Not all advice is meant to be heeded, of course, even if it’s for the best. But here’s a suggestion I think any classic film fan will appreciate: subscribe to the Attaboy Clarence podcast.
Named for the final line spoken by Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra’s IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this audio celebration of 1930s and ’40s movies and radio shows launched last January and has delivered a Jack Benny-esque 39 episodes so far. Every week or so, host Adam Roche (a Brit who works as a chef by day) chats enthusiastically – and often hilariously – about his recent film discoveries, most of which are the sort of rarities or genre classics I love. Films are often shared on the show’s website, where you can watch them for free (there’s that word again).
Each episode also includes one or two vintage radio shows, often related to films discussed. For example, this week’s installment is a salute to James Cagney, and after a discussion of LADY KILLER (1933), GREAT GUY (1936) and THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (1941), Adam plays a 1948 episode of Suspense featuring Cagney. It’s all great stuff, made even more enjoyable by the host’s dry British wit and his tendency to milk unintentionally hilarious classic radio commercials for comedy.
The show frequently makes me chuckle out loud, and one episode reduced me to tears of laughter on the subway late at night (whereupon my car-mates slowly moved away from me as if I were a pungent homeless man). It’s also extraordinarily well-produced, which is always a nice surprise in the world of non-professional podcasting.
As if that wasn’t enough, Roche has recently launched a second podcast series called The Secret History of Hollywood, which is also very much worth your time. These episodes focus on a single era, topic or classic Hollywood figure and can run for multiple hours (perfect for long car rides, unexpected incarcerations, or boring work days). The Secret History has focused on Universal horror movies, Pre-Code films, Sherlock Holmes, and Disney and an on-going series on Alfred Hitchcock has already passed the ten-hour mark (with more to come). Unlike the often raucous Clarence, the spin-off is a more sober affair, unfolding in a narrative non-fiction style that’s as engaging and well-researched as any written history of the era I’ve read.
And best of all, you can jump into either show from the current episode without feeling like to have to listen to all you’ve missed (though you’ll probably want to).
So let me amend my above advice and suggest you subscribe to two podcasts: Attaboy Clarence and The Secret History of Hollywood. And let’s hope that Adam doesn’t take my accountant’s advice any time soon.