You Must Remember This
As these things go these days, it started with a Tweet. Frank Pavich, director of the brilliant Jodorowsky's Dune, tweeted a short reference to a podcast I’d never heard of and Charlie Manson:
As a Radio 4 fan, I’m a tad late to this whole podcasting business, other than Kermode and Mayo and The Empire Podcast. But, Charlie Manson has always scared me… Scared me, but I don’t know not a hell of a lot about him. Like most people, my image of Manson is him in prison, swastika on his head and the spectre of Sharon Tate in his eyes. Pavich was pointing to a podcast about the world that Manson tried desperately to become a part of, Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This. Karina Longworth is the former film critic of LA Weekly and the author of a number of books on film and film related people. After she left LA Weekly, needing something to keep her going, she started looking into podcasting and chose for her subject a period in Hollywood’s history that fascinated her. The result is a podcast about the "secret and/or forgotten history of Hollywood's first century". It is a wonderfully evocative show that looks at all the angles of the age, the stars, the moguls and the movies they created, despite it all. Longworth’s style is conversational, letting us in on the secret, guiding us past the glitz, into the darker side of the world we think we know. Sometimes the stories Karina tells are familiar, but the tale is in the telling and she holds us with a relaxed authority that draws you in, creates a level of trust and enthrals along the way.
The early episodes are fun, with Longworth trying out variations on the format, finding her style and growing in confidence with each show. The “lost” first episode about Kim Novak can be found if you look hard enough (or click here), but it is the multi-part episodes where Longworth finds her stride, allowing the tales to breathe and the characters to round. The “Star Wars” series about what the stars got up too during World War 2 is wonderful, with the Gene Tierney episode being a particular highlight. Each episode takes time to look at the efforts the stars made for the greater good, when political leanings didn’t matter as long as you pulled for Uncle Sam. Those same leanings would come back to haunt many in the years that followed. It is here, when Longworth looks into the darkest part of Hollywood’s heart, that the series, and Karina’s wonderful journalistic and storytelling abilities, come to the fore. The Charlie Manson’s Hollywood season is one of those rare treats that informs, entertains and chills to the very core. The cast is huge, but at the centre is a man who wanted more than anything to be one of the stars we worshipped and, to some degree, he achieved his aim. The Tate Murders is one of those moments in modern history by which an age is defined. When Manson’s family entered into 10050 Cielo Drive on the night of August 8th 1969, the ‘60’s ended. In most tales, this would be the beginning or the end of the story, but for Longworth, it is the fulcrum. It is referenced and talked about for most of the the first two thirds of the series, before a whole episode is given over to that fateful evening. The shaping of the series is masterful. The stores around Manson that Longworth covers are sensitive and never sensationalistic. The human cost, to both those seduced by Manson and those destroyed by him are explored and the number of people that intersect with Manson and The Family along the way is extraordinary. The series is journalistic perfection.
Each episode is interspersed with Longworth’s friends popping up with voices for the cast of each week’s tale and the regular usage of her own acting skills. The voices are great and give the feeling of a tale being told amongst friends over a bottle or two of plonk. As Miss Longworth is American, interesting pronunciation of foreign climes are to be expected and a drinking game could easily built around them. Now that she is living here in The Greatest City On Earth, this will no doubt improve and this paragraph forever spoil my dream of doing one of the voices on the show.
The show is so much more than just another Hollywood history. The human tales are the at the heart of the series and the true cost of the glamour that we all, despite ourselves, worship. The glimpse of the real people behind the lights, the battles, traumas, rivers of booze and drugs and the constant heartbreak they all faced, whether mogul or actor, does make you wonder if it was all worth it. But, at the end of it all, the work continues to shine. You Must Remember This is a work of love and goes from strength to strength with each episode. It is wonderful to see the praise Karina Longworth is receiving for this show these days, I'm sure there are others writing about it even as bash out these words, but it is not about being in a club any more, its about sharing a show that in my mind is as unmissable as Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time on a Thursday morning. The work that goes into it is comparable and the heart probably more so. Thank you for creating this Karina, it is a gem.