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Pop Culture Roundup: This Week

An investigation by the Marine Corps has determined that it wrongly identified a man in the iconic Iwo Jima photograph that features a U.S. flag being raised after a bloody battle in Japan during World War II. Seventy years later, the probe has concluded that Private First Class Harold Schultz was one of the men in the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo, upon which the Washington, D.C. memorial statue is based. Navy hospital corpsman John Bradley was not, in fact, shown in the photo. His son James wrote a bestselling book, Flags of Our Fathers, about his father’s role in the war—and the picture. That book eventually became a movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Schultz only mentioned his role in the picture once to his family over dinner, and he never brought it up again, his stepdaughter said. “I said, ‘My gosh, Harold, you’re a hero.’ He said, ‘No, I was a Marine.’” Schultz died in 1995, before the mistake was ever publicly acknowledged.

Preeminent American historian Dr. Deborah Lipstadt — whose historic legal battle against Holocaust denial is depicted in an upcoming Hollywood movie — told The Algemeiner on Thursday that she “never dreamed” the film would be released during such a fragile moment for Jews.

“This movie has been in the works for a relatively long time,” she said, “My book was optioned about eight years ago, so I’m as surprised by the timing as anyone else, which speaks to the fact that we are all surprised by the tide of virulent antisemitism today.”

Lipstadt — author of Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory — made headlines in the 1990s, when she and her publisher were sued for libel in the UK by British Holocaust denier David Irving, whom she named in the book. Since the burden of proof in English courts rests on the defendant in such cases, Lipstadt and her legal team needed to prove that the Holocaust did, in fact, take place.

At the conclusion of the three-month-long trial — from January 11-April 11, 2000 — the judge ruled in favor of Lipstadt, and found that Irving, “for his own ideological reasons, persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence” to portray Hitler “in an unwarrantedly favorable light.” The judge said of Irving that he is an “active Holocaust denier; that he is antisemitic and racist, and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.”

Lipstadt’s ordeal is portrayed in the film “Denial” — based on her book, History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier. Her role will be played by Academy Award-winner Rachel Weisz.

What do you get the woman who already has an invisible plane? The Amazon warrior is enjoying a renaissance in her 75th year, stealing scenes in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and finally getting a movie of her own next June. Meanwhile, DC Entertainment is launching a year-long celebration of the iconic superheroine. Wonderfans can read a relaunched comic series, lasso lots of new merchandise (including a special edition caped Barbie), and try to get a glimpse of a model invisible jet at San Diego's Comic-Con next month.

[T]he three prequels to the original X-Men trilogy (2000, 2003, 2006) offer a fun and playful take on key cultural and political moments in recent US history. Rather than mindless superhero action films, they are a thoughtful critique of Cold War diplomacy and post-WWII American society.

X-Men: First Class (2011) is the origin story for Professor Xavier, Magneto, and their mutant cohort. Set in 1962, the film centers on the mounting Cold War catastrophe between the US and USSR, and culminates in a refashioning of the Cuban Missile Crisis. A sadistic Nazi doctor, Klaus Schmidt (a la Josef Mengele), escapes judgment after WWII and seeks to destroy humanity by exploiting Cold War tensions to achieve an atomic war. Magneto is Jewish and wants revenge for the murder of his family by Schmidt. Xavier, on the other hand, aims to save lives by thwarting Schmidt’s scheme.

Together, Magneto and Xavier tackle two huge issues in the post-WWII world: the organized Israeli hunt for Nazis on the run, and the collapse of US-USSR relations. In this telling, Americans and Soviets are both pawns of Dr. Schmidt; the Soviets are not the “bad guys,” Schmidt and the disillusioned mutants who join him, are. In the climatic confrontation between US and Soviet ships off the coast of Cuba, Schmidt and his baddies play the two sides off each other to get well-meaning US ships to fire on seasoned Soviets. Again, neither side is portrayed as the aggressor or victim.

It has long been thought the author was inappropriately attired at the famously awkward meeting with her hero.

