Hollywood's Chosen People : The Jewish Experience in American Cinema [1 ed.] 9780814338070, 9780814334829


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Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series

A complete listing of the books in this series can be found online at wsupress.wayne.edu General Editor Barry Keith Grant Brock University Advisory Editors Robert J. Burgoyne University of St. Andrews Caren J. Deming University of Arizona

Frances Gateward California State University, Northridge Tom Gunning University of Chicago

Patricia B. Erens School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Thomas Leitch University of Delaware

Peter X. Feng University of Delaware

Walter Metz Southern Illinois University

Lucy Fischer University of Pittsburgh

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HOLLYWOOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE The Jewish Experience in American Cinema

Edited by Daniel Bernardi, Murray Pomerance, and Hava Tirosh-Samuelson

Wayne State University Press Detroit

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© 2013 by Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Michigan 48201. All

rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without formal permission. Manufactured in the United States of America.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Hollywood’s chosen people : the Jewish experience in American cinema / edited by Daniel Bernardi, Murray Pomerance, and Hava Tirosh-Samuelson. p. cm. — (Contemporary approaches to film and media series) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8143-3482-9 (pbk. : alk. paper)—ISBN 978-0-8143-3807-0 (ebook) 1. Jews in motion pictures. 2. Jews in the motion picture industry— United States. I. Bernardi, Daniel, 1964– II. Pomerance, Murray, 1946– III. Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava, 1950– PN1995.9.J46H63 2012 791.43’652924—dc23 2012004275

Some of the material incorporated in Lester D. Friedman’s “A Forgotten Masterpiece: Edward Sloman’s His People” appeared earlier in somewhat different form in Lester D Friedman, Hollywood’s Image of the Jew (New York: Ungar, 1982).

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To our sons: Sojin Rock Soto Bernardi Suhnny Stone Carter Bernardi Ariel Michael Pomerance Jacob Michael Rothschild

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The Jewish Dreamer in Exile, thinking only of making his own dreams come true, ends by deciphering the alien dreams of that world as well; thus determining the future of all those who can only know what lies before them dimly and in their sleep. L eslie A. F iedler , To the Gentiles

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Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: The Hollywood Question 1 Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, Daniel Bernardi, and Murray Pomerance A Forgotten Masterpiece: Edward Sloman’s His People 19 Lester D. Friedman

Jewish Immigrant Directors and Their Impact on Hollywood 35 Catherine Portuges

“A Rotten Bunch of Vile People with No Respect for Anything Beyond the Making of Money”: Joseph Breen, the Hollywood Production Code, and Institutionalized Anti-Semitism in Hollywood 53 Wheeler Winston Dixon

Stardom, Intermarriage, and Consumption in the 1950s: The DebbieEddie-Liz Scandal 73 Sumiko Higashi

Hats off for George Cukor! 91 William Rothman

Notes on Sontag and “Jewish Moral Seriousness” in American Movies 111 Sarah Kozloff

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The Good German?: Oskar Schindler and the Movies, 1951–1993 125 Peter KrÄmer

Representing Atrocity: September 11 through the Holocaust Lens 141 David Sterritt

David Mamet’s Homicide: In or Out? 159 Lucy Fischer

Boy-Man Schlemiels and Super-Nebishes: Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller 173 Vincent Brook

Who Was Buddy Love?: Screen Performance and Jewish Experience 193 Murray Pomerance

Assimilating Streisand: When Too Much Is Not Enough 211 Vivian Sobchack Works Cited 229 Contributors 245 Index 251

viii

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Acknowledgments

The editors are grateful for extraordinary help toward the production of this volume received from the Center for Jewish Studies at Arizona State University. Dawn Beeson gave energetic support beyond the call of duty. We also thank our colleagues and friends in Film and Media Studies at ASU for their enthusiastic support during the Stars of David conference, particularly Aaron Baker, Chris Bradley, Dan Cutrara, Kiva James, and Michael Rubinoff. We feel especially grateful to Kiva James and Kevin Sandler. The conference would not have happened, and this book would not have been realized, had it not been for their generosity, diligence, and perspective. We are grateful as well to Terry Gillin and Matthew Thompson (both in Toronto) for generosity and diligence in helping with the manuscript. Our friends and colleagues at Wayne State University Press have been a pleasure to work with. We are indebted to Barry Keith Grant, Jane Hoehner, and Annie Martin for their encouragement, their patience, and their wisdom.

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hava tirosh-samuelson, daniel bernardi, and murray pomerance

Introduction The Hollywood Question

This book sets out to mark a new and challenging path to the understanding of the role of Jews and their experience in Hollywood filmmaking. Since the beginnings of the Hollywood film industry at the turn of the last century, Jews have contributed—as executives, producers, directors, writers, and performers—to the building and development of the studio system, the star system, and the arts and sciences of the Hollywood style. Thus, in a central and influential way, they have been concerned with the construction of the American Dream, or at least the Hollywood version of that dream. The promise, opportunity, and material success that shaped the cultural and collective identity of this nation of immigrants have been inspired, and to some degree structured, by a Jewish minority that embraced the majority culture more than at any other time in their long diasporic life. Our multidisciplinary approach looks with new light at the Jewish experience on film. If our joint examination stands upon two fundamental questions—what is the historic presence of Jews in America? What involvement has the Jewish presence brought to Hollywood specifically and American popular culture broadly?—the studies herein do not pause to elaborate on them directly, so we raise them here. What follows in these pages is aimed at any interested reader, scholarly or not, who is a lover of Hollywood film and interested to know more about it; and any reader, Jewish or not, who cares about the nature and complexities of Jewish experience, especially as it relates to cinema. American movies may not exactly constitute a picture of our culture, but they surely make a picture for us, one that we gaze at with seriousness and also a certain loss and regaining of self. And Jewish experience is one of the repeating, pervad1

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ing motifs in that picture, a motif, we believe, worth considerably more attention than it has received.

Jews in America Present in America since 1654, Jews sided more heavily with the rebellious colonies during the revolution for independence, receiving full citizenship by the end of the eighteenth century and sharing in the economic expansion and industrialization of the nineteenth (Hertzberg; Diner; Diner and Grunberger). Unlike Europe, in America “Jews could reside anywhere, they could own land, engage in retail trade and become artisans and craftsmen” (Farber 35). Between 1820 and 1880, 250,000 Jews came to America from small cities in central Europe, seeking in the new land the promise of a better life. These Ashkenazi immigrants, most from German-speaking families, joined the largely Sephardic Jewish population in America that numbered a few thousand and was concentrated in major port cities (e.g., New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston, Newport, and Savannah). Although the newcomers were skilled laborers in weaving, shoemaking, tailoring, and baking, in America they found their livelihood mainly as peddlers and small shopkeepers, usually trading in dry goods as agents for more established Jewish businesses in urban centers (Ashton 48–49). Peddling brought the Jewish immigrants to smaller towns and rural areas in the South, Midwest, and West, expanding Jewish populations in mid-size cities as part of the rush of western migration in the United States from 1830 to 1870. By 1877, Jews were nearly 8 percent of the California population and synagogues could be found throughout the continent in expanding cities as well as in smaller towns. By the end of the century, a new Jewish business elite comprising bankers (e.g., Schiff, Seligman, Lehman, Kuhn, and Loeb) and department-store magnates (e.g., Strauss, Bloomingdale, Gimbel, and Altman) had emerged, part of an upward mobility in the North spurred in part by the economic demand created around the Civil War. Throughout the nineteenth century, the goal of many American Jews was integration into the gentile world, accomplished mainly through intermarriage. According to Jonathan Sarna, “some 28.7 percent of all marriages involving Jews . . . were intermarriages” (45). The particular makeup of American culture and politics allowed Jews to enjoy life unencumbered by religious persecution, although social discrimination and exclusion remained prevalent. Of course, there were also periods of acute anti-Semitism (Dinnerstein; Gurock). Nonetheless, the United States Constitution made it possible for Jews to defend their rights in American law courts, and many 2

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Jews believed that American principles echoed Judaism’s values (even if the application of these principles varied from one state to another). Throughout the nineteenth century, Jews in America articulated a new vision of what Jewish life should be, reshaping religious practices to fit the distinctive American reality of the open society (Sarna). In the 1880s there were about 260,000 Jews among over 50 million inhabitants of the United States, constituting a small minority of only 0.5 percent of the population. The Jewish religion as practiced in the United States was largely Reform Judaism, a mode that rearticulated traditional Jewish practices in numerous ways with the intent of modernizing the faith. In addition to synagogues, American Jews established new fraternal organizations to address their changing needs, of which the largest was B’nai Brith, first established in New York in 1843 to provide social and welfare services to Jewish immigrants. Other such organizations included the Free Sons of Israel (founded 1849), the Order of Brith Abraham (1859), and the Free Sons of Judah (1901). Through these organizations American Jews experimented with the implications of living in a new environment and created distinctive forms of Jewish religious expression. In the 1880s American Jewry was profoundly transformed by a wave of migration from Russia, Poland, and the Ukraine, about 2.5 million people (Goldstein). These were Yiddish-speaking Jews who settled mainly in the industrial centers of American cities, especially in the garment industry near New York’s port of entry and the cigar-making factories in Philadelphia and Boston. The new immigrants’ backgrounds were different from those of their German predecessors. They came from small cities and villages where they had lived in almost exclusively Jewish environments. Now living in close proximity to non-Jews, east European Jews found that their main challenge was how to Americanize without losing their Jewish identity, whether defined in religious or in secular terms. By the turn of the twentieth century, huge Jewish enclaves emerged in major industrial cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and Baltimore, where factory jobs were plentiful, but the immigrants had to struggle with poverty, diseases, and a poor living environment. Since most Jewish workers concentrated in the garment industry, during the early twentieth century they created influential “Jewish” unions, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA), although both had a minority of non-Jewish— mainly Italian—members (Goldstein 75). Jewish immigrants from the same European towns founded congregations composed of fellow townsmen, providing not only places of worship but also support for the most essential Jewish life-cycle needs, especially Introduction

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funeral and burial in a Jewish cemetery. Ethnic networks also enabled Jews to better their social and economic positions, but as these immigrants participated and benefited from America’s vibrant commercial culture, they moved out of the “neighborhood of first settlement” and established new, Americanized synagogues in which rabbis preached in English rather than exclusively in Yiddish. Only a small minority of Jews rejected the beliefs of traditional Judaism outright, never attending synagogue or giving up kosher food entirely; the great majority of Jews remained loyal to Judaism but practiced it in a lax and non-systematic manner (see Sarna; Glazer; Gartner). Affirming their faith in America as a land of promise, Jews became enthusiastic consumers of American novelties—ready-made clothing, packaged foodstuffs, and manufactured goods—and they were regular attendees at dance palaces, nickelodeons, and other commercial places of amusement. Jews were also the creators of the mass culture that made America distinct (for but one example, consider the composer of “God Bless America,” “Easter Parade,” and “White Christmas”—Irving Berlin [born Israel Baline]). As a group they pursued economic and social mobility with special vigor, although they had to address the tension between Jewish values and their new surroundings. The traditional Jewish commitment to family and community often failed in America, replaced by a commitment to individual self-fulfillment and the ambitious pursuit of material comfort and social mobility. The process of Jewish acculturation in America was carried out through the institutions of the Yiddish language, through which immigrants retained ties to the old country and thereby facilitated a conversation with the new culture without glossing over cultural, ideological, and religious differences among themselves. Via serialized novels, sketches, short stories, and essays, the Yiddish newspaper served as a major vehicle of integration, as did Yiddish books and pamphlets and, most of all, the Yiddish theater. Still, most Jewish immigrants remained committed to moving toward the En­ glish language and saw little wisdom in preserving the autonomy of Yiddish at the expense of their efforts at Americanization. This striving for fit and the ensuing familial tensions that affected everyday experience found their way as narrative content into many silent films, such as Edward Sloman’s His People (1925). The Yiddish press and theater survived, supplementing the more active participation of Jews in English-language culture. As the immigration period came to a close, the influence of Yiddish was in decline among Jews, but by then it had already become Americanized, an urban lingua franca. When, in Roy Del Ruth’s film Taxi! (1932), the obviously Irish Jimmy Cagney enters a casual sidewalk conversation in fluent Yiddish, contemporary urban audiences would have found no incongruity. 4

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After World War I and the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 (which restricted immigration of any cultural group to 2 percent of those from that group who were already in America as of 1890), Jewish culture in America underwent a noticeable change. In the interwar years, a generation of young American Jews who were thoroughly conversant in American ways became significant consumers and producers of the American entertainment industry. In the film industry in particular, Jews sought new ways of bringing their Jewish and American outlooks together (Friedman Hollywood’s Image). Within three decades after the mass migration of the 1880s, Jews were enjoying unprecedented material ease and, according to Eric Goldstein, the Jewish working class had largely vanished. Jews entered the motion picture industry in droves—an industry revitalized by the conversion to sound (by 1932) and closely allied with the garment industry (because of the link between motion pictures and costume design and a common system of labor practices [Toll]). During the 1910s and 1920s, as studios were springing up in Southern California, Los Angeles emerged as the nation’s fourth largest city and became a major Jewish center. The original Hollywood moguls included men like Jack and Sam Warner, who had been in the entertainment business in Ohio, and Sam Goldwyn, who had partnered with Adolph Zukor and Jesse Lasky in New York. The movie business and the Jewish experience came to share the Hollywood sun.

