silent film

Will Hays and "Pre-Code" Hollywood (Fake News: Fact-Checking Hollywood Babylon Episode 7) by Karina Longworth

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Who was Will Hays, and how did he come to put his name on the censorship “Code” that would shape the content of movies more than any other single force from the early 1930s into the 1960s? How much power did Hays really have in 1920s Hollywood, how corrupt was he, and why did it take a decade before the Hays Code was fully enforced?

SHOW NOTES:  

Sources:

This episode is a response to, and includes a brief excerpt from, Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger.

The Memoirs of Will H. Hays by Will H. Hays

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann

Go West Young Women! by Hillary Hallett

Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration by Thomas Doherty

Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s by Frederick Lewis Allen

“Will Hays, First Film Czar, Dies; Former G. O. P. Leader Was 74; Arbiter of Hollywood's Morals 23 Years Was Postmaster General Under Harding” By The Associated Press, March 8,1954, New York Times

“Will H. Hays and the Motion Picture Industry 1919-1922: by Gerald S. Schatz, from The Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 43, No. 3, September 1961, pp. 316-329

“Will H. Hays Gets Divorce in Indiana; Court Awards Custody of Son to Motion Picture Official in Uncontested Suit.” New York Times, June 22, 1929

“Mrs. Will H. Hays Dies; Widow of Former 'Czar' of Movie Industry Was 84” New York Times, August 30, 1960

“The Letters That Warren G. Harding’s Family Didn’t Want You to See” by By Jordan Michael Smith, New York Times, July 7, 2014

“Pictures More Realistic” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 31, 1930

“Morals and the Movies” The News Leader, April 28, 1930

“America’s Horniest President Warren G. Harding might have been a useless leader, but he sure could craft a sex scandal” By Jordan Michael Smith, August 16, 2015

William Hays (center) shaking hands, c. 1920's

William Hays (center) shaking hands, c. 1920's

Music:

Original music was composed for this episode by Evan Viola. Most of the rest of the music used in this episode, with the exception of the intro and outro, was sourced from royalty-free music libraries and licensed music collections. The intro includes a clip from the film Casablanca. The outro song this week is “Chinese Bakery” by The Auteurs.

Excerpts from the following songs were used throughout the episode:

he Smoke Room - Gunnar Johnsen  
My Simple Thing 2  - Peter Sandberg
The Hipcat Swagger 3 - Martin Landh
Mississippi Ramble 1 - Martin Gauffin
Sophisticated Gentlemen 3 - Magnus Ringblom
Loser - Anders Ekengren
Club Noir 4 - John Ahlin
March Militaire - Franz Schubert
Cluedo - Hakan Eriksson
Black and White Memories 3 - Martin Hall
War March 1 - Peter Sandberg
O Come All Ye Faithful - Traditional

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Credits:

Our special guest this week is Gideon Yago.

This episode was written, narrated and produced by Karina Longworth.

Editors: Sam Dingman and Jacob Smith.

Research and production assistant: Lindsey D. Schoenholtz.

Social media assistant: Brendan Whalen.

Logo design: Teddy Blanks.

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Wallace Reid (Fake News: Fact Checking Hollywood Babylon Episode 6) by Karina Longworth

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According to Hollywood Babylon, actor Wallace Reid —a morphine addict who died in an asylum at the age of 31—was the first sacrificial lamb of the post-sandal era, and Reid’s wife, a former teen star named Dorothy Davenport, was the ultimate opportunistic hypocrite. What made Reid’s case different from the other scandals around this time? Was Davenport the black widow that Anger suggests, or should she be remembered as a pioneering female writer, producer and director?

Wallace Reid and Dorothy Davenport with son Billy, 1917

Wallace Reid and Dorothy Davenport with son Billy, 1917

Wallace Reid in  The Dictator,  1922

Wallace Reid in The Dictator, 1922

Music:

Original music was composed for this episode by Evan Viola. Most of the rest of the music used in this episode, with the exception of the intro and outro, was sourced from royalty-free music libraries and licensed music collections. The intro includes a clip from the film Casablanca. The outro song this week is “Professional Widow” by Tori Amos.

