Friday, February 14, 2014

One of the Real Monuments Men

I must have seen the preview for the new movie Monuments Men at least ten times since last summer and fall, after it began saturating movie theaters. (This tells you how often I go to the movies.)

But now that the film has finally opened, it turns out there's a bit of a controversy. It's not really history, you see -- the handful of art experts shown in the film, played by George Clooney, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, and others -- were really 350 experts. The film characters are completely made up, as recounted by Lucia Wilkes Smith in an op-ed from Tuesday's Star Tribune.

Wilkes Smith knows this because she's the great niece of a real Monuments Man, a Minnesotan named Walter Huchthausen, who was one of only two members of the unit to be killed in action. She was invited to the opening events.
This movie is based on The Monuments Men and Rescuing da Vinci, nonfiction accounts written by Robert Edsel. He was at the [film premiere] party, too, and I asked him how he felt about the Hollywood-ization of his books. His face crumpled for only a moment before he regrouped. Edsel said he understands that the characters were developed to be interesting and compelling for audiences. He believes that the movie will inspire people to want to learn more and to investigate the history through the Monuments Men Foundation.
I hope that's true.

One other notable thing about Huchthausen: He was a first-generation German-American who arrived in 1923 at age 18, along with his parents. Isn't it interesting that the Army had no compunction about sending him off to wander around occupied Europe, at the same time second- and third-generation Japanese-Americans were sitting in internment camps because they were considered a threat to U.S. security?

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