Saturday, February 26, 2011

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man: The Story Behind the Quirky Film

Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man
Bela Lugosi as the Frankenstein Monster
You want monsters?  This movie has two--the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man!  This film--Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)--features one of the best scores of any horror film.  Take a look below at the climactic fight scene; it's one of the best in all of Horrordom! 


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Send in the Clowns: Fox News and its Misinformation and Propaganda

According to a WPO poll, 60% of almost daily viewers of Fox News believe "most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring."
Media manipulation of information was common in places such as the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany and is common in current day North Korea and China, to name a few examples. Now you can add the United States to that list of propaganda-spewing nations. The source of this propaganda is not our government, however, but Fox News, which is owned by the powerful and wealthy owner of hundreds of  media outlets worldwide, Rupert Murdoch.


Leaked Fox email: global warming is "called into question"

How is it possible for 60% of almost daily viewers of Fox News to believe otherwise? In December 2010, the liberal watchdog group Media Matters released a leaked email written by Bill Sammon, the Washington-based managing editor of Fox News. The email, which was dated December 8, 2009, read, “We should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”

Billy O'Reilly says, "Shut up!  I said shut up!  You piece of s---!  Just shut up!"  He has also said, "Shut up!  Shut up!  Just shut up!"  But it must also be mentioned that he says "You shut up!  Shut up!  SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!"

“But only a crank,” says an editorial in the Los Angeles Times in response to the leaked email, “would deny the underlying temperature data that show the Earth getting warmer…because to do so is to deny material and measurable facts.”


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Berlin Wall Propaganda from East Germany in 1961

The Berlin Wall in 1961.

Erich Honecker in 1958. He was responsible for the building of the Berlin Wall. He was the East German leader from 1971 to 1989.
Members of the GDR workers' battalions defending the Brandenburg Gate on August 13, 1961, the day the GDR sealed the border and began construction of the Berlin wall.
American propaganda film on the Berlin Wall (1962).

The GDR Council of Ministers decided: “To prevent enemy activity by the Revanchist and militarist forces” of both West Berlin and West Germany, “controls with be established along the border” of the GDR. “Reliable supervision and effective controls are to be established along the West Berlin border to prevent subversive activity.” Until the city of West Berlin is “transformed into a demilitarized and neutral free city” the people of the German Democratic Republic will be able to “cross the border to West Berlin only with a special document.” Below is a video of East German propaganda.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hitler's Propaganda: His Words Led to the Holocaust

Hitler is given responsibility for the persecution and the later Holocaust against the Jews of Europe. Historians have yet to find the “smoking gun”: a document ordering the destruction of the Jews signed by Hitler. The evidence that we have, however, is much more powerful than a typed and signed piece of paper. We have Hitler’s own words--his spoken and written words--that tell us exactly what his feelings and thoughts were about the Jews, as well as what he intended to do with them once he had the power to turn his words into actions.

To that end, this article contains only direct quotations from Hitler on the “Jewish Question” from a letter he wrote, a speech he gave in 1920, his book, Mein Kampf (1923), and speeches he gave before and during the Second World War. Words--especially the emphatically spoken words of the charismatic Hitler--have a power of their own that influenced millions. Reading those words will show how Hitler made it easier for Germans to consider a Germany without Jews--and paved the way for genocide.
Hitler in 1919.

From a letter to Adolf Gemlich, September 16, 1919

“Anti-Semitism as a political movement should [be determined] only by the recognition of facts. These are the facts…Jewry is unqualifiedly a racial association and not a religious association…Its influence will bring about the racial tuberculosis of the people….Rational anti-Semitism…must lead to a systematic legal opposition and elimination of the special privileges which Jews hold…[and] the removal of the Jews altogether.”

Speech at NSDAP meeting August 13, 1920: “Why Are We Anti-Semites?”

“…the deed remains irrevocably firm: removal of the Jews from our nation, not because we would begrudge them their existence…but because the existence of our own nation is a thousand times more important to us than that of an alien race.”

Hitler's book Mein Kampf (1923).
From Mein Kampf

“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” (1)

…it is the inexorable Jew who struggles for his domination over the nations. No nation can remove this hand from its throat except by the sword….Such a process is and remains a bloody one.”

