X Bushman, and Kathleen Key in Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, 1925

Ramon Novarro & Dorothy Janis in The Pagan, 1929

Ramon Novarro & Dorothy Janis in The Pagan, 1929

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 “Bye Bye Baby” by Madonna.

Excerpts from the following songs were used throughout the episode:

TK

Novarro with Greta Garbo in  Mata Hari , 1931

Novarro with Greta Garbo in Mata Hari, 1931

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.

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William Desmond Taylor (Fake News: Fact Checking Hollywood Babylon Episode 4) by Karina Longworth

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The killing of director William Desmond Taylor was the third in a trifecta of scandals which, over the course of about a year and a half, painted such a sordid a picture of the movie colony as a hotbed of sin that the industry was forced to fundamentally change its way of conducting business. Anger’s telling implies that Taylor’s murder may have been a consequence of the affairs he supposedly conducted simultaneously with several women, including both a starlet and her mother, or related to the fact that Taylor was living under an assumed identity and employing his own brother as his butler. Today we’ll sort out fact from fiction in the Taylor case, and demonstrate how the media frenzy surrounding it had wide-ranging consequences despite the fact that no one was ever arrested for the crime.

Mary Miles Minter c. 1919

Mary Miles Minter c. 1919

William Desmond Taylor directing May McAvoy in the silent film Top of New York (1921), several months before his death

William Desmond Taylor directing May McAvoy in the silent film Top of New York (1921), several months before his death

Music:

Original music was composed for this episode by Evan Viola. Most of the rest of 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 “Brainchild” by The Auteurs.

Excerpts from the following songs were used throughout the episode:

The Smoke Room - Gunnar Johnsen

Sophisticated Gentlemen 3 - Magnus Ringblom

My Simple Thing 3 - Peter Sandberg

Bad News Piano 2 - Oscar Collin

Cluedo - Hakan Eriksson

Bad News Piano 17 - Oscar Collin

Black and White - Magnus Ringblom Quartet

Black and White Memories 3 - Martin Hall

Whiskey Rondo - Hakan Eriksson

Mabel Normand is questioned during the inquest surrounding William Desmond Taylor's death in 1922. (AP Photo)

Mabel Normand is questioned during the inquest surrounding William Desmond Taylor's death in 1922. (AP Photo)

Credits:

Our special guest this week is Fred Savage.

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

Editors: Sam Dingman and Jacob Smith.

Research and production assistant: Lindsey D. Schoenholtz.

Social media assistant: Brendan Whalen.

Logo design: Teddy Blanks.

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Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Virginia Rappe (Fake News: Fact Checking Hollywood Babylon Episode 3) by Karina Longworth

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Listen, download this episode, or find on iTunes.

At a boozy party over Labor Day weekend 1921, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, silent Hollywood’s superstar plus-size comedian, followed sometime actress Virginia Rappe into a hotel room. They were alone together for only a few minutes, but in that time, Rappe fell ill, and died several days later from her sickness. Arbuckle was tried for murder, and accused of rape in the newspapers. The story of the definitive sex-and-death scandal in early Hollywood history, which left a woman dead and effectively killed off a star comedian’s career, has been plagued with misinformation and distortions for nearly 100 years. Today we’ll closely examine Anger’s text to demonstrate how he implies both Arbuckle and Rappe’s guilt, and we’ll also use more recent scholarship on the case to try to suss out what really happened in that hotel room, and how the facts were distorted throughout Arbuckle’s three trials. 

This episode includes graphic descriptions of sexual violence. 

Portrait of Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle wearing a smoking jacket and surrounded by kneeling young ladies, c. 1918

Portrait of Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle wearing a smoking jacket and surrounded by kneeling young ladies, c. 1918

Virginia Rappe, c. 1920

Virginia Rappe, c. 1920

Trashed hotel suite at the St. Francis Hotel, 1921

Trashed hotel suite at the St. Francis Hotel, 1921

Music:

Original music was composed for this episode by Evan Viola. Most of the rest of 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 Modern History by The Auteurs.

Excerpts from the following songs were used throughout the episode:

The Smoke Room - Gunnar Johnsén 

Widow’s Dance - Håkan Eriksson

Sophisticated Gentlemen 3 - Magnus Ringblom 

1920s Chicago 3 - Magnus Ringblom 

Kansas City flashback 2 - Magnus Ringblom 

Blue Zones - Martin Gauffin 

The Old House - Håkan Eriksson 

Bad News Piano 17 - Oscar Collin

Jazz and Blue Piano 1 - Jonaton Jarpehag

Bad News Piano 3 - Oscar Collin 

Paris Waltz - Håkan Eriksson 

Meditation for Viola and Piano 14 - Jonaton Jarpehag

My Simple Thing 3 - Peter Sandberg


Credits:

Our special guest this week is Gideon Yago.

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

Editors: Sam Dingman and Jacob Smith.

Research and production assistant: Lindsey D. Schoenholtz.

Social media assistant: Brendan Whalen.

Logo design: Teddy Blanks.

Arbuckle's Mug Shot 1921

Arbuckle's Mug Shot 1921

Dorothy Stratten (Dead Blondes Episode 13) by Karina Longworth

Listen, download this episode, or find on iTunes.

 

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.

Thelma Todd (Dead Blondes Episode 2) by Karina Longworth

Thelma Todd, c. 1930s 

Thelma Todd, c. 1930s 

Listen, download this episode, or find on iTunes.

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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