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Alex Carnevale
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Ethan Peterson
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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in alex carnevale (234)

Thursday
Dec082016

In Which Ida Lupino Wore A Lot Of Face Paint

This is the first in a two part series about the actor and director Ida Lupino.

She Lived By Night

by ALEX CARNEVALE

When Ida Lupino arrived in the U.S. for the first time at the age of fifteen, Paramount representatives greeted her at the dock in Hoboken, New Jersey. She and her mother stayed at the Waldorf Astoria. The next day the picture of the Englsih actress was on the cover of the Los Angeles Times. "By the time we landed," she wrote her father, who was staying behind in England, "we looked like a couple of dead seagulls."

Paramount told her they felt she could be the next Jean Harlow, who was a platinum blonde whereas Ida was a brunette. She was nonplussed, and it was not long before she was making her dissatisfaction known. "I cannot tolerate fools, won't have anything to do with them," she told the press. "I only want to associate with brilliant people."

Before she ever debuted in a starring role, Ida Lupino contracted polio. Her feet were so painful she could barely stand. She thought of killing herself. As she recovered, she returned to the set long before doctors thought she would. That year she made $23,400.

with howard hughes

By 1935, Lupino already had a reputation as a handful. Some directors were scared away by her outspoken nature. "'I'm mad,' they say. I am temperamental and dizzy and disagreeable.," she told the press. "I can take it. Only one person can hurt me. Her name is Ida Lupino."

Her first Hollywood boyfriend was a British stage performer named Louis Hayward. Unlike the Jewish performers who took on stage names to conceal their ethnicity, Hayward's real name was Seafield Grant. This lothario was nine years older than Ida, and had to compete with a variety of men who Ida found uninteresting, including Howard Hughes. Hayward hated when Ida wore makeup, calling it face paint.

with first husband Louis Hayward

At eighteen Lupino was loaned to RKO for a series of films which did nothing but stall her career. She rented a house above the Hollywood Bowl. Returning her hair to her natural color, she decided to leave Paramount. England had no interest in her return, so she fired her agent and married Louis Hayward in the Santa Barbara courthouse. The couple moved to Beverly Hills with their terrier. After a two picture stint with Columbia, Ida demanded from mercurial director William Wellman what would become her breakout role: the slut in an adaptation of Kipling's The Light That Failed.

She signed with Warner, where she starred opposite the tiny, not-yet-a-star Humphrey Bogart in They Drive by Night. In her biggest roles, Ida played crazy with a certain contained zeal. It was not something that was done well very often, and it distinguished her from an entire generation of actresses. Her next film with Bogart inspired the jealousy of Humphrey's wife Mayo Methot. She made more than Bogart on the film High Sierra: 12,000 a week.

ida ronald.jpg?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1481209476214

Ida was now a star, and this upset her husband Louis tremendously. He began complaints to her when they woke in the morning, and she pretended to go along with it, explaining to the media that "the man is the master of the house." Louis kept her away from parties; their usual entertainment was recording the conversations of friends during dinner and playing it back afterwards.

Her closest friends had always been men, with whom she felt she did not have to be competitive. Joan Fontaine and Ann Sheridan became her closest actress pals. "Ida Lupino," Fontaine wrote of her during this period, "is the nearest thing to a caged tiger I ever saw outside a zoo. I don't think she has ever been still a whole minute of her life." Absolutely never bored, Ida was most alive in the evenings, when her mind roamed endlessly.

with Humphrey in "High Sierra"

After her father died of cancer, Ida reevaluated her career. A disastrously boring film where she played Emily Bronte was shelved for years before being recut and released to little fanfare. She feared being typecast as a crazy woman, and an idea popped into her head as a way of avoiding the fate Warner had consigned her to: she would be a director.

During the war, Ida visited returning serviceman. Louis Hayward, now a captain in the Marines, was deployed in Japan, where a bullet cracked his helmet. He went into combat carrying a camera purchased for him by his wife. When he returned home, he was intensely traumatized. Hayward was treated at three different hospitals for depression, but none shook his basic conclusion: He was done with Ida Lupino.

Ida went from a nervous breakdown to a new, Casanova-esque boyfriend in just over a year. The Austrian Helmut Dantine was a violent, drunken sociopath who could be charming when he was slightly sober. (Louis Hayward remarried in May of 1946.)

Newly single, Lupino focused on her writing. William Threely was her pen name, and she sold a screenplay she wrote with her friend Barbara Reed to RKO for $3,000. Warner demanded Lupino sign an exclusive contract – her previous deal allowed outside work, an extremely unique arrangement in the industry. When Lupino refused the new terms, she was on her own completely at 29 years old.

