I have a new obsession. If it were a man, my husband would be jealous (or so I would hope.) All weekend and much of this week so far, I’ve been listening to the You Must Remember This podcast, which is written and voiced by Karina Longworth. Its tagline is “exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of 20th Century Hollywood.”
Why do I love it? It’s like eating a bag of potato chips, or a box of candy, but they’re really smart potato chips, and really nutritious candy. I think I’ve shared here before that on the rare occasions I read history books for pleasure, I read twentieth-century U.S. history. Longworth’s research and writing are all that, plus celebrity gossip, and more!
But by far, the best thing about You Must Remember This is the clear feminist through-line of Longworth’s analysis of the careers of women artists. I burned through the entire 12-part series she did last summer on “Charles Manson’s Hollywood” while washing my windows on Sunday afternoon, and this almost made window-washing a pleasure. This series includes a riveting analysis of Manson Family murder victim Sharon Tate’s short acting career along with a consideration of the not-very-revolutionary aspects of the Sexual Revolution for most women, even (or especially) women in the industry. Since then I’ve heard her fascinating reconsiderations of the careers of Marion Davies and Mia Farrow.
Longworth is clearly interested in excavating the careers of women who were overshadowed or utterly dominated by the powerful men in their lives–in Tate’s case, Roman Polanski; in Davies’ case, William Randolph Hearst; and in Farrow’s case, Frank Sinatra. She is also highly alert to the ironies of history, and to the tangle of friendships, romances, and business that characterize the entertainment industry. What on earth could possibly connect Doris Day and Candace Bergen to the Manson Family murders? You’ll find out if you listen to “Charles Manson’s Hollywood.” (WARNING: you may be exposed to VD by just listening to this series. Pack a prophylactic dose of penicillin just in case.)
I love your work, Karina Longworth. It’s a fantastic example of bringing both history and feminism to the public in an accessible and entertaining format. Check it out. You’re welcome!