Mort Drucker, caricature genius

MAD-Magazine-Godfather-Parody-Splash

Our discussion earlier of MAD magazine caused me to say that my favorite part was the movie spoofs.

So I did a little Googling, and came up with the above, which epitomizes what I was remembering. I was trying to recall who the artist was who did the best of those parodies. I found out.

Mort Drucker is amazing (or perhaps I should say “was amazing,” since he’s 90 now and I assume retired). The very piece you see above is mentioned on his Wikipedia page, where a writer is quoted as saying, “The way he draws James Caan‘s eyebrow is worth some folks’ entire careers.”

Exactly. And check out his rendering of Barzini in the panel below.

Another thing from that page:

In a 1985 Tonight Show appearance, when Johnny Carson asked Michael J. Fox, “When did you really know you’d made it in show business?”, Fox replied, “When Mort Drucker drew my head.”[1]

Absolutely.

Oh, by the way: I don’t expect people to know who Mort Drucker is for me to consider them to be sufficiently aware of the world around them. Alfred E. Neuman is an icon; Drucker is more esoteric. Just for those keeping score.

If you’re confused about where the line it, just ask me; I’ll tell ya…

31 thoughts on “Mort Drucker, caricature genius

  1. Dave Crockett

    The hinged feet and large, misshapen heads of the late Don Martin’s odd characters were always entertaining…

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, certainly. I enjoyed most of those artists.

      But I have conservative tastes in art. I like representational stuff. And Drucker’s caricatures were so straightforward they were ALMOST photographic, but better than a photo, capturing more of the essence of his subject — and also funny in a way that was hard to put your finger on, even without the dialogue…

      Here are some more samples of his work, via Pinterest…

      Reply
    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, certainly. I enjoyed most of those artists.

      But I have conservative tastes in art. I like representational stuff. And Drucker’s caricatures were so straightforward they were ALMOST photographic, but better than a photo, capturing more of the essence of his subject — and also funny in a way that was hard to put your finger on, even without the dialogue…

      Here are some more samples of his work, via Pinterest…

      Reply
      1. Bill

        To get technical about it,Mort Drucker’s caricatures are illustrations not art.If you wanted to argue,John Singer Sargent,you’d have a case,although I doubt knowledge of the visual arts figure anywhere in your idea of an “informed person”…

        Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It’s AN important qualification, not THE qualification.

      It’s important to be a generally aware person, who knows a little about everything regarding the world that surrounds him or her — past as well as present. The likely candidate should have a good sense of the way things are, and how they got to be that way. They need a good “how did we get here” sense. And of course they need to know not just facts, but how they fit together.

      Of course, you could know all that and still be a total jerk who shouldn’t be elected to anything…

      Reply
      1. Bill

        Pete Buttigieg couldn’t be more ‘aware’.Your going on about Alfred E. Neumann is ridiculous.It’s 2019 and ‘he’ is not a cultural icon by any stretch of the imagination ..This and much of what you write about young people/politicians reminds me of the Trotsky’ quote:”Old age is the most unexpected of all things that happen to a man.”
        Hard to believe but not everything is about the baby boom generation…

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          OK, again: I have made it clear from this is not about my generation. If it were, I’d say this:

          But it’s not. As I say, a young person who doesn’t know who Alfred E. Neuman is is kind of like me (as a Boomer) not knowing who Frank Sinatra was. Or George Gershwin. Or John Phillip Sousa. Or Herman Melville. Those are American culture touchstones. An informed person is familiar with them, whenever he or she was born….

          Reply
          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Here’s another hint to where the line is: You don’t have to know who Mark David Chapman is. You DO have to know who Lee Harvey Oswald was. John Wilkes Booth, too.

            Sirhan Sirhan is optional…

            Reply
            1. Doug Ross

              Squeaky Fromme?

              I usually do trivia a couple nights a week at bars when I am on the road. Usually win individual categories that are mostly pop culture or sports related. I have a lot of useless knowledge stored up. Since I’m playing against teams of mostly college kids by myself, you might be shocked at how little they know about people or events that occurred prior to 1990.

              I’d put John Wilkes Booth in the under 25% identifiable category for people under 30.

              Reply
              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                If they don’t know Booth, they should be deported.

                Maybe they could remember his name better if you told them he was a famous actor, and member of a famous acting family — like a Baldwin…

                Reply
                1. Doug Ross

                  Would they know “Sic semper tyrannis”? The name of the theatre? The name of the doctor who treated Booth’s broken ankle? The name of the play Lincoln was watching when he was shot?

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Would the Baldwin brothers know those things? Maybe not. I don’t expect a lot from actors.

                  But I think I do. Let me take a shot, without looking them up:

                  1. “Thus to all tyrants.” What Booth said as he leapt to the stage after shooting Lincoln. Wait. Maybe it’s “Thus always to tyrants,” as “semper” means “always.”
                  2. Ford’s Theatre
                  3. Dr. Mudd (not sure about the spelling). Sometimes said to be the origin of the phrase, “My name is mud.”
                  4. “My American Cousin”

                  What do we consider to be a passing grade?

