Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift were best friends and co-stars in three films. This episode tracks Taylor's relationship with the troubled Clift, from their first, studio-setup date through his untimely death.
Raquel Welch, a former cocktail waitress and divorced mother of two, found herself in the odd position of being an old-fashioned sex goddess in the age of flower children and feminism.
Our long-running series on the women in the life of the infamous aviator/filmmaker continues with a look at Hughes’ professional and personal relationship with Jane Russell, which began in 1940 when Hughes randomly pulled a photograph of the 19 year-old out of a pile, and lasted for most of her film career.
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; and she might have been America’s first homegrown goth.
This is the story of how, with two movies shot in 1971, Marlon Brando turned his career around, spent his regained celebrity capital on an act of social activism, and put Hollywood's culture of self-adoration in its place.
In the concluding chapter of a two-part episode about Madonna and movies, we talk about her mutually beneficial professional and personal involvement with Warren Beatty.
When Humphrey Bogart died, Lauren Bacall was just 32 years old. This is the story of how Bacall spent the remaining 57 years of her life, and her lifelong struggle to find a balance between being Mrs. So-and-So, and being Lauren Bacall.
A look at how Humphrey Bogart became Bogey, tracing his journey from blue blood beginnings through years of undistinguished work and outright failure, to his emergence in the early 1940s as a symbol of wartime perseverance.
Over the course of two episodes, we will explore the high-cinephile period of Madonna's life and work, roughly bracketed by her relationship with Sean Penn and ending with the dissolution of her rebound affair with Warren Beatty.
A crossover episode, uniting our two ongoing series, The Many Loves of Howard Hughes and Follies of 1938, focusing on Hughes’ relationship with Katharine Hepburn, which peaked and crashed in 1938. Introduced by Hughes’ close confidant, Cary Grant, Hepburn and Hughes became a celebrity couple in the modern mold: mutually attracted in part based on the fame of the other, they were hounded by paparazzi, their rumored impending nuptials dissected by outsiders until the relationship itself frittered away. By 1938, Hepburn’s “woman wearing the pants” image had transitioned from merely controversial to cripplingly unfashionable, and when she was named in the infamous "box office poison" ad of May 1938, her career sunk as low as it would go. (Though her fame had not: note the above magazine cover, in which Kate and Howard are the glossy cover image under a tease referring to the movie quiz from the decidedly less glamorous Motion Pictures’ Greatest Year campaign — a campaign designed to help Hollywood recover from losses ostensibly incurred from the fading of stars like Hepburn.) Even as their romance was falling apart, Hughes helped to resurrect Hepburn’s career by purchasing for her the rights to the film that would change her life. He also rebounded from Hepburn by romancing two of her rivals, Bette Davis and Ginger Rogers, while proposing to just about every major female star he could find.
In May 1938, the Independent Theater Owners Association published a full-page paid editorial in The Hollywood Reporter, branding a number of big stars — including Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn and others — as “poison at the box office,” and urging the studios to cut their ties to expensive names who no longer had the drawing power they once did at the box office, in part because they symbolized a type of glamour which seemed, in 1938, to be falling out of fashion. All of the above named stars, while damaged by the bad press in the moment, went on to make “comeback” movies that helped to cement their legacies. That wasn’t the case for another actress mentioned in the ad, Kay Francis, who in 1938 was still Warner Brothers’ highest paid star — even though she had tried to sue the studio the previous year for casting her in too many bad movies. After roaring her way through New York in the 1920s as a flapper it girl, Kay Francis hit her career peak in 1932, the year she starred in Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise, but eventually she essentially lost her spot in the movie star firmament to Bette Davis. Today we’ll talk about the idea of box office poison, trace how and why Kay Francis became the embodiment of the meeting of 1930s movie star glamour and a devil-may-care pursuit of pleasure that marked pre-Code Hollywood, and explain why that magical combination wasn’t long for the world of the studio star system.
