Nov 7, 2016

The Mystery of Armie Hammer Solved

Armand Douglas Hammer, aka Armie Hammer (1986-), who played the Winkelvoss Twins in Social Network, Tonto to Johnny Depp's Lone Ranger, Illya Kuryakin to Henry Cavill's Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Clyde Tolson to Leonardo DiCaprio's J. Edgar Hoover, is the last in a chain of Armand Hammers.

1. Armand Hammer (1898-1980) was a businessman and philanthropist who founded Occidental Petroleum, donated widely to liberal causes, and groomed Al Gore into a political career. He was married four times, but had only one child.

2. Julian Armand Hammer (1929-1986), led a life plagued by mental illness and substance abuse, and a charge of manslaughter.  He had two children,  Michael and Casey.   Michael was expected to run the empire.

3. Michael Armand Hammer (1955-) rejected his family's liberal Jewish heritage to become an evangelical Christian.  He now channels the fortune into an evangelical Christian film studio, a Christian college, Jews for Jesus, and innumerable fire-and-brimstone preachers.

4. Armie refused to be called Armand at an early age.  He got into Dad's bad graces when he said he wanted to become an actor, but was reconciled when he started getting starring roles.

By the way, Armie has a younger brother, Viktor, named after his great-uncle.

For all of my life up until today, I thought the Armand Hammer name was a pun on "Arm & Hammer," the baking soda produced by the Church and Dwight Company.  The picture of the muscular arm holding a hammer dates back to 1867, when it was first used by the Vulcan Spice Company to represent the Vulcan, the god of industry.

The Vulcan Arm and Hammer can still be seen on many building facades.

The original Armand Hammer swore that he was not named after baking soda, although he did join the Church and Dwight Board of Directors in 1986.  His parents, Russian-Jewish immigrants Julius and Rosa Hammer, were staunch Socialists who helped found the Communist Party of America.  It sort of make sense that they would name their son "Armand Hammer" after the logo of the Socialist Labor Party.

But staunch, serious Socialists naming their firstborn son with a pun?  Unlikely.

Hammer himself had another idea:  Armand Duvall, a young man in love with a dying prostitute in the Alexander Dumas novel La Dame aux Camélias, published in 1848 .  Here he is played by Colin Firth in a 1984 movie version. It has a strong gay subtext, and has often been parodied or adapted for the gay stage.

Armand's parents weren't necessarily interested in French novels, but they probably saw a stage version in New York in 1896, two years before Armand was born.

So, pun on a Socialist logo or a gay prostitute's boyfriend?  Either one is more interesting than a box of baking soda.

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