Monday, June 13, 2011

Sam Berman & the "1947 NBC PARADE OF STARS"

In 1947, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), hired the renowned caricaturist Sam Berman to illustrate their promotional portfolio "NBC Parade of Stars, As Heard Over Your Favorite NBC Station", which would be distributed by local stations to publicize NBC Radio's 1947-48 programing. Under a tight deadline, Berman somehow created 56 lush, full color images, brilliantly caricaturing & bringing to life NBC's most popular radio personalities and shows, each printed on a separate 6x7 card, and inserted in a green vinyl slipcase.
Frank Sinatra by Sam Berman

sculptures by Berman, most likely made at the same time as the NBC portfolio. If anyone has any additional information on these, it would be much appreciated.
Fortune Magazine/1935, the US Senate
Sam Berman was one of the leading caricaturists of his day, famed for his fluid, funny, "cruel, yet kind" economic style and vibrant color schemes, his cutting political & celebrity drawings & delightful sculptures appeared frequently on the cover of Esquire (including every 1935 cover)  inside Collier's, and illustrating Mark Hellinger's newspaper column "Going to town" throughout the 30's & 40's.

Sam Berman explains his methods.
From "The Complete Guide to Cartooning" by Gene Byrnes, 1950 (via Mark Newgarden) 

1934 Esquire cover image by Sam Berman
portrait of "Esky" the Esquire mascot, created by cartoonist Simms Campbell and Sam Berman

Esky sculpture by Berman
Some 1935 Esquire covers featuring their new mascot "Esky", sculptures by Sam Berman, who created every cover image for Esquire that year.

Berman poster art for DUCK SOUP (1933)

Berman art for Jimmy the Gent (1934)
1934 cover art by Berman
Berman covers for College Humor, 1937

 Berman's caricature sculptures and cartoons were showcased perhaps most famously in the opening credits for the 1937 Ben Hecht scripted screwball color film comedy classic "Nothing Sacred", directed by William A. Wellman... the story of Hazel Flagg.
Opening titles "Nothing Sacred"

Groucho, for Collier's magazine, 1937

                         A children's book illustrated by Berman in 1937

                                   some of the drawings from the book...

Some of the caricatures created by Berman (alternating with "profile" caricaturist Jacques Kapralik) for Mark Hellinger's popular newspaper column "Going to Town"

Celebrity snowball fight, A Berman image created for the column "Going to town"

another "Going to town", including the original art

From 1938, Movie stars as animals: Carole Lombard & Clark Gable

W.C. Fields

cover by Berman
The 56 images created by Berman for the NBC portfolio represent perhaps a last visual look at the golden age of network radio. Within a year, Milton Berle (who's 1947 radio show was being scripted by the brilliant Nat Hiken) would move over to the still new medium of television, in fact be dubbed "Mr. Television", and the rest is history. Many of the personalities & shows Berman depicted would also soon depart for TV, while others would continue on radio, or disappear into oblivion. Sadly, this would be a similar fate for Sam Berman. After the NBC job, he mostly concentrated on low key advertising work, creating art for children's books, occasional caricature work, and map making, before retiring to Spain. At one time he was one of the most popular, in-demand caricaturists working in this country, perhaps only rivaled by the legendary Al Hirschfeld & Jacques Kapralik,

 today his work is seldom remembered or discussed, with little information existing about him in books or on the web. Since I first posted this, I've heard from among others, four of today's most popular magazine caricaturists, all who had never heard of Berman. Hopefully that situation will begin to change, as I've coveted his artwork for years, and enjoy introducing it to lovers of great caricature and cartoon art who're inevitably amazed by his startling work. The NBC images have a definite "40's" look to them, but by the same token, could have been drawn today. I for one would love to see an anthology covering his amazing career.

 Any takers?

From Collier's, Will Hays, father of the censorship code for American films (click to enlarge)

Business leaders, From Fortune, 1938
Eight cards created for ESSO in the early forties and handed out to customers, showing how Gremlins can damage your car.

An illustrated Berman page from Colliers

3 Dictators: Hitler, Mussolini, Franco
KEN magazine
In 1938, Berman drew a series of images for Collier's, depicting Nazis and other world leaders, their true selves revealed by their animal shadows. This is Goering.



Lord Halifax

"The Great New York Political Sideshow" Collier's (click to enlarge)

Dutch PM Wim Schermerhorn

General Jonathan Wainwright

Wainwright, profile

Sexy Berman art for Colliers

Duke Ellington

Benny Goodman

Larry Adler LP cover

Walter O'Keefe

Ed Wynn


Vic Damone

Journalist Heywood Broun

Harry Grayson

Berman created the illustrations for this children's book in 1952

...and this book in 1954

advertisement art for the Saturday Evening Post, 1955

Cover of the NBC portfolio

The 56 cards created by Sam Berman for the promotional book. I've included most of the images below:
1947 Billboard article announcing the NBC promotional book.