Excerpts from the following songs were used throughout the episode:

The Smoke Room - Gunnar Johnsen  
Dust Bowl 1 - Hakan Eriksson
My Simple Thing 2  - Peter Sandberg
Music from The Birth Of A Nation (1915) score by Joseph Carl Breil
Toreador Song - Georges Bizet  (From Carmen)
Loser - Anders Ekengren
Quentino 9  Stefan Netsman
Bad news Piano 17 - Oscar Collin
Jazz and Blue Piano 1 - Jonaton Jarpehag
Yellow Leaves 5 - Peter Sandberg
Sad Piano Walk 1  - Oscar Collin
Black and White - Magnus Ringblom Quartet
Meditation for Viola and Piano 14 - Jonaton Jarpehag
Widow’s Dance - Hakan Eriksson
My Simple Thing 3  - Peter Sandberg

Davenport on the set of  Human Wreckage , 1923

Davenport on the set of Human Wreckage, 1923

Credits:

Our special guest this week is Mark Olsen.

This episode was written, narrated and produced by Karina Longworth.

Editors: Sam Dingman and Jacob Smith.

Research and production assistant: Lindsey D. Schoenholtz.

Social media assistant: Brendan Whalen.

Logo design: Teddy Blanks.

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Virginia Rappe (Fake News: Fact Checking Hollywood Babylon Episode 3) by Karina Longworth

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At a boozy party over Labor Day weekend 1921, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, silent Hollywood’s superstar plus-size comedian, followed sometime actress Virginia Rappe into a hotel room. They were alone together for only a few minutes, but in that time, Rappe fell ill, and died several days later from her sickness. Arbuckle was tried for murder, and accused of rape in the newspapers. The story of the definitive sex-and-death scandal in early Hollywood history, which left a woman dead and effectively killed off a star comedian’s career, has been plagued with misinformation and distortions for nearly 100 years. Today we’ll closely examine Anger’s text to demonstrate how he implies both Arbuckle and Rappe’s guilt, and we’ll also use more recent scholarship on the case to try to suss out what really happened in that hotel room, and how the facts were distorted throughout Arbuckle’s three trials. 

This episode includes graphic descriptions of sexual violence. 

Portrait of Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle wearing a smoking jacket and surrounded by kneeling young ladies, c. 1918

Portrait of Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle wearing a smoking jacket and surrounded by kneeling young ladies, c. 1918

Virginia Rappe, c. 1920

Virginia Rappe, c. 1920

Trashed hotel suite at the St. Francis Hotel, 1921

Trashed hotel suite at the St. Francis Hotel, 1921

Music:

Original music was composed for this episode by Evan Viola. Most of the rest of the music used in this episode, with the exception of the intro and outro, was sourced from royalty-free music libraries and licensed music collections. The intro includes a clip from the film Casablanca. The outro song this week is Modern History by The Auteurs.

Excerpts from the following songs were used throughout the episode:

The Smoke Room - Gunnar Johnsén 

Widow’s Dance - Håkan Eriksson

Sophisticated Gentlemen 3 - Magnus Ringblom 

1920s Chicago 3 - Magnus Ringblom 

Kansas City flashback 2 - Magnus Ringblom 

Blue Zones - Martin Gauffin 

The Old House - Håkan Eriksson 

Bad News Piano 17 - Oscar Collin

Jazz and Blue Piano 1 - Jonaton Jarpehag

Bad News Piano 3 - Oscar Collin 

Paris Waltz - Håkan Eriksson 

Meditation for Viola and Piano 14 - Jonaton Jarpehag

My Simple Thing 3 - Peter Sandberg


Credits:

Our special guest this week is Gideon Yago.

This episode was written, narrated and produced by Karina Longworth.

Editors: Sam Dingman and Jacob Smith.

Research and production assistant: Lindsey D. Schoenholtz.