Jews in Hollywood The movie industry was a revolutionary cultural tool that transformed popular consciousness (Buhle Jews). Jews were at the heart of it, as performers, producers, studio moguls, and distributors (Gabler). The Hollywood studio system was in full swing by 1930. As “a small set of corporations,” studios were organized in such a way that “each successful corporation had a powerful leader who formulated strategies to maximize profit and maintain the long-run power of the studio corporation” (Gomery 3). The studios were economic institutions devoted to marshaling, organizing, and, in Henry Ford fashion, systematizing artisanship while exploiting labor forces. The base of film production was thus ultimately economic, and Hollywood in practice was a complex industry in which ownership, production, distribution, exhibition, marketing, and sales were closely intertwined and dominated by a very small number of individuals (Jewell 50–89). Film and media scholars have sought to both reveal and complicate the history of Jewish involvement in Hollywood by pointing to the foundational role played by immigrant Jews during the birth of the movie system (1885–1929) and in its classical period (1930–1960). In An Empire Introduction

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of Their Own, for example, Neal Gabler shows how the moguls, a small group of Jewish immigrants from Europe, turned the Edison laboratory’s late nineteenth-century production of kinetoscope reels into a productionline industry that capitalized on the leisure interests of American society in the twentieth century. Indeed, the names of these immigrants turned studio bosses are now common historical reference points in film history books: Harry Cohn (of Columbia), William Fox (born Vilmos Fried, of Fox Pictures, later merged into Twentieth Century–Fox), Samuel Goldwyn (born Schmuel Gelbfisz, of Goldwyn Pictures, later merged into MetroGoldwyn-Mayer), Carl Laemmle (of Universal), Louis B. Mayer (of Metro), Jack and Harry Warner (born Wonskolaser, two of the Warner brothers), and Adolph Zukor (of Paramount). Each contributed to building a Hollywood entertainment industry that remained at the center of cultural production throughout the first half of the twentieth century. In addition to Zukor, Marcus Loew, Goldwyn, Mayer, Fox, and the Warners, the history of Hollywood cannot be told without significant reference to the names of Jesse Lasky, Carl Laemmle, Barney Balaban, Irving Thalberg, Joseph Schenck, and David Selznick, to mention just the most famous in the heyday of the studio system (1925–1958). These magnates worked through the complex managerial structures to exercise their choice of what and how many films to produce, the price at which to market their products, and the order in which films should be released—decisions that would have enormous impact on popular culture in the United States and throughout the world (Schatz). Hollywood was a company town, insular and unwelcoming to outsiders, with a culture that was cultivated by Jews who created an atmosphere of competition. Genuine friendship among them became difficult if not impossible. The moguls cultivated an exclusive community based on gambling—in football, cards, horses, movies, or elections—and shared a recreational life that revolved around what were considered very “unJewish” activities, such as racehorse breeding and competitive riding (Gabler 252–63). Jews sought to establish social settings in which they could “play tennis and golf, where they could transact business, and where, perhaps most of all, they could reestablish their own pecking order” (Gabler 274). For example, the Hillcrest Country Club on Pico Boulevard, across the road from the Fox studio, addressed these needs, becoming “a sanctuary of Jewishness” for members and guests alike. But the meaning of “Jewishness” had little to do with religion or nationality and more with ethnicity, kinship, and folkways. If many tried to efface their Jewish identity in order to be accepted into mainstream business culture, or to pass as gentiles (Rogin), they experienced continuing exclusion from various clubs and 6

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neighborhoods regardless of how they cultivated a non-Jewish appearance and style, especially after east European Jews came to Hollywood. Nor was ascertaining the Jewishness of studio moguls, directors, and stars an easy practice, since many not only gave up traditional Jewish life and intermarried with non-Jews but even changed their names in order to erase markers of Jewish identity. The very attraction of Jews to the film industry and the way they operated the studio system illustrated how they were marginal in American society because of their Jewishness. Acting in front of the camera (in the classical studio days and up until our present situation) have been such obvious and masked Jewish luminaries of the screen as Alla Nazimova, Ed Wynn, Erich von Stroheim, the Marx Brothers, Felix Aylmer, Douglas Fairbanks, Edward G. Robinson, Joseph Schildkraut, Paul Muni, George Burns, Gertrude Berg, Jack Benny, Fanny Brice, Anna Magnani, Peter Lorre, John Houseman, Melvyn Douglas, Louise Rainer, Paulette Goddard, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Martin Balsam, JeanPierre Aumont, Peter Sellers, Paul Newman, Judy Holliday, Jerry Lewis, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, Bea Arthur, Dustin Hoffman, Joan Collins, Barbra Streisand, Frank Oz, Bette Midler, Scott Glenn, Mary Hart, Jeff Goldblum, Ben Stiller, Sean Penn, Helena Bonham Carter, River Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, among legion others (listed in roughly chronological order), all of whom—hiding or openly playing their Jewish identity—could draw on Jewish experience in forming their screen personae and creating the characters that endeared them to the box office. Yet moviegoers paying to watch these people were not always aware that Jewish experience was unfolding in front of their eyes. If we consider the moguls, their “non-Jewish Jewishness” was itself a feature of being Jewish in America. Gabler puts it most powerfully when he states that Hollywood Jews “cut their lives to the contours of their environment and discarded the rest, because only here were they in complete command. The studios were repositories of dreams and hopes, security and power. If one could not control the world of real power and influence, the august world of big business, finance, and politics, through the studio one could create a whole fictive universe that one could control” (189). And in the invented world of Hollywood, the Jewish producers, directors, and actors could determine the image of the Jew that fit their own sensibilities (Friedman Jewish Image). Rampant anti-Semitism in the 1920s and 1930s, when America was awash in a wave of nativism, played an important role in the decision of whether and how to present Jews on the screen, but no less relevant to this presentation was the ambivalent and conflicted identity that riddled the Jewish experience in Hollywood. Introduction

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In this fraught context, what might it mean to say the “Jews invented Hollywood” (as phrased in Gabler’s pointed subtitle)? Gabler recognizes, for example, that the moguls did not use movies to spread Jewish thought and culture. “Hollywood,” he writes, “was itself a means of avoiding Judaism, not celebrating it” (300), and studio bosses like Fox, Warner, and Cohn did not use their power to make “Jewish films” or to mold American culture into Jewish likeness. Like a good number of Jewish directors and actors, these studio bosses did not even practice Judaism in their personal lives, by all accounts. Hence, the problem in advancing the simplistic argument that the Jews “invented” Hollywood is that it feeds the stereotype that they also “controlled” it, an argument that smacks of traditional anti-Semitism and that is also shortsighted in terms of the workings of the studio system. Hollywood is too complex to be controlled by a handful of people, and Jews are hardly now, and were hardly then, a unified group that shared a singular goal of domination. But the charge that “the Jews control Hollywood” has persisted throughout the history of American film and media. Interestingly enough, it stems in part from the industry’s self-regulatory apparatus—the infamous Studio Relations Committee later renamed the Production Code Administration (PCA). Governing film content—the stories, themes, images, and words that found their way to the screen—from 1930 to 1968 through a document known as the Production Code, the PCA was headed in its most influential period, from 1934 to 1954, by Joseph Ignatius Breen, a figure well known to film historians. All the “majors” (MGM, Paramount, RKO, Twentieth Century–Fox, and Warner Bros.) and “minors” (Columbia, United Artists, and Universal) followed the Production Code’s general and specific rules throughout this period. Imbued with puritan Christian principles and supported by the Catholic Legion of Decency, a powerful reform organization, the Code strictly marshaled film production and content during the studio era. As Tom Doherty points out in Hollywood’s Censor, Breen himself was an anti-Semite. That suggests that his prevailing attitudes were never far from his obsession about, his interactions with, and his attempts to curb Jewish creative forces. In some ways similar to newly immigrated or newly assimilating Jews in the population at large, Jewish forces in Hollywood had to come to terms on a regular basis with this judgmental external gaze that singled them out, inquired into their motivations, and magnified their ostensible strangeness.

Hollywood and the Holocaust The golden age of the studios came under threat at the time of yet another major transformation in American Jewish life. The destruction of 8

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European Jewry in the Holocaust brought a new wave of immigrants to America. Between 1944 and 1952, 137,450 European Jews immigrated, most of whom were survivors of Nazi slave labor and death camps. The postwar Jewish population in America was about five million, with Holocaust survivors representing about 2.5 percent. As Americans became more aware of the Holocaust in the years following the war, public expression of anti-Semitism waned. Between 1945 and 1967 American Jews began to feel increasingly at home, even as they found collective identity as ardent supporters of the nascent state of Israel while enjoying robust democracy as American citizens. The Holocaust, however, continued to play an important and contested role in shaping the consciousness of American Jewry. For some, the lessons of the Holocaust meant a determination to reject Jewish powerlessness; for others, the Holocaust required respect for and support of Israel; while for most, the Holocaust functioned as a touchstone of Jewish identity which in the fight against prejudice many channeled by actively participating in the civil rights movement (Svonkin). In subsequent years, how to represent the Holocaust on the screen has remained a topic contested no less than the significance of the Holocaust for American Jews (Avisar; Novick). Discussion of the Holocaust in this volume suggests a vital theme, though it need not constitute a central turning point of all these analyses. Not only is the Holocaust a deeply important subject for, and source of, cinema (see Frodon), but its reverberations with Hollywood filmmakers during and following the Second World War manifest themselves independently of the identity of particular filmmakers. As with Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be (1942), for example, Steven Spielberg could not escape the shadows of the Holocaust—or of Jewish tradition—in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), nor could Bryan Singer, much later, with Valkyrie (2008), but we find the Holocaust invoked with equal piety and chill in Hellboy (2004), filmed by the Catholic director Guillermo del Toro. Classical treatments include such films as Frank Borzage’s The Mortal Storm (1940), Edward Dmytryk’s Crossfire (1947), and Leo McCarey’s Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)—and none of these filmmakers were Jewish. Hundreds of Jewish directors and artists came to Hollywood fleeing the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe, particularly Germany, creating a rich historical record of artistry and drama. The names of many of these Jews also distinguish film historiography, such as Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder (born Samuel Wilder), Michael Curtiz (born Manó Kertész Kaminer), Otto Preminger, and Fred Zinnemann. Lang, for example, though raised Catholic by his Jewish mother in Vienna, began his directorial career in 1918 at UFA, the principal German film studio during the Weimar Republic and Introduction

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the Nazi regime. Joseph Goebbels, the head of the Ministry of Propaganda, banned his Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933) a few months after Hitler took power, reportedly “because it proves that a group of men who are determined to the last . . . could succeed in overturning a government by force” (qtd. in Eisner 130). Despite the ban, Goebbels invited Lang to a meeting, likely on the strength of Metropolis (1927), to offer him a role in the new German cinema. Lang elected instead to flee Germany for Paris, eventually arriving in Hollywood in 1936 where he made twenty-three films for various studios during his twenty-year career there.

Jewish Contributions Openly affirmed or closeted Jewish filmmakers produced a library of important films that sought to make a social point while also entertaining audiences. One could cite as exemplary Ernst Lubitsch’s Ninotchka (1939), George Cukor’s The Philadelphia Story (1940), Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1942), Mervyn LeRoy’s The Bad Seed (1956), or Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967). And their impact extends past the studio era into contemporary times. Stanley Kramer’s films of 1960s immediately come to mind during the transition to the New Hollywood; Inherit the Wind (1960), a film that loosely depicts the famed 1925 Scopes “monkey trial” on Darwinism; Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), about the Nazi war crimes tribunal; It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), the neo-slapstick comedy that satirized material culture and greed; or even the classic, if now dated, interracial marriage film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967). As the industry entered the New Hollywood era, the period from the late 1960s to the mid1970s in which Hollywood abandoned the Production Code in favor of a rating system, young Jewish filmmakers like Mike Nichols (The Graduate [1967], Catch-22 [1970]), William Friedkin (The French Connection [1970], The Exorcist [1974]), and Woody Allen (Bananas [1971], Sleeper [1973]), as well as older stalwarts like Sidney Lumet (Serpico [1973], Dog Day Afternoon [1975]) and Mel Brooks (The Producers [1968], Blazing Saddles [1974]), made politically progressive films that balanced social commentary with cinema’s commercial demands. Subsequently, in the post–Star Wars blockbuster era, Steven Spielberg remains the most recognized contemporary Jewish filmmaker, adept at producing wondrous commercial spectacles like Raiders and Jurassic Park (1993) as well as poignant liberal dramas like The Color Purple (1985) or Munich (2005), to name just a few. If Raiders opted for a blithe and entertaining treatment of serious Jewish themes (the reverence of the Ark of the Covenant; the persecution of the Jews), and if Munich took a much darker look at an organized Israeli re10

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sponse to vicious anti-Semitic aggression, the film that remains Spielberg’s hallmark tribute to his own Jewish identity and its imbrication with Jewish history inside and outside Hollywood is certainly Schindler’s List (1993), the story of one man’s effort to save the Jewish workers in his own plant from Nazi extermination. Schindler’s List remains the most controversial film of Spielberg’s career thus far, viewed by some as an excoriation of Nazi ideology and a heroic depiction of the abysm of concentration camp life, and by others as a platitudinous exploitation of the victims. As characters in Hollywood narratives, Jews have long been represented as stereotypes in troubling and disturbing ways. A particularly persistent stereotype is the character of Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. A greedy, unfeeling, villainous moneylender, Shylock is recounted by Antonio the merchant as a “misbeliever, cut-throat, hound.” There are many examples of this stereotype in film history, but perhaps the most obvious from the contemporary period comes from Spike Lee, who was heavily criticized for his gratuitously stereotyped Shylock characters, Josh and Moe Flatbush, nightclub owners who exploit the black musicians in Mo’ Better Blues (1990). Gary Giddins in the Village Voice labeled the roles “undoubtedly anti-Semitic,” while Caryn James in the New York Times described the brothers as “money-grubbing, envious, ugly stereotypes with sharks’ smiles.” Responding on ABC’s Prime Time Live, Spike Lee defended himself by saying that “I couldn’t make an anti-Semitic film.” When asked why not, he replied that Jews run Hollywood, and “that’s a fact” (James). Yet these representations persist, perhaps most notably in Tom Cruise’s Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder (2008). It is also true that Jews have been behind the production of some of the most troubling stereotypes of people of color in Hollywood film history, owing to the power of the American color line to position all minority groups on one side or another depending on their ability to pass or not pass as white. Louis B. Mayer, often credited with solidifying the star system when he ran MGM, became a major player in the development of Hollywood’s representational codes after securing the rights to distribute D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915), one of the most important films in film history, well remembered for both its innovations in narrative structure and its embrace of the Ku Klux Klan as heroes of a white nation (Bernardi “Birth”). Indeed, the first film credited with introducing synchronized dialogue to film audiences, The Jazz Singer (1927), found Jewish actor Al Jolson (born Asa Yoelson) in blackface, an overtly racist tradition that Michael Rogin links to Jewish assimilation in his book Black Face, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot. Toward the end of the twentieth century, as Jewish filmmakers such as Introduction

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Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg, Ethan and Joel Coen, Ivan Reitman, and many others expressed their Jewishness on the screen, it was an ambivalent, ambiguous, and conflicted Jewishness they showed, no less so than in the pre–World War II years (Hoberman and Shandler). With best sellers and box office blockbusters and hit television shows, Jews have been pivotal in the mass culture that formed in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century, but interpreting the Jewish content of this creative work is not easy (see Desser “Jews in Space”). In American Jewish Filmmakers (1993), David Desser and Lester D. Friedman shed important light on the subject by exploring the work of Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Sidney Lumet, and Paul Mazursky. They reject a “totally assimilationist perspective” and instead present these filmmakers as “part of a Jewish cultural tradition as well as an American cinema tradition” (5). By situating their films in the context of an American Jewish Bildungsroman, the metropolitan, urban life in which Jews are “outsiders among other outsiders” (6), and by analyzing Jewish humor, commitment to social justice, and involvement in alternative lifestyle trends, Desser and Friedman convincingly argue that the work of these Jewish filmmakers reveals “the tensions that being Jewish in America creates as well as how the fusion of Jews and America fashioned a uniquely American Jewish sensibility” (19).