Jimmy Durante
Eddie Cantor

Jack Carson/Eve Arden/ Fibber Mcgee & Molly

Jack Benny 
Fred Allen
Bandleader/Singer Eddie Howard
Red Skelton

Amos & Andy/ Al Jolson

Jerry Colona/Bob Hope
 Singer Dennis Day
Judy Canova

William Bendix "Life of Riley"/ Perry Como & Jo Stafford
Charlie McCarthey & Edgar Bergan
Ed Gardner "Duffy's Tavern"

Buddy Clark/Ralph Edwards
Milton Berle
Alice Faye & Phil Harris

"One man's family"/ "Voice of Firestone"
The Quiz Kids

Bill Stern/ "Mr District Attorney"
Singer/Whistler Jack Berch
"Curtain Time"

The NBC Sympony
"The Adventures of Archie Andrews"

"Harvest of Stars"/Manhattan Merry Go Round"
Bandleader Kay Kyser
Smilin' Ed McConnell

Burns & Allen/ Fred Waring
Dr. IQ
Art Linkletter (People are Funny)

"Grand Old Oprey"/"The Ford Theatre"
Pianist Horace Heidt

Ned Brooks, Felix Morley, Roy Harris/Morgan Beatty
Commentator H. V. Kaltenborn
"Meet the Meeks"

"Hollywood Star Preview"/"Can You Top That"
Paul Lavalle

Bob Hirsh/"Waltz Time"
"The National Farm & Home Hour"

"The Telephone Hour"/ Gary Moore

Robert Merrill



Art Instruction Inc. Minneapolis Minn.

Berman's NBC Jimmy Durante re-used for this 1953 magazine over

Rowan & Martin, late 1960's

Berman face sketches  from the 1970's

Special Sam Berman issue

Thanks to John Wendler, Daniel Kinske, Mark Newgarden, Ed Dowdall, Milton Knight, Jr & Rick Spector


  1. Inspiring post. Justifies the whole internet.

  2. Wow! Fantastic post. Thanks Drew!

  3. I was unfamiliar with Sam Berman's work. And you did a great job of turning me on to it. I love when that happens!

  4. I've seen Berman's work mostly illustrating Wikipedia articles on the subjects therein. Great to see a lot more of it!

  5. Incredible stuff. The one of Fred Allen blew me away.

  6. I wonder if any artist alive could crank out 56 celebrity caricatures with a crushing deadline and come even close to capturing the humor and beauty of Berman's work here. Thanks so much for compiling this art and sharing it with us.

  7. Drew, thanks for posting this great work!

  8. The "big, bald head" is maybe former Dutch PM Wim Schermerhorn.

  9. Replies
    1. Drew, I found this Sam Berman posting when I googled his name, and delighted to see all this work. He was a friend of my (late) mother, and she left me a few things of his, which I don't know what to do with. It's time to clean out so that my own grown children aren't left with a befuddling array of stuff. Any recomendations? One piece in particular is a hilarious overview of the creation of the united nations in San Francisco - the organizing meeting.

  10. Got to be the most information in one place about Berman on the net. I saw the Walter Conolly statue from NOTHING SACRED about ten years ago, so it survives. I have some of the 1947 masks - has anyone seen any others?

  11. Rick, I posted your masks and asked if anyone has any additional information on them. Stay tuned.

  12. Thank you Mr. Friedman. I inherited a set of the NBC pictures a few years ago and could not find out what they were until today. I even tried emailing NBC but got nowhere. You wrote a very informative and interesting article.

  13. Inspiring, Drew! I have come across Going to Town and his work for the Pictorial review a lot. When Entertainment Weekly did a lot of llustration werk a couple of years ago, I was reminded of how well suited he would have been, forties look or not. I will gather some of my stuff for my blog and send everyone here..!

  14. I think the caricature you've identified as General Jonathan Wainwright is actually General Joseph Stilwell. Looks more like him.

  15. Hi Drew (if I may) - sorry to be so late to this party, but I really enjoyed this article and wanted to tell you so. Do you know where the Will Hays picture was printed? Thanks and all very best, Tamar

  16. Drew, thank you for this (and much else)! I was barely aware of Berman's work, so this was a real eye-opener. I just thought I'd mention that that the complete run of Cartoonist PROfiles got added to the Internet Archive last year; here's a link to the one with the Berman cover:

    The people on the cover are Reagan administration officials Ed Meese and David Stockman, and there are quite a few more political caricatures included in the story.