frank sinatra

Giveaway: WHY SINATRA MATTERS by Pete Hamill by Karina Longworth

The second episode of You Must Remember This was about Frank Sinatra's album Trilogy, particularly the third part of that triple record, "The Future," which includes a song suite composed by Gordon Jenkins in which Sinatra imagines a visit to outer space. A key source in my research on that episode was Why Sinatra Matters, a book collecting writings on Old Blue Eyes by journalist Pete Hamill. You may remember a section of the podcast in which Sinatra, after a night at the bar, is riding home and wistfully musing on age. That comes straight from Hamill.

Why Sinatra Matters has just been re-issued by Little, Brown and Company, and I have five copies signed by the author to give away. They'll go to the first five people who tweet about the book and the Frank Sinatra in Outer Space episode of  You Must Remember This (@RememberThisPod). Note I say that the book will go to five people -- if it looks to my unsophisticated eyes like a spam or bot account is tweeting, that tweet will be disqualified. 

Have fun, tweet safe, and thanks to Little, Brown for making the books available!

Star Wars Episode XIV: Frank Sinatra Through 1945 by Karina Longworth

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Old Blue Eyes was once a young, skinny kid from Hoboken, and his rise to fame coincided almost exactly with the end of the Depression and the run up to and fighting of World War II. Unlike so many young men, famous or otherwise, Sinatra didn't enlist, and the controversy over whether or not he was a "draft dodger" hung over his head, even as he suited up in films like Anchors Aweigh.

Show Notes:

This episode is one of a miniseries within the Star Wars series: Three Who Didn't Go. The original idea was to make these mini-episodes, but With Frank there's always a lot to say; the next two might end up be shorter than usual, though. 

The primary source this week was Frank: The Voice, by James Kaplan, a beautifully written biography on the first half of Sinatra's career. There are many other sources out there arguing the details of Sinatra's draft status. but Kaplan's seems to be the best researched and most up-to-date by far. That said, you can look at excerpts from Frank's FBI file on their site.

This Paley Center article on Sinatra's impact on teenagers was also useful. 

This episode includes a clip of Sinatra singing 'I Fall In Love Too Easily" in the film Anchors Aweigh.

Discography:

What Time Does the Next Miracle Leave? by FrankSinatra

Preludes for Piano No. 2 by George Gershwin

Preludes for Piano No. 1 by George Gershwin

Misty performed by FrankSinatra

Stardust performed by FrankSinatra

Dances and Dames by Kevin MacLeod

Je T'aime...Moi Non Plus by Serge Gainsbourg

The Operation by Morrissey

I Had the Craziest Dream by FrankSinatra

I Knew a Guy by Kevin MacLeod

Faster Does It by Kevin MacLeod

Tikopia by Kevin MacLeod

Au coin de la rue by Marco Raaphorst

I am a Man Who Will Fight For Your Honor by Chris Zabriskie

My Way performed by Elvis Presley

TALES OF CELEBRITY DRUNKENNESS 2014 {YMRT #26:} by Karina Longworth

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In our first annual end-of-year clip show, we’ll listen to some of the booziest excerpts from the 25 episodes of You Must Remember This released thus far. Highlights include day drinking with Judy Garland; the irresistible antics of Kay Francis; the drunk driving arrest that wrecked Frances Farmer’s career, plus stories about Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and more. Also: a zone-out-for-a-second-and-you’ll-miss-it mention of the topic of our first show of 2015!

Discography

“Say You Will” by Kanye West

“Preludes for Piano” by George Gershwin

“Buddy Stay Off That Wine” by Betty Hall Jones

This episode includes clips from the following episodes:

#2: Frank Sinatra in Outer Space

#4: (The Printing of) the Legend of Frances Farmer

#5: The Lives, Deaths and Afterlives of Judy Garland

#10: Kay Francis, Pretty Poison (Follies of 1938)

#13: Bogart, Before Bacall

#14: Bacall, After Bogart

#20: Liz <3 Monty

For soundtrack information for each of those excerpted episodes, please go to the show link.

