SSoP Podcast Episode 25 — Hollywood: Gumption, Glamour, Heartbreak, and Hubris

SSoP Podcast Episode 25 — Hollywood: Gumption, Glamour, Heartbreak, and Hubris

Monday, 10 May, 2021

Hollywood is a land of sunshine dreams, glamorous red carpets, and the magic that happens when a great story is nurtured along by the right creative hands.

It’s also a place where brutal business decisions make and break careers — and where the bottom line can supersede artistic choices.

Since its beginnings in 1886, this singular neighborhood of Los Angeles has been defined by the push-pull between beauty and the bottom line. Even its founder, Harvey Henderson Wilcox, was seduced by the California sun, then used that affection to turn a profit.

Still, it’s hard to resist the spell of a place that’s so iconic. Hollywood landmarks are recognized around the world: Melrose Avenue, Sunset Boulevard, Griffith Park, the Hollywood Bowl, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Walk of Fame, Universal Studios. Tinseltown has become the gold standard for glamour and success around the globe.

In this episode, we take a dip into Hollywood history, discuss the times the Oscars ceremony went (gloriously) off the rails, and recommend five books that transported us to the movie capital, including a primer on storytelling from a master screenwriter, a journalist’s view of why we’re drowning in superhero movies, and three novels with distinctly different looks at the lives and loves of film stars.


Read the full transcript of Episode 25 — Hollywood: Gumption, Glamour, Heartbreak, and Hubris.

Valentino Will Die

buy | read review

Adventures in the Screen Trade

buy | read review

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

buy | read review

The Big Picture

buy | read review

Plain Bad Heroines

buy | read review

other books we mentioned



other cool stuff we talked about

  • Here are some of the famous Hollywood landmarks we mentioned:
view of griffith park trees and observatory
Griffith Observatory
hollywood bowl amphitheater
The Hollywood Bowl. Photo courtesy of Matthew Field/Wikimedai.
the lawn and buildings at the hollywood forever cemetery
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Gary Minnaert/Wikimedai.
night time in front of the theater
Grauman's Chinese Theater. Photo courtesy of Chris Schmich/Flickr.

And here’s the romanticized version of Grauman’s that lives in Mel’s head:

illustration of grauman's chinese theater
Grauman's Chinese Theater Postcard. Photo courtesy of Jasperdo/Flickr.
photo of stars on the hollywood walk of fame
Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo courtesy of Ken Lund/Flickr.
  • The Hollywood Walk of Fame website lists all the stars and upcoming ceremonies!

  • Harvey Henderson Wilcox moved with his wife Daeida to California in 1886 and bought a big swath of land near the Cahuenga Pass. Not too long after, they dubbed it Hollywood.

black and white photos of harvey wilcox hendersona and daeida wilcox beverage
Harvey Wilcox Henderson and Daeida Wilcox Beverage gave Hollywood its name.

two truths and a lie

The Academy Awards have made for some genuinely uncomfortable moments; David outlined a few in our show. Here are the videos; watch if you dare.

  • John Travolta destroying Idina Menzel’s name in 2014.
  • And the apology – which is somehow even more awkward – in 2015.
  • Seth MacFarlane performing a song called ‘We Saw Your Boobs’ in 2013.
  • The 11 minutes that ruined Hollywood producer Allan Carr’s career forever.
  • But there are often joyous, life-affirming moments, too, like this one from legendary sound mixer Kevin O’Connell.
  • The silent film The Sheik made Rudolph Valentino a star. You can watch the whole thing online, thanks to the magic of the internet.
  • The Writers Guild Foundation talked to William Goldman about his best writing advice. It’s pure gold for writerly types.
  • In his book, Which Lies Did I Tell?, William Goldman explains how he decided not to write a movie about the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa. We talked about that theft in our Paris episode.

  • Exciting news: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is being adapted into a series, and Taylor Jenkins Reid is writing it.

  • Author Ben Fritz talked to the Realignment podcast about the fight for the future of movies during and after COVID.

  • The film The Interview may be responsible for a massive hack on Sony Pictures. Here’s the trailer:
black and white photo of mary maclane
Author and kickass feminist Mary Maclane
  • Here are a few interviews with Emily M. Danforth, the author of Plain Bad Heroines: a print Q&A with, a panel discussion (video) with Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, and a video interview from the Montana Book Festival.


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