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August 12, 2013

Hitler Non Grata

Having held onto this for a week or so, I wanted your thoughts on the ultimate decision to go with this illustration for the August cover of The Hollywood Reporter. You can read the full backstory on illustrator, Paul Rogers’ blog. The gist, though, is that the magazine wanted an illustration for a book excerpt about Hollywood’s collaboration with the Nazis. Concerned about protecting an export market, the Nazi’s were given script approval for a stretch of time.

Rogers went through two rounds of sketches. The first set, incorporating Hitler, were based on a Russian poster Rogers was familiar with. When he sent them to the Atlantic, however, they got cold feet. Here’s his quote, which I found pretty interesting:

Maybe it was actually seeing sketches of Hitler right next to their famous masthead, or maybe it was the recent dust-up over the Boston Bomber’s appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone, or maybe it was something else all together, Shanti and her editor decided we should try some other approaches. So the next day, I send over five ideas that utilized a combination of Nazi propaganda and 1930s Hollywood imagery with a fairly wide range of emotional impact. Nazis are tricky, even when you’re dealing with a scholarly piece of history an illustrator has to be careful.

And here’s the second set:

So, what’s your read on this? Could it be that the studies with Hitler, himself, were just too literal? Is it possible the Rolling Stone cover could have been dissuasive? Did the NSA/surveillance doings color the process, at all? And then, is there any instance where a Hitler or a bin Laden would evoke more insight than stigmatization in such a format — ever?

Note: In Michael’s absence this week — yes, it’s the annual retreat off-the-grid to Yosemite– we present a series of posts of images we’ve been looking at lately.)

(illustration: Paul Rogers for The Hollywood Reporter)

  • Peter A. Calvin

    The image of Hitler makes him the center of the story, but it is not about Him. The story is about the Hollywood studios.

  • bks3bks

    What’s the symbolism of the water tower?

    • black_dog_barking

      A water tower out here in Nebraska marks a town, a community. The other water towers in our town were by the local college and out at the Rockwell plant, a factory. So here I’m seeing community, culture, and industry — beacons of civilization.

    • bystander

      A Google Images search of kicked up this. Apparently, there is an association, though I’m not sure how many people would make the connection. Having perused the Google images, a h/t to Rogers for the local/historical reference. It would seem that Paramount, Warner-Bros, and Disney were/are promoted/geo-located by/with them.

  • bystander

    Rogers’ #5 sketch above – now that I’ve squinted enough, and shoved my bifocals around enough, to read the description – answers bks3bks’ question. And, I think, of all the sketches, this one would be the one that is just “close” enough and just “distant” enough to be both “safe” and “good.”

    The top series of 6 sketches makes the intrusion too clear, too crisp, too present. If I were selling a magazine to a principally Hollywood audience – or needed the good will of the motion picture industry to publish successfully – I’d likely eschew those images, particularly, given all the noise and fall out from Zero Dark Thirty. IMO, it’s too easy to substitute another image profile for Hitler’s given that bit of recent history.

    Sketches #2, and 4 in the second series have the same problem. Too close. Too easy to make the leap to recent incursions into movie script “collaborations.” Sketches #1, 3 and 5 are what remain in this process of elimination. Sketches 3 and 5 are too “distant,” or too abstract, or too lame; lack punch. Sketch #5 is “just right.” Keeps the focus on the physical studio – the bricks and mortar – without touching the process of script, production, direction, etc – and the swastika keeps the focus on the ideology as opposed to an actual person. The cover editor risked no unintended associations.

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  • bystander

    Well, that’s the weirdest formatted comment I’ve ever posted. Guessing you can read “past” the oddities.

  • Scarabus

    You’re a slasher! :-)

    Good move to find that photo. I figured there must be “insider knowledge” involved, else it would make no sense. I guess the assumption is that any habitual reader of the Hollywood Reporter would “get it.”

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