YMRT #23: Mia Farrow in the 1960s, part 1: Mia & Frank by Karina Longworth

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Before MiaFarrow was an outspoken activist, devoted mother to 14 children, and the famously jilted partner of Woody Allen, she was … a lotof other things. Today in the first of a two parter, we’ll begin to explore MiaFarrow’s life and career from 1960-1970 — a time period during which she lived in both a Catholic convent and an Indian ashram; married and divorced Frank Sinatra and became pregnant by Andre Previn, who was still married at the time to the songwriter Dory Previn. Farrow also starred in Peyton Place, the first prime time soap sensation;Rosemary’s Baby, one of the key films of the “new Hollywood” of the 1960s-1970s; and a couple of nearly forgotten but really interesting smaller films which are just as much of their era. Today we’ll cover Mia’s life up to early 1968, tracing her emergence as a star and her relationship with Sinatra. Also: Salvador Dali, Ava Gardner, Roman Polanski, Dean Martin and more.

Show notes!

This episode was inspired by two things which came to my attention over the past year. The first was Maureen Orth’s October 2013 Vanity Fair profile of Mia, which began the recent wave of attention to the paternity of Ronan Farrow and the long-dormant allegations that Woody Allen molested his and Mia’s adopted daughter, Dylan. The second was a film called John and Mary, which I had never heard of, but needed to research in a hurry when we found contact sheets from the set of the film, contact sheets that were too beautiful to not include in my book, Hollywood Frame by Frame. That movie stars Farrow and Dustin Hoffman right at the moment when the two were the hottest, newest young stars around — to put it in completely reductive, contemporary terms, this would be like if Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart made an arty, one-night-stand movie at the peak of Twilight — but it’s basically been forgotten, and I couldn’t find much information about its production. In attempting to research it, I came across MiaFarrow’s autobiography, What Falls Away, published in 1997, which wasn’t much help on John and Mary, but which was full of other stories that I wanted to explore. 

The primary sources for this episode in addition to What Falls Away were Roman Polanski’s autobiography Roman; Robert Evans’ autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture(and the audiobook version, which I excerpt in the episode); and Sinatra: The Life by Anthony Summers and Robyn Swan, published in 2005. There are many Sinatra biographies; I picked up this one this time because I had never looked at it before, and it had a substantial amount about Mia. I also read this 2006 interview with Mia by Gaby Wood in The Guardian.

Discography:

"Moonlight Saving Me" performed by Blossom Dearie

"Flying" by The Beatles

"Come Rain or Come Shine" performed by Frank Sinatra

"I’ll Be Your Mirror" by The Velvet Underground and Nico

"The Beat Goes On" by Buddy Rich

"Au coin de la rue" by Marco Raaphorst

"Out of the Skies, Under the Earth" by Chris Zabriskie

"Something" by The Beatles, performed by Frank Sinatra

"With Plenty of Money and You" performed by Tony Bennett

"Tikopia" by Kevin MacLeod

"Melody" by Serge Gainsbourg

"Melancholy Aftersounds" by Kai Engel

"Private Hurricane (Instrumental version)" by Josh Woodward

"Divider" by Chris Zabriskie

"Main Title Theme to Rosemary’s Baby" by MiaFarrow and Dick Hazzard

"Laserdisc" by Chris Zabriskie

"I Am a Man Who Will Fight For Your Honor" by  Chris Zabriskie

"Tinkerwench" by Loveliescrushing

"Undercover Vampire Policeman" by  Chris Zabriskie

"Runaway" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Special Feature! The Hard Hollywood Life of Kim Novak by Karina Longworth

We’ve hit 1,000 followers on Twitter, and as promised, here is a special feature: a script/transcript of our first, “lost” episode, The Hard Hollywood Life of Kim Novak, which was mentioned by a few of our listeners yesterday in the context of the furor over Renee Zellweger. I’ve edited the original script, it a bit for clarity, added transcriptions of movie scenes and my interview with Farran Smith Nehme, and included a couple of lines which I had written but which didn’t make it into the final episode. Enjoy!

“You watch the woman resisting being changed back. Now you have a woman who realizes this is a man who’s practically unmasking her! But that’s the plot side of it. The sex, psychological side was when she came back from having her hair made blonde. And it wasn’t up. This means, she has stripped, but won’t take her knickers off!” 

That’s Alfred Hitchcock, talking to Francois Truffaut about the film which, today, is widely considered to be both Hitchcock’s masterpiece, and maybe the greatest Holywood film of all time: Vertigo

Vertigo starred Jimmy Stewart as a retired detective who becomes obsessed first with a beautiful classy, mysterious blonde named Madeline, and then after Madeline’s death, with a shop girl named Judy. He tries to make Judy over into Madeline — without realizing that they were the same person all along. 

