hollywood podcast

YMRT #13: Bogey, Before Bacall by Karina Longworth

Find this episode on iTunes

Humphrey Bogart is perhaps the most enduring icon of grown-up masculine cool to come out of Hollywood’s first century. But much of what we think of when we think of Bogart — the persona of the tough guy with the secret soft heart, his pairing on-screen and off with Lauren Bacall — coalesced late in Bogart’s life. Today we take a look at how Humphrey Bogart became Bogey, tracing his journey from blue blood beginnings through years of undistinguished work and outright failure (both in the movies and in love), to his emergence in the early 1940s as a symbol of wartime perseverance who could make sacrifice seem sexy. Finally, we’ll look at what it took to get him to take the leap into a fourth marriage that seemed to saved his life … until the world’s most glamorous stoic was faced with cancer. Next week, we’ll present the sequel to this story: Bacall, After Bogey.

Show Notes!

This episode was researched in part at the Warner Brothers Archives at USC. Thanks to Brett Service for inviting me to make use of the Archives and for helping me find what I needed. 

As I noted last week, each episode in this season has some connection to Hollywood Frame by Frame, the book I worked on which compiles previously unseen contact sheets of Hollywood still photographers. The admittedly rather flimsy connection to this week and next week’s episodes is that there are images in the book of Bogart and Bacall on the set of The African Queen. Pre-order the book now! </blatant plug>

There are a lot of biographies of Humphrey Bogart. I’ve flipped through many of them over the years, and I’m not sure there’s a single definitive or really great one. But, the most recent, Stefan Kanfer’s Tough Without a Gun, at least does the work of sorting through most of the previously published sources and comparing versions of the truth. Bogey by Clifford McCarty was one of the few film books my parents had around when I was a kid, and it was disappointing to open it during research for this episode and find that it had more pictures than text, although that also makes it pretty emblematic of the wave of Bogey image worship that sprung up in the late-60s and 1970s, which we’ll talk about in next week’s episode.

I became interested in the idea of exploring Bogey’s life before Bacall through City of Nets, Otto Friedrich’s beautifully written book on Hollywood in the 1940s. which dramatizes Bogart’s relationship with his third wife, Mayo Methot. Other sources relevant to this episode include By Myself by Lauren Bacall, Who the Hell’s In Itand Who the Devil Made It by Peter Bogdanovich, Humphrey Bogart by Nathaniel Benchley, Bogart and Bacall by Joe Hyams, Slim: Memories of a Rich and Imperfect Life by Slim Keith with Annette Tapert. and finally, the chapter on Bogart in Louise Brooks’ Lulu in Hollywood. After his death, more than one Bogart biographer disputed Brooks’ impressions/interpretations of her old friend Humphrey Bogart, who she insisted was not the same man as the Bogey the world thought they knew. Of course, Brooks’ recollections are self-serving, but I always think first-hand accounts are interesting, especially when they challenge or add shading to a legend. And that’s the thing about Bogartography: for all that’s been written about the man, his life and his work, there still seems to be so little that we actually know. 

Discography

"Intro" by The Big Sleep

"Fourty Four" by The Kills

"Dances and Dames" by Kevin MacLeod

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

"Divider" by Chris Zabriskie

"Melody" by Serge Gainsbourg

"Love Like a Sunset" by Phoenix

"roughcut" by Tripwire

"Life Round Here" by James Blake

"Your Impersonation This Morning of Me Last Night" by Joan of Arc

"Rite of Passage" by Kevin MacLeod

"For Better or Worse"Chris Zabriskie

"Intelligent Galaxy" by The Insider

"Looped" by Jahzzar

"Shadow of a Doubt" by Sonic Youth

"Cyllinder One" by Chris Zabriskie

"Theresa’s Sound World" by Sonic Youth

"Will Be War Soon?" by Kosta T

"Prelude No. 21" by Chris Zabriskie

"Tikopia" by Kevin MacLeod

"Benbient" by canton

”Don’t Fence Me In,” by Cole Porter, performed by Frank Sinatrac

You Must Remember This Episode 4: (The Printing of) The Legend of Frances Farmer by Karina Longworth

1b2f3510164ce4e6746798ec9c3266c8--vintage-hollywood-hollywood-glamour.jpg

Find this episode on iTunes

During the last year of his life, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was obsessed with Frances Farmer, an actress from his hometown of Seattle who died in 1970. Farmer’s beauty and unique screen presence made her a star, but her no-bullshit ballsiness made her a pariah — and a target of the hostile media — in 1930s Hollywood. Farmer’s career went down the tubes in the 1940s when a couple of incidents of inconvenient drunkenness led to her being committed to an insane asylum by her own mother, and given a lobotomy.