Social media assistant: Brendan Whalen.

Logo design: Teddy Blanks.

Arbuckle's Mug Shot 1921

Arbuckle's Mug Shot 1921

Olive Thomas (Fake News: Fact Checking Hollywood Babylon Episode 2) by Karina Longworth

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Listen and download this episode, or find on Apple Podcasts.

The first Hollywood scandal to attract international intentional was the death-by-poison of Olive Thomas, the twenty-five year old star of au courant Hollywood hit The Flapper. According to Hollywood Babylon, Thomas’s death was the suicide of a woman desperate over her failure to score dope for her junkie husband. What’s the real story—and what role was played by Jack Pickford, Olive’s husband and the brother of the actress then considered “America’s Sweetheart”?

Olive Thomas and Jack Pickford, c. 1920

Olive Thomas and Jack Pickford, c. 1920

Special thanks to Allison Anders, who provided this image of Pickford and Thomas from her personal collection.

Special thanks to Allison Anders, who provided this image of Pickford and Thomas from her personal collection.

Music:

Original music was composed for this episode by Evan Viola. Most of the rest of music used in this episode, with the exception of the intro and outro, was sourced from royalty-free music libraries and licensed music collections. The intro includes a clip from the film Casablanca. The outro song this week is "The Upper Classes" by The Auteurs.

Excerpts from the following songs were used throughout the episode:

The Smoke Room - Gunnar Johnsén 

Mississippi Ramble 1 - Martin Gauffin 

Sophisticated Gentlemen 3 - Magnus Ringblom

One Two Three 1 - Peter Sandberg 

Black and White Memories 3 - Martin Hall

Speakeasy 2

1920s Chicago 3 - Magnus Ringblom

Time To Tango - Håkan Eriksson 

Pesado Manouche 3 - John Ahlin

Widow’s Dance - Håkan Eriksson

Paris Waltz - Håkan Eriksson 

Say It Is So -Magnus Ringblom

Victoria’s Vintage Pearls 2 - Peter Sandberg

Jazz and Blue Piano 1 - Jonaton Jarpehag 

Credits:

Our special guest this week is Gideon Yago.

This episode was written, narrated and produced by Karina Longworth.

Editors: Sam Dingman and Jacob Smith.

Research and production assistant: Lindsey D. Schoenholtz.

Social media assistant: Brendan Whalen.

Logo design: Teddy Blanks.

D.W. Griffith, the Gish Sisters and the origin of "Hollywood Babylon" (Fake News: Fact Checking Hollywood Babylon Episode 1) by Karina Longworth

Hollywood Babylon Cover.jpg

Listen and download this episode, or find on Apple Podcasts.

This season will interrogate a book that is considered by many to be the urtext of salacious movieland gossip: Hollywood Babylon. Written by Kenneth Anger, a child actor turned director of experimental queer art films, Hollywood Babylon has been derided by some readers as a work of dangerous libel for its embellishments and, in some cases, outright fictions about real people and events. (Originally published in France in 1959, the book was not widely available in the US until 1975). Others have celebrated Anger’s bitchy tome as the ultimate, camp trolling of the movie industry and all of its sordid hypocrisy and corruption. Over the course of a two-part season (with part one exploring the silent era and part two, to come later in 2018, stretching from the 1930s into the late 1960s), we will examine some of the stories Anger tells and the way he tells them, and we’ll try to figure out the real story. Throughout, we’ll talk about how the seemingly contemporary concept of “fake news” has played a key role in Hollywood’s star-making (and star-destroying) apparatus from the industry’s earliest days, and how such practices mutated through the work of counter-narrators like Anger and beyond.

The phrase “Hollywood Babylon” entered the vernacular thanks to D.W. Griffith, one of Hollywood’s first great directors, who followed up the racist smash The Birth of a Nation with a less-successful historical epic called Intolerance. Anger’s use of that film’s Babylon set, which was left to stand and decay for years after the film came and went, as the structuring image of his gossip bible, helps to set the ironic tone of the book. But what of Anger’s accusations that Griffith was a known pedophile, and that his stars, sisters Dorothy and Lillian Gish, were incestuous?

