Hollywood, Howard Hughes, Karina Longworth discussed on Fresh Air

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Terry gross. Let's get back to my interview with Karina Longworth who host the podcast you must. Remember this about Hollywood's first century, her new book seduction is about movie mogul Howard us who was famous for his affairs with many beautiful and famous actresses and turning some of them into sex symbols Longworth says she wanted to tell us a story from the women's perspective in the late nineteen forties around the time of the Hollywood blacklist. When writers directors and actors were being denied work for being accused of having communist ties or sympathies us acquired a controlling share of the film studio are KO pictures. So Howard us was part of the blacklisting. I mean, he tried to purge his studio or K from anybody. Who might have, you know, communist sympathies? Yes, he was one of the most fervent anti communists in Hollywood. During the blacklist era, you know, he had this image of himself as. As being one of the great capitalists. So on some sense. It's just binary capitalism. Cannot coexist with communism. But I also think that there was this thing where he he really thought of communists as an infestation in Hollywood. And then the other side of that is that the studio are KO was not doing well at the time. And there may have been a part of him that just needed to kind of shut down production and create a distraction. So some people think including Paul Jericho who was engaged in a lawsuit with at the time. Paul Jericho was a screenwriter who Hughes fired from our KO after Jericho refused to speak to the house unamerican activities committee, Paul Jericho believed that Hughes had shut down our KO as a publicity stunt to distract away. From the fact that our Cao's movies weren't doing. Well, so in the late nineteen forties. Howard us buys Arcadio. So how did he do as an actual studio head? So most people think that he basically destroyed our KO studios when he bought it. It was profitable. And then when he ended up divesting at in the mid ninety. Eighteen fifty is. It was a shell of what had formerly been throughout the time when he owned and operated it he had a really hard time producing and releasing enough movies to maintain a prophet, and this has to do with his personal perfectionism. He would send a moving into production. And then he would fire director after director. He would be unhappy with the dailies he would make casting changes. And then sometimes movies would be finished. And they would just sit on a shelf for months or even years because he wasn't sure what to call the film like he would change the title over and over again or he would wait for inspiration to strike him in terms of marketing, and he ended up being sued by a lot of the shareholders for our KO because they felt that he was just pilfering away their money and in two specific lawsuits he was accused of using the studio as kind of a shell corporation. So that he could just basically neat women and pay them off. One of the one of the the lawsuits specifically cited Jane Russell as a waste of assets. And another one named for actresses who had been under contract to ARCO, but who had never actually filmed a film for the studio, you suggest, and I think a lot of people suggest this that a lot of his problems came from those plane crashes that they could have affected him mentally as well as physically and also led to dependence on drugs like codeine. Yes. So what are some of the problems? He had both as a filmmaker and just as a person and in his relationships that you think might be traced back to the plane crashes. Well, both the acquisition of our KO and the mismanagement of that studio and some of this compulsive starlet juggling that we've talked about these things like exceleron after the nineteen forty six crashed all of the archaic stuff happens after the nineteen Forty-six crash. But also after that point, it's when he's involved with many women at one time and seems to be pathologically juggling them. He seems to be getting his excitement out of having multiple women who he's telling all kinds of lies to rather than actually getting sexual excitement. Yeah. You describe him living a liking, the Beverly Hills hotel custody could have different women in different bungalows. And they wouldn't know that the others were there other women were unaware of the other women, so he'd have in the central location all these different women for him to choose from. Right. And then he would be telling them all elaborate lies when he couldn't be with them. Or when he would choose to be with another woman. He would be like, I'm in New York. But. I'm gonna fly in tomorrow. And meanwhile, he would be in the next bungalow just on the phone with them. You started a series on the many loves of Howard us before the metoo movement, and your book is being published after the metoo movement has gotten going to the metoo movement change, the context of what you were writing in any way. Like, did you see what you were in covering any differently? Or did it take on new meaning for you? It really didn't at all the book is what I planned to write in two thousand fifteen when I I sold it the thing that has changed is the world that it's being released into. And so I, you know, I think it's good that people seem more interested and more receptive into having these conversations now than they did three years ago as somebody who studies the golden age of Hollywood so to speak. What was your reaction when when when women started coming forward talking about Harvey Weinstein talking about other people in Hollywood who had tried to control them sexually? I think the conversation itself is revolutionary the thing that I've come to understand from studying the twentieth century of Hollywood is that these things have always happened. And they were never talked about publicly. They were things that women were meant to believe that they had to accept as a trade off in order to get the benefits of stardom or working in the industry, and that if they weren't receptive to that trade off they could go find another job. So just the fact that we're having conversation is completely revolutionary the language has changed too. I mean like, you wouldn't use the word playboy and ladies man anymore. But that's so new I mean, it's we have only really stopped using terms like playboy, I think in the past couple of years. Yeah. Me too movement like you. I don't think you use that word right now. Yeah. I mean, when I first started writing the proposal for this book, I think that there was more of an appetite for a book that took a playboy seriously at face value. And and thought that that was something to kind of cheer on a reason to be excited about Howard Hughes. And I was always interested in telling the story from the other perspective. I was always interested in in telling the story of what it would feel like to be a woman who is just on that list of conquests. So the first time I heard your podcast, you must remember this. I didn't know what to expect. I heard it was great. And if you're leveled Hollywood's a great podcast, and I I love old Hollywood's I figured I should try it out, and you were basically like reading an extended essay. And I thought like when does the interview start, and I realized not as not going to be an interview is this is gonna be Carina just like reading, you know, her very well researched essay. Which is very lively written. And that's that's what it is. So it really goes against what like good production values are supposed to be with lots of different elements woven around them. But you know, they those of us who love the podcast like we want to hear you tell the story of what happened to the actors and actresses and directors and movies. So what made you think you could do a podcast with you just like reading what you've written? Well, maybe it's because I don't come from radio. So I didn't know what the rules were. I didn't know that. I was breaking the rules. I started the podcast in two thousand fourteen I had quit my film criticism job. I had a part time teaching job. But I wasn't really sure what I was gonna do with my career. All I knew is that I really did want to refocus and be talking about old movies rather than new movies. And so I just kind of created the podcast as kind of a proof of concept to show that I could do this research, and that maybe there was unexpected or unusual ways of disseminating my research on my writing, and then it kind of took on a life of its own. So yeah, I didn't I didn't know that I was violating the rules of good production. I just heard it in my head. And then I made it. During a longer. Thank you so much for talking with us and for your book and your podcast. Thank you so much Terry Karina Longworth host the podcast. You must remember this about the secret and forgotten histories of Hollywood's first century, her new book is called seduction sex lies and stardom in Howard uses Hollywood after we take a short break will listen back to my nineteen ninety one interview with scan Lee co-creator of Spiderman Black Panther, the incredible hulk and other marvel comics superheroes. He died yesterday at the age of ninety five this is fresh air..

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