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Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Most Kissable Hands of Pola Negri

Pola Negri looked like something from a storybook: she had jet black hair, pale skin that reporters compared to a camellia blossom, and a sensual mouth that, painted bright red, read as something deep and mournful onscreen. She was Polish by birth and Hollywood’s first foreign import; the Czar of Russia once said she had “the most kissable hands in the world.” To American audiences, she was exoticism manifest: an amalgamation of connotations that added up to different, not us. That exoticism was fiercely appealing—five years before Negri came to Hollywood, it had made Theda Bara into a massive star, at least until the public figured out the creature who had been borne of a woman and a serpent on the banks of the Nile was really just from Ohio. But Negri was the real deal: her father may not have been a serpent, but he had been a rebel fighting the Russian army, and Negri had royal blood in her veins and a title, acquired through a doomed marriage to a Polish count, still lingering in front of her name. READ MORE

The Hairpin Kindle Serial, Episode 7: Madame's Cane

From The Hairpin's eight-part Kindle Serial "An Experience Definitely Worth Allegedly Having." READ MORE

Alice Munro's Choices, and a Reading List

I woke up this morning, turned on my phone, and immediately knew that today would be the best day, because today was the day that my favorite author, Alice Munro, had won the Nobel Prize in Literature. She’s 82 years old, she’s Canadian, she’s selfless in interviews, and she’s spent her life writing small, immaculate vignettes of women—which is all to say that she’s unlike almost all writers who’ve been awarded this prize, and I couldn’t be happier. READ MORE

Interview with My Mom, the Scientist

When I was three years old, my mom used to take me to the library, find me a pile of books, and let me sit and read for up to an hour while she went and browsed the stacks. When I was 14 years old, I made my mom paint my room black, and I spent a lot of time watching The X-Files and being mortified by her. But she never forgot that I could also be that first kind of patient, inquisitive girl, even when I insisted on listening to Walkmen tapes of Queen’s Greatest Hits while hiking in Glacier Park. READ MORE

No Theoryheads Allowed: My 2000s & Wayne Koestenbaum

During the awkward first days of grad school, the institution sent in one of the third-year students to make us feel comfortable in our new environment. In truth, they made us feel fearful of our station in life. Take the first question one asked me, for example: “So are you a theoryhead?” READ MORE

Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Ecstasy of Hedy Lamarr

The first time audiences saw Hedy Lamarr, she was running naked through a field. The second time they saw her, she was in the throes of a very animated orgasm. The next time she appeared on screen—more than five years later—she’d have a new name, a new language, and a new image, but the effect was the same: just the sight of her was enough to stop Hollywood, and audiences across America, in their tracks. READ MORE

Lord I Lift Your Camp On High

This is the third installment in a series about summer camp. READ MORE

Sex and the Dystopia

Television critic Emily Nussbaum has an outstanding piece on Sex and the City—and how it lost its "good name"—in this week’s New Yorker. When people tell the story of quality television, Nussbaum argues, they talk about The Sopranos and the raft of other HBO shows that followed. They might acknowledge Sex and the City, but their scorn is palpable: “It might as well have been a tourism campaign for a post-Rudolph Giuliani, de-ethnicized Gotham awash in money,” writes Brett Martin, author of Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’ to ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Breaking Bad.’   READ MORE

An Old Hollywood Chat with Emma Straub and Laura Moriarty

So first things first: can each of you give a short little spiel about your book? Like the one you give your mom’s friend when she asks “what have you been doing with the last two years of your life?”   READ MORE

Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Robert Redford, Golden Boy

Robert Redford still does it for me. He did it for me when I first saw him in Butch Cassidy, he did it for me when he was washing Meryl Streep’s hair in Out of Africa. He did it for me in uniform in The Way We Were and with full hippie beard in Jeremiah Johnson. He’s classically handsome — the type of handsome on which you, your mom, your grandmother, and your best gay friend can all agree — with a flatness of expression that morphs sardonic when you least expect it. He has a storytime voice, the perfect level of tan, and haphazardly spaced highlights that betray a life lived en plein air. I love him for his palpable Westernness, his ease with open spaces, the scent of high altitude that seems to waft from him. He looks as good in jean cut-offs as he does in a well-tailored suit. And for nearly 40 years, he’s been Hollywood’s golden boy: likable and bankable, if a bit self-serious. READ MORE