I’ve listened to podcasts off and on for years, but it wasn’t until I moved to New York that I made them a regular part of my life. Running errands, walking home from work, waiting at the laundromat for my clothes to dry…podcasts became a welcome addition to a life lived earbuds-in.
My tastes tend towards news, and usually NPR content at that. I get Fresh Air‘s daily feed, always learn something new from Planet Money, and if I don’t catch Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me on Saturday mornings, the podcast pops up in my iTunes feed later that day.
While in Manhattan I got into How Stuff Works (I don’t remember how exactly), and of course I devoured every episode of Serial as soon as it came out. On Being, Invisibilia, Mystery Show and even Elizabeth Gilbert’s promotional podcast in advance of the release of Big Magic…I suppose I do have quite a roster of episodes to keep my ears occupied.
The one I’m enjoying the most, though, is a series I was turned onto by current coworkers, fellow movie-lovers who tipped me off to You Must Remember This, a weekly movie history podcast by writer Karina Longworth. The tagline sums the series up as “the secret and/or forgotten history of Hollywood’s first century.” In other words, all things fantastic and fascinating from an era and an industry I’ve been in love with my whole life.
The podcast has only been around for a few years, so getting started was a combination of the latest episodes as they became available and scouring the archives for interesting topics, including Judy Garland’s many lives following The Wizard of Oz, Frank Sinatra’s widely forgotten album about space travel, the many loves of Howard Hughes, Mia Farrow’s earliest years and so much more. Early on, it got to be so that I would forego whatever TV show I was bingeing at the time in favor of listening to a couple episodes of YMRT on a given evening, the perfect companion to chores around the apartment.
Longworth dedicated six episodes at the end of last season to the Charles Manson saga, a retelling so detailed and in-depth that I went from casual understanding of the man and his cult to an informed comprehension of the tragedy’s origins and implications on the industry and the country as it all unfolded. Longworth’s ability to marry a detailed context of time and place with little-known backstories and asides immerses the listener in the history at hand. Her entirely enjoyable style mixes the exhaustive research of an academic with a touch of Page Six gossip, all connected by the thread of a cinephile’s genuine passion for her subject matter.
This season, Longworth scoured her forum for episode ideas, emerging with suggestions that all pointed towards one bastion of the golden era of Hollywood, the stalwart studio MGM. Every episode tackles an aspect of the studio’s history, including a first episode on how it came to be, profiles of early stars Buster Keaton and Jean Harlow, and more recently an episode titled MGM’s Kids, which recounted not only Judy Garland and Andy Rooney’s childhood careers, but lesser-known young stars, too.
I typically save the episodes to listen to when I know I can really pay attention. Where I might play other episodes while I’m working on something else or checking out at the grocery store, the chance for momentary distraction high, I find myself riveted to every minute of YMRT. In fact, I’m often rewinding the audio if I do miss event a tidbit, so information-packed is every episode. (Side note: do we rewind anymore? What’s the word for that in this digital age?)
If you’re a fan of old Hollywood, good podcasts or both, I highly recommend checking out You Must Remember This. Dig into the archives and subscribe to get all the latest episodes, too. Your weekly errands will thank you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a new episode about Spencer Tracy to listen to.