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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Second World War’

Hollywood Types Find Captain America Too American

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

In March 1941 – nine months before the attack on Pearl Harbor impelled America to enter the Second World War – one colorful American hero already had joined the battle: Captain America.

The famous front cover of Captain America #1 showed its titular hero punching Hitler straight in the face, sending the ridiculous-looking Führer tumbling backward.

With that single unforgettable image, the Nazi ideal of the Aryan übermensch was dealt a fatal blow, as was what remained of the once respectable American “isolationist” movement.

As the first comic book character to enlist in World War II, Captain America was an instant success, selling nearly 1 million copies per issue. In a way that’s not surprising, considering the character’s pedigree. Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, second-generation Jews who made no secret of their source of inspiration.

The character of Captain America, Simon said, “was our way of lashing out at the Nazi menace.”

In that first issue of the Marvel comic, readers meet the superhero’s “everyman” alter ego, Steve Rogers. A sickly Depression-era child, Rogers loses his parents at a young age, then tries to enlist in the military. Too feeble to join the regular forces, Rogers volunteers for a top-secret military medical experiment known as “Operation Rebirth,” being overseen by one Dr. Reinstein. (Note the character’s Jewish name, one that sounds suspiciously like “Albert Einstein.” In 1941, Einstein was a wildly popular – if little understood – cultural icon in the real world.)

In need of a human “guinea pig” to test his formula, Dr. Reinstein injects Rogers with his Secret-Soldier Serum. Unfortunately, a Nazi spy infiltrates the experiment and kills Dr. Reinstein, leaving the newly empowered Rogers as the serum’s sole beneficiary.

Hailed by the U.S. military as a superhuman savior, Rogers dons a patriotic costume of red, white and blue, with a star on his chest and stripes on his waist. Captain America is quickly dispatched to his most important early assignment: destroy his evil “super soldier” counterpart, a Nazi agent called the Red Skull.

Fast forward to 2011: This summer, Captain America returns to the big screen. Unfortunately, the spirit of 1941 (let alone 1776) is a long way off. In an era of anti-Americanism – at home and abroad – the movie’s director and star have been playing down the character’s American identity.

Director Joe Johnston insists that “this is not about America so much as it is about the spirit of doing the right thing.” Chris Evans, who plays the title character, echoes the sentiment, saying “I’m not trying to get too lost in the American side of it. This isn’t a flag-waving movie.”

This isn’t the first time Hollywood has eagerly de-Americanized superheroes, sometimes by undercutting traces of “corny” patriotism with doses of winking irony. Take the 2006 film “Superman Returns,” which has Clark Kent’s boss cynically describing Superman as fighting for “truth, justice all that stuff.”

Or take the 2009 movie based on a hugely popular toy from Hasbro. The film’s title, “G.I Joe: A Real American Hero,” was trimmed down to just “G.I Joe,” the toy’s iconic logo with the American flag was removed, and the storyline transformed the title character’s American anti-terror squad into an international peacekeeping task force that apparently took its marching orders from the United Nations.

The fact is, Hollywood movies today live or die based on worldwide ticket and DVD sales, and in a world in which American flags are burned regularly from Paris to the Punjab, received wisdom has it that anything too “American” is international box office poison.

Anticipating anti-American blowback, Paramount and Marvel Studios actually offered distributors the choice of marketing the new movie using its real title – “Captain America: The First Avenger” – or opting for simply calling it “The First Avenger.”

Most distributors say they are going with the original title, eager to take advantage of decades of “Captain America” brand recognition. However, three countries – Russia, Ukraine and South Korea – have decided to promote the movie as “The First Avenger.”

By literally cloaking their character in patriotism, Kirby and Simon displayed unabashed love of, and confidence in, the United States. Like many Jewish Americans during World War II, such as the heads of Hollywood studios, they felt duty bound to use their creativity in the service of their country.

True Stories Of Bright Stars On Earth – Like The Stars Of The Heavens

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007


True Stories Of Bright Stars On Earth -


Like The Stars Of The Heavens


By Helen Zegerman Schwimmer


 


 


         Like The Stars Of The Heavens is a book that shines almost as brightly as the very stars in heaven. Written by Helen Zegerman Schwimmer, who just might be the brightest star of all, the book takes us through the lives of close to 50 incredible people while telling us Helen’s own life story.

 

         Helen was born in the St. Ottilien displaced persons camp in Germany to two holocaust survivors, shortly after the end of the Second World War. Her story is fascinating in and of itself, but she doesn’t just focus on herself. She weaves the story of so many others into this charming book.

 

         Each chapter is just a few pages long and I thought I would read one or two chapters at a time. But I found that I didn’t want to put the book down, so I read one more chapter and then just one more after that. Helen has a gift for writing and my eyes were often filled with tears as I read. Perhaps it is because she puts so much of her heart into the book.

 

         A few of the stories in this book originally appeared in The Jewish Press under Helen’s byline, but I read them again as if it were the first time. The people profiled in this book are as diverse as “Foolproof Rugelach” is from intricate heart surgery, but you will read about both. The stories about mystery writer Rochelle Krich, actress Rachel Factor and Rebbetzin Esther Winner are alongside those of heart surgeon Dr. Richard Golinko and cutting edge research scientist Dr. Judah Folkman, to name a few. One minute we are experiencing the Holocaust and its aftermath, and then we are on Wall St. with computer mogul Akiva Shapiro. The amazing thing is how Helen manages to tell all of these stories, and her own, so compellingly.

 

         Over more than 45 years, The Jewish Press has helped many writers gain experience and name recognition, but rarely has the paper been credited. Helen Schwimmer is an exception. She takes the Jewish ethic of “Makir Tov” (acknowledging something done on one’s behalf) seriously. And her very funny first chapter is a wonderful example of this trait as well as a good introduction to the book.

 

         Like the Stars of the Heavens will make a wonderful Chanukah (or anytime) gift for everyone…men, women, teenagers and yourself. It can be purchased on line from: Amazon.com or chosencouture.com.

 

         It is also available at select bookstores: at Eichlers in Brooklyn and at West Side Judaica and Levine’s in Manhattan.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/true-stories-of-bright-stars-on-earth-like-the-stars-of-the-heavens/2007/11/14/

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