There’s something inherently seductive about the glitz and glamour of Old Hollywood. Perhaps it’s the backstage intrigue and the tawdry tales of showbusiness hedonism that draws us in again and again. Or maybe it’s the romanticized image of smokey rooms, silken gowns and stylish fedoras that we find so endlessly alluring. For many, however, it’s the larger-than-life figures from silver screen history that remain irresistible decades later.
Whatever the reason, films, books and television shows about Hollywood’s Golden Age continue to captivate new generations year after year. Look no further than Oscar-winners like “The Artist,” bestsellers like Shawn Levy’s “The Castle on Sunset,” acclaimed documentaries like “Tab Hunter Confidential,” and a host of recent TV series from Ryan Murphy if you have any doubt. Each of these attempt, in some way, to simultaneously celebrate the era while pulling back the curtain on the studio system.
And that’s certainly true of podcasts as well. In fact, a growing number of audio shows are setting their sights on capturing the attention of classic movie fans by creating downloadable content that explores Tinseltown’s early history in glorious detail. So if you can’t get enough of Old Hollywood, here are 10 podcasts you’ll definitely want to add to your personal playlist.
Launched by critic, author and journalist Karina Longworth in 2014, “You Must Remember This” is much more than just an acclaimed Old Hollywood podcast. Thanks to its sterling writing, in-depth research and unmatched production quality, it’s the current gold standard of film-themed podcasts in general. Past seasons have focused on topics like the romantic life of Howard Hughes, the Hollywood blacklist of the 1940s and ‘50s, the complex career of Joan Crawford and the professional rivalry between horror stars Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. With more than 180 episodes available for download – each of them exploring a fascinating story of Hollywood history – it’s the type of show that quickly becomes an obsession.
Fans of Old Hollywood consider Turner Classic Movies to be the crown jewel of cable TV, so it only makes sense that the channel’s official podcast would rank high on this list. Hosted by TCM’s own Ben Mankiewicz, each episode of “The Plot Thickens” takes listeners behind the scenes of some of the most famous – and infamous – films ever made. Season one of this award-winning podcast focuses on director Peter Bogdanovich, whose personal stories about Orson Welles, John Ford, Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock provide at least a dozen driveway moments. Although season two switched things up a bit by concentrating on the 1990 box-office flop “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” the upcoming third season will return to the subject of Old Hollywood by examining the private life and public career of Lucille Ball.
Created by Kristen Lopez, and hosted by film producer and programmer Drea Clark and movie columnist Samantha Ellis, “Ticklish Business” is a lively podcast for devotees of Old Hollywood. In addition to providing insightful reviews of classics like “Swing Time,” “In a Lonely Place” and “Mildred Pierce,” the show also features a remarkable roster of guests dropping by for a chat. From delightful TCM host Alicia Malone to hardboiled novelist Max Allan Collins to bona fide stars like Dyan Cannon and Carroll Baker, you never know who’ll turn up next. A recent standout episode included a thoughtful interview with Patricia Ward Kelly, the widow of the legendary Gene Kelly, who discussed her late husband’s life and work in moving detail.
Think of Old Hollywood and chances are good that at least a few juicy celebrity scandals will spring to mind. The two just naturally seem to go hand in hand for some reason. And that’s where the new limited series “Love is a Crime” comes in. Produced in association with “Vanity Fair” and podcast studio Cadence 13, the show tells the story of Oscar-nominated producer Walter Wanger, who served time in prison for shooting Jennings Lang, the agent representing Wanger’s wife, actress Joan Bennett. Hosted by Karina Longworth and film producer Vanessa Hope (granddaughter of Wanger and Bennett), “Love is a Crime” is perhaps most notable for the impressive cast that brings each episode to life. Jon Hamm voices Wanger, Zooey Deschanel plays Bennett and Griffin Dunne portrays Lang. How’s that for star power?
