Zooey Deschanel, Jon Hamm, and more tell one of the wildest love stories in Hollywood history in ‘Love Is a Crime’

TV & Film August 17, 2021
Listen to ‘Love is a Crime’

We’re excited about Audacy’s Cadence13 and Vanity Fair’s original narrative podcast, “Love is a Crime.” What happens when love intoxicates, passion swings both ways, and scandal embroils with a power couple? Uh oh, someone is getting hurt. In “Love is a Crime,” we’ll hear about a partnership gone awry in the 1930s, becoming one of the greatest Hollywood scandals of all time. We’re talking glitz, femme fatales, flashbulbs, gunshots, rollercoaster emotions, a coincidence of life imitating art, and more, as we hear in the 10-episode series, “Love is a Crime.”

18-year-old single mother and actor Joan Bennett found her way to Hollywood out of desperation to support herself and her child. She broke into the business and rose to notoriety in 1933 after getting cast in Little Women. She caught the attention of Hollywood producer Walter Wanger. Walter found a way to make money through films while promoting his progressive, liberal agenda. Walter and Joan were a match, both personally and professionally. Might we say written in the stars? On their way to cementing their stars in the Hollywood walk of infamy? They worked to create the highly-stylized crime drama genre we now know as film noir. Joan originated the classic femme fatale caricature. Joan and Walter married, and continued working together until a fateful day destroyed by paranoia shattered their world.

Walter suspects his wife is having an affair with her agent, Jennings Lang. In 1951, as we hear on the first episode, of “Love is a Crime,” Walter shoots Jennings in his talent agency’s parking lot. Walter’s action takes a toll on Joan. But why would Joan risk her blockbuster livelihood and relationship? How could Walter, a man who once helped Jewish emigrés flee Hitler, snap and shoot Jennings? These are questions asked by filmmaker Vanessa Hope and You Must Remember This Karina Longworth throughout the series. The co-hosting duo explores the storyline and scenarios that unfolded in this real-life drama. Hope has a personal interest in this story, since she is Walter and Joan’s granddaughter.

The first episode, “Private Worlds,” will guide listeners through Joan and Walter’s personal and professional histories. This story begins to unpack some real-life instances these folks experienced at this time: PTSD, parenthood, sexual fluidity, and the media frenzy storm they were suddenly engulfed in. The episode’s title shares the same name as Walter’s 1935 film, Private Worlds. The story follows the staff and patients at a mental health facility. Some of the drama in this film aligns with Walter and Joan’s deteriorating relationship. Life imitating art? Art imitating life? Hmm.

The show’s star-studded cast includes voices you might recognize. Zooey Deschanel plays Joan Bennett, Jon Hamm is Walter Wanger, Griffin Dunne is agent Jennings Lang, Mara Wilson plays Joan’s older movie star sister Constance Bennett, and Adam Mortimer is Joan’s father, Richard Bennett. 

It’s fascinating to realize this storyline actually happened. So much so, that Billy Wilder could not pass on being inspired. Billy’s film, The Apartment, was based on this narrative.

There is so much to hear in this never-before-heard retelling in podcast form. You’ll be shocked with the twists and turns this story takes and eager to hear more episodes.

The 10-episode series kicks off on August 17th. New episodes are updated weekly.

Listen to ‘Love is a Crime’

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