Prop poster portrays choreographer’s bad-taste pinnacle

Dance · Film · Visual arts

This prop poster from The Producers (1968) is displayed outside the theater during the premiere of “Springtime for Hitler,” and is also visible at greater length in the “Playhouse Outtake” on the DVD. It is on auction December 10 at Bonhams as part of the TCM presents: 1939, Hollywood’s Greatest Year sale.

“Springtime for Hitler” prop poster from The Producers Embassy Pictures, 1968. U.S. three sheet poster, folded.

In partnering with choreographer Alan Johnson (Washington Post obituary here), writer and director Mel Brooks met his match in their mutual penchant for the outlandish and ridiculous.

The plot of The Producers centered around a pair of con men hoping to dupe the moneymen who are financing their purposely horrible stage production entitled “Springtime for Hitler.” Brooks wanted the musical numbers to be as humorously offensive as possible, and Johnson did not disappoint. The choreography was without parallel in its creativity and humor, with dancing Nazis forming Busby Berkeley-type swastikas and Ziegfeld Follies-type showgirls in beer and pretzel costumes.

Johnson later commented, “Every time we’d hit a level, we’d go broader and bigger. There were no limits to what we could do.” The number became one of the highlights of Johnson’s career and resulted in many more film collaborations with Brooks.

Provenance: the estate of Alan Johnson. 41 x 81 in.

TCM presents: 1939, Hollywood’s Greatest Year | Bonhams Dec 10

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