orson welles

MGM Stories Part Two: Marion Davies, William Randolph Hearst and Citizen Kane by Karina Longworth

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Marion Davies is enshrined in memory as the gorgeous but questionably talented mistress of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst -- thanks in part to the depiction of a Davies-esque character in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. But Davies’ involvement with the much older Hearst both ensured she would have a movie career, and perhaps doomed Davies to ridicule and limited stardom. This episode will explore how Davies and Hearst hooked up, the mutually beneficial working relationship between Hearst and Louis B. Mayer, the souring of that relationship over MGM’s (mis)use of Davies and Mayer’s effort to block the release of Kaneon Hearst’s behalf

Special thanks to Larry Herold, who reprised his role as Orson Welles. This episode was edited by Henry Molofsky. Our research intern is Allison Gemmill. 

Sources for this episode:

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

The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution by Scott Eyman

The Times We Had: Life with William Randolph Hearst by Marion Davies

Marion Davies by Fred Guilles

Hearst Over Hollywood: Power, Passion and Propaganda in the Movies by Louis Pizzitola

Silent Stars by Jeanine Basinger

This is Orson Welles by Peter Bogdanovich

Star Wars Episode VII: Lena Horne by Karina Longworth

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Signed to a contract by MGM in 1942, stunning singer/actress Lena Horne was the first black performer to be given the full glamour girl star-making treatment. But as the years went on and her studio failed to make much use of her, Horne started feeling like a token — and she wasn’t just being paranoid. A tireless USO performer during World War II, Horne and MGM were deluged with fan mail from African-American soldiers, an outpouring of support which still didn’t change the fundamentally racist institutional attitudes holding Horne back. We’ll trace her journey from the stage of The Cotton Club to the Hollywood Hills; her two marriages and her relationships with Vincente Minnelli, Orson Welles and Ava Gardner; her triumphs and disappointments on screen and off throughout the war era; the final insult which soured LenaHorne on Hollywood for good, and her remarkable late-in-life comeback.

Show Notes:

Before even listening to this episode, you might have noticed that there’s something a little different about it: it’s loooonnnng. This is not because I’ve suddenly fallen in love with the sound of my voice; it’s because I’ve fallen in love with the sound of LenaHorne’s voice. In the middle of my research for this episode, I discovered this public radio interview with Horne originally broadcast in 1966 and distributed by the Black Media Archive, and I thought it was so great that I immediately devoted the next couple of days to listening to all of the LenaHorne interview audio I could find. The episode is long because I included Lena’s version of her own story whenever possible, whether spoken or sung. 

There are several excerpts in this episode from the autobiographical stage show Lena mounted in the early 1980s, “LenaHorne: The Lady and Her Music.” Some of these excerpts come from a television version of the show that’s been posted on YouTube; others are from the official soundtrack album.

Other audio-video sources used in this episode, not including music:

LenaHorne on the Tonight Show

LenaHorne on Good Morning America, 1981

Clip from Cabin in the Sky

Jubilee! Episode #89, from Armed Forces Radio Service, July 24, 1944

Other sources include Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne by James GavinBright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: The Story of Black Hollywood by Donald Bogle; A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli by Mark Griffin; and the book that got me started on the idea of including an episode on Lena into our Star Wars series, Dance Floor Democracy: The Social Geography of Memory at the Hollywood Canteen by Sherrie Tucker.

Discography:

Stormy Weather instrumental, from a compilation called “Relaxing Jazz Instrumental 1940s Music”

Passing Fields by Quantum Jazz

Money by Jahzzar 

Dances and Dames by Kevin MacLeod

Make a Wish (For Christmas) by Lee Rosevere

Laserdisc by Chris Zabriskie

I Knew a Guy by Kevin MacLeod

Stormy Weather part 1, performed by LenaHorne in “LenaHorne: The Lady and Her Music”

Derelict by Beck

Main Stem performed by US Army Blues

Dagger by Slowdive

Gnossiennes No. 1 by Eric Satie

Can’t Stop Loving Dat Man performed by LenaHorne in ’Til The Clouds Roll By

There’s Probably No Time by Chris Zabriskie

Stormy Weather part 2, performed by LenaHorne in “LenaHorne: The Lady and Her Music”

Star Wars Episode V: Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles (YMRT #31) by Karina Longworth

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Margarita Cansino went to work at age 12, pretending to be her father’s wife so that the pair could get work as a dance team in Mexican nightclubs. Within a decade, chubby, visibly Hispanic wallflower Margarita had been transformed into Rita Hayworth — the quintessential all-American sex goddess of the World War II era. At the peak of Hayworth’s stardom, she fell in love with and married writer/director/actor/radio personality/magician Orson Welles. The glamour girl and the boy genius were happy together, for awhile — as long as both bought into a utopian plot they had cooked up to leave Hollywood. When that soured, the couple broke up…and then made a movie together, The Lady From Shanghai, in which Welles distorted their failed relationship into a bad-romance masterpiece.  

Show notes:

Special thanks to Larry Herold, who played Orson Welles — and the many others who auditioned to play Orson Welles

This episode was initially inspired by the succinct, beautifully written description of Cansino/Hayworth’s transformation/rise to fame in Otto Friedrich’s City of Nets. The other key sources for this episode were Barbara Leaming’s If This Was Happiness, which seems to be the only substantive biography of Hayworth (I would say it’s time for a new one, but Leaming’s book is the rare star biography which seems to lack glaring distortions or omissions); My Lunches with Orson by Henry Jaglom and Peter Biskind; and Simon Kellow’s Hello, Americans! Regarding the latter, I would have loved to have fleshed out Orson Welles’ South American misadventures, but I figured it would be best to save that for a future episode of its own.

There is a clip in the episode from The Lady From Shanghai, excerpted from this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qay6OgDXfT0

Discography:

This episode includes several songs from the White Stripes album Get Behind Me Satan, which was apparently inspired in part by RitaHayworth. Two songs on the record mention her by name; the title another, "Forever For Her (Is Over For Me)" — which I’ve used as the closing song of the episode — is basically an echo of Orson Welles’ emotional turn away from Hayworth, once she had fully invested herself in him.

Keeps on a Rainin’ (Papa Can’t Make No Time) by Billie Holiday

I Knew a Guy by Kevin MacLeod

Fiery Yellow by Stereolab

Calabash by Co-fee

Je t’aime…Mon non plus au motel by Serge Gainsbourg

The Hardest Button to Button by The White Stripes

Cups by Underworld

The Nurse by The White Stripes

Laserdisc by Chris Zabriskie

Dance of the Stargazer by the US Army Blues

Cylinder One by Chris Zabriskie

For Better or Worse by Kai Engel

Danse Morialta by Kevin MacLeod

Passing Fields by Quantum Jazz

Wonder Cycle by Chris Zabriskie

White Moon by the White Stripes

Forever For Her (Is Over For Me) by the White Stripes