“In Russian Bolshevism we must see the attempt undertaken by the Jews in the twentieth century to achieve world domination.”

“If at the beginning of the War and during the War, twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under the poison gas, as happened to hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers in the field, the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain.”

Hitler threatens Jewry in Reichtag speech.
From Hitler’s Reichtag address, January 30, 1939

“During my struggle for power, the Jews primarily received with laughter my prophecies that I would someday assume the leadership of the state and thereby…achieve a solution of the Jewish problem. I suppose that meanwhile the then resounding laughter of Jewry in Germany is now choking in their throats.

“Today I will be a prophet again. If international finance Jewry…should succeed once more in plunging the peoples into a world war, then the consequences will not be the Bolshevization of the world and therewith a victory of Jewry, but, on the contrary, the destruction of the Jewish race in Europe.”

From Hitler’s speech, November 8, 1942

“You will recall that meeting of the Reichtag in which I declared: If Jewry perchance imagines that it can bring about an international world war for the annihilation of the European races, then the consequence will not be the annihilation of the European races, but, on the contrary, it will be the annihilation of Jewry in Europe….Of those who laughed then, countless ones no longer laugh today, and those who still laugh now will perhaps in a while also no longer do so.”

1. Italics in passages are in the original German.


Dawidowicz, Lucy S. A Holocaust Reader. Behrman House, Inc. 1976.

Holocaust in Poland: Rumkowski and the Lodz Ghetto Jews

Chaim Rumkowski, the head of the Judenrat, believed that if the Lodz ghetto was economically productive to the Germans, it would be safe from destruction.

The role of the Jewish council (Judenrat) during the Holocaust was an odious one. These men were responsible for making “selections” for forced labor and the eventual mass deportation to the death camps. They had to work hand-in-hand with the Germans to help them carry out their Jewish policy. They kept an in-depth census of all the Jews; rationed the pitiful food supplies; provided housing in the overcrowded ghetto, and crushed any resistance to the Germans.

Jews were forced to exist in the walled, barricaded ghetto, where their pauperization, untenable social and economic situation, starvation, disease and death, to their liquidation in the death camps were all part of the Nazi plan of total extermination. To that end, the Nazis gave the Jewish Council in Lodz an important role to play in their own destruction.

Chaim Rumkowski, the Elder of the Jews

It was at the age of 63 that he was given the position of “Elder of the Jews in Litzmannstadt.” The Germans must have seen potential in the old man with thick, bushy white hair and horn-rimmed black eyeglasses.

As the Jewish "Elder," he reported directly to the Nazi Chief of the Ghetto government, Hans Biebow. In Lodz, Rumkowski turned the ghetto into his own puppet state. In his role of head of the Judenrat, he had the power and autonomy to dictate policy and economic affairs. He oversaw an efficient and obedient administration with a massive bureaucracy (officials and clerical personnel numbered about 13,000).

"Employment for all" in the Lodz ghetto

The ghetto had its own judicial system, prison, social services, school system, currency, police department and a post office. Rumkowski hoped to save the ghetto by making it economically vital to the German war effort: “I have made it my aim to regulate life in the ghetto at all costs. This aim can be achieved, first of all, by employment for all. Therefore, my main slogan has been to give work to the greatest number of people.”

Thus Rumkowski eagerly pursued a policy of “full employment” in the ghetto. In 1940, about 7,000 people worked in the 18 factories. By 1943, however, over 70,000 (85 percent of the population) were employed in the 93 work places. Eighty percent of the ghetto’s economic activity was devoted to helping Nazi Germany’s war effort. If the ghetto was seen as efficient and productive to the Germans, thought Rumkowski, then its inhabitants would be kept alive and not deported to the death camps.

“Chaim the Terrible”

Rumkowski developed a horrible reputation both in Lodz and Warsaw. This was due to his traveling to the Warsaw ghetto, where he spoke to the Judenrat. Adam Czerniakow, the chief of the Warsaw Judenrat, documented Rumkowski’s visits: “For him [Rumkowski], individuals do not exist. He has a Sonderkommando for matters of requisitioning. He collects diamonds and furs. There are no poor people on the streets.”