The double role of Madeline, the ultimate Hitchcockian icy blonde fetish object, and Judy, a regular working girl undone by insecurities which are desperate but not unfounded — was played by Kim Novak. It was a personality and identity split with which Novak was quite familiar. This is how she explained it in an interview with the British Film Institute:

“I think the role appealed to me because it was the resistance of Judy, who was in a sense me, trying to become the Hollywood person. Trying to become Madeline. Needing to be loved. And willing to be made over. Is this it? If I become her, will you love me? And I remember, when I played it, I felt absolutely stripped naked. I felt so vulnerable.”

When Vertigo was going into production in 1957, Kim Novak was the biggest star in Hollywood. She was 24 years old, she had only been in Hollywood for four years, and her movies were already selling more tickets than John Wayne’s, Doris Day’s, and Marilyn Monroe’s combined. But nobody cared much about Vertigo when it was first released in 1958, and Novak’s star started fading soon thereafter. She gave up living in Hollywood in the mid-60s, married a veterinarian and moved to his ranch in Oregon in the mid-70s, and she played her last film role in 1991. Though she’s made appearances at film festivals and such in the interim, she had been out of the wider public eye for decades.

Until March 2, when the 81 year-old Novak presented two awards, alongside Matthew McConaughey, at the Oscars. 

As you can hear, in the room at the Dolby Theater, Novak’s presence was at least accorded the respect of polite applause. Outside of the room, on the internet, Novak’s appearance instigated an explosion of the outrage machine. The impulse to attack Novak’s apparently visibly altered face was awful and instant, followed by a “Leave Kim Novak alone” backlash that was arguably more powerful.

Of all of the defenses of Novak’s plight as an octogenarian former sex symbol, maybe the most notable and sympathetic came from Farren Nehme, who blogs as the Self-Styled Siren. Nehme tried to hypothesize what it might feel like to be 81 year-old Novak approaching this situation. She wrote:

As the evening approaches, the anxiety sets in. Harsh lights, you think. High-definition cameras. And a public that remembers you chiefly as the ice goddess whose beauty once drove James Stewart to the brink of madness.

And even back then, when you were 25 years old, you worried constantly that no matter how you looked, it wasn’t good enough.

So a few weeks before the ceremony, you go to a doctor, and he says, “Relax honey. I have just the thing to make you fresh and dewy for the cameras.” 

And you go to the Oscars, so nervous you clutch your fellow presenter’s hand. And the next day, you wake up to a bunch of cheap goddamn shots about your face. 

Nice system we got here, isn’t it.

Some aspects of what happened here were unique to our moment, right?  The frenzied speed at which Novak’s face was eviscerated, the lighting-quick pace at which said evisceration was then spun into click-bait, then the second wave of content in defense of Novak, either shaming her shamers for arguments sake, or, like Farren’s piece, actually offering humanizing context — these are all products of the technology we have right this second, and the way we use it now. 

But the essence of what happened here was as old-school as it gets, and it’s the type of thing that’s been happening to Novak, on-screen and off, for 60 years. 

Join us, won’t you? As we take a look back at The Hard Hollywood Life of Kim Novak.

The future Kim Novak was born Marilyn Novak in 1933, in Chicago. A teenage model, Novak entered a few beauty contests, but she was hardly eyes-on-the-prize about it. She worked all manner of after-school odd jobs — dental assistant, dime store clerk, elevator operator. When she was 20, she earned the role of Miss Deepfreeze, and embarked on a national tour posing with refrigerators. The last stop was San Francisco, and the night before Novak was supposed to hop a train back east, a fellow model convinced Novak to come with her to Los Angeles for some R & R. When they had blown the $500 they had each saved seductively opening iceboxes, then they could go back to frozen Chicago. They had one goal: to swim in the Beverly Hills Hotel pool. 

After about a month of lounging in the sun, the model friend did indeed go home. But Marilyn Novak stayed behind. She signed up with a local modeling agency, and they regularly found work for her as a movie extra, despite the fact that she was, as they frequently reminded her, carrying an extra 25 pounds.