Jewish Experience and Film Studies This volume originated in a conference that, as director of Jewish Studies at Arizona State University, Hava Tirosh-Samuelson put together with Daniel Bernardi, then director of Film and Media Studies, in October 2009. They received invaluable help from Murray Pomerance, who graciously took upon himself the thankless task of editing the volume, to which he also contributed an essay. Both the conference and the present volume were created to signal the significance of film studies for Jewish studies and vice versa: to highlight ways in which the Jewish experience is essential both to the history of Jews in America and to the history of film and media in America. Only when Jewish studies and film studies interact can the complex place of Jews in the construction of American popular culture and the impact of America on Jewish individual and collective identity be properly understood. Remarkably, there are relatively few books that explore the Jewish experience in American cinema, and none that offer the multifaceted and in-depth studies one finds in these pages. In standard treatments of the film industry (Schatz; Gomery; Jewell), the Jewish identity of the studio moguls is noted but hardly discussed. Similarly, in standard histories of Jews 12

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in America (e.g., Hertzberg), the involvement of Jews in the film industry is duly recognized but barely dwelled upon, precisely because Hollywood Jews sought to assimilate. And in scholarship that analyzes the artistic content of films, the Jewishness of certain motifs is unnoticed and misunderstood, or receives limited treatment because the scholars themselves may not have sufficient knowledge of American Jewish culture. A small number of significant volumes have been published in response to the work of Jews in Hollywood—not least Gabler’s An Empire of Their Own, Friedman’s Hollywood’s Image of the Jew, and Desser and Friedman’s American Jewish Filmmakers, as well as auteur studies such as Eric Lax’s Woody Allen (and that do not, typically, give serious attention to the filmmaking of their subjects as a function of their Jewishness). The present collection, in contrast, means to address new issues in a very contemporary way; to use new points of view, both historical and auteurist, both dramaturgical and phenomenological, both critical and aesthetic; to collect the work of authors with powerful insight into the Jewish experience but who do not typically write about the subject; and in general to step beyond the already classical treatments of such filmmakers as Allen, Lumet, Brooks, and Sydney Pollack that frame them and their films as the most important to consider in this light. We begin with Lester Friedman’s penetrating analysis of Edward Sloman’s His People, a powerful and largely unknown film about the pressures toward both traditionalism and assimilation that was produced just before the sound era. Here we have the story of a family with two tightly bonded brothers, one of whom wishes to lose his Jewish identity in the urban metropolis and the other of whom is loyal to an aging, scholarly father. Friedman’s astute vision of the implications of this familial division, both for the increasingly fragile Jewish family and for American culture in the 1920s, deeply engages with Judaism as a center of feeling, a font of ritual, and an object of fidelity. And Sloman is shown clearly to have been a master at dramatization, who with this film played to intense and particular audience expectations for Jewish subject matter. Given the intense participation of Jewish artists in various waves of American immigration, especially in the context of Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, it seemed proper to move next to Catherine Portuges’s study of Jewish immigrant filmmaking personnel, whose impact on Hollywood film history has been so telling and so deeply engraved. Immigration comes with a keen social, psychological, and cultural displacement, Portuges shows. From Paul Henreid and Hedy Lamarr to Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Thomas Mann, to name only a few of Portuges’s subjects, immigrants underwent various transformations when they came into the film business in America. Accents were sanitized, friendships Introduction

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were dissolved and reconstituted, assets were often frozen. And as these actors, authors, composers, producers, and directors found, in Hollywood anti-Semitism was far from far away. A central and specific structural force behind Hollywood anti-Semitism is then explored in Wheeler Winston Dixon’s illuminating essay, “ ‘A Rotten Bunch of Vile People with No Respect for Anything Beyond the Making of Money’: Joseph Breen, the Hollywood Production Code, and Institutionalized Anti-Semitism in Hollywood.” With the case of Breen, Dixon shows, anti-Semitism was not merely an issue of one powerful man’s predispositions, although we can see here how Breen was indeed one of the most powerful controlling forces in Hollywood; the power went further, embedded in the structure of the Production Code Administration and the studio bosses’ adherence to the strictures on scriptwriting and mise-en-scène that Breen enforced through the Code. Complicating Hollywood’s reaction to Jewish filmmaking and Jewish subject matter on film was the need of big studios to exhibit their pictures in Germany, and the fear of many bosses that severe anti-Nazi plots or characterizations could be economically compromising for them. Compromises of a different kind—smaller in scale yet magnified through the lens of a vast publicity apparatus—characterized identity formation, public presentation of self, and emotional turmoil in two celebrated Hollywood marriages of the 1950s, that of America’s “girl next door,” Debbie Reynolds, to crooner Eddie Fisher, and then Fisher’s love affair and wedlock with the preeminent screen star Elizabeth Taylor (the recent widow of his close friend Mike Todd). The Debbie-Eddie-Liz triangle is studied by Sumiko Higashi, with meticulous attention to American consumerism at the time: both women were acquiring a Jewish husband, Fisher was acquiring a particular cachet by marrying each of them, and, crucially, the details of the matings and marriages were lucrative fodder for numerous fan magazines of the time, most notably Photoplay. Through these weddings, intermarriage itself came to be an open and nationally celebrated subject of speculation, gossip, and innuendo. In his essay on the directorial genius of George Cukor, William Rothman inquires into the nature of accomplishment that is possible at a limiting distance from the kind of scandal we find with Eddie, Debbie, and Liz. Perennially recognized as a cultured and suave gentleman in the Hollywood community, Cukor was able to realize such masterpieces as A Bill of Divorcement, Dinner at Eight, The Philadelphia Story, and Born Yesterday while remaining almost entirely closeted as a Jew (although not closeted as a homosexual). “He cultivated impeccable manners,” writes Rothman. “He knew, and mastered, the rules of proper behavior so as to assure that 14

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his manners never betrayed him when he was in the company of gentiles.” Cukor, for Rothman, was part of Hollywood’s Emersonian outlook “that made the 1930s a golden age of the American cinema, inducing a cultural amnesia from which America, to this day, has not fully awakened.” For Cukor there remained always an underpinning moral line, a deeply committed sense of truth and propriety that universalized his Jewish experience in Hollywood. A similar moral commitment, what Susan Sontag termed “Jewish moral seriousness,” can be seen as a characteristic of Hollywood cinema. Sarah Kozloff examines Sontag’s “Notes on Camp,” among other works, with a specific query about the attribution of “moral seriousness” to Jews and with a specific interest in “liberal, moral seriousness in American film.” With Street Scene, Dead End, No Way Out, and numerous other works from filmmakers including Martin Ritt, Sidney Lumet, Mike Nichols, and the Maysles brothers, moral seriousness attained a status it could not but lose, she finds. “Films that disavow any connection to reality or serious issues are more likely to win critical approbation from the left” by the time of Jaws (1975), and more recently “Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Todd Solondz have won fans with their refusal ever to be serious, ever to put themselves on the line about moral issues.” A central tenet for Kozloff, “whether or not the artwork exudes moral seriousness,” is that “the viewer has a responsibility to take the work seriously, that is, to weight it with all one’s moral faculties.” Looking at Schindler’s List in terms of the “morally serious” point of view, Kozloff notes that critics have not stopped pummeling Spielberg for its “shortcomings.” This film, however, had an extraordinarily long and troubled production history, the careful unfolding of which can reveal vested interests, political alignments and misalignments, authorial intentions validated and lost, and an array of claimants to aspects of the original material involving Oskar Schindler and his work to save Jews from the gas chambers during the Second World War. Peter Krämer’s deeply engaging and meticulously researched history of the Schindler story and of Spielberg’s involvement with it, “The Good German?: Oskar Schindler and the Movies, 1951–1993,” involves examination of original historical sources and consideration of numerous attempts by others to make a Schindler film. Krämer concludes that “building on the long tradition of Jewish interpretations of Schindler’s story, the way Spielberg presented his lesson about the Holocaust deeply implicated the film’s viewers as guilty bystanders”; and further that “the original intention of Oskar Schindler and his initial promoters to ‘rouse the conscience’ specifically of Germans was to some extent realized with the release of Schindler’s List.” The Holocaust as a subject of film has been the focus of considerable Introduction

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(and irresolvable) study, to enumerate and evaluate what it is to look at images of unutterable horror, to query what it is to own such images, and to understand the experience of regarding them. Alain Resnais’s Nuit et brouillard, Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, and hundreds of other films aimed at education and entertainment have probed the moral atrocities of the camps—just as Schindler’s List did. In an essay of profound philosophical and moral gravity, cast over with the dark shadows of human mortality and social responsibility, David Sterritt examines images of Nazi horror and images of the catastrophic 9/11 attacks in relation to one another. Illuminating the work of W. J. T. Mitchell, who suggested that just as “through centuries of anti-Semitic bigotry, oppression, and violence, Europe and later America produced the Jewish people as ‘symbols of decadence and evil,’ ” Sterritt concludes that the destruction of the Twin Towers agitated and disturbed Americans “to a degree out of proportion to the amount of death and destruction that actually took place.” Sterritt shows us that “in the modern cultural unconscious, teeming as it is with living symbols and offending images, the realities embedded in such terms as ‘world Jewry’ and ‘global capitalism’ are now inextricably tied to icons of hellish trauma—the Holocaust death camps, the World Trade Center’s fiery towers.” Of course, it would be a mistake to assume that Jewish experience onscreen is always and inevitably only serious or traumatic. From Eddie Cantor and the Marx Brothers to the present day, the Jewish experience has been substantially connected to screen comedy. Vincent Brook gives an articulate analysis of “Boy-Man Schlemiels and Super-Nebishes: Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller,” discussing among many subjects the conventional veiling of the ethnic roots of our superheroes (until Sandler’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan), the telling nature of anger and “knocking them dead” in Jewish humor, and the fascinating phenomenon of flirting with Jewish identity (so evident in the work of Stiller). Approaching these performers with a keen sociological interest in multiculturalism and ethnic performance, Brook notes the intra-ethnicity and compromises inherent in American Jewish experience. The compromise that is often part of Jewish identity construction in Hollywood is not only an enigma to be resolved but a source of mystery and obscurity. The great American playwright and screenwriter David Mamet claims he wrote Homicide in order to explore his Jewish roots, and Lucy Fischer is thus approaching a fundamental issue in Jewish experience and self-knowledge as she examines this work in depth. She notes how in this police procedural, Mamet not only fashioned a world of the Jewish tough guy but also revealed the stratifications of an elaborate caste system involv16

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ing ghetto poverty and controlling wealth. The central protagonist is torn between loyalty to the Star of David and his police badge, but for Fischer, the prevailing point of interest is the way the brilliant Mamet, an “unaffiliated Jew,” manages his characters, situations, and outcomes. In this essay, we have a telling exploration of a struggling Jewish identity behind the construction of “Jewish identity” onscreen. The issue of screen performance, especially as related to Jewish identity, inspires Murray Pomerance to an extended analysis of what might be termed the Jewish “face,” that is, the mask of Jewish identity that persuasively works inside the Hollywood film to convince viewers of a fundamental realism. The irony that Jewish characters can be, and have been, performed successfully by actors who are not Jewish, and that Jewish actors have successfully portrayed characters who are not Jews, riddles the assumption we may too unconsciously make between cultural “appearance” and underlying structural “motive.” Pomerance’s analysis includes a discussion of Helen Hunt’s Then She Found Me, Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, and other films, and culminates in an analysis of the work of the recognizably Jewish Jerry Lewis as he incarnates the recognizably goyish Buddy Love in The Nutty Professor. How do we grasp, and then lose, our sense of screen Jewishness; and with what tools is it assembled by performers who do not have a Jewish experience to build on? And finally, by raising and carefully dissecting the troubling question “Why do so many people in our culture (Jews and non-Jews alike) hate Barbra Streisand?” Vivian Sobchack moves through a “social and emotional terrain” in order to show Streisand’s own moving through, moving up, moving out, as it were, to find her own space for action in Hollywood filmmaking. For Sobchack, Streisand is a pure subject, permitting her to “ ‘escape’ the constraints I felt from within and without by being marked both female and Jewish” while at the same time to focus on a decidedly Jewish performer and filmmaker who has been decried as “ ‘voracious,’ ‘ambitious,’ ‘Caligulan,’ ‘megalomaniacal,’ ‘totally controlling,’ ‘excessive,’ ‘self-glorifying,’ ‘hard as nails,’ ‘hyper-picky,’ ‘perfectionist,’ ‘meddling,’ ‘aging,’ ‘infantile,’ ‘self-absorbed,’ ‘narcissistic,’ ‘self-centered,’ ‘egotistical,’ ‘extravagant,’ and, of course, ‘a bitch’ ”—all these terms being “blatant, if secularly encrypted, references to Streisand’s Jewishness.” Sobchack finally shows how, with Streisand and perhaps anyone else, terror “accompanies the burden of being (or acting like) a ‘chosen person.’ ” The experience of Jews in American cinema compels us to think anew about the meaning of American popular culture produced for mass consumption. Has America become exceptionally open to distinctive Jewish ideas and cultural sensibilities? To what degree has American mass Introduction

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culture become Jewish? How do non-Jews resonate with the ambiguous Jewish content of films they may not fully understand? Film historians and critics—who generate rigorous studies of the language of cinema—must join together with scholars of American Jewish experience, who shed light on the political, religious, social, ideological, and cultural aspects of American Jewish life, if we are to better understand the Jewish experience in American cinema. We offer this interdisciplinary examination as an attempt to address these important questions.

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Lester D. Friedman

A Forgotten Masterpiece Edward Sloman’s His People

As a popular, visual medium, the American cinema appeals to vast and diverse audiences and thus provides unique opportunities for the study of popular cultural attitudes. These mass-market films possess the inherent ability to translate social viewpoints into clearly discernible pictorial representations. From this perspective, American movies form a valuable index to any historical period’s deepest thoughts and fears, its predominant beliefs and feelings, its aspirations and defeats, its dreams and its nightmares. Indeed, Hollywood has helped create, define, and promote the mythology of the American dream and has itself become an integral part of that national fantasy. “Hollywood, the American dream, is a Jewish idea,” says Jill Robinson, daughter of a former head of MGM. In a sense, she continues, “it’s Jewish revenge on America because it combines the Puritan ethic with baroque magnificence. The happy ending was the invention of Russian Jews designed to drive Americans crazy” (Friedman vi).

Historical Background America became conscious of its films and its Jews almost simultaneously. From flickering one-reelers through Hollywood’s golden age and up to contemporary films, moviegoers who may never have met or even seen Jews in daily life encountered them on local movie screens. The evolving image of Jews in films constitutes a rich and varied tapestry woven by generations of moviemakers responding to the world around them. Their works dynamically depict Jews’ profound impact on American society and forcefully illustrate society’s perception of the Jews within its midst. Some films are 19

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lamps that help extinguish the darkness of ignorance. Others simply mirror long-held prejudices. But whether they explain or exploit their Jewish characters, all these films—either implicitly or explicitly—illustrate how Jews affect American life and how American life influences Jews; it is a two-way process inherent in the first Jewish American movie, as well as in recent ones such as A Serious Man (2009) or Greenberg (2010). In 1881, a series of pogroms and anti-Jewish decrees in Russia forced waves of east European Jews to emigrate to the United States. Although small groups of east European Jews inhabited America as early as 1852, millions more streamed to her shores from 1881 to 1924, when a series of restrictive immigration policies stemmed the flood of refugees. By 1926, there were 3,111 congregations, 1,782 synagogues, and 4,100,000 Jewish people in the United States, and modern historians estimate that eighty-five percent of all Jews living in America today trace their roots back to these immigrants. This extraordinary period of intensive immigration forced a growing American awareness of this entity called “THE JEW,” much to the embarrassment of the 250,000 well-established German and Spanish Jews already here, who had slipped into American life with little fanfare. So the quest and orderly process of assimilation ongoing since the Spanish Inquisition of 1644 ended in the confusion of Ellis Island and the noisy din of city streets. These east European Jews came mostly from small Jewish towns, villages, and self-sufficient little enclaves as isolated as possible from surrounding Christians. But despite their seeming unpreparedness to adapt to well-established social, economic, and cultural values of American life, these “greenhorns” leaped from alienation to assimilation in a remarkably short time. Unlike some groups, they had not emigrated simply to improve their lot financially; they came to save their lives and they came to stay. There was no safe place to which they might return, so they brought with them, whenever possible, their entire families. After time had dimmed bad memories, some looked nostalgically backward, but few wanted to return to those harsh lands whose peoples had hounded and murdered their kind for centuries. The eagerness of immigrant Jews to fit into American life is understandable given the contemporary social and intellectual trends of the early twentieth century, particularly so for those embodied in the uniquely American concept of “the melting pot.” In Israel Zangwill’s 1908 play The Melting Pot, David, an immigrant Jewish composer in love with a gentile girl, speaks of his vision for this new land: “America is God’s Crucible, the Great Melting Pot where all races of Europe are melting and reforming.  .  .  . God is making the American” (95). Nowhere is Zangwill’s message more evident than in the lives of those immigrants who harnessed the immense power of 20

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the visual image and guided the American movie industry’s evolution from its seedy infancy as vaudeville chaser to the most popular art form of the twentieth century.

