2.22.16: Maycomb Revisited & Oscar Smear Campaigns

Feb 22, 2016

This weekend, writers and book lovers mourned the passing of Harper Lee, the celebrated author of To Kill a Mockingbird. Today, we'll visit Lee's birthplace, Monroeville, Alabama, a small town that has produced two great American authors.

Then, as Hollywood gears up for the Academy Awards, we'll scratch beneath the award show's glitz and glam for a look at the long and crooked history of Oscar smear campaigns.

Listen to the full show. 

Maycomb Revisited

Paul Theroux is a journalist, travel writer, and novelist whose new book Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads comes out in September. He went down to Monroeville, Alabama to see the town where Harper Lee and her friend and collaborator Truman Capote grew up. He wrote about his visit for Smithsonian magazine.

The Mad Gasser of Mattoon

In the 1940's, someone - or something - was prowling around Mattoon, Illinois spraying knock out gas into people's homes in the middle of the night. The “Mad Gasser of Mattoon” terrified the town…the problem was, he didn’t exist. Memory Palace producer Nate DiMeo has the incredible story of one of the most peculiar cases of mass hysteria in U.S. history.

Listen to this story again at PRX.org

Oscar Smear Campaigns

Enraged by his ostensible likeness to the title character or Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst reportedly did everything in his power to destroy the film.

Although he couldn’t prevent its release, he was able to squash its success at the box office, and foil its chances for best picture. Hearst’s attack was the first and perhaps most aggressive smear campaign in the Academy Awards’ eighty-six year history – but there have been plenty more since. 

  Marlow Stern, entertainment editor at The Daily Beastwrote about the worst and joined  us to talk about them. How do you like them apples?

The Art of Title Sequences

From Woody Allen’s consistent Windsor font on black screen to Hitchcock’s use of designer Saul Bass, the title sequences of certain films open up our minds and burn into our memories. Roman Mars of 99 Percent Invisible brings us this story of the careful art of title sequences.

We've compiled some of film's most iconic title sequences here.  

Our Favorite Radio Opens

While we may fawn over the title design of Vertigo, or the artistic brilliance of the opening sequence of Mad Men and Game of Thrones - opens are important for radio programs too. We discussed some of our favorites.