Marilyn Novak’s big break came on the set of a Jane Russell film, The French Line. Jane Russell was a big star — literally, physically larger than the norm — and she looked particularly giant working it in front of a line of typically petite chorus girls. So director Lloyd Bacon issued a call for plumper potential background girls, and Marilyn Novak got the job. On set, she was spotted by Whit Melnick, a big shot agent who told her that if she could only lose 25 pounds, she could start making some real money in the movies — like $30 a week.

She did lose some weight, but she didn’t pursue Melnick’s offer. She wasn’t that interested in being a star. She really thought she was just biding her time until some guy came a long and married her and took her back to the Midwest and made a mom out of her. Melnick and a Columbia exec named Max Arnow had to almost force her to do a screen test.

The test was directed by Richard Quine, who would later direct Novak in Bell, Book and Candle (the two were engaged for awhile, but never married). Quine made Novak do the test while wearing an old strapless dress that had been worn in the movie Gilda by Rita Hayworth — the Columbia star whose refusal to work had created the vacancy for which Novak was being considered.

Novak signed with Columbia in 1953, the last of the contract stars. Harry Cohn was the head of the studio, and it wasn’t an exaggeration to compare him to a dictator — in fact, legend has it, he kept a framed photo on his desk of Mussolini. Harry Cohn made Marilyn her change her name because in the branding universe of Hollywood, there couldn’t be two Marilyns. So right from the start, she had to become someone different in order to stand out on her own. Cohn wanted to transform Marilyn Novak into someone called Kit Marlowe; the actress’ first act of defiance was to resist this, to insist on keeping her family name and to refuse to take on a first name meant to evoke a kitten.

But she wasn’t able to stop the studio from changing her look. Her weight was a constant battle. “That Fat Pollack,” Cohn called her, even though he knew fully well that Novak was of Checkoslovakian descent. Her teeth were capped, and her hair was bleached and rinsed lavender — a publicist had come up with the idea while flipping through Vogue, declaring that Novak’s life would be shaped into a “mauve symphony.”

All this embellishment and transformation made Novak understandably paranoid about her looks. She’d often hide in her trailer, paralyzed by the fear that her hair and makeup weren’t quite right or ready. 

It didn’t help matters that Harry Cohn controlled his property —i.e.: his stars — through threats, frequently reminding his on-camera chattel that he made them, and he could break them. Stars were taught to fear what would happen if they stepped out of line. As they were being put on pedestals in public, behind the scenes they were cut down to size, their confidence eroded until they believed thatthey needed the support of the studio just to hold on to whatever security they had in the world. That they could barely live, let alone thrive, on their own. 

It’s harder to control someone through intimidation and by hitting them in their inferiority complexes once they’ve become a hot commodity. Within three years of arriving in Hollywood, Kim Novak had become the hottest commodity. It was a one-two-three punch that did the job: she helped Frank Sinatra kick heroin in The Man With The Golden Arm; dancing in lust-zonked, post-war-conformity-smashing bliss with William Holden in Picnic; and, in the musical Pal Joey, she played the good girl side of a virgin-whore triangle with gold digger Sinatra and stripper-turned-society matron Rita Hayworth. Hayworth was 39. Her face already showing the impact of alcoholism, and she was trying to mount a post-third-divorce comeback. She was also, of course, the star Novak had been recruited to replace. Think of Pal Joey as the moment when the torch is passé from one generation of stars — Hayworth’s — to the next: Novak’s. Unfortunately Novak wouldn’t be able to hold on to the torch for very long.

But it was good while it lasted. Across this run, Novak’s movies earned nearly ten times their production budgets. Kim Novak sold more tickets than John Wayne, Doris Day and Marilyn Monroe — the woman who indirectly gave Kim her name — combined. And she became so valuable to Harry Cohn and Columbia that they would be forced to overlook when she’d say something a little too candid in the press, or perhaps go out at night with the wrong kind of guy. 

What’s to account for her sudden, massive popularity? What was she broadcasting in the mid-to-late 1950s that audiences so fervently responded to? 

“It’s strange, because she didn’t have a sharply defined personality,” says Nehme, “Like Shirley MacLaine being kind of kooky, or Marilyn’s vulnerability coupled with the dumb blonde image she was shackled to, or Grace Kelly being the epitome of high class. Novak was almost defined by what she wasn’t. She wasn’t really any of those.”