Czerniakow wrote, “He is known as ‘Chaim the Terrible.' ” Rumkowski enjoyed his power as ‘Elder’ of the Jews. Ghetto resident Leon Hurwitz wrote in 1940: “Everybody in the clique Rumkowski has gathered around him sings paeans to his genius and his mission. Once, speaking to an associate about his mission, he declared, ‘What do you know about power? Power is sweet, power is everything, is life.’ And with a fanatical gleam in his half-crazed eyes, he finished, ‘But woe to him who makes the slightest attempt to wrest power from me.' ”

Working and Starving in the Lodz Ghetto

The focus on "rescue through work" made life even more difficult in the ghetto. People could buy very little food with their wages; they were working and starving. In January of 1942 deportations to the Chelmno death camp began. From January to May 1942, 55,000 Jews and 5,000 gypsies were sent there from Lodz.

Dawid Sierakowiak, a young man who perished in the ghetto, left behind several notebooks containing his diary. Hunger was a running theme and he wrote of it often: “Saturday, May 23 [1942]. There is nothing to eat again. The soup in the workshop is hopeless. As for sausage, one shouldn‘t even dream of it. People are getting swollen at a terrifying rate, while Rumkowski is demanding greater and greater productivity ... The less you eat, the more you should work.”

Rumkowski: "Give me your children!"

The darkest hour in the Lodz ghetto was between September 5 and 12 of 1942. Rumkowski told a crowd that 20,000 Jews were to be deported, including the ill, elderly, and, “I have to perform this bloody operation myself; I simply must cut off the limbs to save the body! I have to take away the children..." A monograph found after the war written by Jozef Zelkowicz discusses this Nazi action: “There is simply no word, no power, no art able to transmit the moods, the laments, and the turmoil prevailing in the ghetto...All faces are twisted, all heads are bowed to the ground, all blood weeps...”

The liquidation of the Lodz ghetto

And yet the work continued. About 77,000 Jews now remained in Lodz, over 90 percent of whom were working. Surprisingly, the deportations halted for 19 months, until May of 1944. Then they started up again. First to Chelmno, then to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Rumkowski and his wife perished. In the end, 877 Jews were kept in a barrack to clean up the ghetto. Upon hearing they were to be shot, all them hid in the ghetto until they were liberated by the Red Army. Over all, about 7,000 to 10,000 Jews survived the Lodz ghetto.

In a logical world, Rumkowski's plan would have worked. Such a productive and profitable enterprise as the factory system would have protected the Lodz ghetto from harm. But the world of Nazism was illogical. In addition to the tons of military supplies produced in the ghetto, Berlin realized a profit of 46,211,485 Reichmarks from the Jews of Lodz.



Adelson, Alan (Ed.). The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto. Oxford University Press. New York and Oxford. 1996.

Brothers, Eric. Judenraete: Issues Surrounding the Activities of the Nazi-Imposed Jewish Councils During the Holocaust. Master of Arts Thesis. Lehman College (City University of New York). 1994. Unpublished.

Lenny Bruce: Patron Saint of Stand-up Comics

Lenny Bruce was a fearless Jewish stand-up comic who stood up for what he believed. His act was a scathing commentary on the world around him, and he tackled sacred cows with relish and abandon. Bruce’s honesty and candor had no limits--he used his personal life as “material” with embarrassing honesty.

“All my humor is based upon destruction and despair. If the whole world were tranquil, without disease and violence, I'd be standing on the breadline right in back of J. Edgar Hoover.”--Lenny Bruce

Bruce arrested for "obscenity" four times

There were no taboos in his biting satire, in subject matter or choice of words. It was his language--specifically “four-letter” words that sometimes had up to twelve--that got him in trouble with the law. Arrested on “obscenity” charges four times between 1961 and 1964, Lenny Bruce was naïve in believing that the First Amendment would protect him and his act.

“If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.”--Lenny Bruce

Bruce was edgy and ahead of his time

Edgy comedy was dangerous in the early 1960s. Nobody said anything like Lenny Bruce on a nightclub stage before. And he paid for it. But Bruce was tenacious--and refused to dilute his act after his trouble with the law began in 1961. It could be said that Bruce’s mantra was that he was only pointing out the differences between the way things are and the way they should be. The Lenny Bruce that comes across on recordings and films of his performances is more of a philosopher than comic. He was very funny, his humor coming from the unusual way he presented the “truth” as he saw it about the institutions he attacked and social mores he challenged.

