Herb Lawrence Block was a legendary and powerful editorial cartoonist and opinion maker of the 20th century. The documentary Herblock: The Black & the White, produced by a Father and Son team of George Stevens Jr. and Michael Stevens, screened at AFI FEST Presented By Audi, if not to a packed house, then to a house filled with a committed and admiring audience at the TLC Chinese Theater number 6. The documentary uses interviews of some of the most recognizable television personalities, News anchors and opinion makers in both social and political arenas within and out of the Beltway to tell Herblock’s story as a no nonsense, satirical social critic, with a gifted artistic hand and an unusual eye to deduce a thought into a concise illustration that advocates the perspective of the average man.
There are many memorable moments shared in these interviews. Tom Brokaw, Ted Koppel and Brit Hume spoke of Herblock’s populous power and industry influence with its darker tones, while Luis Black and Jon Stewart spoke of him with adoration and as a source of inspiration. His collages Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Gwen Ifill spoke of his passion for his work, his humor and his humanity. To pull the story together in a more meaningful way Alan Mandell was used to reenact Herblock critical points in the narrative to pull the story together and add a more personal tone to the Documentary.
As an Editorial cartoonist Herblock was unrivaled by anyone in his field in the 20th Century. As many express, in their on camera interviews, no one crystalized the populous views and sentiments more or drove deeper to the heart of a news event or social issue than Herblock did with his effortlessly executed sketches and satirical wit. In the Documentary he was referred to as scabrous and acerbic cartoonist, who could eviscerate or excoriate a topic or individual as none other could. It was his Pulitzer Prize that set him on his unassailable course at The Washington Post that lasted for 55 years ending in 2001. Jon Stewart and Lewis Black would swell with admiration recounting stories of the cartoonist influential illustration with comments on his wit and satire that offered insight into the foundational thinking behind the The Daily Show. The high points in the Documentary and Herblock’s life were offered with his heroic efforts to appose and expose the agendas of Hitler and the Nazi movement, the brutishness of McCarthyism, his support for racial equality and his specifically targeting Richard Nixon for the Watergate scandal. Anyone of these efforts would have been heralded for it heroic nature, in its own right, but Herblock’s intuition anticipated these things early on and he advocated his vision of equality for all and his disdain for corruption fearlessly in his drawings.
The documentary is wonderfully executed with exceptional writing, beautiful stills and relevant vintage footage of Iconic 20th Century figures and historical events that has effected us all. Both George Stevens Jr. and Michael Stevens has knitted together an insightful and moving tale celebrating the man, Herb Lawrence Block or Herblock, with candor and color who for 55 years captured the zeitgeist of a generation. Look for the debut of Herblock: The Black & the White on HBO in January.