Novak brought something unique to the screen. She was the master of the almost-blank, enigmatic stare. Maybe it’s crazy hyperbolic to call Novak the female James Dean, but there’s something to the comparison.  There’s a real angst to her screen presence, a kind of petulant pain that you don’t get from many actresses of her day. Just as Dean’s three screen performances, when taken together, encapsulate something tangible about being a young man in the 1950s, so too do Novak’s handful of really interesting performances give face and body to the repressed agony of being a young woman in the 50s.

“There’s something very 50s about Novak,” Nehme confirms, “because the surface is incredible, but you get a sense that there’s a facade. And that feels very Eisenhower, doesn’t it? That you’ve got this perfect surface, and then in back, there’s this mess of things that need to be worked on.”

She may have been molded after Marilyn and groomed to replace Rita, but unlike the pin-ups that preceded her, Kim Novak rarely seemed to be having fun with her sexuality. If anything, she made being stuck in a beautiful body seem like an unconscionable burden. 

Of course, a lot of that had to do with what she was asked to do. In each of her three big hits between 1955 and 1957, Novak played a gold-hearted bombshell whose outsized sexual appeal causes some kind of panic. But these girl-women are hardly in control of their powers—in fact, they’re all wounded birds in thrall to charismatic bad news boyfriends — Sinatra’s Golden Arm junkie and Pal Joey hustler, William Holden’s chiseled vagabond whose presence at a small town Picnic inspires hysteria. Novak’s characters clung to these damaged bachelors as though they had absolutely no other options. And maybe they didn’t. Over and over again, Novak’s characters are told their beauty and their bodies are their only source of value, and then they’re humiliated for trying to assert any kind of ownership over their assets. 

Think about this scene from Picnic, in which Novak, playing 19 year-old small town beauty Madge, is pressured by her mom into using her feminine wiles to land a rich husband — whether she likes him or not:

Mom: “When a girl’s as pretty as you are, she doesn’t have to—“

Madge: “Oh mom! What good is it to just be pretty?”

Mom: “What a question!”

Madge: “Maybe I get tired of only being looked at.”

Mom: “You puzzle me when you talk like that…Madge, does Alan ever make love?”

Madge: “Sometimes we park the car by the river.”

Mom: “Do you let him kiss you? After all, you’ve been going together all summer…”

Madge: “Of course I let him!”

Mom: “Does…does he ever want to go beyond kissing?”

Madge: “Oh, Mom!”

Mom: “Well, I’m your mother for heaven’s sake…these things have to be talked about! Do you like it when he kisses you?”

Madge:  “Yes.” [As in, “duh!”]

Mom: “You don’t sound very enthusiastic?”

Madge: “Well, what do you expect me to do? Pass out every time Alan puts his arms around me?”

Mom: “No, you don’t have to pass out. But there won’t be many more opportunities like the picnic tonight, and it seem to me you could at least -“

Madge: “What?!?” [The clear implicationis that her mom is telling her to put out so as to ensure bagging this rich husband.]

Mom: “Oh! [Exasperated] Nothing! 

In her personal life, too, Novak was expected to at least pretend to be a certain type of girl, and only be seen with the right types of men. But by 1957, she was so fed up with all the rules imposed on her that she either stopped caring about conformity, or actively chose to rebel against it. 

At a party at Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh’s house that year, Kim Novak met Sammy Davis Jr. At that time, three years after the car accident in which he lost his left eye, Sammy had already triumphed on Broadway in Mr. Wonderful, but the Rat Pack wasn’t really a thing yet, and in unquestionably racist Hollywood, real movie stardom was proving elusive. Both Kim and Sammy struggled to conform to what was expected of them based on how they looked, and both felt like outsiders on the inside. The two were instantly attracted to one another, and spent the whole night deep in one-on-one conversation. 

The next day, after their meeting had made the tabloid news, Sammy called Kim to apologize—he knew the very idea that Novak had allowed herself to be chatted up by a black man in public would send Harry Cohn into fits. “The studio doesn’t own me!” Kim responded, and invited Sammy over to her place for dinner. So began a series of clandestine dates. The two eventually rented a house in Malibu for their rendezvous, but they couldn’t be too careful: Sammy still felt the need to lie on the floor of his chauffeured car, covered up by a blanket, so that no one could see him in transit and connect him to Novak. This wasn’t pure paranoia: from the moment Novak signed her contract, Columbia had private detectives on her tail. 

