Star Wars

Star Wars Episode X: Errol Flynn (YMRT #36) by Karina Longworth

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ErrolFlynn arrived in Hollywood in 1934 and almost immediately became a massive star, his swashbuckler-persona propelling many of the decades biggest action hits, from his debut Captain Blood to his signature film, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and beyond. Flynn's dashing good looks, put-on posh British accent and life-of-the-party personality masked the fact that he was actually an Australian bounder with a shady past, a history of recurrent malaria and a propensity to avoid reality by any means necessary. Secretly too sick to serve in World War II, Flynn stayed home in Hollywood and instead starred in perhaps the biggest sex scandal of the decade, a rape trial from which Flynn emerged maybe even more beloved than before. And then, twenty years after his alcoholism-aided demise in 1959, Flynn was publicly accused of having been a Nazi spy during the peak of his career. 

Show notes:

Special thanks this week to Noah Segan, who played ErrolFlynn.

The story of ErrolFlynn’s life and career is one of denial and misdirection -- sometimes self-imposed, sometimes mandated by Warner Brothers -- and there’s no more entertaining example of this than Flynn’s autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways. Composed with a ghost writer during the last year of Flynn's life and published posthumously, Wicked portrays Flynn as a lovable rake, self-destructive and self-deprecating, but somehow heroic throughout. It's a great read. It's also hard to believe. I quoted from it because Flynn is eminently quotable, but brought in other references for most of the facts.

A star as enigmatic, and a man as conflicted, as Flynn will justifiably inspire many, many biographies. Because I couldn't read them all, I relied mostly on The Two Lives of ErrolFlynn, and The Spy Who Never Was by Tony Thomas, which is a rebuttal to Charles Higham's highly controversial ErrolFlynn: The Untold Story, which is the source of the claims that Flynn spied for the Nazis in Hollywood and Europe during World War II. What do I think about Higham's claims? I think he distorted some evidence, and made a few inferential leaps, to give his accusations form. It's hard to believe that Flynn was ignorant of the Nazi ties of his friend Herman Erben (who Flynn calls "Koets" in his autobiography, apparently because Erben couldn't be tracked down by the fact-checkers), but on balance, I think if ErrolFlynn is guilty of anything, it's most likely of having no moral center. Which is pretty bad, but it isn't treasonous. 

Some additional sources: 

Police Plan Further Inquiry Into The Life of Peggy Satterlee.” Reading Eagle, January 21, 1943

Throwback Thursday: ErrolFlynn Stood Trial for Statutory Rape in 1934, Hollywood Reporter, May 1, 2014

Discography:

Make a Wish (For Christmas) by Lee Rosevere

Single by Everything But the Girl

The Insider Theme by The Insider

Intelligent Galaxy by The Insider

Au coin de la rue by Marco Raaphorst

Faster Does It by Kevin MacLeod

Happy 1984 and 2001 by Joan of Arc

OLPC by Marco Raaphorst

Transparent by Peter Rudenko

Fiery Yellow by Stereolab

Blue Feather by Kevin MacLeod

5:00 by Peter Rudenko

Divider by Chris Zabriskie

Benbient by Canton

Star Wars Episode VIII: How Norma Jeane Became Marilyn Monroe (YMRT: 34) by Karina Longworth

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Today’s episode tells the secret, forgotten, and highly disputed story of the making of arguably the most potent Hollywood sex symbol of all time. In the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe embodied a male fantasy of a woman who gave freely of herself, particularly of her body, and asked for nothing in return. Her blonde bombshell persona, “dumb” but also often touchingly vulnerable, would seem to be the exact opposite of the pragmatic femininity of the World War II era epitomized by women’s films stars like Bette Davis and “we can do it!” sloganeer Rosie the Riveter. But in fact, before she was famous,Marilyn Monroe was Rosie the Riveter: at age 18, with her husband off in the Merchant Marines, Monroe went to work at an airplane parts factory. And it was there that she was discovered, thanks (in a roundabout way) to Ronald Reagan. In this episode, we’ll explore how Marilyn became Marilyn, by tracing the former Norma Jean Baker from her troubled childhood through the war years, her early struggles to get a foothold in Hollywood, and the nude photo scandal which cemented her stardom. We’ll see how the future Marilyn’s experiences mirrored those of other American woman, and the culture at large, in the post-war decade, and we’ll see how her projection of vulnerability and even victimhood would ultimately have radical implications. 

Show Notes:

Like many women, I suspect, I’ve been studying MarilynMonroe my entire life, both accidentally and on purpose. I’ve read tons about her over the years — and if you haven’t and are looking for a place to start, I would recommend All of the Available Light: A MarilynMonroe Reader — but I had never focused specifically on her pre-fame years. Knowing I would never be able to read or reread all of the writings on Monroe in the limited time I had for researching this episode, I decided to focus on two books published within a couple of years of one another, both of which purported to offer fresh analysis of the pre-Marilyn years of Norma Jeane, and neither of which I had read before.

As a feminist reconsideration of Monroe’s personal story and legacy, I found Gloria Steinem’s Marilyn to be important, and even inspiring. It does, however, gloss over some of the details of this period inMonroe’s life, a flaw you won’t find in Donald Spoto’s MarilynMonroe: The Biography. However, if Steinem’s book is transparent about looking atMarilyn through feminism-tinted glasses, Spoto’s slants are, far less explicitly, and for lack of a better word, anti-feminist. Spoto is a generally well-respected biographer and even those who call into question some of his assertions in this book agree that it’s one of the most serious biographies of his subject. But the fact remains that anyone who writes about MarilynMonroe can only cherry pick amongst the scraps of biographical information left behind, and it seems like many of her observers choose what they want to choose to constitute evidence of the “real Marilyn” versus her sex goddess persona. There are traps within Marilyn scholarship, particularly in terms of her sexual history and appetites, which Spoto didn’t invent or end, but which he does occasionally fall into. But, you know, there but for the grace of etc etc..

Discography:

Fable of the Elements by Joan of Arc

Knife Fights Every Night by Joan of Arc

Them Brainwash Days by Joan of Arc

Oceanic Dawn by DJ Masque

Undercover Vampire Policeman by Chris Zabriskie

Les Yper-Sound by Stereolab

Au coin de la rue by Marco Raaphorst

Foxboz by Joan of Arc

Wonder Cycle by Chris Zabriskie

Intelligent Galaxy by The Insider

Out of the Skies, Under the Earth by Chris Zabriskie

For Better or Worse by Kai Engel

Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod

Natural’s Not in It (The Rakes Remix) by Gang of Four

Barbara performed by US Army Blues

Gymnopedia No 2 by Eric Satie, performed by Kevin MacLeod

Marilyn Monroe by Nicki Minaj