ingrid bergman

MGM Stories Part Ten: David O. Selznick, The Mayers & Gone With the Wind by Karina Longworth

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In 1930, after putting in time at MGM and RKO, Paramount executive David O. Selznick married Irene Mayer, the daughter of L.B. Mayer. Irene’s father would soon thereafter bring Selznick to MGM to fill in for an ailing Irving Thalberg, but MGM, in all its grandeur, was too small for Selznick’s dreams. He started his own independent studio, through which he created the original A Star is Born, the only Hitchcock movie to win Best Picture, and the biggest hit in the history of Hollywood, Gone with the Wind. Starring Adam Goldberg as David O. Selznick, and Craig Mazin as Louis B. Mayer.

Sources:

This episode was inspired by a post on our forum requesting the story of the love triangle between Selznick, actor Robert Walker and his wife, the future Jennifer Jones. As part of my research, I went to the BFI Library to read David Thomson's out-of-printShowman: The Life of David O. Selznick, and I became so engrossed that when the library closed I ended up ordering a used copy and carrying it with me on a trip from London to Los Angeles and back -- a commitment, because at 820 pages, even the paperback is heavy and hard to wedge into a carry-on. It was totally worth it. Thomson is a lot like his subject, in that neither is known for their ruthless ability to self-edit, but both put their passion out there in a way that I find fascinating. Thomson really made me feel the grand arc of Selznick's life and career, and after finishing his book, I realized I couldn't just tell the Jennifer Jones story -- I had to at least summarize at length the 30-something years of Selznick's life before he met his second wife. This is preamble became long enough to be it's own episode, so we'll get to Jennifer Jones next week. I guess I'm not great at self-editing, either.

Other sources:

Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer by Scott Eyman

A Private View by Irene Mayer Selznick

City of Nets by Otto Friedrich

This episode was edited by Henry Molofsky. Our research intern is Allie Gemmill. 

YMRT #6: Isabella Rossellini in the 1990s by Karina Longworth

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Today we celebrate the 62nd birthday of actress/model/filmmaker Isabella Rossellini. She was born into Hollywood scandal: her mother, Ingrid Bergman, was denounced on the floor of Congress for her adulterous relationship with Isabella’s father, Italian neorealist director Roberto Rossellini. Isabella herself would go on to have romances with Martin Scorsese and David Lynch, finding her signature film role in the latter’s Blue Velvet. But her parentage and romantic relationships are only part of the story. She made her own fortune modeling, a career which the former scoliosis patient started at the relatively advanced age of 28, ultimately serving an unprecedented 14 years as the face of Lancome. In the 1990s — a decade which began with her being dumped by David Lynch and ended with her launching a company which she referred to as “a secret feminist plot” against the beauty industry — Isabella Rossellini took her legacy into her own hands. 

Show notes!

This podcast was inspired by an image I stumbled across, from the brochure produced in 1999 to publicize Manifesto, Rossellini’s short-lived “feminist” cosmetics line. Also, I’m always happy for a chance to talk about Death Becomes Her, about which I wrote an entire chapter in my book about Meryl Streep

I wanted to try to tell at least parts of Isabella’s story like a short story, which, practically, meant that instead of doing a lot of research from various angles, as I’ve done in previous episodes, I wanted to try to get inside my main subject’s point of view. So, one of my key sources was Isabella’s own 1997 memoir, Some of Me. This seems to be out of print, but if you’re interested in her I highly recommend it. It’s a little nutty, charmingly so, and also beautifully illustrated (it has made me obsessed with a certain 90s-vintage Dolce and Gabbana bra.). Isabella’s 1997 Fresh Air interview, which I’ve excerpted liberally within in the podcast, synthesizes a lot of the key themes of the memoir, as do many of her extended interviews, including this live chat with John Anderson, from which I excerpted a bit in which she talks about becoming a model at age 28.

It didn’t play a huge role into my research for this, but Ingrid Bergman’s autobiography is also very good. 

Of the many magazine articles I read this week, these were the most useful:

Isabella Makes a Fresh StartVanity Fair, January 1991

Isabella Rossellini, INDEX, 1999

Daddy’s GirlThe Guardian, April 30, 2006

Have Makeup Will TravelSF Gate, January 11, 2000

Isabella Rossellini Makes a Beauty Statement With Manifesto LineLA Times, January 7, 2000

“Isabella Rossellini’s Manifesto: anatomy of a commercial fragrance failure” Examiner, March 15, 2010

Music:

"Blue Velvet," performed by Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet theme, by Angelo Badalamenti

“Single,” by Everything But the Girl

“Weightless,” by Washed Out

“Jump Into the Fire,” by Harry Nilsson

“But The World Goes Round,” performed by Liza Minnelli in New York, New York

Theme from Cousins, by Angelo Badalamenti

“Middle of the Road,” by The Pretenders

“Theme d’Amour” from Alphaville, by Paul Maraki

“Jonathan,” by Fiona Apple

“Spread Your Wings,” by Spiritualized

“Apartment Song,” by Possum Dixon

"Justify My Love," by Madonna

Death Becomes Her theme, by Alan Silvestri

"Moon River," performed by Morrissey

"Blue Lines," by Massive Attack

"Les Yper Sound," by Stereolab

"Flower," by Sonic Youth

"Naked Eye," by Luscious Jackson

"A Party Able Model Of," by Joan of Arc

"Blue Velvet," performed by Lana Del Rey