If there is a more iconic lyric from a movie, I’d be hard-pressed to think of it. “You must remember this” is, of course, the opening line of the immortal song, “As Time Goes By,” which became legendary because of its appearance in a little movie called Casablanca. But these days You Must Remember This has a new meaning. It’s a great podcast on movie history (“the secret and/or forgotten history of Hollywood’s first century”) by Karina Longworth.
Let me start out by saying I am categorically NOT a podcast person. I don’t like listening to audio books or podcasts. In the case of books, I like the intimacy of my eyes on a page, silently reading the words (I’ve been reading on my own without moving my lips since I was 35), staying true to the unspoken bond between author and reader. I think anyone reading those words aloud offers their own interpretation of the author’s intent. As for podcasts, I admit a very light “toe in the water” approach, mainly because podcasts strike me as an empty lesson from the “experts on everything,” an attitude I (sadly) have to deal with on a daily basis—at least weekdays, that is.
But I was pleasantly surprised by Longworth’s YMRT, which is at slightly over 90 separate podcasts at this point, most clocking in at the 40-45 minute range (although there are some longer and shorter). I am currently smack dab in the middle of her backlist, listening to the series-within-a-series “MGM Stories,” a fascinating run of 15 episodes that includes podcasts about Louis B. Mayer, Irving Thalberg, Eddie Mannix, David O. Selznick (from the studio management side of things) to actors Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, William Haines, Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor, plus my own personal favorite, Buster Keaton. (The Mannix episode takes a side-turn into the tragic fate of TV’s Superman, George Reeves, and Mannix’s possible involvement—via marriage to Reeves’ longtime girlfriend—in the strange death of the actor.) Other series include the Blacklist and her current set of podcasts, Six Degrees of Joan Crawford (this week’s—#91—focusing on the alleged feud between Crawford and Bette Davis).
Longworth’s writing and research is detailed and thorough. I’ve learned a number of new things, even though I consider myself a student of Hollywood history for many years now, at least since I was a teenager and read my first book on the Marx Brothers. That book not only inspired a love of those particular comedic actors, but a deep and abiding fascination with Hollywood, especially the studio system of the Golden Age. If you read any reviews of YMRT, you’re going to find that you’re either going to love or hate Longworth’s voice (she writes, produces and narrates all her podcasts). I love it. While it has a slight Valley Girl lilt to it at times, I find her voice pleasant, authoritative, and kind of charming. At times, she uses other voices for quotes from some of her subjects or she herself provides a different accent on a quote. Those times are, unfortunately, sometimes laughable, but A for effort. It’s definitely substance over style on these podcasts, and Longworth’s subject matter and in-depth reporting is fascinating enough for me to want to listen to ALL of her episodes, even those I have little interest in. (One small suggestion, which may or may not exist somewhere: I find the choice of music at the end of each show fascinating and enjoyable and I’d appreciate a list of the music used, or including individual closing music credits within the show notes for each episode.)
I have been on a quest lately to find new things to fill my idle time, sort of a prerequisite of anyone considering retirement, I suppose. Finding a podcast I like to listen to is sort of a godsend, especially since it’s a very enjoyable experience on a walk. On this past Sunday, I listened to three of Longworth’s YMRT episodes, the ones on Buster Keaton, William Haines, and Garbo/Gilbert. I enjoyed it much more than just listening to music while walking.
You Must Remember This is part of the Panoply network of podcasts, from Slate magazine. There’s more about Longworth here, including reviews and her past history as a writer/film reviewer). YMRT appears on iTunes and is free to download. I’m looking forward to eventually listening to all of the available episodes. If you’re a fan of Hollywood history and haven’t yet discovered this gem of a podcast … well, as Longworth herself says: “Join us, won’t you?”
Much more info here, including actual episodes and show notes: http://www.youmustrememberthispodcast.com/
Featured image above © Karina Longworth