Kim Novak was playing out this duplicitous chapter in her private life through the back half of 1957, which means it must have overlapped with the making of her masterpiece, Vertigo

Novak felt a special connection to the material. Maybe she was uniquely inspired by the Vertigo script to start taking back her own identity; maybe she was emboldened by the secret she was keeping in her personal life. Regardless: Kim Novak chose this moment to start fighting back. In September of ’57 Novak famously held up the start of production on Vertigo, refusing to show up to work at Paramount, to which she had been loaned out, until Harry Cohn at Columbia renegotiated her contract. It was a huge gamble, but it paid off: The studio caved, and despite a brief skirmish over her wardrobe — Novak initially resisted wearing the black spike heels and form-fitting grey suit that Hitchcock had transposed into the script direct from his own fantasies — the making Vertigo was, by Hitchcock standards, relatively painless. 

The trouble was soon to come. Novak’s work on the movie was done by December 1957, when she went home to Chicago to spend Christmas with her parents. By that point, the affair with Sammy had apparently hit levels of delirium — at least, for him. Booked to do a series of shows at the Sands in Las Vegas, one night Sammy told the casino they’d have to find a replacement - and then he hopped on a red eye to Chicago, determined to meet Kim’s parents and ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage. He was barely on the ground in Chicago before he had to turn around and fly right back, so as to be in Vegas for that night’s show.

It was totally nuts, the kind of lovestruck madness that only happens in movies — and apparently, to people who make movies. And it backfired: reporters in Vegas noted Sammy’s absence and put two and two together, soon word reached Harry Cohn in New York of the impending scandal about to break in magazines like Confidential. Cohn called his assistant, Max Arnow, in LA, to inform him they had a disaster on their hands.

The damage control process began, but Cohn and Columbia weren’t able to move fast enough: two hours later, the first blind item about an affair between a certain K.N. And S.D hit the New York papers. Harry Cohn had his first heart attack the next morning. Over the next weeks, gossips dispensed with the discretion. “Kim Novak is about to become engaged to Sammy Davis Jr,” announced the London Daily Mirror, “and Hollywood is aghast!” Confidential called it “the tragic love story of the century,” and claimed Frank Sinatra had told his friend and Vegas co-star, “Sammy, you’re making a serious mistake.”

At this point, enough was enough. Legend has it that Harry Cohn hired gangsters to drive Sammy Davis Jr out into the desert. Not to seriously hurt the guy, just to put the fear into him, so he got the message that the Novak affair had to be called off. But Sammy had mob ties of his own, who could keep him safe as long as he stayed in Vegas. Eventually, Cohn’s mobsters and Davis’ mobsters worked out a deal: since the only surefire way to kill the story was to change the subject, Sammy would have to marry someone else. He’d have to give up the beautiful blonde top box office draw in Hollywood, and hook up with someone…more…appropriate. Someone like Loray White, a single mom and chorus girl whom Davis had dated a couple of times. No one was under any illusions that this was romantic matrimony: White signed a contract stipulating a $25,000 rate for one year of marriage. 

The scandal was thus put to bed, but on some significant level, the principles never fully recovered. Sammy Davis went to his death bed vowing that Kim Novak had been the love of his life. Harry Cohn’s wife believed the scandal killed him; two months after the heart attack he suffered amidst the first gossip reports, he was dead. Novak quickly bounced back in her romantic life — in fact the promotion of Vertigo was marred by a scandal involving the gifts she allegedly received from her alleged new boyfriend, the son of the prime minister of the Dominican Republic— but without Cohn around to guide her selection of roles, she struggled. Vertigo’s lackluster box office performance broke Novak’s lucky streak. Aside from Quine’s Strangers When We Meet and Billy Wilder’s fascinatingly vulgar Kiss Me Stupid — in which Kim starred opposite one of Sammy’s Rat Pack cronies, Dean Martin — the next few years brought on a string of duds. 

