From Cary Grant To Groucho: Captured In Caricature

I love caricatures and always have. This Wednesday, my friend Drew Friedman, one of today’s most inventive artists, is joining his gifted colleague Stephen Kroninger in presenting an illustrated lecture called “12 Legendary Caricaturists You’ve, (probably), Never Heard Of” at the Society of Illustrators in Manhattan.

Groucho and Harpo Marx by William Auerbach Levy

Two of the Marx Brothers by William Auerbach Levy

They plan to show more than 300 prime examples of celebrity caricatures that span the 20th century—many of them unseen in decades—by  such unsung masters as John Johns, Alan Jedla, Lou Hirshman, Sam Berman, George Wachsteter, Abel Ianiro, Bill Utterback, Al Freuh, Einar Nerman, Alex Gard, Jacques Kapralik, and William Auerbach Levy.

At one time, almost every newspaper and magazine employed at least one such artist, before photography supplanted the more whimsical approach to celebrity portraiture.

Some of these men were celebrated in their time, like Freuh, Berman, and Levy, while others (like John Johns, who worked mostly in his native Pittsburgh) never attained the notoriety of an Al Hirschfeld or Jack Davis. All of them did exceptional work which deserves to be better known today.

Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart-by Jacques Kapralik

Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart in “The Philadelphia Story” by Jacques Kapralik

Movie buffs may be most familiar with the easily identifiable decoupage pieces by Kapralik, whose praises I have sung before. (Click HERE.) His caricatures even turned up onscreen every now and then in the main titles of major movies, as did Sam Berman’s sculptures of Carole Lombard and Fredric March for the opening of Nothing Sacred (1937).

Marlene Dietrich by Alex Gard

Marlene Dietrich by Alex Gard

Some of the more obscure artists in this program only became known to Friedman and Kroninger in recent years—thanks to the Internet. It’s nice to gaze at these images online, but wouldn’t it be great to assemble some of them in a traditional coffee table book?

To learn more about the Wednesday program, or to purchase tickets, click HERE.

To hear a lively interview with Drew and Stephen from The Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC, click HERE.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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July 2024