Although most people know Gilbert Gottfried as an outrageous stand-up comedian, serious fans recognize him as an astute expert on Hollywood history. Borrowing its title from the 1957 B-movie masterpiece “The Amazing Colossal Man,” Gottfried’s long-running podcast features hilarious discussions about classic films, as well as an array of colorful interviews with veteran actors like Bruce Dern and Malcolm McDowell, comedians like Patton Oswalt and Artie Lange and film historians like Leonard Maltin and Ben Mankiewicz. Best of all, if you tune in frequently, you’re guaranteed to hear Gottfried perform some of his incredible Old Hollywood impressions. Try as you might, you won’t find another podcast where the host mimics Groucho Marx and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” star Kevin McCarthy with such astonishing ease.
Fans of “LA Confidential” will find much to love in this 6-part series from popular podcast network Wondery. Set in 1922, the show chronicles the shocking murder of prolific film director William Desmond Taylor, who was found shot to death in his Los Angeles home. Hosted by Hollywood historian Tracy Pattin and narrated by award-winning actor James Remar, whose baritone voice is perfect for bringing an audio noir like this to life, “Murder in Hollywoodland” explores every aspect of this still-unsolved mystery. Using vintage music and lifelike sound-effects, it’s an immersive podcast that transports listeners back to one of the strangest crime sagas in movie history. A bonus seventh episode includes an intriguing conversation between Pattin and William Mann, author of “Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood,” where they discuss possible theories on who the real killer might have been.
Although this eight-episode documentary series tells the story of the 2005 theft of the iconic ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz,” it’s not just another true crime podcast. While the ins and outs of the bizarre heist are covered in fascinating detail, the real subject of the show is the uncanny power that historic objects from Old Hollywood hold on our collective imagination. Written by journalist Ariel Ramchandani, and narrated by Ramchandani and editor Seyward Darby, “There’s No Place Like Home” tackles a rich assortment of themes and topics, including the strained relationship between Garland and her hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and the curious subculture of movie memorabilia collectors whose obsessive fixation on artifacts from the past drives some of them to the point of criminal behavior.
Hosted by Chicago food writer and passionate movie buff Michael Gebert, “NitrateVille Radio” is a low-key charmer where archivists, collectors, authors and preservationists drop by to discuss classic films. You’ll hear about stars like Tyrone Power and Mae West one week and silent film pioneers like Lois Weber the next. Some episodes feature well-informed interviews with experts like noir historian Eddie Muller, while others offer coverage of popular events like the TCM Film Festival. Basically, it’s a grab-bag approach that covers everything from pre-code Hollywood movies to the best of Yiddish cinema. And since Gebert has been publishing episodes since 2017, there’s a wealth of material to download if the show strikes your fancy.
Chronicling the Golden Age of moviemaking with warmth and good humor, podcast host Grace Collins has produced a staggering number of episodes in a relatively brief amount of time. That’s a testament to her obvious fondness for classic cinema, which shines through whenever she discusses the quirky backstories of the filmmakers and performers she grew up watching. Although many episodes contain interviews with erudite authors and celebrity biographers, others focus on topics like the history of blonde bombshells and iconic Hollywood romances. And as one might expect with a title like “True Stories of Tinseltown,” infamous crimes and scandals are covered in detail as well. It’s the kind of do-it-yourself Old Hollywood podcast that offers a little something for everyone.
Dubbed “an appreciation podcast” by enthusiastic host Francesca Luisi, each episode of this independently produced show offers a deep dive into the making of a specific classic from Hollywood’s Golden Age. And by deep dive, we mean some episodes exceed two hours in length. While that running time might test the patience of casual listeners, hardcore movie fans should feel right at home. The titles covered so far include celebrated films like “West Side Story,” “Casablanca,” “Psycho” and “East of Eden.” In addition to her well-researched look at the making of these timeless treasures, Luisi also places the films in personal context, sharing an occasional poignant memory about seeing them as a child for the first time.