D.W. Griffith on set, c. 1918

D.W. Griffith on set, c. 1918

Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish, c. 1920

Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish, c. 1920

SHOW NOTES:  

Sources:

This episode is a response to, and includes a brief excerpt from, Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger.

The Parade’s Gone By by Kevin Brownlow

From Reverence to Rape by Molly Haskell

The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America's Civil War by Dick Lehr

Lillian Gish: Her Legend, Her Life by Charles Affron

D.W. Griffith: An American Life by Richard Schickel  

Sunshine And Shadow by Mary Pickford

Wally: The True Wallace Reid Story by David W. Menefee

Silent Stars by Jeanine Basinger

“From Movie to Masterpiece” by Denison Clift, Oakland Tribune, April 28 1918, Page 18


Music:

Original music was composed for this episode by Evan Viola. Most of the rest of music used in this episode, with the exception of the intro and outro, was sourced from royalty-free music libraries and licensed music collections. The intro includes a clip from the film Casablanca. The outro song this week is "Sister Like You" by The Auteurs.

Excerpts from the following songs were used throughout the episode:

Black and White Memories 3 - Martin Hall

Say It Is So - Magnus Ringblom

The Old House - Håkan Eriksson

Chamber String Rock - Håkan Eriksson

Sophisticated Gentlemen - Magnus Ringblom

The Smoke Room - Gunnar Johnsén  

Jazz and Blue Piano 1 - Jonaton Jarpehag 

Finkelstein’s Walk in the Rain - Per-Anders Nilsson 

Credits:

Our special guest this week is TS Faull, who read from Hollywood Babylon. TS last appeared on You Must Remember This episode 49 in our "Charles Manson's Hollywood" season, in which he played Kenneth Anger. 

This episode was written, narrated and produced by Karina Longworth.

Editors: Sam Dingman and Jacob Smith.

Research and production assistant: Lindsey D. Schoenholtz.

Social media assistant: Brendan Whalen.

Logo design: Teddy Blanks

Kenneth Anger on the set of  Lucifer Rising , 1970

Kenneth Anger on the set of Lucifer Rising, 1970

MGM Stories Part Five: William Haines and Hollywood's First Openly Gay Marriage by Karina Longworth

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The rare silent star who made a relatively smooth transition to sound films, William “Billy” Haines was one of the top box office stars of the late 1920s-early 1930s. Beginning in 1926, Haines started living with Jimmie Shields, and the two men became one of the most popular couples on the Hollywood social scene, facing little if any homophobia among the industry’s elite. But as times changed and the heat from the censors began to get hotter, MGM began to put pressure on Haines to pretend to be someone he wasn’t.

Very special thanks to Wil Wheaton, who played William Haines, and Craig Mazin, who reprised his role as Louis B. Mayer.

This episode was edited by Henry Molofsky.

The primary source for this episode was William J. Mann’s biography of Haines, Wisecracker. Other sources consulted include:

Bret, David. Greta Garbo: A Divine Star. London: The Robson Press, 2012. Kindle Edition.

Bowers, Scotty. Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars. Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 2013. Kindle Edition.

Chandler, Charlotte. Not The Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008. Kindle Edition.

Eyman, Scott Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer. Simon & Schuster, 2008 Kindle Edition.

Eyman, Scott The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930 Simon & Schuster, 1997. Kindle Edition.

E. J. Fleming. The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling and the MGM Publicity Machine McFarland & Co Inc, 2004. Kindle Edition.