Silent Film Context As early as 1903, Jews were depicted—often quite exotically—in a series of short comic and melodramatic one-reelers. In the brief period between 1921 and 1929, approximately 319 features with recognizable Jewish characters appeared. There were, of course, those films presenting the era’s stereotypes, like the clever Jew: The Yiddisher Cowboy (1909), Foxy Izzy (1911), Cohen’s Advertising Scheme (1912), and The New Fire Chief (1912); as well as those about ghetto life such as Old Isaacs, the Pawnbroker (1908), Girl of the Ghetto (1910), and Ghetto Seamstress (1910). Heroic films, featuring biblical Jewish figures, form a rather sizeable category, and all the Jewish figures one would expect dutifully appear: Saul, David, Moses, Joseph, and Samson. In addition, less common figures like Bar Kochba, the Maccabees, Judith, and Elisha also spring to life in silent films. Just as silent film directors turned naturally to modern and biblical history for ready-made plots that often contained at least marginally Jewish characters, so they quickly cannibalized classic literary works that often featured Jewish figures. Not surprisingly, the two most popular of these are Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Dickens’s Oliver Twist. These two works alone account for at least eleven adaptations during the silent period. Of course, renditions of Shylock and Fagin did not present a particularly favorable portrait of Jews to early moviegoers. As one would expect, the vast majority of silent films featuring Jewish characters concerns some form of Jewish-gentile relationship, since the Jewish newcomer and the Christian American were now forced to deal with each other in direct contact and close proximity. Within this general category, ghetto melodramas and interethnic love stories stand out as the two most popular subject areas. Again, this should come as no surprise. New York’s Lower East Side ghetto was the early home of many immigrants who eventually became rich and powerful in the movie industry, its streets filled with tales of success and triumph, tragedy and heartbreak. So the crowded ghetto with its sweltering tenements formed the perfect environment for silent films about Jewish immigrants. More often than not, poverty causes ghetto inhabitants much unhappiness. In those films centering on monetary problems, the plots follow three basic patterns: (1) poverty destroys the characters; (2) the characters somehow manage to obtain money and escape the ghetto; (3) poverty brings out the character’s finer traits. Edward Sloman’s His People

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However, no story within the ghetto proved as powerful as the love affair between Jew and gentile. In fact, the Jewish-gentile romances reign as the assimilationist movies par excellence, castigating old ways, supporting those who consign custom to the history books in their headlong dash to become true Americans. Both the fear of being different and the unlimited educational opportunities available in this country created a generation of immigrants who fostered and encouraged the assimilation of their children into American society. Ironically, the immigrant parents themselves became the victims of the trend they nurtured, often being relegated to the background because learning new language and customs was an insuperable challenge for them. But then, it was their kids who went to the movies. Within this subgenre of ghetto movies, those about Jews and Irishmen constitute their own category and must be treated separately. Specific areas of interaction such as friendship, politics, and interethnic rivalry that appear sparingly in the “Jewish-gentile relationships” category are focused on quite frequently in the films about Jews and Irishmen. The topics that emerge are often filtered through a uniquely Jewish-Irish perspective that accounts for their humor, romance, pathos, and conflicts. Often the theme of intermarriage is played out via a Jewish-Irish mix, such as Private Izzy Murphy (1926), Kosher Kitty Kelley (1926), Clancy’s Kosher Wedding (1927), Frisco Sally Levy (1927), Abie’s Irish Rose (1928), and of course The Cohens and the Kelleys series (1926–1932). In these pictures, humor arises at the expense of the intractable immigrant parents who refuse to accept the mores of their new land—mores their children have no trouble adopting. The ultimate point is that a new generation of Americans will rise above their religious differences, join hands, and create a new nation, a true melting pot where cultural differences matter no more than the color of one’s hair. As one might expect, Jewish-gentile love entanglements proved the most popular plots with silent film directors. Films based on such themes appealed to the rapidly expanding audiences filling increasing numbers of movie theaters. These stories provided an area of easy access and immediate interest for immigrants who made up a significant part of the new audience. Almost all these films present some form of generational conflict arising from a Jewish child’s desire to marry a non-Jew. In a small number of such films, the elders persuade the wayward child to abandon the loved one and reunite with the family in what turns out to be some form of tragedy. Yet these films and the others like them that reaffirm religious he­gemony are few in number compared to the many films that support and even encourage intermarriage. The basic pattern of the romance films remains fairly consistent: children of Jewish and gentile couples fall in love; 22

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their parents (most often viewed from the Jewish perspective) refuse to give the match their blessing; the couple marries anyhow; the birth of a child or some type of calamity reconciles the parents to the marriage; and everyone finally acknowledges that love is stronger than any religious ties.

Director Edward Sloman An almost totally overlooked film of this period, His People (1925) presents an exemplary mixture of many of the preoccupations of silent ghetto films about Jews. Edward Sloman, the film’s director, has long since faded into the shadows of time, routinely ignored in catalogues of trivia and mentioned simply in passing by most scholars writing about the silent cinema. Only Kevin Brownlow in both The Parade’s Gone By (1976) and more extensively in Behind the Mask of Innocence (1992) and Anthony Slide in Aspects of American Film History Prior to 1920 (1978) pay sustained attention to his work. Brownlow, who interviewed Sloman during the late 1960s, immediately reflects on a significant paradox within the filmmaker’s cinematic output. He characterizes Sloman as “the last man to be described as a crusading reformer” (Behind 406). That said, however, Brownlow observes that the director made movies about life in a leper colony (The Inner Struggle [1915]), about the convict labor system (The Convict King [1915]), about legal and political corruption (The Law’s Injustice [1916]), and about appalling factory conditions (Dust [1916]), as well as about other unsavory conditions of American life. It is this pattern that causes him to conjecture that Sloman might well have been “the most socially conscious director of his time . . . [and] an outstanding contributor to the films of social importance” (Behind 406). The year of Sloman’s birth is a matter of dispute, though most sources agree the day was July 19. Brownlow and the Internet Movie Database both list the year as 1883, Anthony Slide and Silentera.com as 1885, Wikipedia as 1886, and Answers.com as 1887. All the sources, however, agree that he died on September 29, 1972, in Woodland Hills, California, a passing unremarked upon by the popular press or in academic film circles. Sloman grew up in a poor section of London and left home around the age of nineteen to become an actor. After spending several years in the English theater as a performer and director, he was forced to emigrate to Montreal in 1901, following a bitter clash with an influential booking agent who blocked his British stage career. Later, he moved to Minneapolis, married actress Hylda Hollis, and began to tour with Eva Tanguay, a famous singer who billed herself as “the girl who made vaudeville famous.” When Tanguay went West to work in pictures in 1914, so did Edward and Hylda. Once he Edward Sloman’s His People

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Edward Sloman’s long career in Hollywood included directing over one hundred movies, acting in thirty-four films, and writing seven screenplays. Here he is shown onstage for The Wolf, which he also directed (Santa Barbara, 1918). Collection Kevin Brownlow.

was there, Sloman’s background in British stagecraft provided him with the fundamentals necessary for Hollywood success, first with the Lubin Manufacturing Company in 1915, then a year later with Flying A Studios, then in 1919 with independent producer Benjamin B. Hampton, and finally in 1924 at Universal Pictures. Sloman bragged to Anthony Slide that he found work the first day he arrived in Los Angeles (56). He was cast as a Russian diplomat in The Severed Hand (1914), a part that became the first of his thirty-four roles as an actor. Indeed, from his arrival in Los Angeles until the late 1930s, Sloman was rarely out of work, whether playing in front of the camera, writing scenarios of which seven were made into films, or ultimately becoming the director of approximately 100 motion pictures. Included among these 24

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are some significant works, although many of his pictures have been lost: The Embodied Thought (1916), Westerners (1919), We Americans (1928), The Kibitzer (1930), Puttin’ on the Ritz (1930), His Woman (1931), and A Jury’s Secret (1938). When he stopped making films, Sloman moved to a new medium, radio, where he continued working as a director, writer, and producer for such programs as “The Campbell Playhouse.” His prodigious output fails to qualify him for a spot in Andrew Sarris’s famous “Pantheon” in The American Cinema or even for a place in his “Miscellany,” but the technical excellence of both His People and Surrender (1927), combined with their sophisticated character insights and complex themes, makes them neglected examples of film artistry. Edward Sloman’s films deserve a larger viewing and a sympathetic rediscovery.

His People His People is based on a 1921 story written by Isadore Bernstein (who wrote sixty-five films between 1914 and 1938), originally titled “The Jew.” Prior to entering the movie business, Bernstein worked as a reporter on the Christian Herald for fourteen years and as superintendent of the Boys’ Institute at the Five Points Mission in New York City. As a result of his knowledge about the Lower East Side, His People contains some realistic autobiographical material from that turbulent period of Bernstein’s life. Earlier, in 1915, Bernstein had written another film with a Jewish theme, Faith of Her Fathers, another interethnic romance story though with a twist rarely seen during this era: heeding the words of her rabbi/father (Murdock MacQuarre), the daughter (Cleo Madison) refuses to marry a young Christian missionary (Joe King) and tragically dies of a “broken heart.” Eventually, Bernstein was to become Carl Laemmle’s general manager at Universal and there, according to all accounts, he played a crucial role in transforming the Taylor Chicken Ranch into what ultimately became Universal City around 1915. From that point onward, he worked mainly as a scriptwriter, usually on westerns. Bernstein also helped found Temple Israel in 1926, a Reform synagogue on Hollywood Boulevard, famous for its social activism and star-studded membership, including Al Jolson, Sammy Davis Jr., Eddie Fisher, George Jessel, and, later, Leonard Nimoy (see Gabler 305–10). Sloman told Brownlow that Universal’s studio manager Raymond Schrock simply handed him three typewritten pages and told him to make the movie: “With the help of Al Cohn . . . Charlie Whittaker [adaptors of the original story by Isadore Bernstein] and myself . . . our combined efforts evidently jelled, because before the picture was actually finished everyone in the studio seemed to know that we had a great big hit on our hands” (BeEdward Sloman’s His People

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hind 410). He was right. His People premiered at New York’s celebrated Astor Theater before an elite audience that included, among others, financier Bernard Baruch. It went on to break attendance records across the United States and even in London. For a film that cost $107,396, His People went on to gross $439,587, a healthy profit in its time for Universal. Contemporary reviews were a bit mixed, but Brownlow points out that the Jewish reaction was “unreservedly enthusiastic” and cites as representative the following example from a Jewish paper in Los Angeles lauding the depiction of the Jewish ghetto on the Lower East Side: “A page from life with its stark realism. One can almost smell the smells of this city within a city that is shown so realistically on the screen.” The writer Sam B. Jacobson lauded the performances of both Rudolph Schildkraut and Rosa Rosanova but reserved his highest praise for Sloman, stating that the director “is responsible for one of the finest pictures ever made. He has done, with His People, more to eradicate with one blow prejudice and racial hatred than any other agency has accomplished” (Behind 412). His People tells the archetypal story of Jewish immigrants in America, showing the differences between the parents who came here as strangers and their children who emerge as citizens. By following the transitions of the Cominsky family over the years, the film reveals some of the crucial transformations that Jews went through as they acclimated themselves to American customs and, along the way, lost some of their old-world traditions. It was a trade-off that often pitted son against father and daughter against mother, but in the end it proved to be the only pathway to gaining acceptance in this new land. Interestingly, Schildkraut was not the studio’s first choice for the pivotal role of David Cominsky. Alexander Carr, famous for his role as Morris Perlmutter in the popular Potash and Perlmutter series (1923, 1924, 1926), was originally slated to play the crucial role, but Sloman eventually turned to the more seasoned Schildkraut. Before emigrating to America, Schildkraut was well known in Europe for his work in comic operas and classical dramas. Ultimately, he became part of Max Reinhardt’s famous Deutsches Theater in Berlin and went on to make ten films for the prestigious German production giant Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft (UFA). Once in America, Schildkraut rapidly became a star of the Yiddish Art Theater in New York until 1922, when he went to Hollywood. His People was his first movie for an American studio; he went on to make nine more films, including The King of Kings (1927), The Country Doctor (1927), and Christina (1929) before his death in 1930. His son Joseph, who carved out a distinguished acting career for himself in over eighty films, described his father’s style of “underplaying” a role as being 26

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twenty years ahead of his time.  .  .  . He was naturalist in his mi­ nute observation of detail, classicist in his respect for form, expressionist in his relentless drive for the essential, ultramodern in his search for the hidden truth behind the facade of sham and illusion. . . . None of his creations could be reduced to a formula, for he presented within each character in [sic] all its complexity and inconsistency. (http://museumoffamilyhistory.com/mfh-st07rschildkraut.htm) In the case of His People, the son’s description of the father’s acting style provides a perfectly precise consideration of one of the best, and I think most sadly overlooked, performances of the silent era. His People opens with a series of New York City ghetto shots emphasizing the elevated train cutting through the city and immigrant children playing in the crowded streets. Its first title hints at the romantic, melodramatic flavor that seasons the entire picture: “Scattered for centuries, these people have come from the four corners of Europe, each bringing a dream of prosperity and happiness.” Newcomers often find these two dreams mutually exclusive, and Sloman strives throughout the film to unify them in a particularly American manner. Quickly, and with little unnecessary exposition, he introduces the film’s leading characters. The Shannons are “foreigners in the neighborhood” of eastern European Jews, and daughter Mamie (Blanche Mahaffey) is characterized as “so sweet you’d never think she’s Irish.” Juxtaposed with the Shannons are the Cominskys. David (Schildkraut), the father, was a student in Russia but finds “no market for his knowledge here”; Rose (Rosanova), his wife, is a stereotypical Yiddishe mama whose large heart is matched only by the size of her enormous bosom; Sammy (George Lewis) dreams of being what Papa contemptuously labels a “box fighter”; Morris (Arthur Lubin), “the pride of the Cominsky household,” studies to be a lawyer. The film’s opening moments clearly establish the familiar conflicts between the strict discipline of old-world religious traditions and the intoxicating freedoms of new-world life in America. Although Papa dutifully and religiously kisses the mezuzah upon his tenement apartment, he makes the compromise of staying home from synagogue on the Sabbath eve because his busy day selling linens stitched by Mama has exhausted him. The nascent affection that will develop into interethnic love between Mamie and Sammy now surfaces as they shyly share an ice cream cone. When he saves his studious brother from the local bully, Izzy Rosenblatt, Sammy displays physical strength superior to Morris’s, and when the latter tattles on his defender for fighting, Sammy’s moral superiority is also clear. Of course, Edward Sloman’s His People

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the mother defends Sammy from the father’s wrath by quickly lighting the candles and reminding her husband it is the Sabbath, a day of restful peace. The old man agrees, but asks Sammy to remind him that he is to be given a beating later. With a transition to the family’s celebration of the Sabbath ten years later, Sloman continues to develop the scene and displays his technical expertise. He presents the family in a complex deep-focus shot with all planes of action visible throughout much of the scene and thus commenting upon each other. The foreground and middleground contain most of the action, while Mamie dominates the background by remaining clearly observable, across the alley, through an open window. Sixteen years before Gregg Toland’s experiments for Orson Welles in Citizen Kane, Sloman’s shot emphasizes the interaction between all the planes of activity, forcing the viewer to pay attention to the movement within the entire frame. A series of important exchanges within the relative stasis of the deep-focus setup intensifies character relationships through verbal and visual motifs. Now that he has graduated from law school with honors, the bookish Morris feels smugly superior to Sammy, who remains a lowly newsboy. Mama, however, tactfully reminds him that it was Sammy’s earnings that put him through law school. Most important, this scene becomes symbolic of the conflict between the observance of traditional religion and the pull of the new world. The hats worn by the men also provide information: Papa’s traditional yarmulke, Morris’s stylish straw skimmer, and Sammy’s jaunty cap. As Papa makes the traditional blessing over the Sabbath wine, Mamie whistles for Sammy to join her outside the apartment. When he goes to the window, his irritated father drags him back to the table by the ears. Tradition is tradition, after all; discipline is discipline. Sammy accedes for the moment, but Mamie eventually lures him away and he joins her on the fire escape. American style wins. Ultimately, both of Papa’s sons desert the Sabbath rituals: Sammy to be with Mamie, and Morris to join his fancy uptown friends. Morris, as we later learn, is attempting to climb the class ladder, courting former Judge Stein’s beautiful daughter, Ruth. Here Sloman makes a subtle point about the overt differences between the German Jews, a largely cosmopolitan group who had slipped quite seamlessly into American life, and the brash eastern European “greenhorns” who crowded into the tenements on the Lower East Side of New York City. As represented by Judge Stein, the earlier immigrants had acquired wealth and attained positions of respect; because of this, their less educated and poor brethren often embarrassed them. At the judge’s home, Sloman again employs deep focus to 28