In this second installment of our ongoing series, The Many Loves of Howard Hughes, we explore the life, loves and work of Ida Lupino. Hughes dated Lupino when she was a teenage starlet; nearly 20 years later, after Lupino had become the only working female feature director in 1940s Hollywood, Hughes signed his ex-girlfriend’s production company to a deal at RKO. Hughes supported Lupino as a director, but also helped to kill off her second marriage. We’ll explore how Ida’s relationship with Hughes, and other men in her life, alternately enhanced her career and complicated it. Also: haunted houses, HUAC, The Twilight Zone, post-traumatic stress, polio, more shitty pettiness from Harry Cohn, more high-minded anti-Hollywood talk from Robert Rossellini, and much more.
This micro-episode sets up a topic we’ll be exploring throughout the summer: the films, stars and scandals of 1938. By midway through that year, Hollywood was in such a desperate downswing — and so concerned that Americans were losing interest not just in specific movies but in moviegoing as a habit — that the studios banded together to launch a massive PR campaign to convince the public that 1938 was Motion Pictures’ Greatest Year. It wasn’t.
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.
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.
Today we’re commemorating the life and career of Judy Garland, who died 45 years ago this month. Signed to a studio contract at the age of 13, encouraged to become a pill addict as a teenage MGM contract player, crowned a superstar by The Wizard of Oz at age 17 and married for the first time at 18, Garland lived more than her share of life before reaching legal maturity. But today, we’re going to pay particular attention to the last two decades of her life, the post-MGM years, during which Garland battled through one comeback after another, ultimately establishing intimate relationships with her fans on TV and in live performances that would cement Garland’s legacy as one of the most powerful performers of all time. These triumphs were, at the time, usually overlooked by an essentially paternalistic mainstream media which, much to Garland’s dismay, delighted in the negative and the tragic. We’ll explore Garland’s struggles to assert herself within an industry that nearly killed her, and against a media which seemed to be out to get her. We’ll also take a look at Garland’s rise as a gay icon, and the connection between Garland’s death and the Stonewall Riots, which took place the night of Garland’s funeral.
During the last year of his life, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was obsessed with Frances Farmer, an actress from his hometown of Seattle who died in 1970. Farmer’s beauty and unique screen presence made her a star, but her no-bullshit ballsiness made her a pariah — and a target of the hostile media — in 1930s Hollywood. Farmer’s career went down the tubes in the 1940s when a couple of incidents of inconvenient drunkenness led to her being committed to an insane asylum by her own mother, and given a lobotomy. Or, so Cobain and his wife, Courtney Love, frequently told journalists while Cobain was promoting In Utero, the Nirvana album that includes Cobain’s tribute to the actress, “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” (Love also claimed to have been married to Cobain whilst wearing a dress once owned by Farmer, and the couple named their daughter Frances, although that was likely at least co-inspired by Frances McKee of The Vaselines). Unbeknownst to them, the notion that Farmer was lobotomized was a fiction invented by a biographer with ties to Scientology, a lie which was then dramatized in an Oscar-nominated, Mel Brooks-produced movie which helped to make Jessica Lange a star. By the time Kurt and Courtney were championing Farmer as a proto-punk martyr in the 1990s, the legend of Frances Farmer as patron saint of…well, women like Courtney Love, had been printed so many times that it had swallowed up the truth of Farmer’s experience, and loomed much larger than her actual body of movie work. Today we’ll explore how, and why, that legend got printed, and try to explain how Frances Farmer became the patron saint of beautiful, bright, potentially batshit women whose self-destruction can be traced back to their signing of a studio contract. We have special guest stars! Nora Zehetner (Brick, Grey’s Anatomy, Mad Men and most recently IFC’s Maron) played Frances Farmer; Brian Clark played Kurt Cobain, and Noah Segan IS Rex Reed.
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 People, I Walked With A Zombie, The 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?
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.