Golden, Eve. John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Photoplay, Jan-Jun 1927

MGM Stories Part Four: John Gilbert and Greta Garbo by Karina Longworth

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Rising romantic lead John Gilbert signed with MGM in 1924 and the next year he starred in King Vidor’s The Big Parade, the studio’s biggest hit of the silent era. That same year, Louis B. Mayer brought his new discovery to Hollywood: an enigmatic Swedish actress named Greta Garbo. Garbo and Gilbert starred together in the romantic melodrama Flesh and the Devil, and began a relationship in real-life, which was eagerly exploited by the still-fledgling Hollywood publicity machine. Gilbert’s career suffered from his contentious relationship with Mayer, and his increasing alcoholism, while Garbo’s star continued to rise. In 1933, Garbo made it a condition of her MGM contract extension that the studio cast Gilbert as her love interest in Queen Christina. Within three years, Gilbert was dead. Within ten years, Garbo’s career had taken a turn, too

Special thanks to special guest star Craig Mazin, reprising his role as Louis B. Mayer.

This episode was edited by Henry Molofsky.

This episode included a clip from the John Gilbert film His Glorious Night, pulled from Kevin Brownlow's incredible silent era documentary Hollywood. Hollywood is watchable in several installments on YouTube.

We are proud to welcome our new sponsor, Audible.com! Get a free audiobook and a 30-day trial at Audible.com/remember

Sources:

Basinger, Jeanine. Silent Stars. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 2012

Bret, David. Greta Garbo: The Divine Star. London: Robson Press, 2012. 

Conway, Michael; McGregor, Dion & Ricci, Mark. The Complete Films of Greta Garbo. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1991.

Eyman, Scott Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer . Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition. 2008

Eyman, Scott The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930 Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition. 1998

Golden, Eve John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars (Screen Classics) The University Press of Kentucky. Kindle Edition. 2013

Krützen, Michaela. The Most Beautiful Woman on the Screen: The Fabrication of the Star Greta Garbo. Berlin: Peter Lang, 1992.

"Garbo's Last Days" by Michael Gross. New York Magazine, May 21, 1990

MGM Stories Part Three: Buster Keaton's Biggest Mistake by Karina Longworth

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In 1928, silent comedy star Buster Keaton made what he would later call “the worst mistake of my career”: against the advice of fellow silent comedy auteurs like Charlie Chaplin, he gave up his independent production shingle and signed a contract with MGM. A vaudevillian who got his start working with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, by the late 1920s Keaton had established himself as a solo writer, director and star who was known for doing his own spectacular but reckless stunts. Keaton joined MGM with a promise from his friend Joe Schenck that nothing would change, only to find himself in his new situation demoted from artistic boss to employee of a corporation interested in protecting its investment above all. The lack of agency and ability to personally control the quality of his own work within the confines of Mayer’s studio drove Keaton to alcoholism, which further doomed his tenure at MGM. Keaton’s experience is perhaps the first major example of an indie filmmaker “selling out” to a big studio, only to be swallowed up by the system.

This episode was edited by Henry Molofsky.

Sources for this episode: 

My Wonderful World of Slapstick by Buster Keaton and Charles Samuels

Buster Keaton Oral History, Columbia Rare Book and Manuscript Library

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

The Fall of Buster Keaton by James L. Neibaur

"Movie Classic" article about Keaton's "kidnapping" scandal

This episode includes clips of Keaton speaking, found at the following two sources:

So Funny it Hurt: Buster Keaton & MGM, a documentary by Kevin Brownlow and Christopher Bird.

Keaton in conversation with Studs Turkel, September 1960. 

We also borrowed this clip from Sunset Boulevard:

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

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.

Star Wars Episode XI: Charlie Chaplin by Karina Longworth

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The most successful film of Charlie Chaplin’s career was also the most controversial: in The Great Dictator, Chaplin viciously satirized Hitler before the US entered World War II, and the comedy helped rally a previously war-shy American public. We’ll explore the connections between Chaplin and Adolf Hitler, and explain why most of Hollywood tried to stop The Great Dictator from being made. Then we’ll switch gears to discuss how Chapin’s wartime activism and his troubled personal life collided to benefit J. Edgar Hoover, who spent thirty years trying to prove that Chaplin was dangerously un-American. 

