karina longworth

MGM Stories Part One - Louis B. Mayer vs. Irving Thalberg (YMRT #56) by Karina Longworth

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Welcome to the fifth season of You Must Remember This! This season, called MGM Stories, is going to tell 15 tales about people who worked at the same movie studio over the course of five decades and counter-culture-hastened decline.

Established in 1924, MGM was the product of a merger of three early Hollywood entities, but the only person working there who got to have his name in the title was studio chief Louis B. Mayer. For the first dozen years of its existence, Mayer’s influence over the company would be at least matched by that of producer Irving Thalberg, who was perceived as the creative genius to Mayer’s bureaucrat. This episode will trace the rise of MGM through the 1920s and early-mid 30s, covering Mayer’s long-evolving working relationship with Thalberg, the creation of the MGM “star factory” identity and unique power within the community of Hollywood, and the in-fighting which would end with Mayer poised to seize his crown as the most powerful man in Hollywood.

Special thanks to Dan Saraceni and Liz Lui, who contributed ideas that inspired this episode in our forum, and Craig Mazin (screenwriter and co-host of the Scriptnotes podcast), who guest stars as Louis B. Mayer. This episode was edited by Henry Molofsky, and our research intern is Allison Gemmill. The outro music to this ep is "We're a Happy Family" by The Ramones.

As you may have noticed, the podcast has a new distribution partner, Panoply. You can find the whole family of Panoply podcasts at itunes.com/panoply. If you subscribe to the show on iTunes, it should feel like nothing has changed, but if you have any problem finding or listening to episodes, please contact me using the link at the top of the page. 

This season, as promised, was inspired by suggestions made by our listeners on our Forum. As the season continues, we'll be contacting listeners whose ideas influenced specific episodes. This season, which will last until the end of 2015, is fully scheduled, but you can continue to use the Forum to suggest ideas for future seasons, and also to discuss this current season or past episodes with other listeners. 

The primary sources for this episode were Lion of Hollywood by Scott Eyman, The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger, and a number of oral histories accessed at Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript archive, including the recollections of Dore Schary, Anita Loos, and Sheilah Graham.

If you're new to our show, check out our four previous seasons -- including the series Star Wars and Charles Manson's Hollywood - on iTunes.

YMRT #40: The You Must Remember This One Year Anniversary Ask Us Anything Show by Karina Longworth

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You Must Remember This turns one year old this month, and to celebrate, Karina takes questions from listeners. Topics range from book recommendations to the blacklist to baseball to Karina’s abandoned, unfinished novel.

Special thanks to all of our question askers!

Discography:

What True Self, Feels Bogus, Let’s Play Jason X by Chris Zabriskie

Please Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths, performed by The Halo Benders

YMRT #27: Star Wars Episode I: Bette Davis and the Hollywood Canteen by Karina Longworth

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Today we’re launching a new series for the new year, Star Wars, which will focus on movie stars and their lives and careers during times of war. Our first eight episodes will explore stories of women during World War II, and we’ll start with the woman who dominated all aspects of Hollywood, including its war effort, in the late 1930s-early 1940s: BetteDavis.

This is the story of how BetteDavis evolved from a wannabe starlet who was constantly told she was too ugly for movies, to the most powerful woman in Hollywood, by playing heroines that had never been seen on screen before — to borrow a term from Davis herself, sympathetic “bitches.” After Pearl Harbor, the tenacious Bette became the figurehead of the Hollywood Canteen, a nightclub for servicemen staffed by stars, which was the locus of the industry’s most visible support of the troops on the home front.

The Hollywood Canteen was a catalyst for propaganda in more ways than one, aims Hollywood furthered by telling the story of the Hollywood Canteen in a movie called, um, Hollywood Canteen, starring Davis, John Garfield, Barbara Stanwyck, Peter Lorre and other celebrities as “themselves.” The movie and most press accounts of the Canteen portray it as a miraculous force for good in the world, which it probably was, but that narrative leaves out a lot, including illicit affairs, a murder, and an FBI investigation whose findings would have an impact on the blacklist of the following decade. 

Show Notes

This episode was a hell of a thing to research. BetteDavis published two autobiographies and both are very, very far from being impartial, but I consulted The Lonely Life a bit, as well as the authorized biography The Girl Who Walks Home Alone by Charlotte Chandler. I’d also recommend the Mysteries and Scandals episode on Davis, mostly to marvel at all of the ways in which A.J. Benza manages to call her a bitch without actually using the word “bitch.” Mark Harris’ Five Came Back was useful, particularly in its shading of the relationship between Davis and William Wyler.