Like her last husband, Collier Young was ten years older than Ida. Unlike Hayward and Dantine, he was not an actor but a frustrated Hollywood writer. He was not her first American man, but he was the first one she married, at the Presbyterian Church in La Jolla. "One of the exciting things about Ida," Collier explained to the press, "is her unpredictability."

Even as she continued writing, directing was foremost on Lupino's mind. Many women had been successful screenwriters before Lupino, and a few had even stepped behind the camera. None had ever done with Lupino's ability. In 1945 she met Roberto Rossellini, who told her that "In Hollywood movies the star is going crazy, or drinks too much, or wants to kill his wife. When are you going to make pictures about ordinary people in ordinary situations?"

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Tuesday
Nov152016

In Which Katia Mann Conceived On Her Honeymoon

The Courtship of Katia Mann

by ALEX CARNEVALE

To use the words of young Nietzsche, I love and affirm in "the atmosphere of ethics, the Faustian flavour, the cross, death and the grave." In art I believe in pain, experience, recognition, love, profundity, and confront all superficial beauty with either irony or impatience, as seems appropriate.

Four fantastic years of Thomas Mann's life were spent in the arms of a man. Sex with women had never really interested the German writer, although he was able to maintain an erection with women at times while picturing a more masculine partner. His lover during those four annums was Paul Ehrenberg, a German Jew far lovelier than Mann himself. Mann enjoyed the company of Paul, who was a talented violinist and his brother Carl. But the older man was already a visible novelist and critic with a promising future. Nor could Paul's affections entirely be relied upon; Mann wrote of his boyfriend, "How is so much torture possible?"

No, Ehrenberg was the wrong choice for so many reasons. Thomas Mann needed a wife.

Mann's requirements were not demanding. He wanted a woman who was not overly desirous of sex or demonstrative of her ardor. He needed a wife who would not feel thrummed down by the extensive time he devoted to literary craftsmanship, someone with her own life and family. When he first met Katia Pringsheim, that characteristic of a woman enmeshed in her tight knit family was also a curse. How to pry her away.

Katia Pringsheim 

Twenty-year old Katia was not lacking for suitors, and the leading candidate was a professor in his early fifties who, from all available evidence, could furnish her with more of the comfortable upper-middle class life to which she had become accustomed. In Germany before the war, there existed an entire echelon of upper-class, mainly secular Jews, none of whom could ever have imagined the gruesome fate that awaited so many of them.

Katia's father and twin brother Klaus both favored the well-mannered professor over Mann, and it was only Katia's mother, a former actress, who saw something in the awkward, regimented behavior of the writer. Showing up at Katia's door looking somewhat like A.J. Soprano in his military school uniform, Mann was never terribly good at controlling how he appeared to others. "Gently and tactfully," he had written of the brothers Ehrenberg, "they overcame my gravity, diffidence and irritability by accepting them frankly as concomitants of talents they respected."

The pursuit of this woman, unexpectedly, roused something in him. He struggled to work up the courage to have someone introduce him to Katia, even though a few of his friends knew the Pringsheims well. Watching her across an amphitheater, he described "her appearance of wanting to hide her awareness that many people were looking at her." He wrote about her in his journal, mostly to describe how ineffectual he felt his passion was, and sometimes to jot down ideas for stories which paralleled his own experience:

Detail for a love story. As passion wanes, there is an increase in one's ability to conquer, to make oneself loved. For days he had suffered frightfully over her, full of yearning, weak, disoriented broken down, ill. Then after seeing her again in a big hat which did not specially suit her, he suddenly felt healthier, fresher, more free, more forward, less full of yearning, stronger, more "egoistic," able to challenge, score points, pay court, make an impression.

As all this was going on, he was slowly, exhaustively, finishing his reading of Goethe.

his writing desk
Eventually, Mann felt the strong inclination to make himself known to Katia. On a daily basis she bicycled to her experimental physics classes, but when it rained she took the tram. He watched her have a fiery argument with a conductor who demanded a ticket she had thrown away, and something else took over. The next week he pretended to return a book to her house, and in ensuing days he invented other excuses to call on the Pringsheims.

Mann shocked himself by how much he admired her; she was "a miracle, something indescribably rare and precious, a creature who through her more existence has more cultural value than the output of fifteen writers or thirty painters." He also could not help but notice her essential boyishness, an androgynous charm that called to him.

Katia's mother had soundly cast her vote in favor of Mann, but the rest of the family, including Katia, was not as convinced. Mann mostly expressed his feelings to Katia in a mode of worship, a predilection that made the object of his affection uncomfortable. It did not help that they were always chaperoned, ensuring the two would continously encounter various black holes in conversation. Mann did better in his writing, expressing himself in a way that felt oppressive in person. He tried to logically reason things out:

I am quite aware of not being a man who arouses simple and instantaneously safe feelings. To prompt mixed feelings and 'perplexity' is after all forgive me! a sign of personality. Someone who never provokes doubts, never astonishes, never causes a slight feeling of dread, someone who is always simply lovable is a fool, a phantom, a figure of fun.

beach day

This did not even represent the full spectrum of his "awareness."