“A lot of people say to me, 'Why did you kill Christ?' 'I dunno... it was one of those parties, got out of hand, you know.'--We killed him because he didn't want to become a doctor, that's why we killed him."--Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce at Carnegie Hall on February 3, 1961.
 The Carnegie Hall concert of 1961

One of Bruce’s most famous performances was at Carnegie Hall in New York City on February 3, 1961. Captured on tape, the concert is available on record and DVD. There was a snow storm that day that began around noon. The snow didn’t stop and New York mayor Wagner proclaimed a “state of emergency” that day; no one would be able to enter or leave New York.

Lenny was shocked when he appeared on stage to see Carnegie Hall packed with people. Albert Goldman writes, “Lenny seized the mike and started off with a burst of energy that did not exhaust itself until well past 2 A.M.” He performed his most recent material and improvised some new routines, lecturing the audience on “moral philosophy, patriotism, the flag, homosexuality, Jewishness, humor, Communism, Kennedy, Eisenhower, drugs, venereal disease [and] the Internal Revenue Service…”

Comic Jon Stewart on Lenny Bruce

Jon Stewart, the host of Comedy Central's Daily Show, said in 1999 that Bruce, "should be remembered for the substance of what he said, and for the incredibly lyrical way he used the language." Stewart goes on to say that Bruce's remembered more for "certain" words he said rather than the content of his act. "He didn't step over the line just to step over the line," said Stewart. "There was a method to his madness. Nowadays too many comedians are just saying, 'Look at what I can get away with.' "


Goldman, Albert. Ladies and Gentlemen, Lenny Bruce! From the journalism of Lawrence Schiller. Random House, New York. 1971.

Bruce, Lenny. How to Talk Dirty and Influence People. Simon and Schuster, New York. 1963.

Cohen, John (Ed.) The Essential Lenny Bruce. Ballantine Books, 1967.

Bruce, Lenny. The Carnegie Hall Concert.February 3, 1961. World Pacific/Capital Records. © 1995.

Bruce, Lenny. The Berkeley Concert. Berkeley Community Theater, December 12, 1965. Bizarre/Reprise Records (2XS 6329, February 17, 1969).

Keepnews, Peter. “There Was Thought in His Rage.” The New York Times. August 8, 1999.

Lenny Bruce Quotes -- Brainy Quote.

Lenny Bruce Quotes.


Out of Ethiopia: Small Tribe Spread Humanity Worldwide

“What you can see of the DNA of all non-Africans,” says Dr. Stephen Oppenheimer, a geneticist at the school of anthropology at Oxford University, “is that they all belong to one tiny African branch that came across the Red Sea.”


Please consider becoming a "Follower" (I prefer "member") of Propaganda, History and Cinema--then you can leave comments. Members also get to request articles for me to write. Yes, I may be the first writer who takes "requests." Look at my posts (and Suite 101 articles) and pick a topic from the subjects I write about.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New York's Bowery and the Minstrel Show

The minstrel show debuted in New York's Bowery in 1843 and was an immensely popular form of entertainment into the 1950s.
The minstrel show, or minstrelsy, was an American entertainment that included comic sketches, variety acts, dancing, and music. It was performed by white people in blackface and, especially after the Civil War, black people in blackface. Minstrelsy parodied black people as ignorant, lazy, buffoonish, superstitious, joyous, and musical.

Blackface minstrelsy was the first distinctly American theatrical form. It was at the forefront of the rise of the American music industry during the 1830s and 1840s. For several decades it provided the lens through which white America saw black America. On the one hand, it had strong racist aspects; on the other, it gave white Americans a look at a culture that they knew very little about. The minstrel show had mass appeal among all strata of white American society. By 1856, New York City had ten full-time resident minstrel companies, and within another decade that number doubled.

 Here's a rare opportunity to see minstrelsy performed by two white performers on TV from the 1950s.

First minstrel show in New York's Bowery

How did the minstrel show begin? In the early 1840s, A traveling musical show called the Tyrolese Minstrel Family was well know for performing traditional Middle-European folk songs. Four desperate unemployed white actors got together and decided to stage a “Negro” style parody of this popular group's concerts.

