Let's go back to Oscar night, February 27, 1935 at the Biltmore Hotel. The American film industry celebrated the 1934 film crop by awarding the Oscar to It Happened One Night starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The Academy Award winning film was directed by none other than Frank Capra.
Over in Europe, in 1934, they were celebrating a different kind of filmmaker.
Before there was Eva Braun, there was Leni Riefenstahl. She was the filmmaker for the Third Reich, a talented actress, director, producer and writer who was seduced by Nazism. This issue told Americans about her before her reputation had been subsumed in tragedy. She was known to U.S. audiences at the time of this issue for the film S.O.S. Iceberg, a Greenland film presented in America in 1933.
Although the cover described her as "Hitler's Friend", inside -- on page 16 -- the article is titled, "Hitler's Dictator: Girl, 27,Tells Der Fuehrer How and When to Smile."
September 15, 1934
Here's how this female film auteur was described when this issue -- which cost a whole dime during the Great Depression -- hit the stands:
"'Look this way. Now smile.' These orders, addressed to Adolf Hitler, came from Leni Riefenstahl, whose marble-smooth complexion, gray eyes, copper-colored hair, and trim figure make her one of the loveliest women in Germany."
It's clear that people knew Hitler was bad news back then, but he is written about in ways that suggest him in gossipy terms:
"Since the death of President von Hindenburg removed Hitler's official boss, the lovely Leni is the only person of either sex who presumes to dictate in public to the dictator. To no other woman has the ascetic Reich Leader shown such public admiration... She owes her friendship with Herr Hitler to her skill as a producer and director as well as her personal attractiveness. Few Germans predicted a romance. Herr Hitler's feeling for the lady, it was said, was not yet strong enough to make him apply his anti-bachelor laws to himself."
Newsweek, by the way, was in only its second year of publishing when this article was printed. Time had been around over a decade longer.
Hindsight is 20/20, of course. Still -- from the glam shot on the cover to the breathless movie-star kind of coverage inside -- you have to score this one in the "just didn't get it" column. Hitler was a freaking genocidal maniac, not a touchy celebrity who needed the right "handling." A little over a decade after this was written, over six million Jews were dead and much of the world was in ashes. Nothing glamorous there.
Our companion blogs are also celebrating Oscar weekend with special posts:
Movie Smackdown! reviews all the Oscar nominated films that got in Smackdowns -- and tells you who already won and lost...
News! Views! & Schmooze! has a post about some first person Oscar red carpeting and a Jon Stewart story or two...