Andy Samberg Plays a History-Making Jewish WWII Photographer in Upcoming Movie – Kveller
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Andy Samberg Plays a History-Making Jewish WWII Photographer in Upcoming Movie

In "Lee," the Jewish actor plays photographer David E. Scherman who took iconic photographs in Hitler's bathtub.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 18: Andy Samberg attends the 'Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers' premiere at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California on May 18, 2022.

via Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

A question I have found myself asking more times than expected in the past couple of years is, “Where in the world is Andy Samberg?”

The “Saturday Night Live” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star is always someone I seek out in movies and television, but since his show was unjustly cancelled in 2021, he has mostly stuck to voice acting.

I’d watch anything with Samberg; he has both underrated drama chops and is wonderfully, naturally funny. I’m not one to idolize actors too much, but Andy Samberg, a dad of two who is married to magical musician Joanna Newsom, seems to be a genuine Nice Jewish Boy, and I’d be absolutely crushed if any dark piece of news came out about him.

Fortunately, I’m here to share some very positive — Jewish — Andy Samberg news. The actor is playing Jewish photographer David E. Scherman in the upcoming movie “Lee.” Starring Kate Winslet, the movie focuses on American artist, model and photographer Lee Miller, who, while working for Conde Nast, took the first photographs of the Dachau concentration camp. “Lee” is premiering this weekend, September 9, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

(As an aside, Samberg’s dad, Joe Samberg, is himself a photographer, who took some pretty iconic photos of San Francisco’s hippie scene, as well as this photo of a woman on a beach in Tel Aviv that I’m lowkey obsessed with, which makes this role even more perfect for the Jewish actor.)

Miller, who wasn’t Jewish, was definitely a woman ahead of the curve. A history-making photojournalist who argued that women just make for better photographers, she was also known for affairs with the likes of Man Ray and Picasso. She and Scherman, her collaborator during the war and a photographer for LIFE, who would later become an editor for the magazine, became the first press to enter Adolf Hitler’s Munich apartment at the tail end of the war, and took perhaps one of the most sensational photos: Miller, in Hitler’s bathtub, facing away from a portrait of the German dictator, cleaning what she called “the dirt of Dachau off in his tub,” her dirty, ash-covered boots on his bathmat, her war correspondent uniform on a stool.

“Lee took a leisurely, overdue bath in Hitler’s tub while an angry lieutenant of the 45th, soap in hand, beat on the locked door outside,” Scherman later reported.

Directed by Ellen Kuras, “Lee” tells the story of Miller’s work during the war, and Samberg’s Scherman plays a central role in the movie — bringing mostly drama, but also some humor, to the fore, according to a Vanity Fair review.

After photographing Miller that day in Munich, Scherman, too, got in the bathtub. While Miller looks pensive, intentional and almost romantic in her iconic photos, there is something almost humorous — or perhaps, defiantly glib — in the photos of Scherman that day, a Jewish man desecrating Hitler’s bathroom, washing off the crud and the dirt from his body in the bathtub of the man responsible for the killing of 6 million fellow Jews. The photos were taken on the very same day Hitler and Eva Braun took their own lives.

“If you were to see the photo of Scherman, Lee tilts up to fully include the showerhead prominently,” Miller’s son, Anthony Penrose, later said about the photograph, “Why? Because Scherman was Jewish and that morning they had been in a very different type of shower room, one that was disguised as such, but was in fact a gas chamber. There are thousands of words in those two pictures.”

Penrose said that his mother was haunted by the war and never spoke about it. “I think it was too painful for her. Many of her friends were Jewish. When she arrived in Paris [as the war ended] and saw all this celebration, she recognized that her friends were missing. Not only Jewish people, but also poets, journalists, surrealist artists — they just disappeared.”

Scherman passed away in 1997. In his New York Times obituary, he is touted as the photographer who helped sink a Nazi ship, which he did after surviving a shipwreck caused by a covert Nazi warship called the Atlantis and taking a photo of it from a lifeboat. He then smuggled the film of the boat in a toothpaste tube, and his photographs helped the British navy locate it and stop it from sinking more ships. According to the Times, before Scherman helped British forces locate it, the Atlantis had “sunk 22 liners and merchant ships in the Atlantic.” He also survived two plane crashes during the war.

Along with Miller, Scherman’s incredible legacy deserves to be remembered, and it is pretty special to have Samberg, an actor who has always proudly touted his Jewish heritage, and who also looks quite a lot like young Scherman, play the part.

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