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The Scandalous Truth About the Men of the Hammer Family

Photo Credit: Bob Riha Jr./ Getty Images/ cropped, and Gregg DeGuire/ FilmMagic/ Getty Images/ cropped
Photo Credit: Bob Riha Jr./ Getty Images/ cropped, and Gregg DeGuire/ FilmMagic/ Getty Images/ cropped

Armand Hammer II, more commonly known by the public as Armie Hammer, is a noted American actor in films like Call Me by Your Name, The Social Network, and The Lone Ranger. Beginning in 2021, he became famous for a different reason when multiple allegations of abuse were made against him by past partners.

What many don’t know, however, is that he is just one of many in a long line of powerful and extremely controversial men in the Hammer family. Their history has been dragged into the spotlight due to the allegations, and it’s a dark saga that includes abuse, murder, and political scandals.

‘House of Hammer’

Many of these stories about the Hammer family are included in the documentary House of Hammer which was released in 2022. Although the series largely focuses on Armie because of the allegations against him in the last few years, it also goes into detail about the family that raised him – in part to show that his actions are not so different from those of his forefathers.

Among those interviewed was Casey Hammer, Armie’s aunt who is estranged from the family. She wrote a tell-all book called Surviving My Birthright: The Authorized Version. In both her book and the documentary series she discusses what she calls “multi-generational abuse” at the hands of the Hammer men, as well as the dark details of each generation starting with Armand Hammer I.

Armand Hammer I

Armand Hammer I, Armie’s great-great-grandfather and the source of his name, was a well-known businessman who ran the company Occidental Petroleum. Armand was associated with many scandals throughout his life, most notably for providing illegal financial support to President Nixon’s Watergate fund.

When news of the Watergate scandal broke, he was able to get out of a prison sentence because of poor health. He took it upon himself to try and clear his name over the next 13 years. In 1989, he was eventually pardoned by President George H.W. Bush, conveniently after he made over $100,000 in donations to the Republican party.

Black and white photo of Armand Hammer in a black coat and hat standing in front of a sign on a building reading "Hammer Collection."
Armand Hammer, American business executive and president of Occidental Petroleum, outside an art gallery in Stockholm which is exhibiting part of the Hammer Collection, 1979. (Photo Credit: Keystone Features/ Getty Images)

After his death, a biography written in 1996 by Edward Jay Epstein called Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer, brought even more dark secrets to the public. He accused Armand of money laundering, using artwork to fund Soviet espionage, entering the oil business through bribery, and creating fake Fabergé eggs.

Julian Hammer

Armand’s heir, Julian Hammer, was no stranger to scandal either. Armie’s grandfather was arrested for murdering his friend Bruce with a revolver over a matter of a $400 debt. Julian was only 26 years old at the time. While he told others, including the police, that he was only acting in self-defense, according to his wife it was murder. Armand was able to get the charges dropped by paying his lawyer $50,000 to cover it up.

Armand Hammer in a grey suit and large sunglasses stands beside Prince Charles in a green and red polo shirt.
Then-Prince Charles with his friend Armand Hammer at a polo match at Guards Polo Club. (Photo Credit: Tim Graham Photo Library/ Getty Images)

Outside of the murder scandal, Julian was also known for having house parties that were frequently attended by underage girls. Michael, his son and Casey’s brother, would attend these parties as well. House of Hammer also shed light on Julian’s abusive behavior toward the mother of his children, who he would go on to divorce.

When Julian’s father eventually died it was anticipated that he would leave large sums of money to his family members, but as it turned out he was worth much less than previously assumed. Julian’s aggressive reaction to this was to threaten to kill himself and his own children.

Michael Hammer

Another piece of Armand’s legacy to his family was his investment in artwork. He ran the Knoedler Gallery in New York, which was eventually taken over by his grandson, Michael Hammer, after his death. However, like every other Hammer man, Michael was involved in his own scandal when it was discovered that he was selling fake artwork at the gallery. Allegedly, there were over 30 fake paintings sold between 1994 and 2009 while he was in charge.

Knoedler Gallery in New York with pillars and a large blue awning at the front of the building.
The exterior of the Knoedler & Company art gallery is shown in New York, January 8, 2010. (Photo Credit: Paul Goguen/ Bloomberg/ Getty Images)

As much as one would like to assume that the gallery itself was the victim of fraud, as they purchased the art from a fraudulent dealer, this isn’t the case. They knew that the history behind many of the paintings was false, and continued their partnership regardless. The damages from these claims added up to roughly $63 million.

Armie Hammer

House of Hammer heavily emphasizes that Armie is a byproduct of his upbringing, as he was raised around many men who were abusive. The allegations against him also fit this pattern, as he has been accused of many different abusive acts, as well as exhibited an interest in cannibalism, culminating in one particular act which led to an investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Armie Hammer in an all black suit standing behind a glass podium beside Elizabeth Chambers in a floor length sparkling gown.
Elizabeth Chambers (L) and Armie Hammer attend Learning Lab Ventures 2019 Gala Presented by Farfetch at Beverly Hills Hotel, January 31, 2019. (Photo Credit: Stefanie Keenan/ LLV/ Getty Images)

One of his ex-partners also highlighted in the documentary that Armie seemed to be proud of the actions of his ancestors, saying “he didn’t sound like he was ashamed of it. It’s almost like it was a badge of honor.” Although Armie has denied all of the allegations against him, his ex-wife has gone so far as to compare him to the serial killer Ted Bundy.

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His aunt Casey also said in House of Hammer that she wasn’t surprised that allegations had been brought against her nephew as her family thought that they “could get away with murder; you could do anything. There was no accountability.”

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.