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create simultaneous action, with all the planes in constant focus. When the judge asks to meet Morris’s parents, the young lawyer’s embarrassment at their lowly status overwhelms him and, after telling how he put himself through college, he concludes: “I am quite alone. I have no parents.” Sloman pushes the action forward with a series of carefully executed juxtapositions enlarging on the ethical differences between Morris and Sammy, as well as on David’s persistent misreading of his sons. For example, after Papa trudges through a terrible snowstorm to pawn his most prized possession (a Russian fur coat) so that Morris can have a new suit to impress his uptown friends, the ungrateful son decides that the clothing is too shabby and heartlessly tosses the outfit into the nearest trash can. Meanwhile Sammy—whose character is loosely based on the famous Jewish fighter Benny Leonard (né Leiner and nicknamed “The Ghetto Wizard”)—bills himself as “Battling Rooney” to disguise his identity from his father and wins a series of fights. Even when his father discovers the truth and banishes him from the house, Sammy continues to slip Mama money to help pay the bills. These conflicts culminate in one of the film’s most painful scenes. Morris ignores an urgent note from his mother asking that he visit his sick father: he chooses instead to go out with Ruth and her rich German Jewish friends. Sammy, however, rushes to his ailing father’s sickbed, and in a badly lit apartment David mistakes him for Morris and delivers what he thinks is his final blessing on the wrong son. With a grieving heart, the son who loves him accepts the father’s blessing for the absent one who has rejected his father’s pleas. This scene, in particular, echoes the famous biblical story when Rebekah tricks the elderly and nearly blind Isaac into bestowing what he thinks is his deathbed blessing on Jacob instead of, as he had intended, on Esau, his first-born and favorite. Like Isaac, David Cominsky also recovers (thanks in large part to huge doses of corned beef and cabbage supplied by Mrs. Shannon) and later learns that, ironically, he has inadvertently blessed the appropriate son, the one who cares for him instead of the one who denies him. But Sloman does not end the story on this ironic note. The doctor warns Mama that in order to survive, David must move to a better climate, namely California. Sammy therefore undertakes a championship fight for which he is ill prepared in hopes that he will earn the needed one thousand dollars for the move. Meanwhile, a shocked David reads about Morris’s engagement and wonders why the announcement describes his son as an orphan. Traveling to the opulent Stein household, he finds the newly engaged couple celebrating their betrothal at a banquet. In the film’s most powerful moment, David confronts his son only to hear Morris selfEdward Sloman’s His People

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In one of His People’s most painful scenes, David Cominsky (Rudolph Schildkraut) confronts his social-climbing son, Morris (Arthur Lubin), in the opulent Stein household, only to hear him proclaim, “I never saw this man in my life!” Although devastated by this harsh rejection, David maintains his dignity and chooses not to embarrass Morris by revealing the truth behind this cruel deception. Collection Lester D. Friedman.

righteously proclaim, “I never saw this man in my life!” Struggling to gain control of his sorrow, his pain, and his humiliation, David professes he must have the wrong address and leaves, choosing not to embarrass Morris by revealing the true nature of this cruel deception. Sloman moves to resolve the situation in a typical Hollywood manner. When Sammy, fresh from winning his championship fight, hears of his brother’s heartless treatment of their father, he rushes to the Stein mansion, drags Morris away, and hustles him back to the their Lower East Side tenement. There an abject Morris apologizes profusely for his deception and finally acknowledges Sammy’s immense contribution to his life, while David now realizes Sammy’s true worth and devotion. “I thought success only came through learning,” he says, “but in this country success can even mean a box fighter.” David Desser comments that “for most of the modern era, Jewish writers, artists, and filmmakers labored within the paradigm of muscular masculinity, the traditional image of masculinity of the EuroAmerican experience, an image in which the Jew (i.e., the Jewish man) quite 30

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literally came up short” (“Space” 269–70; emphasis mine). Here, brains are not superior to brawn if they don’t make money. Following the admission, the entire family embraces and their reunification (at least until Mama and Papa go to California) shows that, given a correct vision of the new world’s pressing demands, prosperity and happiness can be achieved in America via completely different ways. His People encompasses many of the central themes dealt with in silent Jewish American films, particularly ghetto melodramas: gentile-Jewish relationships, east European (Cominsky) versus German (Stein) Jews, family interaction, conflicts between traditional and newly emerging values, religion versus commerce, generational disagreements, and monetary problems. In addition, Sloman’s early use of deep focus, his expert crosscutting for emotional impact and thematic emphasis, his ability to create character depth and complexity within the confines of standard melodrama, his skillful plot manipulations, his movement within and between scenes, and his compelling vision of the painful depths and joyous heights of immigrant life endow the film with an exuberant vitality that captivates modern filmgoers and enlightens film historians. (Over the years, I have shown this film to many general audiences and taught it consistently in my university classes, and without exception it has always proved a hit, elicited stimulating conversations, and deeply engaged its viewers. Even younger audiences immediately recognize the struggles of this immigrant family and the tensions between the generations created by differing values.) Sloman’s exploration of ghetto life manages to avoid trivializing the experience, while his union of form and content moves the film out of the category of superficial melodrama. Like many other early Jewish screen families, the Cominskys find themselves enmeshed in bitter conflicts between love and tradition. Inevitably, the younger generation’s thorough indoctrination into democratic values of romance and marriage clash with the older generation’s traditional beliefs in religious values and old world customs. Sometimes, as in His People, the younger generation teaches the older one that America is a new land in which democratic freedom replaces old-world dictates. But at other times the shabbiness of their parents’ occupations and surroundings causes acute embarrassment for young Jews trying to “pass” in a gentile world. His People, like most of the mainstream films of the silent era about Jews, stresses economic success, intermarriage, freedom, and accommodation to American middle-class values. Religious scholarship, parochialism, duty, and uniqueness represent outworn notions associated with foreign countries and bygone times. In this respect, the film begins by accentuating the differences of Jews—speech, dress, custom, diet—but ends by proclaiming their more important similarities to other Americans—love of family, Edward Sloman’s His People

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The Cominsky family finally reconciles. Papa embraces and forgives his repentant son, Morris, much to the relief of prospective daughter-in-law Mamie (Blanche Mehaffey, left), younger son Sammy (George Lewis), Mama Cominsky (Rosa Rosanova), and nosy neighbor Chaim Barowitz (Nat Carr). Collection Lester D. Friedman.

financial distress, generational differences. Peculiarity, therefore, is quickly eliminated as a major issue. Only superficial, outward elements distinguish Jews from their neighbors; inner strengths bind them to all Americans. Because of their emphasis on Jewish unity with other Americans, silent films such as His People support and nourish the cherished vision of America as a vast melting pot of ethnic groups that discard their individual cultural heritages to form one people. The films attempt to make Americans less nervous about Jews and Jews more conscious of themselves as Americans.

Buying into America But there are other, perhaps more subtle, lessons as well. In his essay “Consumerist Realism: American Jewish Life and the Classical Hollywood Cinema,” David Desser astutely comments on the change in mise-en-scène, among other innovations, that characterizes a significant shift in American movies between 1918 and 1927. In particular, he contends that “notions of middle-class life itself shifted to a more overtly consumer-oriented ideal” 32

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(262) during this era. This social transformation, in turn, changed the process and construction of American production and reception from “consuming images” to “images of consuming” (Desser 263). This alteration coincided with the rise of the great department stores that changed the fundamental attitude toward materialism and the buying habits of American life. Many of these stores were owed by Jews (as were most of the Hollywood studios): Abraham and Straus (A & S), B. Altman, E. J. Korvette, Neiman-Marcus, Macy’s, Gimbel Brothers (Gimbels), Filene’s Basement, and others. As Desser points out, both the movie palaces and the large department stores delivered not only services and goods, but even more important “the ideology of materialism” that, in essence, was the heart of the American dream. Looking carefully at His People, the viewer quickly sees the crucial role that money plays from the first frame until the last image. Indeed, the film—like so many others during this era (and even today)—basically equates American success with financial accomplishment. Love, happiness, and health rest upon a firm foundation of money. David Cominsky is a failure because he is a lowly pushcart salesman and cannot make big money. Morris, always looking upward, seeks to marry a girl whose family has money already. Sammy fights a dangerous boxer and repeatedly jeopardizes his health and safety in order to earn money for his father to move to California to regain his health, an act that will break up the family. David willingly moves to hock his prized Russian coat when Morris needs money. As Desser sums up the situation: Ideals of economic attainment through hard work, pluck, luck, and the entrepreneurial spirit; the throwing off of family and even ethnic and religious traditions in pursuit of that success; and the largesse and openness of American society in allowing immigrants to achieve that success, becomes part of the very fabric of what is now known as the Hollywood cinema. (“Consumerist Realism” 278) And what becomes part of Hollywood cinema inevitably inculcates itself into American life. Thus, when Papa Cominsky admits that he was wrong and that success in America comes in many forms, even as a “box fighter,” he reaffirms the demise of his own values of education and tradition; by becoming a man who measures success in dollars and cents, he has, in effect, become a real American. As do all mass media and to some extent all art, His People mirrors the concerns of its age, reflecting conscious and unconscious aspects of the culture that shaped it. Early Hollywood movies about Jews document their socioeconomic conditions, aspects of the immigrant experience, and Edward Sloman’s His People

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immigrants’ steady move toward assimilation, a journey embodied in the lives of many studio heads. But in their fictive recounting, movies such as His People performed another, perhaps even more valuable function. They became a conditioning factor to assimilation, so much so that the screen Jew was transformed into an “icon of the ritual of Americanization.” Every immigrant could share the triumphs and failures on the screen; she could feel the heartbreak and rejoice in the joys of the Jews. Sitting in the darkness of the movie house, viewers recognized screen versions of familiar aspects of their own experience. Thus, the adventures of the celluloid Jews became a common reference point for all immigrant Americans. The rapid growth and immense popularity of the movie industry coincided with the influx of eastern European Jews whose values, talents, and achievements permanently altered American society. Clearly, both Jews and film production existed in America before the early twentieth century, but nothing even hinted at the media revolution that was to result from the combination of Jews and films. Indeed, from the very beginnings of the industry until the present, it is impossible to ignore the influence of Jews on the movie business or to overlook the importance of a Jewish consciousness in American films. But the lesson went both ways. As American audiences learned that Jews were more like themselves than they had ever suspected, so too Jews learned to be more like their American neighbors. Any residual anxiety over the loss of a particular identity was dissolved in laughter at the outmoded ways of thinking—or soothed by promises tacitly given by the new order. More than simple-minded melodrama or ghostly flickerings of a now-forgotten age, the celluloid assimilation witnessed in the silent era and epitomized by His People was the start of a rich and varied legacy— irrefutable evidence of the archetypal American rite of passage.

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Catherine Portuges

Jewish Immigrant Directors and Their Impact on Hollywood

This essay reconsiders some effects of displacement and immigration on the work of film artists and intellectuals of the early and mid-twentieth century. During the 1930s and 1940s, hundreds of German-speaking writers and film professionals lived and worked in Hollywood. While some were émigrés who came to better their lot and further their professional careers, the majority were Jewish refugees who escaped the threat of Nazi death camps. The exiles’ sense of (Jewish) identity in the United States was shaped not only by the experience of displacement and the fight against fascism, but also by the political climate of the wartime United States and the film industry’s war efforts. Contributing their central European sensibilities to the culture of the Hollywood film industry at a key historical moment, they were instrumental in creating the look of commercial mainstream cinema as well as shaping the film noir aesthetic, both of which came to constitute American cinema’s iconic imagery at the time (see especially Vincent Brook’s excellent study Driven to Darkness: Jewish Émigré Directors and the Rise of Film Noir). Scholars such as John Russell Taylor (Strangers in Paradise: The Hollywood Emigres, 1933–1950) and Anthony Heilbut (Exiled in Paradise: German Refugee Artists and Intellectuals in America from the 1930s to the Present) have chronicled their odyssey, which is worth revisiting today in another age of migration and diaspora, with particular attention to the specificity of their nationalities. Often assimilated under the rubric “German,” their perspectives as central Europeans—Austrians and Hungarians—may instead, I suggest, account for their often unconventional and even critical cinematic practice. Over the successive waves of migration bridging the European and 35

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American cultural divide, these and other artists’ cinematic accomplishments helped define what became a classic aesthetic, as anti-Semitism drove these “strangers in paradise” to the dream factories of Hollywood, a haven for the continuous supply of pre- and postwar émigrés. One of Hitler’s first actions as chancellor of the German Reich in 1933 had been to banish Jews from Germany’s film industry, widely regarded as the most creative and advanced in the world. This action drove those who had been at the forefront of the golden age of cinema to flee their homeland in the ensuing months and years. Many hundreds of European film professionals escaped to Hollywood in the years between 1933 and 1939, including actors Hedy Lamarr (Heidi Kiesler), Paul Henreid (Paul Georg Julius Hernreid Ritter Von WasselWaldingau), and Peter Lorre (László Löwenstein); directors Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder (Samuel Wilder), Michael Curtiz (Manó Kertész Kaminer), Otto Pre­minger, and Fred Zinnemann; composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Arnold Schoenberg, Max Steiner, and Franz Waxman; and writers Vicki Baum, Lion Feuchtwanger, Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Salka Viertel, and Franz Werfel. As this partial list suggests, many, if not the majority, changed their names in an effort to leave behind their European Jewish identities and to be accepted as American rather than as foreign nationals or enemy aliens. Even the Warner brothers had so successfully effaced their original European identities that their descendants could not recall the family’s former name until recently, when a granddaughter, Cass Warner Sperling, confirmed it to be Wonskolaser. Yet Warner Bros. led international efforts to counter antiSemitism, and its anti-fascist stance became synonymous with films that took a stand against hatred, racism, anti-Semitism and prejudice. In 1942, Warners’ film Casablanca, directed by Hungarian-born Jewish émigré Curtiz and the next year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture, rallied Americans to join the fight against fascism and Nazism. Jack Warner was among many who were called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, including a large number of Jews connected to the anti-fascist movement and who had been accused of being Communist subversives (see Cass Sperling’s film The Brothers Warner). With the rise of Nazism, members of the European cultural elite fled Europe, seeking refuge in Los Angeles. Some became stateless political refugees when they were stripped of their European citizenship, subject to surveillance by the FBI for anti-fascist activities or sympathies. While many émigrés were welcomed by the nascent, lucrative film industry of Hollywood, others, having found a safe haven in Southern California, were officially considered “enemy aliens”—and their movements closely watched—by the U.S. government. Their films number among the classics of American 36