Or, so Cobain and his wife, Courtney Love, frequently told journalists while Cobain was promoting In Utero, the Nirvana album that includes Cobain’s tribute to the actress, “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” (Love also claimed to have been married to Cobain whilst wearing a dress once owned by Farmer, and the couple named their daughter Frances, although that was likely at least co-inspired by Frances McKee of The Vaselines). Unbeknownst to them, the notion that Farmer was lobotomized was a fiction invented by a biographer with ties to Scientology, a lie which was then dramatized in an Oscar-nominated, Mel Brooks-produced movie which helped to make Jessica Lange a star. By the time Kurt and Courtney were championing Farmer as a proto-punk martyr in the 1990s, the legend of Frances Farmer as patron saint of…well, women like Courtney Love, had been printed so many times that it had swallowed up the truth of Farmer’s experience, and loomed much larger than her actual body of movie work. Today we’ll explore how, and why, that legend got printed, and try to explain how Frances Farmer became the patron saint of beautiful, bright, potentially batshit women whose self-destruction can be traced back to their signing of a studio contract.

We have special guest stars! Nora Zehetner (Brick, Grey’s Anatomy, Mad Men and most recently IFC’s Maron) played Frances Farmer; Brian Clark played Kurt Cobain, and Noah Segan IS Rex Reed.

And now for a few Show Notes:

Farmerology is a tricky field, because each new contributor to the canon seems to make a point of debunking those who came before them…and also quotes those same predecessors as though their works are unchallenged fact. So while the goal of this episode was to explain how and why Frances Farmer’s legend got printed, I’ve also used aspects of that legend (such as clips from the movie Frances) as “evidence.” When in Rome?

The main texts examined in this episode are Shadowland by William Arnold, and Will There Really Be A Morning? by “Frances Farmer.” As explained in the episode, these texts cannot be taken at face value, and the following resources were invaluable in providing additional information and context: 

“Shedding Light on Shadowland” by Jeffrey Kauffman

“Burn All The Liars” by Matt Evans, The Morning News

Frances Farmer: The Life and Films of a Troubled Star by Peter Shelleyhttp://www.amazon.com/Frances-Farmer-Life-Films-Troubled/dp/0786447451

Also cited within and/or relevant:

Hollywood Babylon, by Kenneth Anger

“Dark Side of the Womb, Part 2” Melody Maker, August 28, 1993

“Strange Love” Vanity Fair, September 1993

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, by Lawrence Wright

In the podcast, I’ve included a quote in which Kurt Cobain admits that he is worried that what happened to Frances Farmer could happen to his wife, Courtney Love. I could do a second episode just on that, but if you’re at all interested in what’s happened to Courtney after Kurt, read Nancy Jo Sales’ excellent November 2011 Vanity Fair profile, “Courtney Love in a Cold Climate.”

Music used in this episode

“Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” by Nirvana

“Knife Fights Every Night” by Joan of Arc

“Night City”  by Dirty Beaches 

“Paracosm” by Washed Out

“Lenny Valentino #3” by The Auteurs, remixed by Mu-ziq

“Prelude” by Gene Harris

“ Oh Brother #3” by Joan of Arc

“Pennyroyal Tea [Demo]” by Nirvana

“Rub Til it Bleeds” by PJ Harvey 

“Big Day Coming” by Yo La Tengo

“Asking For It” by Hole

You Must Remember This #3: Happy 110th Birthday, Val Lewton! by Karina Longworth

img.jpg

Find this episode on iTunes

A Very Special Halloween Episode! The writer-producer Val Lewton produced and ghost-wrote 11 films in just three years as head of the horror unit at RKO, many of which — Cat PeopleI Walked With A ZombieThe Curse of the Cat People,The Body Snatcher — were huge hits, helping to keep the troubled studio afloat in the early 1940s, and becoming influential genre film classics. Lewton died super young, but he crammed an enormous amount of life into his 46 years. Before establishing his unique style of horror at RKO, he was a publicist and a terrible journalist; he published at least a dozen books (including at least two porno novels, one of which he was very proud of), and through his career-making apprenticeship with David O. Selznick, collaborated with Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, and countless other classical Hollywood luminaries. Today — which would have been Lewton’s 110th birthday, if not for his untimely death in 1951 — we take a look back at his life and career, break down his groundbreaking aesthetic, and ask and answer an incredibly reductive question: did Hollywood kill Val Lewton?

SHOW NOTES!

Bibliography:

Fearing the Dark: The Val Lewton Career, by Edmund G. Bansak

Icons of Grief, by Alexander Nemerov

Val Lewton: The Reality of Terror, by Joel E. Siegel

Music:

Excerpts from the scores of Cat PeopleI Walked with a ZombieBedlamThe Body Snatcher and The Seventh Victim, performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra

The Bride of Frankenstein theme, performed by the Cincinatti Pops Orchestra

"Cat People (Putting out fire)" by David Bowie

Film clips:

Cat People

I Walked With a Zombie

Bedlam

The Seventh Victim

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

img.jpg

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