 Whites performed in blackface

Billing their act "Dan Emmett's Virginia Minstrels," their blackface revue debuted at New York's Bowery Amphitheatre in February of 1843. A full evening of blackface variety entertainment was presented by Emmett, Frank Bower, Frank Pelham and Billy Whitlock. The four men arranged their chairs in a semi-circle on the stage, offering a fresh combination of songs, dances and comic banter, creating cartoonish Negro caricatures. Most historians consider this production to be the beginning of minstrelsy.

Dan Emmett's Virginia Minstrels, the very first minstrel troupe, debuted in 1843.
John Tryon, who ran the Bowery Amphitheatre, booked mostly minstrel shows after Dan Emmett’s Virginia Minstrels brought down the house. The theatre booked these shows from 1843 until 1848, when new management took over.

The Bowery Theatre was a popular venue for minstrelsy.
The Bowery Theatre -- which was directly across the street from the Bowery Amphitheatre -- under the management of Thomas Hamblin saw the increased bookings of minstrel show and other variety entertainment acts during the same period. Hamblin defied conventions of theatre as high culture by booking productions that appealed to his working class patrons.
 New York's Bowery

What kind of neighborhood was the Bowery? Walt Whitman called the Bowery, “The most heterogeneous mélange of any street in the city; stores of all kinds and people of all kinds are to be met with every forty rods…You may be the President or a Major-General, or be Governor, or be Mayor, and you will be jostled and crowded off the sidewalk all the same.”

An old clothes shop on the Bowery in 1871.

The minstrel show structure and characters

The typical minstrel performance of the time was performed in three acts. In the first act the entertainers danced onto stage, exchanging wisecracks and singing songs. The pun-filled stump speech was featured in the second act, which included a variety of entertainments. The last act was a slapstick musical plantation skit or a send-up of a popular play. The slave and the dandy were the featured stock characters featured in minstrel songs and sketches. These characters were joined by supporting stereotypes such as the "mammy," her counterpart the old “darky,” the provocative "Mulatto wench," and the black soldier. Spirituals (then known as 'jubilees') entered the repertoire in the 1870s, marking the first truly black music to be used in minstrel shows.

Bryant's Minstrels dancing the walkabout. 
The minstrel shows were extremely popular, but they were also quite controversial. Racial integrationists protested the insulting aspects of them, including falsely showing happy slaves while at the same time making fun of them. Segregationists, on the other hand, felt that such entertainment was "disrespectful" of social norms, portraying runaway slaves with sympathy and undermining the South’s “peculiar institution” of slavery.
Book of songs performed by the Christy Minstrels, a minstrel troupe based in London.

The first black dancer in a minstrel show

"Master Juba" (c. 1825 – c. 1852 or 1853) was an African-American dancer who performed in the 1840s. Among the first black performers in the United States to play onstage for white audiences, he was the only one of the era to perform with a white minstrel troupe. His real name was believed to be William Henry Lane, and he was also known as"Boz's Juba" following Charles Dickens' detailed description of him in American Notes.
Master Juba (center) was documented in Dickens' American Notes.
The rough saloons and dance halls of Manhattan's Five Points neighborhood was where he began his career while a teenager. He moved on to minstrel shows in the mid-1840s. "Master Juba" frequently challenged the best white dancers -- including the renowned John Diamond -- and handily defeated all of them. At the height of his popularity in America, Juba's act featured a section in which he imitated a series of famous dancers of the day, closing by performing in his own unique style.

Master Juba.

His style was lightning-fast at times, expressive, and unlike anything seen before. His dancing blended European folk steps, such as the Irish jig, and African-based steps used by slaves on plantations slaves, such as the walkaround. Before Juba began performing, the dance of blackface performance was more faithful to black culture than its other elements. As blackfaced clowns and minstrels adopted elements of his style, however, Juba further enhanced this authenticity. By having such an impact upon blackface performance, Juba was highly influential on the development of such American dance styles as tap, jazz and step dancing.

William J. Mahar. Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture. University of Illinois Press (1998).

Kenneth Jackson, editor. The Encyclopedia of New York City. Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, 1995, pp. 763-764.

Before you leave this post, please take a look at a related post on Blackface culture.
 "Blackface: Racism or Pop Culture?"
Copyright (C) Eric Brothers 2011.  All Rights Reserved.