I am aware of causing a certain awkwardness through my 'lack of spontaneity,' of ingenousness, of unself-consciousness, all the nervousness, artificiality and difficulty of my nature, hinders everyone, even the most well-meaning people, from coming closer to me or even dealing with me in a bearable, comfortable way; and that troubles me all the more when I detect in people's behaviour towards me that warmer interest which is called sympathy, and in spite of all the obstacles, this happens with quite incredible frequency...

You know that personally, humanly, I could not develop like other young people, that a talent can function like a vampire bloodsucking, parasitic. You know what a cold, impoverished, merely representative, merely symbolical life I have been living for years, know that for many years, important years, I regarded myself as nothing, in human terms, and wanted to be considered only as an artist. Only one cure is possible for the attachment to the representative and artistic, this lack of instinctive trust in my personal and human side: through happiness; through you, my clever, sweet, good-hearted, beloved little queen. Be my affirmation, my justification, my fulfilment, my salvation, my wife. 

Katia felt she could not give him an answer yet. He despaired at her reticence and caution, and his friend Kurt Martens encouraged him to give her a deadline or pull away for a time altogether to see what she would do. Mann resisted putting this pressure on Katia, correctly thinking that making his feelings seem so changeable was more likely to unnerve her than draw her closer. Instead, he continued along the same lines, making the legal case for himself:

Silly little Katia. Still carrying on about "overrating,' and insisting you will be unable to "be" for me what I expect you to be. But I love you. Good God! Do you not understand what that means? What else is there to expect and to be? My wife is what I want you to "be," and in that way to make me absurdly proud and happy. After all, what I "make of you," the meaning I give you which you have and will have for my life is my concern, and it gives you no bother or responsibility.

Katia and her brother Klaus
Mann's letters were unlike any others she received, and slowly she began to warm to him. Whenever the idea of marriage came up, a deeply fearful look overtook her (Mann described it as that of a "hunted doe"), but other than that, the couple enjoyed spending time together. Finally, one afternoon before she was to leave Munich for the summer, Katia and Thomas were permitted an afternoon alone. Afterwards he wrote "there was a indescribably sweet and painful parting which is still present in all my nerves and senses."

He doubted her until the very moment of her assent. "Her naivety is extraordinary supreme and dumbfounding," he wrote. "This strange, kind-hearted and yet egotistical little Jew-girl, polite and without a will of her own! I can still hardly believe she will ever bring the word Yes to her lips."

the Mann family many years later

Mann tried to appeal to Katia's more rational faculties after all, she was a student of mathematics. She insisted that in comparison to him, she was stupid and not worthy of his adulation. It was his letters that finally got to her. Mann's desire for her to be his wife was so evident and honestly broadcasted, that she could not truly feel she was getting any part of the man that was not the real thing. In one particular missive, he even confessed to weeping at the sight of her handwriting.

At first she had been overwhelmed. Now she was simply whelmed, and Mann knew it was his moment. "I believe you feel as strongly as I do that it is high time to put an end to this in between state! Do you not think that once we belong together in the eyes of the world, the relationship will be much more clean-cut and comfortable?" Mann biographer Ronald Hayman described the moment: "When he took her in his arms, he was half-surprised she neither pushed him away or called for help." The wedding took place on February 11th, 1905. Katia conceived on her honeymoon, and the two had sex very infrequently, mainly indulging themselves only to get Katia Mann with child.

After the engagement, Mann lost all touch with the Ehrenbergs, and Paul himself was married by the next year.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Tuesday
Nov082016

In Which Dorothy Thompson Wonders If It Was Ever There

The Potent Man

by ALEX CARNEVALE

They say it's dead, but for me better the corpse of Vienna than any other place.

The sight of Sinclair Lewis sober was extremely rare. His wife, the writer Dorothy Thompson, had to rely on Vienna's key strength to resurrect her husband from his hangovers: coffee. "Coffee in Vienna is more than a national drink," she wrote. "It is a national cult. Palaces have been built for it: palaces where there are satin-brocaded walls, deep divans, onyx-topped tables, great windows curtained in gold-colored silk. These palaces are center of Vienna's most perfected cultures." Every cafe in town was an institution in itself, "sometimes a club, sometimes an office, sometimes just restaurant, but always full of life, atmosphere, and - smoke."

