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The Tortured History of 'Entertainment Weekly'

How Time Inc. created the entertainment magazine 24 years ago, and how it was soon haunted by a quest for corporate synergy:

EW’s rise, scattered identity, brilliant heyday and slow, gradual decline mirrors the same journey of Time Warner’s conglomerate hopes and dreams. The leading magazine company weds a film and television giant? It all looked so great on paper. But here we are with the EW of today, and it’s clear: Just because it looks pretty in a business plan doesn’t mean it’s a good idea at all.

PUBLISHED: June 10, 2014
LENGTH: 33 minutes (8339 words)

Confidentially Yours

Petersen traces the history of the celebrity profile:

Confidential was by no means the first publication to suggest that its subjects lived secret, salacious lives—the tabloid press had thrived, in various iterations, for years. But Confidential’s dirt was richer: publisher Robert Harrison developed a web of informants crossing the continent. More important, he understood what titillated: miscegenation, homosexuality, unbridled female sexuality, and communism.

PUBLISHED: May 9, 2014
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6937 words)

Longreads Best of 2013: Story That Should Not Be Overlooked

Anne Helen Petersen (@annehelen) teaches media studies and writes Scandals of Classic Hollywood for The Hairpin, amongst other things.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 19, 2013

Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Robert Redford, Golden Boy

A look back the actor's career—and his shirtless ping-pong photos:

"Redford comes into the shop where homely Streisand works, and she’s all, 'Look who’s here, America the Beautiful,' and you’re all, YES, TRUER WORDS HAVE NEVER BEEN SAID. But then you get suckerpunched by how effectively this movie convinces you that Redford would fall for Streisand, with all her spunk and unruliness and radicalism. The essential message of this movie is that Hot Guys Like Brains and Sass. The secondary message is that Your Romance Will Then Be Plundered By Asshole Red Mongerers."
PUBLISHED: May 22, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3971 words)

Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Most Wicked Face of Theda Bara

The origins of one of Hollywood's earliest femme fatales:

"Theodosia Goodman grew up in Cincinnati, the child of middle-class Jewish immigrants. Her father was a tailor; her mother kept house. She went to high school, she went to two years of college. She was a middling actress with middling looks, age 30, stuck in the Yiddish theater circuit, with a bit role in the occasional film. She was wholly unremarkable — one of hundreds of women working toward the same end.

"And then, in 1915, totally out of nowhere, she became THE BIGGEST SEX SYMBOL IN THE WORLD. As the star of A Fool There Was, she embodied the cinematic 'vamp' — the evil, predatory woman who seduces men with her dark ways, sucks him dry, and leaves him for ruin. Her name was no longer Theodosia Goodman, but Theda Bara — an anagram, naturally, for 'ARAB DEATH.'"
PUBLISHED: Jan. 9, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3322 words)

Scandals of Classic Hollywood: That Divine Gary Cooper

Cooper played heroic cowboys and espoused all-American values while the studio system helped hide his offscreen affairs:

"Cooper became a hero to many, even as he developed a reputation as one of the most notorious philanderers in Hollywood. He had stiff competition — Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, the list goes on — but Cooper may or may not have slept with EVERY. SINGLE. CO-STAR. No matter his age, no matter their age, he was insatiable, before and during his marriage. How to reconcile his moral righteousness onscreen with his philandering offscreen? That was the work of Fixers, gossip magazines, and the studio system at large, which ensured that Cooper was never caught, never denounced, and held up as a paragon of American values. Of course, the way he looked in pants didn’t hurt."
PUBLISHED: June 8, 2012
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4845 words)