He was a mere mortal who ate too many potatoes, and she was a plain little woman with no social graces, but 165 years after a mutually disappointing encounter between William Makepeace Thackeray and Charlotte Brontë, she has at least been cleared of the mortifying gaffe of wearing a completely unsuitable dress to a grand London dinner party.

The dress has usually been in store at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, since it was donated to the museum in 1928, but is now about to travel on loan to the Morgan library and museum in New York. It has traditionally been described as the one she wore to a dinner given by Thackeray in her honour, at his own home on 12 June 1850.

The dress is a pretty but plain blue and white print, severely buttoned up to the neck – and would have left Brontë painfully out of place among the other female guests in elaborate low-cut silks, velvet, lace, ribbons and copious jewellery.

Brontë worshipped Thackeray’s work and dedicated Jane Eyre to him; he was highly flattered and was fascinated to learn that its author, the mysterious Currer Bell, was actually an unmarried woman from an obscure corner of Yorkshire.

The dinner, with other literary and artistic guests invited to meet the bestselling author, was an abject failure. Conversation faltered, and he later recalled her shocked look as he reached for another potato. One guest recalled it as “one of the dullest evenings she ever spent in her life”, and Thackeray’s daughter Anne remembered: “It was a gloomy and silent evening. Everyone waited for the brilliant conversation, which never began at all.” ...

Historian Eleanor Houghton, lead researcher at the University of Southampton, believes she was at least properly dressed – or at least less blatantly unsuitably than in the blue and white.

Houghton, who publishes her research in the journal Costume, says that Brontë would have been careful about what she wore to the dinner, having already got it wrong by wearing a plain day dress on another very public occasion two years earlier.

Elizabeth Shoumatoff’s portrait of President Roosevelt remained unfinished, because he died while sitting for it.

It was the commission of a lifetime—an invitation from the president himself to visit his vacation home for a long weekend to paint a life-sized portrait that would be displayed for all to see. It wasn’t the first time Elizabeth Shoumatoff had raised her brush to capture the likeness of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but it would be the most prestigious.

Little did the publicity-shy artist know that this commission would never be completed and would ultimately place her in the spotlight of history.

Shoumatoff may not be a household name today—a result more of personal preference than the vagaries of historical memory—but, in the first half of the 19th century, she painted portraits for clients with names like Frick, du Pont, Woodruff, and Mellon.

GUADALUPE, Calif. — Daniel R. Small climbed the sand dunes here as carefully as a tour guide scaling ancient Egyptian ruins. “Up there,” he said, sidestepping a scrap of wood and motioning to a pile of rubble in the distance, “was where the temple once stood. To the right, half of a sphinx is still buried in the sand.”

Yet this stretch of land along the Pacific Coast, known as the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes, proves a novel sort of archaeological site. It’s where Cecil B. DeMille filmed the Exodus scenes of his 1923 silent spectacle, “The Ten Commandments,” building an elaborate set that he later buried so that no competing director could use it. And Mr. Small is not a student of Egyptology but an artist whose interest in the excavations of this biblical proxy has shaped a major project in the new Hammer Museum biennial exhibition, “Made in L.A. 2016.”

Elvis & Nixon sees Kevin Spacey join the list of Hollywood greats who are drawn to play the notorious ‘Tricky Dicky’

Richard M Nixon is like Macbeth or Iago: there are as many possible versions of him as there are interesting actors to play him. I’m not quite ready to add Kevin Spacey’s portrayal to the roster of Top Tricky Dickies just yet – Elvis & Nixon is perhaps too slight a movie – but that’s because the gallery of great Nixons already teems with big thespians making big noises in the Oval Office at 3am, a large scotch near at hand as the end draws inexorably nigh.

Nixon is the crucial absence in the definitive Nixon movie, All The President’s Men, the great white whale for Woodward and Bernstein’s Ahab to harpoon with headlines. But in the decades since his fall in 1974, that yawning emptiness – the word is apposite to the man, too – was filled by a succession of great actors who, simply by watching the news all their lives, had come to their own diverse conceptions of the man, and how to tackle him: sweaty, neurotic Anthony Hopkins in Oliver Stone’s Nixon; drunken, vengeful Philip Baker Hall in Robert Altman’s Secret Honor; and smooth manipulator Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon.