Karina Longworth‘s beloved film history podcast You Must Remember This is back to tell the story of a woman whom many movie fans probably don’t recognize. Polly Platt had a hand in making a lot of classics, but her involvement has rarely been talked about until now. She worked for decades as a production designer, costume designer, screenwriter, and producer. However, she is hardly ever remembered when we think of such movies as Paper Moon, The Bad News Bears, Say Anything…, and many others involving her talents.
In the vein of Longworth’s last book, Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood, the newest season of her podcast works to recontextualize the narrative about a certain time in Hollywood. She does so through the story of a woman given little to no credit for her historical work. The podcast release is aptly timed, albeit unintentionally, in conjunction with TCM’s new podcast The Plot Thickens: I’m Still Peter Bogdanovich, in which Platt’s ex-husband and collaborator Peter Bogdanovich talks about his life and career.
In the new season of You Must Remember This, titled Polly Platt: Invisible Woman, Longworth intimately uncovers Platt’s life and career with the help of Platt’s unfinished memoir and recorded interviews with those who knew her. Although the first episode mostly focuses on Platt’s life before her breakthrough in Hollywood, there are some movies mentioned that you’ll want to see before listening to the episode. These titles not only provide an introduction to Longworth’s latest subject, but they will also help you better understand Polly Platt’s influences and impact:
Fort Apache (1948)
Polly Platt was raised in Germany while her father was in the military, and her favorite movies growing up were Westerns, especially those directed by John Ford. This one starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Shirley Temple follows Civil War veteran Owen Thursday (Fonda) as he moves his daughter (Temple) to Arizona, thinking he can assume command of an outpost. A younger captain (Wayne) has control of the outpost and warns Thursday against being combative with local Native Americans. Thursday disregards his advice, to his detriment. Ford presents a nonlinear narrative to display frontier life and action unlike other Westerns of the era.
Touch of Evil (1958)
Polly Platt began to further her film knowledge while she was at school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). While studying there, her classmates exposed her to famous directors that she might not have been able to see while in Germany, like Orson Welles, who directs and stars in this crime drama set in a Mexican-American border town. Charlton Heston plays a narcotics officer forced to leave his wife (Janet Leigh) on their honeymoon to investigate a murder. He begins to suspect there is police corruption involved in the case, but pursuing that hunch will mean putting himself and his wife in danger. Welles did not approve of the original 1958 release since he wasn’t allowed in the editing room. Since then, there have been several other versions that take into account Welles’ memos detailing what he originally envisioned.
One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
This film had a huge influence on Platt’s Hollywood career and her decision to go into movies, and Longworth will elaborate on that on the show. One-Eyed Jacks is the only film that actor Marlon Brando ever directed in his career in Hollywood. He also stars as Rio, who robs a bank with Dad (Karl Malden) only for his partner to betray him and turn him in to the police. Rio spends years in jail conspiring a plan to escape and embark on revenge against Dad, but he doesn’t anticipate falling in love with Dad’s daughter. Brando replaced Stanley Kubrick as director for this film, but it underperformed at the box office and Brando didn’t do well behind the camera. However, it was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in 2018.
The Last Picture Show (1971)
This is the film Polly Platt is most associated with, not because of her work on it, but because it led to the breakup of her marriage with director Peter Bogdanovich. He left his wife for his leading lady, Cybill Shepherd, after having an affair with the actress during filming. The Last Picture Show is about three teenagers as they become adults in a small North Texas town in the 1950s. They struggle with loss and what they think is love, but life turns out much differently than what they planned. Small town life is accurately depicted and the characters are some of the most interesting that Bogdanovich ever explored in his films. Platt received credit for her set decoration on the film, despite having often been, as Karina Longworth explores in her podcast, uncredited for her involvement with films she made with Bogdanovich.
Stream The Last Picture Show on The Criterion Channel
Pretty Baby (1978)
Polly Platt wrote and produced this film with legendary French director Louis Malle. It was insanely controversial when it came out because of its subject matter. Pretty Baby tells the story of a 12-year-old prostitute in New Orleans during the 1910s as she decides to marry a photographer and frequent customer at the brothel where her mother works. Brooke Shields, who was 12 years old during filming, plays the prostitute, with Keith Carradine as the photographer and Susan Sarandon co-starring as the girl’s mother. Before Platt’s involvement is discussed on the podcast, you’ll want to see it for yourself.
Terms of Endearment (1983)
Polly Platt’s art direction on this film earned her, along with Harold Michelson, Tom Pedigo, and Anthony Mondell, a nomination for an Academy Award. This was Platt’s only Oscar nomination in her career, and the team lost. Directed by James L. Brooks, this adaptation of the popular Larry McMurty novel is about a mother and daughter (Shirley McClaine and Debra Winger), who don’t have a perfect relationship but share a bond that is never broken over the story’s thirty-year timespan. Watching the end of this film with dry eyes is nearly impossible, but the emotional story is as fulfilling as they come.
Broadcast News (1987)
In another collaboration with James L. Brooks, Polly Platt served as executive producer on this now-classic comedy-drama about a broadcast television news team. The film follows two rival anchors and a producer who butt heads as their network goes through changes and their relationships are put to the test. Its stacked cast includes Holly Hunter, Joan Cusack, William Hurt, Albert Brooks, and Jack Nicholson, who was never paid for his brief appearance. The movie didn’t win any of the Academy Awards it was nominated for, but it received great critical acclaim.
Bottle Rocket (1996)
Polly Platt produced five films after this one, but her involvement here marked her work with a new era of filmmakers. Bottle Rocket is Wes Anderson’s first feature film, adapted from a short film he made two years earlier, and the signature style he is known for today is apparent even at the start of his career. Luke and Owen Wilson star in the comedy about young Texans as they try to start a budding career as criminals. The fantastic soundtrack and the Wilson brothers’ great performances make this movie a must-see for any fans of Anderson’s later films.
You can find new episodes of You Must Remember This wherever you listen to your podcasts every Tuesday starting May 26th. You can also follow Karina Longworth as she discusses some of the movies she talks about on the podcast with Vidiots every Tuesday night on Instagram live. The first movie they’ll be discussing is One-Eyed Jacks.