More difficult was nailing down the story of the Hollywood Canteen. Hollywood Canteen: Where the Greatest Generation Danced With the Most Beautiful Girls in The World is as prosaic as its title; at least Hollywood’s propaganda about the Canteen, including the Delmer Daves movie Hollywood Canteen (excerpted in the episode) makes the spin fun. Much, much better is Dance Floor Democracy: The Social Geography of Memory at the Hollywood Canteen. by Sherrie Tucker — a fascinating, beautifully written and researched study of the Canteen which goes into deep consideration of the social/racial/class/political conflicts enmeshed into this supposedly squeaky-clean nightclub which has become an icon of the supposed uncomplicated patriotism of the generation who fought WWII.

Discography:

Dance of the Stargazer performed by the US Army Blues Band

Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod

Lonely Town performed by Blossom Dearie

Ghost Dance performed by Kevin MacLeod

Au coin de la rue by Marco Raaphorst

I Knew a Guy by Kevin MacLeod

The Insider Theme by The Insider

5:00 AM by Peter Rudenko

Will be war soon? by Kosta T

Off to Osake by Kevin MacLeod

Balcarabic Chicken by Quantum Jazz

Hi Ho Trailus Bootwhip by Louis Prima and His Orchestra

Divider by Chris Zabriskie

My Country by Tune-Yards

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

YMRT #7: The Many Loves of Howard Hughes, Chapter 1 by Karina Longworth

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The first episode of a multi-part series on the Hollywood romances of Howard Hughes traces Hughes’ arranged marriage at age 18 to Southern society belle Ella Rice; his affairs with silent star Billie Dove and Jean Harlow, who Hughes helped to establish as a sex symbol whose body was used to evoke both money and military might; and his attempt to invent himself as the most powerful independent producer in town, with his directorial debut, Hell’s Angels

Show Notes!

Key research texts this week included Howard Hughes: The Untold Story by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske; and Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos and Letters, by Richard Hack. There were few discrepancies in terms of the way these two books depicted this time period in Hughes’ life, and I take them somewhat more seriously than another book which I mention in the episode, Darwin Porter’s Hell’s Angel: America’s Notorious Bisexual Billionaire (typing this, I’m realizing I got the subtitle slightly wrong in the podcast; sorry!) 

This week, I watched Hell’s Angels for the first time, and was really pleasantly surprised by it. The UCLA restoration currently available on DVD is *gorgeous,” and the dialogue scenes, directed by James Whale, have a kind of vulgar, inelegant honesty to them. 

I wouldn’t consider them direct research materials, but more than nonfiction sources, I picked up the feeling of 1920s Hollywood from a number of novels, including (of course) The Day of the Locust, but also a few lesser-discussed books I’ve read over the past year: The Big Money by John Dos Passos, Hollywood by Gore Vidal, and The Western Coast by Paula Fox. I highly recommend them all. 

As previously noted, this is intended to be the first episode in a multi-part series about Hughes’ Hollywood relationships. Right now the plan is to alternate episodes on Hughes with installments of another series, which I plan to launch next week (however, I’m traveling tomorrow-Monday, so it’s possible my production schedule will get messed up.)

As always, if you like it, put a ring on it by subscribing to and/or rating and reviewing the podcast at iTunes, and tell your friends to follow us on Twitter @rememberthispod

Music

“Ill Build a Stairway to Paradise” performed by Whiteman and his orchestra

“Safe in Heal,” performed by Sonic Youth

“Paris,” performed by Dirty Beaches

“S’Wonderful,” performed by Eddie Condon and his orchestra

“Summertime,” performed by the Sidney Bechtet Quintet

“Shadow of a Doubt,” performed by Sonic Youth

“Frelon Brun,” performed by Miles Davis 

“Life Round Here,” by James Blake

“Keechie,” by No Age

“The Man I Love,” performed by Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France

"Skeletons," by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

"Dramamine," by Sebadoh

"Fogbow," by Joan of Arc

"A Foggy Day," performed by Cyril Grantham with Geraldo and his orchestra

"Cemetary Party," by Air

"Drippy Eye," performed by Black Moth Super Rainbow

"Zoetrope," by Boards of Canada

"Alice," by Sunn O)))

"Big Louise," by Scott Walker

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

"I Got Plenty of Nuthin’," performed by Avon Long

"Baby Vampire Made Me," by Helium

"Girl/Boy Song," by Aphex Twin

"This Hollywood Life," by The London Suede