                3. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Well, I just checked my answers and I screwed up on the name of the play. It was “OUR American Cousin,” not “MY American Cousin”…

                4. Bart

                  Doug,
                  “Death to Tyrants”
                  Ford Theater
                  Mudd – Ancestor of CBS news anchor, Roger Mudd
                  “Our American Cousin”

                  Guess I am too old to be “relevant”. But, who cares, I don’t as long as I am relevant to my friends and family. Trying to be relevant to people you don’t know is a fool’s errand and a total waste of time. You and several others on this blog, I get. A couple of others, MEH!

                5. bud

                  A distinction should be made between knowing something and being able to recall the details. I immediately recalled Ford’s Theater and remembered the play had the word cousin in it. The other 2 are things I’ve read about many, many times but just couldn’t recall. For me this isn’t an aging or dementia thing I’ve always had trouble remembering names. But I have a much better grip on numbers. So to me a person’s understanding of science and statistics is a much, much more important qualification for POTUS than being able to recite names of things. Any candidate that blandly dismisses scientific reasoning is a complete rejection for me for consideration.

                6. Brad Warthen Post author

                  The things I remember are random. I can’t think of the names of real people I’ve known all my life, but I know that the grandchildren in “When I’m Sixty-Four” are Vera, Chuck and Dave.

                  This morning, a colleague was trying to remember the name of an Austen book, and he said something about “the one with all the daughters,” and I held myself back from saying, you mean Jane, Lizzie, Mary, Kitty and Lydia? It would be nice if I could say I knew those names because I was in the play, but I knew them long before that…

          2. Bill

            Comparing Alfred E Neuman to Sinatra ,George Gershwin, John Phillip Sousa and Herman Melville is ridiculous.The humans are survived by their works.Neuman was a cartoon logo for a magazine that peaked decades ago and has been deservedly forgotten by most and represents American culture at its lowest…
            But,hey,it’s your blog.Knock yourself out.Lord,lead me on…
            https://fingertipsrecords.bandcamp.com/track/lead-me-on

            Reply
            1. Doug Ross

              How much time would you say you spend each week talking with non-family members who are under age 35? Not work related, just general conversation. I’ve found it to be eye opening to be working on a college campus for the past three years and spending a lot of time talking to younger people several hours a week.

              Reply
              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                I don’t know. I don’t have that many conversations with anyone outside my family, beyond people I interview for work-related things. If you asked me how many people I talk to close to my own age, it would be a pretty skimpy list.

                I don’t exist in an age bubble. But I don’t chat with a lot of people. Not since leaving the newspaper.

                There are people who never meet a stranger, and are interested in talking to anybody. My father-in-law was like that — everywhere he went, he’d strike up conversations with people and learn all about their business. A couple of his sons are like that. You’ll wonder where they are, then find them engrossed in an extended conversation with a stranger.

                I am NOT like that. In a crowded room that is filled with people talking, you’re likely to find me in a corner reading my iPad. Part of this is my hearing problem — I can’t tell what people are saying to me if there’s background noise. But part of it is, I just like to read…

                Reply
                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  It’s embarrassing to admit that. People should not be like me. They should be genuinely interested in other people and interact with them as much as possible.

                  I’m going to further embarrass myself: When I DO get involved in a conversation with someone, especially someone I don’t know, it tends to go like this: They ask me questions about myself, and I dutifully answer all of the questions honestly and fully, sometimes talking at length if they keep asking me things.

                  And I’ll go away thinking, man, I was REALLY being social there…

                  And then it’ll hit me: I was supposed to be showing similar interest in the OTHER person, asking questions about him or her. And it didn’t occur to me to do so, I was so focused on answering the questions. And then I feel ashamed.

                  I’m a mess, aren’t I?

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Oh, wait: I interacted with a lot of people under 35 during the campaign. Aside from volunteers and staff, that probably also describes most of the reporters I dealt with…

                  It probably also describes most of the reporters I supervised during the first phase of my career, as an editor in newsrooms. Which made it kind of familiar but also kind of weird — here were all these reporters who did not see it as their job to write what I told them to write. Plumb unnatural…

              2. Doug Ross

                See, I’m the opposite. I talk to everyone. I’ve had plenty of good conversations with Uber drivers over the past three years. Usually for 30 minutes going to the airport. You get to talk to a large cross section of people that way. Outside my family, I probably talk the most to a 30 year old Indian woman, a 40 year old woman from Zimbabwe, a 25 year old guy who writes trivia questions for a part time job, and various bartenders at sports bars. You know whose name rarely comes up? Trump. The general public just goes on about their lives, aware of him but not affected by him.

                Reply
                1. Doug Ross

                  It’s a muscle that can be developed. I was the stereotypical wallflower nerd through college. All it takes is asking people questions. What I’ve learned is that everyone has a story with themselves as protagonist

                  Just two weeks ago I had an Uber driver who played jazz clarinet while driving (it was fine, busy downtown). His aunt was apparently a famous jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams. He had also been the bellman at the ritziest hotel in Pittsburgh for decades.

  2. Norm Ivey

    I could not have called up the name Mort Drucker from memory, but as soon as I read it, I knew immediately who he was.

    I miss the line drawings. The magazine now is full-color glossy, and IMHO, makes it harder to pick out some of the ridiculous details the old black and white art had hidden within it.

    The fold-ins are still pretty clever.

    Reply

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