Vienna's black marketers gravitated towards the Cafe Atlantis, across from the Imperial Hotel. The Lewis' apartment was not far from there. Christmas in Vienna in 1933 might have been a sedate affair had it not been for Dorothy's parties. It was there she felt a final distance in her marriage and realized she was in love with one of her guests: a German artist and writer named Christa Winsloe.

It was Dorothy's third lesbian infatuation. She wrote in her journal, "It has happened to me again, after all these years. It has only, really, happened to me once before." There were aspects of women that she missed in her messier relationships with men, and probably ones she never wrote down. What she would say was that women had softer mouths, and that sex was like, "being made love to by an impotent man."

Dorothy saw the relationship that Christa had with her ex-husband. As she saw, what they shared was as close to loving as a lesbian woman could have with a man. "For two divorced people," Thompson would say later, "they are the most married couple I have ever seen."

Christa Winsloe

It was a fight between the two ex-marrieds that precipated Dorothy's entrance into Christa's life. Christa and her ex had fought on New Year's Eve, driving her into Dorothy's arms. They talked for hours. "We kissed each other and she called me 'liebling' and said 'I will write to you and telephone, and you will not get rid of me.' And I felt full of beatitude." Dorothy checked her enthusiasm for the young relationship at the door, trying to convince herself she would be happy to have simple friendship with Christa.

Her own marriage was getting worse at the same time. Lewis' drinking had worsened, and although his wife was pregnant, he did not treat her any more sensitively. She practiced ice skating in order to prevent weight gain from the pregnancy. One night she came home to find Lewis had wrecked the apartment in a drunken rage, destroying all the rented furniture. He hit her for the first time in their entire marriage when she objected.

posing for a bust

For her, this was the last straw, although Lewis still tried to reunite with his wife, writing, "You seem to me in my mad life my one refuge and security. You see, I don't care a damn - not anymore at least - for fame and all those amiable experiences, but only (and this is a not-too-easy contradiction) for you and Mickey on the one hand, and Freedom (whatever that empty thing may be) on the other." A geographical separation made the two feel a deeper alienation, constituting a second violence. (Lewis had relocated to London while Dorothy wrapped up their affairs at their summer home in Vienna.) Just before leaving Vienna, she also lost her pregnancy.

with her son Michael

She pretended to forgive Lewis, but instead of returning to London, she took the train to Berlin to report on the rise of Nazism. Fleeing that damned place, she moved to Portofino with Christa and a gay butler named Giovanni. She kept her husband apprised of her living situation, informing him that the Italian manservant "does everything but our hair." She also told him how "terribly funny it is sharing a house with another woman."

Much later he would call her to tell her the news: this tendentious alcoholic was the recipient of the Nobel Prize. "Oh have you!" Dorothy responded. "Well, I have the Order of the Garter!"

The initial attraction between Sinclair Lewis and Dorothy Thompson had always been a bit of a longshot. Lewis' friends called him Red; he was losing that hair, and precancerous lesions from acne dotted his visage. According to her, he looked like he had "survived a battle with flamethrowers." The day her divorce became final she invited him over for dinner.

As soon as they were married and things started to go sour, Thompson began looking outside of her marriage for what the man inside it could not provide. She entertained her guests at the Austrian villa where she and Lewis spent their weekends. She kept meticulous, anonymous notebooks on the activities of her and her lovers. One reads

I went for a walk with E. and in the woods he turned suddenly and put both hands on my cheeks and we clung together. His mouth tasted deliciously of love, like the smell of semen, and I could have lain down with him right there in the woods then and there as I could have done for five years, except that we agreed that we wouldn't.

As she got older, the affairs turned into even more questioning events. Lewis would come home drunk and strike their son, only inspiring a new round of "What does it all mean?" Household staff could only watch in shock as the couple's bitter arguments went from room to room.

Their son Michael's nurse observed to Dorothy that "he worshipped the ground you walked on. When he heard you were coming home from a trip he would send for the barber to shave him, insist that all his clothes should be in apple-pie order, dress as though he were going to court. And then, often you'd hardly be in the house, when he'd start a quarrel, and then, as likely as not, he'd call the car and leave the next morning."

Dorothy's affair with Christa Winsloe ended when Christa fell in love with a man, an Italian basso named Ezio Pinza who she had seen perform in Salzburg. She tried to reassure Dorothy that this was only a passing infatuation, but Thompson realized Christa had become another person who no longer knew how to return her feelings. She wrote,

Like all love I wonder now if it was ever there. Oh, yes, it was there, but didn't all the threads run from me to you, and none really run back? You will not answer me, not help me, perhaps only because you do not want to hurt me. I write with my eyes full of tears, and my heart full of tears, and I wish they flowed because of someone else, because then perhaps you would comfort me. Or would you? Why is it that one's own love can sustain one for so long without any reciprocity, and then, suddenly, it can't anymore?

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.