Then, in 1966, Novak’s LA home was endangered by mudslides. She had managed to fill a station wagon with valuables, furniture and paintings and such, and was taking a final armful of things to the car when she looked up and saw that journalists were starting to gather in her driveway—a handful of newspaper men, and a truck from NBC. Shocked by their presence, she dropped a sculpture, which smashed to the ground. Her eyes swelled with tears, and she according to one of her biographers, right then and there she vowed, “I’m getting out of Hollywood. And I won’t come back — ever!”

She did leave Los Angeles, moving first to Big Sur and then, after marrying veterinarian Bob Malloy in 1976, up to his ranch in Oregon. It took her another 25 years to officially stop working, although there’s not much on her filmography of note after 1968, when she starred in Robert Aldrich’s totally loony The Legend of Lylah Clare.

A kind of end-of-the-Hays-code-sploitation thriller-cum-camp remake of Vertigo, Lylah Clare cast Novak as a mousey girl who’s essentially forced to star in a megalomaniac director’s movie as the dead, Marlene Dietrich-esque bi-sexual star whom he loved and whom she resembles. The Legend of Lylah Clare has been virtually forgotten, and for fairly good reason, although once again, it gave Novak a chance to rehearse her own real-life struggles to assert herself in an industry that routinely dehumanized her — and it did so in much more vulgar terms than Vertigo.

If the question sparked by the Oscars was, “What happened to Kim Novak?” well, here’s what we know. She worked the tribute circuit in the late 90s, when Vertigo was restored and rereleased, and then largely slipped out of the public eye for the next 15 years, popping up for the occasional interview or film festival. In 2006, she had a serious horse riding accident, suffering broken ribs, a punctured lung and nerve damage. Then, four years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Just two years ago, she appeared on stage a few doors down from the Dolby Theater, in a conversation with Robert Osbourne that was later aired on TCM. In that conversation, she admitted to having been diagnosed as bipolar, and cried talking about the production of her final film, Liebstram, directed by Mike Figgis. It’s possible some of her changed appearance could owe to these very real health problems. It’s also possible that after an entire life of being told that she had to be made over in order to be accepted in Hollywood, she internalized the mandate to transform herself. We all know defying nature is a slippery slope. We learned that from the movies. 

“Any reminder of your imperfections is just magnified in your brain, and I had always found that really sympathetic about Kim Novak,” Nehme says. “And so, especially the day after the Oscars, I was so indignant that people were going after her! I was just like, ‘Don’t you know that she’s always been insecure?!?”

After she wrote her blog post about Novak, Farran was tipped off by a reader, the writer Dan Callahan, to an interview Novak gave last October, in which she acknowledged that she had gone to see a plastic surgeon — and regretted it:

“She wanted a fresh look but ‘I didn’t want to do anything major.’ A doctor suggested fat injections to add fullness to her face. She said, ‘That was absolutely crazy when I think about it now. You spend all your time trying to get rid of fat. I love the kind of hollow cheekbone look,’ Novak says. ‘So Why did I do it? I trusted somebody doing what I thought they knew how to do best. I should have known better. But what do you do? We do some stupid things in our lives. I mean, you pay to look worse? You pay money for that?’”

We know Hollywood is tough place for aging actresses. We know most of them end up doing something artificial in order to stall the aging process or to foster the illusion of eternal youth and beauty. So why did Novak’s altered appearance cause such an uproar? Maybe it’s because her whole career seems to have been defined by that push and pull, between wanting to be appreciated “for who she was, for herself,” and the pressure to conform to an imaginary ideal, or just straight up transform into someone else. Or maybe, it’s because it seems to go against the one thing that, at her peak in the 1950s, made Novak really stand out. 

“On the one hand, she’s got this very dramatic beauty,” Nehme says, “But…I watch Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, who were also big stars in that period, or even sophia Loren, and they’re so beyond mortal women. But you look at Kim Novak and there’s something relatable about her. It’s a rare quality to a screen beauty, that you look at her and say, ‘There’s a reality to her, and how she’s dealing with her beauty.’”

One final note: While Novak has frequently acknowledged that Harry Cohn forbid her from being seen with Sammy Davis Jr., she’s never publicly acknowledged that her close friendship with Sammy, as she’s called it, was sexual. Maybe the sheer fact that we expect famous women to disclose details of their sex life is part of the problem.  

