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Peter Sellers being interviewed by talk show host/speed reader Steve Allen in 1964 about Dr. Strangelove, revealing how he used the voice for the titular character from the famed tabloid photographer Weegee. Mixed in are a couple of clips of the protean actor’s former employees recalling how he faked an injury to get out of doing the Major King Kong role. 

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I was recently reading an Art in America article by that excellent Luc Sante about the tabloid photographer Weegee, which reminded me of a 1946 Life piece about the shutterbug. From “Weegee Shows How to Photograph a Corpse“:

“As part of a six-week photography seminar at Chicago’s Institute of Design, the stubby, untidy, cigar-chewing Manhattan photographer who calls himself Weegee and who is famous for his pictures of mayhem and murder recently enlivened his course in spot-news photography by showing students how to photograph a corpse. After one of his lectures (‘Now, a stiff…they’re the nicest kind of subject. They don’t try to cover up…I always try to make ’em look nice and comfortable’), Weegee procured a dummy and a plastic $1 revolver, cheerfully set out on a field trip to demonstrate the technique.

In Lincoln Park, Weegee sprawled the pasty-faced tuxedoed dummy on a sidewalk, advised, ‘That’s the way they are, unless it’s a dumbed-up job.’ Yhen he circled the body, disarranged its clothes, hoisted his 8-year-old Speed Graphic and squeezed off a picture. 

Up to a year ago, Weegge (real name: Arthur Felig) was New York City’s most remarkable police-beat photographer. From a $17-a-month room littered with a police radio, cigar boxes full of negatives, cardboard cartons containing flash bulbs and shoes, and a dingy double bed in which he usually slept with his clothes on. Weegee roared off nightly in a rickety 1938 Chevrolet to cover fires, accidents and violent deaths. A bachelor, he worked from midnight to 7a.m., detested telephones, kept his savings in the back of his car and managed to get the laundry done once a month. Now all that is changed.  His increasing fame has led him to buy a tuxedo, to publish a book (The Naked City, Essential Books, $4), to take up free-lancing for publications like Vogue and to announce that he would never again ‘photograph anybody laying on the ground, waiting for a hearse, with blood all around them.’ Today Weegee photographs society and cover girls (‘The body beautiful…alive, I mean.’), claims he meets a better class of people and even sleeps in pajamas ‘except when I’m very tired.'”

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Sign: "Frank Lava Gunsmith. Revolvers Bought Sold Repaired."

The apartment above the Frank Lava Gunsmith shop on Centre Market Place was pretty much the perfect locale to live in if you were New York City’s leading crime photographer, as Arthur “Weegee” Fellig was from the 1930s through the 1950s. This classic 1937 photo of Weegee (photographer unidentified) shows the street-smart shutterbug during the daytime, but it was the graveyard shift when he worked and dominated. From a 2008 New York Times piece about Weegee by John Strausbaugh:

“Weegee’s peak period as a freelance crime and street photographer was a whirl of perpetual motion running from the mid-1930s into the postwar years. Ceaselessly prowling the streets during the graveyard shift, he took thousands of photographs that defined Manhattan as a film noir nightscape of hoodlums and gangsters, Bowery bums and slumming swells, tenement dwellers and victims of domestic brawls, fires and car crashes. He gave it its enduring nickname, the Naked City.

‘Weegee captured night in New York back when it was lonely and desolate and scary,’ said Tim McLoughlin, editor of the Brooklyn Noir anthology series, the third volume of which has just been published by Akashic Books. ‘He once said he wanted to show that in New York millions of people lived together in a state of total loneliness.’”


“You push the button and it gives you the things you want.”

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