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Warner Bros. studio, Sunset Blvd., 1920s. Insets, from left, of Jack, Harry, Albert, and Sam Warner. Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

cinema, with titles including The Bride of Frankenstein (1935, score by Franz Waxman), Fury (Fritz Lang, 1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, 1938), Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch, 1939), The Wolf Man (1941, written by Curt Siodmak), To Be or Not to Be (Lubitsch, 1942), Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942), Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944), Phantom Lady (Robert Siodmak, 1944), Sunset Blvd. (Wilder, 1950), High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952), The Big Heat (Lang, 1953), and Some Like It Hot (Wilder, 1959), to name only a few. Yet against the odds, these émigré filmmakers managed to leave indelible traces on American cinema and film history. To revisit that era is to encounter a world of multicultural artistic ferment and reciprocal cultural influence—a scene of contradictions that has tended to be marginalized in contemporary film studies, just as “foreign” actors’ accents were sanitized and often mocked to produce more acceptably “American” line readings. Far from unique, my own family’s diasporic trajectory paralleled and reflected that of countless east-central Europeans who eventually found refuge in the former orange groves and bean fields of southern California. It is their struggle as outsiders for legitimacy, for cultural and artistic identity, that prompts this effort to reinscribe their distinctly ethnic “otherness” as immigrants who helped make cinema the global, transnational phenomenon we know today. Jewish Immigrant Directors and Their Impact on Hollywood

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The expulsion of filmmakers from Nazi Germany must, of course, be located in the larger framework of the Shoah. For the overwhelming majority of émigrés, exile was an experience of forced departure undertaken under unimaginable duress, suffering, and loss, the only possible way out for those fortunate enough to leave. A brief description of the cinematic space from which Nazi Europe drove the filmmakers considered here may help contextualize their trajectory. Berlin had become Europe’s cultural capital, a center for a flowering of the arts and cultures of the avant-garde that heralded the development of modernism. In the aftermath of World War I, Germany’s national cinema studios, assembled by the end of the 1920s under the rubric of UFA (Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft), was the largest and most advanced film studio in Europe. It was then under the leadership of Erich Pommer, producer of Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari [1920]), an expressionist masterpiece of fantasy and terror that marked the debut of what came to be considered the golden age of expressionist cinema. During this period, many Hollywood studios had offices in Berlin, the cultural capital, where cinema, opera, painting, and cabaret flourished in an intensely creative atmosphere. These cosmopolitan artists, the most secular of Europe’s Jews, played a leading role in Berlin’s cultural life, representing a significant segment of the city’s population. Among these talented artists, writer/director Billy Wilder had left Vienna for Berlin, where he began writing screenplays at the age of twentyone. There he encountered Robert and Curt Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer, and Fred Zinnemann, all of whom were to become leading Hollywood directors. Meeting in their regular Berlin café, these men agreed to collaborate on an experimental feature, Menschen am Sontag (1930), a surpassingly modern work that was to become a major document in the history of German avant-garde cinema—part documentary, part narrative, with a cast of five Berliners playing themselves. Each member of the collaboration would go on to enjoy an illustrious career in Hollywood with numerous films to their credit, Robert Siodmak directing The Spiral Staircase (1945), The Killers and The Dark Mirror (both 1946), and The Deported (1950); Curt Siodmak writing The Wolf Man, I Walked with a Zombie (1943), and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956); Ulmer directing Detour (1945); and Zinnemann directing not only High Noon but also The Member of the Wedding (1952), From Here to Eternity (1953), Oklahoma! (1955), A Hatful of Rain (1957), The Old Man and the Sea (1958), Behold a Pale Horse (1964), A Man for All Seasons (1966), The Day of the Jackal (1973), and Julia (1977). As the National Socialists transformed Berlin’s enchantment into a nightmare, these and other Jewish directors who had been in the vanguard 38

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Billy Wilder on set. Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

of motion picture production continued to seek a way out. When one of his friends was arrested, Wilder left Berlin for Paris as a precautionary measure, commenting, in what became known as his typically ironic, central European mode: “It wasn’t my idea to leave, it was Hitler’s.” Exile toward America had begun, and Wilder left Europe in January 1934. Zinnemann was allowed to depart thanks to a letter of introduction from Robert Flaherty, which ultimately resulted in a job at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. After the composer Franz Waxman had been forced into an alley and severely beaten, he boarded the next train for Paris. Robert Siodmak made his departure the day after Hitler came to power: “I started my career three times from scratch: I left Germany one day after Hitler came to power; I left France one day before war broke out, and Hollywood one year before Cinemascope” (Journal). A successful career in Paris preceded Siodmak’s emigration to Hollywood, where he worked on B-movies before being offered Jewish Immigrant Directors and Their Impact on Hollywood

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a seven-year contract with Universal Studios. Exploring the darker side of human relations in narratives of obsession, betrayal, and despair through rapid-fire dialogue and desperate characters, his screenwriter brother Curt expressed the dilemma faced by many in the profession: “I don’t know how to write in any other language. Where can I go with a pregnant wife and no money?” (Journal). Peter Lorre, whose role as the child murderer in Fritz Lang’s M (1931) had made him a star, fled as well, wiring his friends: “There’s not enough room in Germany for two murderers.” Lorre tried valiantly to lose his Viennese accent, playing Mr. Moto in eight successive films and growing fond of the Southern Californian lifestyle. Making his directorial debut in Germany, Lorre’s feature Der Verlorene (The Lost One [1951]) is a compelling expressionist exploration of the German psyche; quickly forgotten, the film resurfaced in the mid-1980s, twenty years after Lorre’s death (see Youngkin). Emigrés, expatriates, transnationals, anti-fascists, refugees, or exiles, these artists, writers, producers, and theorists confronted fateful decisions. Those who had the courage, the means, the requisite permissions, and the connections to leave Europe were faced with fateful and, in many cases, irrevocable decisions: where to emigrate, how to make a living, how to be an artist in another land and in another language. Awaiting a contract from Fox, MGM, Paramount, Universal, or Warner Bros., many endured antiimmigrant sentiment and legislation. As displaced persons, refugees, and foreigners, their assets were frozen, their names erased from screen credits in the film industries that had banished them and that they had helped to create. Once in the United States, they were not necessarily embraced with open arms, instead often facing an ambivalent, even unwelcoming American community. Anti-Semitism was far from absent in Hollywood; among its lesser manifestations was the popular contention that the acronym “MGM” stood for “Mayer’s Ganze Mishpoche” (Louis B. Mayer’s whole family). In some cases there was hostility and even rejection of the traumatic circumstances that had brought the émigrés to Hollywood. Indeed, for every exiled professional fortunate enough to find a job in the film industry, three others failed, forced to look elsewhere for employment. Even experienced cameramen were initially refused membership in the unions. The apocryphal sign displayed at MGM, and attributed variously to Alexander Korda, Otto Preminger, and others, suggests the prevailing mood: “It’s not enough to be Hungarian, you have to have talent, too.” While some members of the European cultural elite were in flight to Los Angeles, others already living there had become political refugees when stripped of their European citizenship. Although many émigrés found work 40

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in the nascent and lucrative film industry, others were officially designated as “enemy aliens” by the U.S. government. Groups of émigrés gathered regularly at the Pacific Palisades home of Lion and Marta Feuchtwanger, which became known as Villa Aurora, to exchange ideas about art and politics with American writers, musicians, and filmmakers. Feuchtwanger (1884– 1958) had begun his career as a theater critic in Germany and had escaped Nazi imprisonment with the help of his wife and the U.S. vice-consul, immigrating to Los Angeles in 1941. A celebrated novelist, he embraced his newfound freedom through humanitarian and philanthropic efforts, actively speaking out against fascism and supporting the founding of a Jewish state, all of which he accomplished as an “enemy alien” who was never granted the American citizenship he so ardently desired. Others experienced the culture of Hollywood as a radical shock—all too often, Americans seemed provincial, lacking in curiosity about “foreigners,” even oblivious to the tragedy of Hitler’s Europe. The émigrés often sought each other’s company in their Hollywood Hills and Los Feliz homes and assembled in Griffith Park or on the beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu, sharing news of families and friends, acting collectively on behalf of survivors, deportees, and refugees. Hitler’s inauguration as Reich Chancellor on January 30, 1933, marked the end of the first German democracy; immediately upon taking power the National Socialists began implementing Nazi ideology in all areas of society. The film industry was a particular target, as Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels emphasized in his Hotel Kaiserhof speech on March 28, 1933, before a congress of the Umbrella Organization of German Filmmakers in Berlin. What Goebbels called the “spiritual crisis” of German film provided a pretext, one consistent with National Socialist racism and antiSemitism, for discriminating against and systematically excluding all Jewish filmmakers from the industry. The day after Goebbels’s speech, UFA’s board of directors passed the following resolution: “With regard to the question raised by Germany’s national revolution concerning UFA’s further engagement of Jewish workers and staff, the board of directors has resolved to revoke as far as possible its contracts with Jewish personnel.” UFA then promptly fired several of its most prominent artists, including producer Erich Pommer and director Erik Charell. Together the two were responsible for Der Kongreß tanzt (The Congress Dances), Germany’s most successful film in 1931. Their fate exemplifies the internal persecution combined with public denunciation that Jews in the film community faced: producers, directors, actors, screenwriters, composers, architects, cinematographers, and technicians alike. Even long-standing industry publications such as “Film-Kurier” fired now-undesirable writers and began Jewish Immigrant Directors and Their Impact on Hollywood

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publishing articles lambasting “studio Jews.” Goebbels announced a boycott of Jewish businesses and took over command of the cinema industry, stating, “The world is not as conceived in the brain of Jewish filmmakers”; yet when he enumerated the films he most admired, eleven of the twelve had been made by Jewish directors (see Elsaesser German Cinema). This political and juridical repression grew more threatening with the founding of the Reich Chamber of Film in July 1933. Membership, primarily limited to “Aryans,” became a prerequisite for employment in the German film industry; a few artists thus excluded were granted a limited-term special permit. By January 1935, the final exclusion of “Non-Aryans” was carried out by the Reich Chamber of Film. By that point, the majority of affected filmmakers had already left Nazi Germany. Fritz Lang’s last German film, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933), was banned in Germany as a threat to law, order, and public security (although an earlier film about the same criminal mastermind, Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler [Dr. Mabuse: Der Spieler (1922)], had been screened there with no problem). Lang left Berlin for good against a backdrop of placards reading, “Germans, defend yourselves against Jewish atrocity propaganda!” “Indeed,” wrote the playwright Bertolt Brecht, “these are dark times, when we change countries more often than shoes” (Bahr 280). Exile was the great equalizer: celebrities shared the fate of all Jewish newcomers; few non-Jews would ultimately leave their countries. From Hollywood, the composer Friedrich Hollaender shared these impressions: “It seemed incredible to cross the ocean on a floating city, and then, once tossed on foreign shores, to discover the mountains of skyscrapers, the canyons full of mermaids, and now, to drive along extravagant avenues, bordered by pink villas, in a two-seater convertible. It was a gift too sumptuous, unimaginable” (Rosen). Not all émigrés and exiles were to find success in Hollywood, nor did many recover the security, fame, and influence they had enjoyed as part of the leading cultural elite in Europe. Indeed, many were dependent for survival on the financial generosity of compatriots such as Marlene Dietrich and Ernst Lubitsch. The Austrian screenwriter and former actress Salka Viertel (born Salomea Steuermann in Poland, sister of the pianist and composer Eduard Steuermann), a close friend and lover of Dietrich and Greta Garbo, was the force behind the European Film Fund, Hollywood’s endeavor to rescue Jewish and left-wing artists; among her many beneficiaries were Alfred Döblin, Heinrich Mann, and Leonhard Frank. She befriended Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein and the left-wing composer Hanns Eisler. It was in Viertel’s home on Mabery Road in Santa Monica that Franz Waxman was commissioned by Universal Studios to write the score for The Bride of Frankenstein, directed by James Whale. (As Nazi horrors accumu42

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lated across the Atlantic, Frankenstein, the studio monster, was at the same time becoming humanized, thanks in part to Waxman’s musical brilliance. Original film scores intensifying or offering counterpoint to film narratives were in fact among the first major contributions of the refugees and exiles to American cinema.) Salka Viertel was blacklisted in Hollywood during the McCarthy era and could no longer find work. The State Department suspected her of being a Communist and she was subsequently denied a passport, even though she had become a U.S. citizen. Aldous Huxley spent many days and nights enjoying Viertel’s renowned hospitality at her home, a refuge where European intellectuals and exiles such as Thomas and Katja Mann could meet their American counterparts in the Hollywood community. Viertel’s memoir, The Kindness of Strangers (1969), long out of print, is a valuable historical document of the Jewish exile community. After leaving Berlin in 1928, Viertel collaborated with Bertolt Brecht on a screenplay that was ultimately rejected by the studios. She appears neither in Huxley’s memoirs nor in Thomas Mann’s journals, despite the fact that both depended on her to help them survive in that often strange and hostile environment. Said Viertel: “The exodus had begun. Not a day passed that I didn’t receive a letter for help, and I besieged my American friends for affidavits” (Gozani). Viertel was ultimately driven out of Hollywood by McCarthyism, along with such distinguished fellow émigrés as Bertolt Brecht and the composer Hanns Eisler, summoned to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the summer of 1947. Fritz Lang, whose projects in Germany had been produced consistently, found himself under contract at MGM, yet the studio rejected every one of his proposals. Then in his early fifties and already world famous, he set out to discover the American West, shooting amateur film of desert landscapes. In Fury, his first Hollywood film,starring Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sidney, Lang transposed to an American context the laws of the mob he had represented in his German films, as a man passing through a small town with a mob mentality finds himself caught by circumstantial evidence, then arrested and convicted of murder. Although Lang’s propensity for exacting preparation had not endeared him to his German cast and crew, he had no intention of changing his way of working in Hollywood. “We in Hollywood say the script is a blueprint. I think a script is more than that. I think that the director, the actors and the cameramen have to be servants of the script. I prepare my directions on the desk. I hate to change anything in the script on the stage. Generally, I am not changing anything” (Rosen). Requiring eighteen-hour workdays did little to make him popular with his American cast and crew. Spencer Tracy, for instance, was said to Jewish Immigrant Directors and Their Impact on Hollywood

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despise him, even though he had Lang to thank for goading him into his finest performances. Lang spent years accommodating himself to the hierarchy of the Hollywood studio system, symbolized by exchanging his famous monocle for conventional eyeglasses and his German jodhpurs for cowboy boots, eventually coming to a grudging respect of Hollywood’s traditions and culture. “We were all used to working in a different way. We had to adjust to a new mentality, a new culture. I don’t think that anyone ever became anything without fighting for it—I always had to fight for this” (Rosen). It is assumed that he likely ignored Erich Pommer’s early advice to “learn the camera” and “never start an affair with an actress.” The London-born German composer Friedrich Hollaender, who wrote the music for over a hundred films, including Destry Rides Again (1939) and A Foreign Affair (1948), gave voice to the challenges of adaptation faced by Jewish émigrés in Hollywood in a letter to a Berlin friend: “For those who get here without a world-famous name, the Hollywood dream is a nightmare. I could persuade myself to forget that I was once significant, but that is not the point. You can’t just shake off your homeland and create strong roots once you are elsewhere. I’ve never fought so hard, even at the very beginning, the first time” (Rosen). Brecht echoes this sentiment in his famous observation: “Every day to earn my daily bread I go to the nearest market where lies are bought. . . . Hopefully, I take up my place among the sellers” (Bachlund). Brecht’s lament gestures toward the fact that boxoffice success alone was the measure of success; the studios hired only those who could increase their earnings at home and overseas. Although Warner stopped distributing films to Germany in 1935, thereby incurring major financial losses, MGM and Paramount continued to do so until 1940, removing Jewish names from the credits. An eminent director, writer, journalist, and producer whose impact on Hollywood is virtually inseparable from what we think of as Hollywood cinema itself, Billy Wilder (1906–2002) remains a towering figure in this pantheon, yet his work has not received commensurate attention by film scholars. A golden age realist and an actor’s director accustomed to speaking his mind, Wilder’s persona as a filmmaker is an iconic exemplar of the contradictions and complexities that can be directly traced to his central European and Jewish culture. A child of assimilated middle-class AustroHungarian Jews who became a journalist in Weimar-era Berlin, like many of his fellow Jewish émigrés in Hollywood he learned to utilize the opportunities of change and adaptation to advance his career, observing the effects of sensationalism and the consequences of self-delusion. In his early writing, Wilder followed the impressionist traditions of Viennese literary 44

