Studio 360

Where Is Bobbie Gentry?

Alexander Payne on avoiding Hollywood temptations, Aisha Harris on Gone With the Wind, and the enduring mystery of “Ode to Billie Joe.”

“Ode to Billie Joe” on vinyl.

Photo illustration by Studio 360. Photos by Fabio Penna/Creative Commons and Wikimedia.

Listen to this episode of Studio 360 by clicking the arrow on the audio player below:

A theater in Memphis decided to stop showing Gone With the Wind, and Aisha Harris, a Slate culture writer and host of the podcast Represent, joins Kurt Andersen to talk about what many see as the movie’s nostalgia for slavery. At 50, there are two central questions surrounding the song “Ode to Billie Joe”: Why did Billie Joe McAllister jump off the Tallahatchie Bridge, and why did the woman who sang about it, Bobbie Gentry, disappear from public view? And finally, Andersen talks to another Omahan done good, the director Alexander Payne, about his new movie, Downsizing.

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