YMRT #14: Bacall After Bogart by Karina Longworth

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Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart fell in love on the set of To Have and Have Not in 1944 and were together until his death in 1957 (see YMRT #13, Bogart Before Bacall). The marriage was blissful, but it required Bacall to put her own acting career on the back burner. When her beloved Bogie died, Bacall was just 32 years old, and at first, she was totally adrift, both personally and professionally. Today on what would have been the former Bette Perske’s 90th birthday, we tell the story of how Bacall spent the remaining 57 years of her life, from the disastrous rebound affair with Frank Sinatra to the almost as misbegotten second marriage, from her midlife reinvention as a musical theater star to her lifelong struggle to find a balance between being Mrs. So-and-So, and being Lauren Bacall. 

Show notes!

I researched this episode concurrently with last week’s episode, so there’s not much more to report on the sources front, other than this Guardian article. Bacall herself left behind a goldmine in her memoirs, By Myself (which was updated about ten years ago with a new chapter, and re-released as By Myself and Then Some), and Now. Ordinarily I wouldn’t want to use a subjects own autobiographies as my primary sources, but Bacall’s voice is so strong, and her point of view mostly so clear (except for her occasionally blinkered view of her first marriage, but she basically cops to being to blinded by love that she couldn’t report on that objectively, so whatever) that it seemed like the best idea. Also, she just died, and it seemed like the best tribute to her would be to showcase her side of the story. 

Discography

"Preludes for Piano No. 2" by George Gershwin

"An American in Paris" by George Gershwin

“After Parties” by DNTEL

"Welcome to Heartbreak" by Kanye West

"Dances and Dames" by Kevin MacLeod

 ”Prelude No. 21” by Chris Zabriskie

"Erik’s Song" by Slowdive

"The Future" performed by Frank Sinatra

"looped" by Jahzzar

"The Best is Yet to Come" performed by Frank Sinatra

"For Better or Worse" by Kai Engel

"Dance of the Stargazer" by US Army Blues

"Single" by Everything but the Girl

"Quasi Motion" by Kevin MacLeod

"Autumn in New York" performed by Chet Baker

"Divider" by Chris Zabriskie

"Benbient" by canton

"Welcome to the Theater" from Applause, performed by Lauren Bacall

"Tikopia" by Kevin MacLeod

"Mesmerizing" by Liz Phair

"Cylinder One" by Chris Zabriskie

"Empty Bottles" by Magik Markers

You Must Remember This Episode 2: Frank Sinatra in Outer Space by Karina Longworth

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Welcome to the second episode of You Must Remember This, the podcast devoted to exploring the secret and or/forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. Today, we look back to 1979, when — while the music world was full of punk and post-disco coke rock, and the movie world was making the transition from the “New Hollywood” of the ’70s into the blockbuster age — Frank Sinatra recorded Trilogy: Past, Present and Future, a triple album with one disc each devoted to big band standards (“The Past”); covers from “the rock era” including Billy Joel and Beatles songs and also “Theme from New York, New York” (“The Present”); and, most amazingly, a 40 minute song cycle about life, love, death and visiting outer space (“The Future”). We’ll take a look at how and why “The Future” was made, and theorize as to why it’s fallen into the dustbin of pop cultural history.  

Show Notes

Songs

Tracks from Trilogy: Past, Present and Future, performed by Frank Sinatra:

“Let’s Face The Music and Dance”

“Theme from New York New York”

“Something”

“What Time Does the Next Miracle Leave?”

“World War None!”

“The Future” 

“The Future (Continued)”

“The Future (Conclusion)”

“Before the Music Ends”

“Can’t Get Started” performed by Frank Sinatra, from the album No One Cares

“Come Rain or Come Shine” performed by Frank Sinatra, from the album Sinatra and Strings

“New York is My Home” composed by Gordon Jenkins, from Manhattan Tower

“This is It” by Kenny Loggins, from The Essential Kenny Loggins

Other audio

“Jonathan Schwartz’s Good Time” from NPR http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1831872

Bibliography

Sinatra! The Song is You by Will Friedwald 

Why Sinatra Matters by Pete Hamill 

Goodbye: In Search of Gordon Jenkins by Bruce Jenkins 

“Frank Sinatra’s Heat-Seeking Missive Finds Two New Targets: a Columnist and a Deejay” by Cherie Burns, PEOPLE Magazine, May 5, 1980 

"Sinatra: The Legend Lives" by Pete Hamill, New York magazine, April 198