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modernism, while Berlin, which Wilder credits for giving him his cinematic life, imbued that work with the revolutionary style and spirit of the visual arts. His career-long fascination with interrogations of gender and sexual ambiguity may be traced to Freud’s Vienna, the decadence of Berlin, and even the obsessions of Kinsey’s postwar America, but Wilder was no mere fantasist or voyeur. His Hollywood cinematic visions reflect his own early experiences—as a taxi dancer (employed by dance halls and nightclubs to dance with patrons for a fee), a society columnist, a newspaper fashion consultant known as “Tante Billie,” and ultimately as an émigré who never forgot the anxieties of negotiating identity in the polyglot Danube Empire. Like Alfred Hitchcock, he never completely absorbed mainstream Hollywood culture, but instead influenced Hollywood to take up his ironic vision of the human condition as popular entertainment, as Gerd Gemünden suggests in his magisterial study, A Foreign Affair: Billy Wilder’s American Films. Wilder’s first film noir, Double Indemnity, was scored by his fellow émigré, the Hungarian-born composer Miklós Rózsa, who said of that work, “Paramount hated it, saying the music belonged in Carnegie Hall. I replied that the film was about ugly people doing vicious things to each other” (“Hollywood”). Film noir was one of the most significant contributions of the émigré filmmakers whose Expressionist style and transplanted cynicism worked well in the American marketplace. Appropriated as a uniquely American genre, it, too, was largely the product of exiles whose conception of mise-en-scène, urban spaces, and Expressionist visual style foregrounded unsentimental, even pessimistic perspectives on social and individual corruption. When considering Billy Wilder’s oeuvre, it is useful to reference his fellow émigré Theodor Adorno’s notion of the experience of cultural shift as an existential instance of “in-betweenness.” A mainstream entertainer, Wilder was also an auteur whose talent for transgressing taboos and portraying the diversity of social class destabilized the conventions of Hollywood’s constrained liberalism. Double Indemnity may be read as a counter-narrative to the contemporary critical impulse to extract “foreign” cultural traces from film noir readings. Modernist Weimar influences, the trauma of emigration, and a general sense of disillusionment may be seen as quintessential elements of a central European Jewish intellectual worldview in this tale of an insurance salesman caught up in a wife’s cynical plot to murder her husband. Having lost his family in the Holocaust, Wilder had hoped to approach the subject of the genocide with a serious tone and, at one point, considered making a film of Thomas Keneally’s book Schindler’s List (for more on Oskar Schindler in film, see Peter Krämer’s essay in this volume). The films he Jewish Immigrant Directors and Their Impact on Hollywood

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did make suggest his uniquely personal deflations of Nazism. In contrast, it would be difficult to imagine Wilder’s unique brand of humor in the hands of other Austrian Jewish exile filmmakers such as Fred Zinnemann, better known as a Hollywood realist (The Seventh Cross; Julia) or Roman Polanski, an émigré child of the Shoah (The Pianist), unless perhaps if it were cloaked in metaphoric disguise as in the latter’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) or The Tenant (1976). There is an enduring connection between central European culture, German cinema, and Wilder’s visualization of the American dystopia and utopia, one that even the Holocaust could not sever or efface. We have only to think of Some Like It Hot, or of the alienation of America’s middle classes in The Apartment (1961), which echoes aspects of the observations of social class in the Academy Award–winning Grand Hotel (1932), with its screenplay (uncredited) by the Hungarian Jewish writer and theorist Béla Balázs, adapted by Vicki Baum. In his 1948 film The Emperor Waltz, Wilder indulges his proclivity for the guilty pleasures of Habsburg-inflected history, buttressed by experience with Viennese film directors during the Berlin-based phase of his long film career. Yet beneath the frothy surface of “Viennese style” lurks a brutal social Darwinism. Wilder would later reference these pleasures and their link to the central European exile population in Hollywood in Fedora (1978), his farewell gesture to the golden age of Hollywood with its opulence, baroque décor, elegant overhead shots, and masterfully constructed voiceovers and flashbacks—a virtuoso display that ultimately deconstructs its own narrative. At this point in his long career, Wilder appeared to have internalized the rage against a “new” Hollywood that he once so ironically critiqued in the persona of fading star Norma Desmond in his masterwork on self-deception and failed reinvention, Sunset Blvd. Despite the absence of clearly marked Jewish identity in Wilder’s oeuvre, traces of Yiddish boulevard comedies and the theatricality of the Viennese dramatist Arthur Schnitzler (1862–1931) are discernible in his mood and tone, especially in films scripted with his writing partner I.A.L. Diamond (1920–1988), who shared many of Wilder’s Jewish émigré sensibilities, perhaps anticipating Woody Allen’s loquacious Jewish Manhattanites. As Gemünden suggests with regard to The Apartment, “Not only the dialogue but also the detailed scene directions . . . are peppered with terms like ‘nebbish,’ ‘schnook,’ ‘the meshugass’ and ‘saftig dame.’ ” Wilder’s activities under the aegis of the U.S. military during and after World War II included obtaining footage of the concentration camps. In interviews he recounted his bitter reaction when a studio executive suggested changing the nationality of a villainous character in his 1953 war film Stalag 17 from German to Polish, in order to make the film more palatable in 46

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Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, Warner Bros., 1942) rallied Americans to join the fight against fascism and Nazism. Paul Henreid is at center rear. Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

the profitable market of early 1950s Germany. Wilder adapted Stalag 17, set in a POW camp on the Danube, from the Broadway play by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski, both of whom were prisoners in Stalag XVII-B. The film foregrounds a group of American airmen held in a German World War II prisoner of war camp who come to suspect that one of their number is a traitor (see Delage). During the 1940s when Hollywood had become known, among other designations, as “Weimar on the Pacific,” Warner Bros. was the first studio to make an anti-Nazi film. Ultimately, the studios produced many such films; exile filmmakers worked on more than a third of these (see Krohn). Beginning shooting in May 1942, Casablanca was one of them; many of its cast and crew had escaped Hitler, including Lorre, Conrad Veidt, and the Austrian Paul Henreid, black-listed for refusing to join the Nazi actors’ guild. Over the course of the film’s production, most of those associated with the film contributed a portion of their earnings to the European Film Fund to assist their refugee colleagues. The film’s preponderantly international cast would never be able to reclaim the celebrity they had left behind in Europe: Marcel Dalio, a successful French actor who plays the Jewish Immigrant Directors and Their Impact on Hollywood

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roulette master at Rick’s Café Americain (but who had also appeared in Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game [1939] and Grand Illusion [1937], as well as Julien Duvivier’s Pépé le Moko [1937] and The Golem [1936]), is but one example. For exiled actors, being cast as German officers in Warner Bros.’ Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), the first explicitly anti-Nazi film, was a cruel irony, yet they needed the work desperately. They tried to speak English on the streets in order to avoid attracting attention as foreigners. Some actors feared reprisals against their families in Europe were they to participate in anti-Nazi films (Sperling). The difficulty of working in an unfamiliar language was for many the greatest obstacle to becoming employed in Hollywood. Then as always, the émigrés deployed their own individual strategies for survival: Fritz Lang watched movies and read comic strips to learn American English and become acquainted with American culture. The fact that many of these people were no longer young made their adaptation process even more challenging. What I would call the politics of dislocation, displacement, and acculturation—as distinct from assimilation—that characterized the experience of many Jewish émigré directors and the many other artists who fled Hitler for Hollywood suggests the need for a closer look at the effects of transcultural displacement. No such examination of the impact of Jewish directors can be undertaken, however, without reference to the profound influence of exiled composers Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold on Hollywood cinema. The soundtracks of such films as Gone with the Wind (1939), Casablanca, and The Adventures of Robin Hood were the products of these talented composers displaced from the former Habsburg Empire. Steiner, who had worked in Los Angeles since the late 1920s, initially composing for silent films, became one of Hollywood’s most successful musicians, followed by Korngold—considered throughout Europe to be the new Mozart—who said, “We thought of ourselves as Viennese; Hitler made us Jewish” (Thomas Cinema’s Exiles). Decoding the ways in which these European filmmakers translated and transposed themselves into the American vernacular is suggestive of the experiences of other Jewish émigrés as well. The role of European émigré artists, architects, photographers, and filmmakers from Germany and the former Habsburg Empire was indispensable to shaping modernist architecture and design, the incorporation of modernist idioms into photography, the development of hybrid photographic styles that merged European modernist aesthetics with the American social documentary approach, and the influence that central European avant-garde filmmakers gained upon Hollywood. 48

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By the 1950s, the creative contributions of these émigrés reflected a degree of professional integration in Hollywood perhaps unimagined when they had first been forced to seek refuge or, for that matter, when they even visualized California as a destination. As in so many Hollywood stories, there are great artistic and personal triumphs as well as tragic failures. Hollywood has long been a melting pot, drawing talent from around the world in response to wider changes in history. Between 1933, when the National Socialists came to power, and 1952, when Thomas Mann returned to Europe, over 1,500 German, Austrian, Hungarian, and other European émigrés and exiles worked in the Hollywood film studios. Today one can take driving and walking tours of the historical landmarks and homes associated with their exile in the film metropolis, including Villa Aurora, now an eminent center for central European arts, scholarship, and programs for writers in residence. All the émigrés, exiles, and refugees cited here had lost friends and family. Billy Wilder suffered the loss of three-quarters of his numerous relatives, including his mother, in Auschwitz. Zinnemann’s parents were awaiting visas when they were deported; Franz Waxman lost his brother. Some relatives refused to leave Europe and perished there. Salka Viertel lost her brother; Brecht wrote a poem for her (“I, the Survivor”):

I know of course: it’s simply luck That I’ve survived so many friends. But last night in a dream I heard those friends say of me: “Survival of the fittest” And I hated myself. (Schiff, Holocaust Poetry 127)

Outsiders, they were positioned to observe America from a socially critical perspective, although not without humor, as in Wilder’s case. Brecht returned to Berlin and, in 1950, sent a poem to his good friend Peter Lorre: “Listen, we are calling you back—driven back, you must now return. The country out of which you were driven flowed once with milk and honey.  .  .  . You are being called back to a country that has been destroyed—we have nothing more to offer you than the fact that you are needed.  .  .  . Poor or rich, sick or healthy, forget everything, and come” (Leming). Peter Lorre also returned to Germany, albeit briefly, only to end up in Hollywood—for him, as for many others, America was now home. Was there truth, perhaps, in Fritz Lang’s comment about emigration? “What is the tragedy of emigration?” he asked. “It isn’t the difference in circumstances or the professional difficulties—those one can always overJewish Immigrant Directors and Their Impact on Hollywood

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come. The tragedy consists of something completely different. The German poet Baron von Munchausen wrote a poem called ‘The Emigrant.’ The last two lines of the poem say: ‘And when he then comes home, he is a stranger in his own land.’ That, I believe, is the true tragedy of emigration” (Rosen). As to a religious sense of “home” for the émigrés, the Shoah had not necessarily brought them closer to Judaism; to the contrary, most remained as unapologetically secular as they had been in Europe. Although Lang was never nominated for an Academy Award, his urban thrillers about power and violence were financially successful: “I think in our times there is no longer a fear of punishment after death—the belief in fire and brimstone is no longer threatening. So what does a modern human being fear? Pain, physical pain—what creates physical pain? Violence. Therefore violence has become a very important factor in writing a script” (Thomas). The Big Heat—one of his finest films—evokes the shadow of Europe hovering over the director, whereas Wilder appeared to be more fully engaged with America, the bad side as well as the good. “I made pictures that I would have liked to see, and was lucky it coincided with the taste of the audience” (Schlöndorff ), as demonstrated by his twenty-three Oscar nominations and six awards, a quintessential exile success story. In his thirties, he learned to master the system; in middle age, he became an inextricable part of it. He was hardly alone. Filmmakers were in fact one of the largest groups of professionals forced into exile after 1933. Most became American citizens. Although some might well have left their countries of origin for other reasons, their numbers were multiplied many times over by Hitler’s persecution. But for every success story like Wilder’s, there were thousands of émigrés who were able to survive in the American studio system only under constant pressure and threat, often thanks to the support and solidarity of the exile community. In the case of the technical vocations, the unions were anxious to protect the interests of their American members, placing the émigrés at a professional disadvantage. Whether remembered as émigrés, expatriates, diasporans, transnationals, or exiles, as displaced persons enduring anti-immigrant sentiment, discriminatory legislation, and significant language barriers, these film professionals, finally, had indisputably achieved a level of social acceptance and success unimaginable when they first arrived in Hollywood. Throughout their combined careers, they accumulated 150 Oscar nominations and twenty Academy Awards. The cross-cultural, transnational, and internal trajectories of these filmmakers testify to their extraordinary integration within the Hollywood studio system. That their persecution as Jews may have played a key role in that assimilation is perhaps most evident in the films they created as directors, screenwriters, composers, and actors. 50

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Acknowledgments This essay has a personal dimension. Born in Hollywood to central European Jewish refugees who had fled Vienna and Budapest in 1939, I grew up among émigrés in the Hollywood community. It is to their memory and to that of my parents, grandparents, and their central European relatives and friends that I dedicate this essay, which is also part of a research project, “The Subjective Lens: Post-Holocaust Jewish Identities in Cinema,” an examination of first-person narratives and autobiographical accounts by Jewish filmmakers. I wish to thank the National Endowment for the Humanities for awarding me a research fellowship for 2006 –2007 that enabled me to undertake part of this project.

