Has Serial’s hiatus left you hungry for mystery? Has The Mystery Show’s short catalog left you hurting for quirky tales of loss and love? Has How Did This Get Made made you ravenous for stories of Hollywood madness and malfeasance? Then you should check out You Must Remember This, a podcast hosted by Cinematical.com founder/former LA Weekly film critic Karina Longworth that weighs conflicting reports and apocryphal Hollywood legends to craft mesmerizing narratives of fame, fortune and fuckery.
As writer and narrator, Longworth has a lurid yet matter-of-fact approach to storytelling. She digs deep into the scandal rags and memoirs of Old Hollywood to unearth the secrets of its stars, movers and shakers. But her smoky, conspiratorial tone implies a kind of “but for the grace of God go I” casualness that keeps things from feeling unseemly or muckraking. Her bemused but empathetic approach—punctuated with the occasional four-letter word—makes it feel like you’re girlfriends meeting over a great glass of wine in a dark but cozy bar. Her voice urges you to lean in as she dishes the dramas of a mutual friend.
You can tell yourself you’re tuning in for the history if you like. Longworth is a noted biographer, who is dedicated in giving context along with detailed accounts of how movies thrived or failed. But it’s her passion for telling the personal along with the historical that makes You Must Remember This so addictive. And she’s a hell of a storyteller, adding in killer quotes, juicy gossip and stunning facts with each chapter of her rich narratives.
I’ve only begun listening this week. But cherry picking the titles that most appealed to me, here’s some delicious tidbits I’ve discovered thanks to Longworth:
*Audrey Hepburn cemented herself as a fashion icon by picking out her own French couture for Sabrina. Yet some critics sneered at her look that rejected the male gaze or her so-called “lack of secondary sex characteristics.” Assholes.
*A major row between Ava Gardner and Howard Hughes began when she discovered he’d bugged her bedroom, and ended with her beating him so badly he told his cuckolded fiancee Faith Domergue that he’d been in a car crash. He would be later, when Domergue caught him with Gardner, and ran her car into ribbons in an impromptu revenge attempt.
*Hughes was a vengeful slut, using his RKO studio as a personal pick-up palace, firing women who he didn’t find attractive or those who had the audacity not to bed him, even if they were married. (That had never stopped him after all.)
*Jane Russell had a back-alley abortion that didn’t take the first time around. It left her sterile, and inspired her to reconnect to her faith in God.
*Humphrey Bogart once got into a drunken fight with a model who tried to take a toy panda from him. She took him to court for being shoved, but “The judge declared it was Bogart’s panda, and he had the right to defend it.”
*A widowed Lauren Bacall found solace in the arms of the late Bogart’s playboy pal, Frank Sinatra. And the two very nearly got married, except that the gossip pages found out and spooked Sinatra off.
*An idiotic and overzealous fan forever altered glamor girl Gene Tierney’s fate by breaking quarantine to rub elbow’s with her favorite stars. A polite and pregnant Tierney contracted rubella from the moron movie lover, an affliction that caused her daughter Daria to be born deaf and mentally disabled.
*After a dinner party at Elizabeth Taylor’s, her dear friend Montgomery Clift got into a terrible automobile accident that knocked out his front teeth. When a distraught Liz got to the scene, it’s said she reached into the bloody mess where his face should be to pull the teeth from his throat to keep him from suffocating.
*Bruce Lee pitched a television show that would star himself as a martial artist in the Wild West, fighting gun slingers with his lighting fast limbs. It was rejected, then a strikingly similar property was erected without him. The key difference was Kung Fu was fronted by a white guy, David Carradine. Disgusted, Lee left Hollywood to return to Hong Kong and make The Way of the Dragon.
You know how much a I love a good story of Hollywood hustle and oh-no. If you do too, dig into You Must Remember This, which currently boasts 55 episodes. And if you’re glancing at the page and wondering, ‘Why so much Star Wars stuff?’ Know that Longworth’s cheeky sense of humor means her “Star Wars” section is about stars who rose during wartime.
Next, I’ll be digging into the Madonna two-parter . Something tells me I’ll need a glass of wine too cool my nerves over the events in Episode 12: Madonna from Sean to Warren.
Kristy Puchko finds few things are as old-school Hollywood glamor as day drinking.