network that is touting, as
two high-profile acquisitions,
Young Hitler and young hotties
on the annual Victoria's
Secret lingerie show
-- description of CBS
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
By MAUREEN DOWD
PASADENA, Calif. --
We've had Hitler
the hippie grooving in the movie "The
Producers." We've had Gay Hitler shimmying
on "Saturday Night Live." We've had
everyone from Charlie Chaplin to
Alec Guinness to Anthony
Hopkins goose-stepping across the
screen as Adolf the Fruitcake.
Yet the monster will not die.
Fifty-seven years after he swallowed a
bullet instead of Europe, Hitler is still
a hot property.
For sweeps next season, CBS will bring
us Hitler in the demo: Young
Hitler, the miniseries, covering the
years between 18 and 34 -- the demographic
sweet spot of network television. The
Gathering Sturm. The Young and the Racist.
From "Achtung, baby," to "Achtung,
If there's one thing Hollywood
executives understand, it's megalomania.
And if there is one audience they crave
more than any other, it's teenagers and
The WB network got a hit last season
out of showing the dreamy teenage Superman
in "Smallville." So why not show the
teenage Hitler dreaming of his super
"Hollywood is playing the Nazi card,"
says the TV writer Eric Mink
And how. Besides what CBS calls "the
Hitler project" -- cuddly Ewan
McGregor's name has been bandied about
as the leading Deutschman -- there are at
least two other Portraits of the
Führer as a Young Man in the works.
There is talk about Robert Downey
Jr. playing Hitler as a struggling painter
in Vienna in a BBC drama. Then there's an
independent feature film called "Max,"
focusing on the relationship between a
Jewish art dealer (John Cusack) who
was friendly with the aspiring artist and
After the glut
of Hitler movies was reported in the
press -- "It's Primetime for Hitler,"
Variety proclaimed -- some Jewish
leaders denounced the projects as
They don't want to see a glossy,
sympathetic "Lifestyles of the Reich and
Fascist": a cute, brooding teenage Hitler
painting away in a garret, listening to
Wagner (the Eminem of his age),
hanging at the cafes in Vienna with
Wittgenstein and Freud,
accumulating disappointments and
rejections as raw material for "Mein
Kampf," roiled by sexual confusion,
frightened by the advances of an amorous
milkmaid, and like everyone else then and
now, steamed at the French.
are documentaries and films about Hitler
the man, Hitler the lover, Hitler the
young person," said Abraham Foxman,
the chairman of the Anti-Defamation
League. "I find that trivializing and
offensive." Mr. Foxman and others probably
fear the Tony Soprano effect, a bad guy
who becomes a cult anti-hero.
CBS executives at the television press
tour here seemed a little uptight about
the criticism of the Hitler project, which
is based on the first part of the
two-volume Ian Kershaw biography of
the German dictator -- "Hitler, 1899-1936:
CBS's president, Leslie Moonves,
told TV critics that he thought the young
Hitler was a "fascinating character."
"I also think this is a very timely
subject about how bad guys get into power
and how it affects the rest of the world,"
It's a stretch to argue that
understanding an old evildoer would shed
light on the new evildoers. There's a big
difference between genocide and terrorism.
But there's no denying Hollywood's eternal
reliance on two subjects -- evil and
With a group of writers trying to
fathom the cultural landscape post-9/11,
Mr. Moonves found himself justifying the
aesthetic sensibility of a network that is
touting, as two high-profile acquisitions,
Young Hitler and young hotties on the
annual Victoria's Secret lingerie
"You know, Victoria's Secret, it's a
lark, it's an hour of programming," he
said. "It's fun. See how much conversation
we're getting about a one-hour
But Mr. Moonves did not seem to have a
ready answer when asked what kind of
company might want to advertise or
underwrite the Hitler miniseries.
"Volkswagen?" murmured one TV writer
If Young Hitler is a success,
opportunistic programmers will decide that
the key to understanding the great
dictator's twisted soul is in his potty
Next year on Nickelodeon, watch for the
prequel: "Baby Hitler."
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