Show Notes:

The impetus for this episode was a documentary produced and aired by TCM, which I first saw about a year ago, called The Tramp and the Dictator. The film was co-directed by Michael Kloft and the great silent film historian Kevin Brownlow (if you haven't seen his series Hollywood, on the silent era, find it and watch it post haste), and it tells the story of how and why Chaplin made The Great Dictator, using previously unseen material shot on the set of the film. I thought it would be interesting to contrast this aspect of Chaplin's war experience with the section of City of Nets in which Otto Friedrich describes Chaplin's personal life and the scandals it caused during the war years as a kind of prelude to the legal issues that would get him thrown out of the US a few years later. 

 

Additional Bibliography:

Chaplin's War Trilogy: An Evolving Lens in Three Dark Comedies, 1918-1947 by Wes D. Gehring

Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics  By Steven J. Ross

CharlieChaplin: Jewish or Goyish?

Audio excerpts from The Tramp and The Dictator and The Great Dictator via YouTube

Discography:

Preludes for Piano #2 by George Gershwin

Wonder Cycle by Chris Zabriskie

Benbient by Canton

Exlibris by Kosta T

Gagool by Kevin MacLeod

Devastation and Revenge by Kevin MacLeod

I Need to Start Writing Things Down by Chris Zabriskie

Out of the Skies, Under the Earth by Chris Zabriskie

Ghost Dance by Kevin MacLeod

I Know a Guy by Kevin MacLeod

Robocop by Kanye West

YMRT #17 Theda Bara, Hollywood's First Sex Symbol by Karina Longworth

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Theda Bara might be the most significant celebrity pioneer whose movies you’ve never seen. She was the movie industry’s first sex symbol; the first femme fatale; the first silent film actress to have a fictional identity invented for her by publicists and sold through a receptive media to a public who was happy to be conned; and she might have been America’s first homegrown goth.  She was one of the three biggest stars in Hollywood during her heyday — the other two being Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford — but by the early 1920s, the Victorian sexual panic she represented was way passé, thanks to the rise of the flapper, and Bara couldn’t get a job. Today most of her films are lost, and culturally she’s all but been forgotten. In this episode, we’ll trace her life and brief, bright career, and talk about what it was like to be a working actress, one of the most famous women in the world, and the embodiment of an intentionally scary fantasy during the very first days of Hollywood.

Show Notes!

There are two biographies on ThedaBara. Both of them (kind of weirdly) were published in 1996. Eve Golden’s Vamp is the livelier read, and it seems to pop up in a lot of bibliographies. But there is also ThedaBara: A Biography of the Silent Screen Vamp, with a Filmographyby Ronald Ginini. Vamp has one of the most famous photos of Bara on its cover; I believe that photo was one of the ones taken by Jack Freundlich, as discussed in this episode. A great source on Fruendlich’s work, with Bara and beyond, is Still: American Silent Motion Picture Photography by David S. Shields. Still was an important background resource for my own book on Hollywood still photography, Hollywood Frame by Frame

Here is a link to all of the Richard Avedon photos of Marilyn Monroe as former Hollywood sex symbols, and this is the Theda shot:

Other sources I consulted while working on this episode include Kevin Brownlow’s The Parade’s Gone By; Louise Brooks’Lulu in Hollywood; and Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon.

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Discography:

“Preludes for Piano 2” by George Gershwin

“You Could Never Tell” by The Horrors

“Atmosphere” by Joy Division

“Untitled” by Body/Head

“Undercover Vampire Policeman” by Chris Zabriskie

“Readers! Do You Read?” by Chris Zabriskie

“Ball and Biscuit” by The White Stripes

“Surprise Ending” by Helium

“Baby Vampire Made Me” by Helium

“Rub ’Til It Bleeds” by PJ Harvey

“Benbient” by canton

“Ceremony” by New Order, covered by Galaxie 500

“Damned if She Do” by The Kills

“Gymnopedie No. 3” by Eric Satie, performed by Kevin MacLeod

“Rock My Boat” by DNTEL