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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

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 #13: Bogey, Before Bacall by Karina Longworth

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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 #3: Happy 110th Birthday, Val Lewton! by Karina Longworth

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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

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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