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Wheeler Winston Dixon

“A Rotten Bunch of Vile People with No Respect for Anything Beyond the Making of Money” Joseph Breen, the Hollywood Production Code, and Institutionalized Anti-Semitism in Hollywood

Consider this. A Jew becomes Americanized only in direct proportion to his becoming de-Judaized. But that’s a tightrope performance. Yearning to be Americanized, that is, to be accepted at par by the goyim, he begins by renouncing everything Jewish about him. He sheds his accent, shaves his beard, changes his clothes, curtails his names, plays golf and tennis, subdues his fire, and makes his whole religion conform to an elite Protestantism. Then, suddenly, he becomes aware that he has nothing left which is intrinsically himself. He has a crazy quilt make-up of foreign patches which serves as a good temporary covering. A ben K andel , Rabbi Burns Beneath the lame excuses, this was the deeper truth: Hollywood was itself a means of avoiding Judaism, not celebrating it. Most of the moguls had no stake in and no attachment to so-called Jewish projects, and those projects that were attempted often got lost in ambivalence and unresolved feelings about Judaism. N eal G abler , An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood

While there can be little doubt that, in the words of Neal Gabler, “the Jews invented Hollywood,” they created their films and ruled their cinematic empire in a strange atmosphere of self-denial and détente, seeking, in most cases, to obscure their religion’s orientation in the service of a largely Protestant viewing audience, mediated by a Catholic censor, Joseph Breen. This peculiar circumstance came about from a variety of factors, and it was an uneasy alliance from the start. But how, precisely, did Joseph Breen attain the “lord high executioner” status he enjoyed within the movie colony? From 1934 to 1954, Breen was the face of the Production Code Adminis53

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tration, and exercised nearly total control over the output of all the studios, netting scripts, screening rough cuts of films in progress, and shaping the cinema into his own vision of what American society should be like. In a somewhat left-handed compliment, Liberty magazine declared in 1936 that Breen “probably has more influence in standardizing world thinking than Mussolini, Hitler or Stalin . . . possibly more than the Pope” (qtd. in Doherty, Hollywood’s Censor 7). It’s not really an understatement, but rather a sad fact. Censorship had been around since the early days of the medium. The money promised both escapism and controversy, and both of these created cash. Of all the early film pioneers, it was Edison and his associates who most quickly saw the profit potential of the new medium. Edison had intended his films to be peep-show entertainments, but he soon changed his mind as he saw the commercial potential of projected motion pictures. In 1898, Turkish Dance, Ella Lola, became a celebrated state-by-state censorship case when Ella Lola’s suggestive body display was obscured, in some versions, by the insertion of an optically superimposed grid, which covered the offending portions of her anatomy. In addition, Edison’s film The Kiss (1896) created a sensation, and Edison was accused of pandering to the basest attitudes of his public, and thus simultaneously pursuing the surest avenue to commercial success. Seeking additional ways to exploit his new invention, Edison was also responsible for the first filmed advertisement, Dewar’s Scotch Whiskey, shot in 1897, which introduced the slogan “Dewar’s: It’s Scotch.” Thus, it was Edison who set down the basic precepts upon which commercial Hollywood movie production, distribution, and exhibition are still based: give the audience spectacle, sex, and violence, yet simultaneously pay lip service to the dominant social order. Early cinema audiences were often an unruly bunch, drawn to nickelodeons and Kinetoscope parlors through the lure of sensation alone. By 1907, roughly two million viewers attended the nickelodeons daily, and by 1908, there were more than 8,000 nickelodeons in existence in the United States. Admission was a nickel, and accompaniment was usually from an upright piano at the front of the hall. Early nickelodeons had a generally rough reputation, and often had a fly-by-night quality, inasmuch as most were converted storefronts or livery stables, and could fold up and move at a moment’s notice. Edison’s ultra-commercial films fit right in, presenting a world of idealized romantic couples, racist stereotypes, and relentless exoticism, leavened with a healthy dose of sadism and voyeurism. “Newsreels” of sporting events, most notably the Jim Jeffries–Thomas Sharkey fight of November 3, 1899, 54

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photographed in its brutal entirety by Biograph using multiple cameras, also became popular with audiences and led to further attempts at film censorship. The era also saw the rise of the movie palace, as marble nickelodeons became splendid pleasure domes dedicated to public entertainment. Prominent among these were Radio City Music Hall in New York and the Roxy, operated by the Jewish showman Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel in Los Angeles. Paramount continued an aggressive policy of theater ownership to make sure that their films would find an appreciative audience and instituted the policies of block booking (in which a theater owner had to take an entire slate of films from a studio, including lesser ones, in order to get the big hits) and blind bidding (in which theater owners were forced to bid on a “hot” film sight unseen and play it no matter what it eventually turned out to be). And yet, in the midst of all this production and prosperity, a storm was brewing. It would not fully come to a boil until 1934, during the early sound era, but the 1920s saw the beginning of a phenomenon that the studios both feared and ultimately capitulated to: organized censorship. A series of scandals erupted, including the 1922 murder of director William Desmond Taylor, who left behind love letters naming the popular stars Mabel Normand and Mary Miles Minter as two of his better-known paramours. Also in 1922, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was indicted in the death of young star Virginia Rappe; it was said that Arbuckle had raped her at a party that turned into an orgy, although Arbuckle was eventually acquitted of the charge. Arbuckle, Minter, and Normand were all forced to leave the screen as a result of the ensuing bad publicity; pathetically, Arbuckle tried to make a comeback several years later under the name “Will B. Good,” but to no avail. At the same time, one of the silent era’s most popular stars, Wallace Reid, died in 1923 as a result of morphine addiction and alcoholism at the age of thirty-one, and mainstream America demanded that the motion picture industry clean house. In late 1922, the motion picture studios chose Will H. Hays, then the postmaster general in the Harding administration, to head the newly formed Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, or the MPPDA. Soon known informally as the Hays Office, the MPPDA set about to police the private lives of the stars (with collaboration from the studios), inserting into the contracts of all studio personnel morality clauses that subjected them to immediate dismissal if they failed to live up to a stringent code of personal conduct. Not coincidentally, Wallace Reid’s wife, actress Dorothy Davenport Reid, became a director in 1923 with her production of Human Wreckage (in which she also starred), a film about the evils of Institutionalized Anti-Semitism in Hollywood

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narcotics and made with the approval and assistance of the Hays Office (Dixon and Foster 40–41). The 1930s and 1940s witnessed major shifts in American culture, with both the Great Depression and America’s entry into World War II, and Hollywood was quick to adapt to audience needs. In the early 1930s, the anarchic Marx Brothers lampooned society in their brilliant films Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933), but when Duck Soup’s satire of war and politics left audiences cold, Paramount let the zany team go. They found a new home at MGM, where producer Irving Thalberg suggested that they counter­balance their patented brand of insanity by adding a love interest to their films, thus considerably diluting their impact in such films as A Night at the Opera (1935), At the Circus (1939), and Go West (1940). Similarly, the sexually charged Mae West, who sparkled in Night After Night (1932), She Done Him Wrong (1933), and I’m No Angel (1933), found herself stymied by the rigid imposition of the Motion Picture Production Code July 1, 1934, as pioneered by Will H. Hays and subsequently administered by Joseph Ignatius Breen. With a background in journalism, Breen came to Hollywood in 1931 at the behest of Hays (then the chief MPPDA censor) as a consular officer and publicity man (Doherty, Hollywood’s Censor 7). Of all the pressure groups, the Roman Catholic Legion of Decency had arguably kept up the most persistent drumbeat of criticism of the film capital, and Hays, a rather weak enforcer of the Code, needed a strong back-up man to enforce the Code’s many prohibitions. Breen fit the bill and was duly installed in office on July 15, 1934. He immediately began tackling his job with missionary zeal. Except for a brief period in which Breen left the Code’s offices to become general manager and vice president of RKO Pictures from June 1941 to May 1942 (a move that surprised everyone, and didn’t work out to Breen’s satisfaction), he would remain the head of the Motion Picture Production Code for the next two decades (Doherty, Hollywood’s Censor 132). But as Thomas Doherty notes in his groundbreaking study of Breen’s life and work, the censorious potentate remains a remote figure for the potential biographer. As Doherty puts it, “He left behind no authorized biography, no unpublished memoir, and no central repository of papers. Though a seasoned journalist, a devoted correspondent, and a tireless memo writer, he maintained a low publicity profile during his tenure, and kept his mouth shut in retirement” (Hollywood’s Censor 9). He had no formal pictures taken of himself, avoided publicity, and generally kept out of the newspapers and newsreels. But his reign was absolute; Breen had the power to edit, rewrite, veto, censor, or consign to oblivion any project he didn’t approve of, all the way down to movie trailers, two-reel shorts, and even cartoons. How could one man possibly acquire such unbridled power? 56

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Joseph Ignatius Breen (1888–1965) had no formal pictures taken of himself, avoided publicity, and generally kept out of the newspapers and newsreels. But his reign was absolute; Breen had the power to edit, rewrite, veto, censor, or consign to oblivion any project he didn’t approve of. Courtesy PhotoFest New York.

The answer can be found in a single ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, handed down by the court in 1915. In the infancy of the industry, censorship was a regional affair, with different states having different standards as to what could be shown onscreen. When the Supreme Court ruled that the cinema was not a medium of artistic expression but rather “a business, pure and simple, originated and conducted for profit, like other spectacles” (qtd. in Doherty, Hollywood’s Censor 33), local censorship boards took this as a signal to feel free to police the film industry as they saw fit, forcing filmmakers to offer different versions of their films to keep the local boards placated. Fearful of government regulation, the studios banded together to form their own regulatory body, with Hays at its head. But it was only with Breen’s ascension to the throne that the Code gained any real authority over producers, writers, and directors. Its architects included Martin J. Quigley, the editor and publisher of what came to be known as the Motion Picture Herald, a daily trade journal for the film business, and the Rev. Daniel A. Lord, S.J., a Catholic priest with an interest in policing the new medium and the author of “twenty-five plays, thirty Institutionalized Anti-Semitism in Hollywood

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books, forty-eight children’s books [as well as] a raft of booklets, pamphlets and speeches,” who also organized religious pageants and wrote “show tunes” in his spare time (Doherty, Hollywood’s Censor 42). Armed with the new production Code, Breen was a force to be reckoned with. As Doherty summarizes the situation in 1934, a mogul eyeing the armies bivouacked outside the studio gates beheld a fearsome coalition arrayed against him. The Church (the Legion), the academy (the Motion Picture Research Council), and the government (the New Deal)—the most hallowed, respected, and powerful institutions in American life—all agreed that Hollywood was, in turn, a moral blight, a social problem, and a political liability. . . . Of all the forces bearing down on Hollywood, the Catholic Church alone was rallying millions of potential moviegoers to forswear cinema else risk their immortal souls. If the churchmen could be placated, the other threats might recede, maybe disappear. Enter Joseph I. Breen, not so much waiting in the wings as orchestrating the action from offstage. On one side, the moguls of the Hollywood studios; on the other, the prelates of the Roman Catholic Church; and, poised between the two—himself. (60) What made it all the worse was the fact that Breen was more than willing to go on the record with a full-boil hatred of Jewish religion and culture, apparently without any thought of how this might look after the fact. As Breen told Martin Quigley in another letter from 1932, “The fact is that these damn Jews are a filthy, dirty lot. Their only standard is the standard of the box office. To attempt to talk ethical value to them is time worse than wasted” (qtd. in Doherty, Hollywood’s Censor 199). Compounding the problem was that, as even the Jewish press throughout the country admitted, Jews did, in fact, control much of the film industry. As the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle soberly noted in 1934, “The names of William Fox, Louis Mayer, Adolph Zukor, Marcus Loew, Samuel Goldwyn, the Warner Brothers, Carl Laemmle, etc., are so permanently identified with the movie industry that the Jewish trademark on the movies is nearly indelible. . . . The Jewish angle is not being dragged into the movie issue; it exists, whether you like it or not” (qtd. in Doherty, Hollywood’s Censor 201). And in the early 1930s Breen was in no mood to put a favorable construction on the “issue,” urging “Catholic laymen ‘to get after the Jews in this business’ and apply pressure ‘to bring to the Jews a realization of the danger that threatens them.’ ” As late as 1934, Breen was referring to “a 58

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district manager for Warner Bros. as a kike Jew of the very lowest type” (all qtd. in Doherty, Hollywood’s Censor 203), and there can be no question that these sentiments governed much of his attitude toward Hollywood. But who were the moguls that so displeased Breen, and how had they acquired their power? How had the Jews created the motion picture industry? In nearly every case, the story is the same; Hollywood was created, in large part, by Jewish immigrants who worked their way up from nothing and ruled their domain with an iron hand. Adolph Zukor, founder of Paramount Pictures and the undisputed leader of the early moguls, was, according to producer Max Youngstein, “the biggest man in the whole damn industry  .  .  . bigger than [William] Fox  .  .  . bigger than [Louis B.] Mayer  .  .  . bigger than the Warner Brothers  .  .  . bigger than the Cohns [who ruled Columbia Pictures]  .  .  . he expected as a result of what he had done and the enormity of the power which he achieved, that . . . when [film history] was written, it would start [with him]” (Gabler 11). By all accounts, Zukor was absolutely ruthless in his business dealings, but despite the fact that he came from a deeply religious Jewish family, he himself showed little interest in the Talmud. Although many of his relatives were keenly observant of Jewish doctrine, Zukor found it unappealing: “What I was interested in was the Bible . . . the story and the individuals—their lives fascinated me” (qtd. in Gabler 13). Born in Hungary, Zukor’s early life was full of hardship, and by the time he emigrated to America at sixteen, his hardscrabble childhood had imprinted upon him an overwhelming desire to succeed no matter what. Like the others who followed him, Zukor was interested above all in assimilation, in absorbing the culture and customs of his adopted land with an obsessive zeal that bordered on the fanatical. He also left almost all vestiges of his Jewish heritage behind him: “No sooner did I put my foot on American soil than I was a newborn person” (qtd. in Gabler 15). Zukor was soon smitten with the newly developing medium of the motion picture, and in short order became the partner in a 14th Street peep show arcade, which rapidly became a runaway success. “A Jew could make a lot of money at this,” he later observed, and indeed, in its first year of operation, the arcade, dubbed Automatic Vaudeville, brought in more than $100,000 (Gabler 18). With his partner Morris Kohn, Zukor set out to conquer the nascent film industry with the full intensity of his considerable powers of aggressive salesmanship. Through an alliance with Marcus Loew, another ambitious young man who learned early to hustle in order to avoid grinding poverty and who entered the film business through the garment industry, Kohn and Zukor soon set up a chain of peep shows in New York City, which soon thereafter were converted into full-fledged nickelodeInstitutionalized Anti-Semitism in Hollywood

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Posing on the occasion of the September 1916 merger of Famous Players and Lasky Feature Plays into Famous Players-Lasky (later Paramount Pictures), from left, Jesse Lasky, Adolph Zukor, Samuel Goldfish (later Goldwyn), Cecil B. DeMille, and Albert Kaufman. Courtesy Jerry Ohlinger Archives.

ons, thus achieving an air of respectability the arcades lacked (21). Zukor soon realized that the one-reel film would inevitably have to give way to more ambitious productions if the medium was to survive and flourish. He started to study the possibility of producing feature films (26). When in 1911 Zukor was offered access to Louis Mercanton and Henri Desfontaines’s Les amours de la reine Élisabeth (The Loves of Queen Elizabeth), starring the famous stage actress Sarah Bernhardt, he immediately sensed that this was the prestige project he had been waiting for and purchased the U.S. rights for $35,000. Zukor retitled it simply Queen Elizabeth, and to release the film in 1912 he formed a new company, which he named Famous Players (Gabler 28). The success of Queen Elizabeth put Zukor on the map and paved the way for a series of his own productions, so that by 1913 Zukor’s company had a string of feature films of its own to market. With typical determination, Zukor saw the opportunity to turn the tables and sell his features in Europe, thus setting up the framework for Hollywood’s later dominance of the film industry outside America (33). Events now began to move with even greater rapidity. Zukor had his eye set on Paramount Pictures, and with the aid of the much more genteel 60

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Jesse Lasky—born in San Francisco and, in Neal Gabler’s words, “more a product of the civil religion of America than any older faith” (34)—soon accomplished that goal. Paramount had been distributing Famous Players’ product since that company’s inception, but Zukor viewed Paramount’s 35 percent cut of the profits “extortionate” (35). Lasky, who had been producing lavish stage spectacles but lost a fortune trying to compete with the likes of Florenz Ziegfeld and Charles Frohman, entered the movie business only when pressured by his brother-in-law Samuel Goldfish (later Samuel Goldwyn) and Cecil B. DeMille, Lasky’s closest friend (35). Broke, and about the flee to Mexico to cover the revolution there, DeMille had no particular interest in movies, but Lasky and Goldfish persuaded him to give it a try and the naturally adventurous DeMille acquiesced, shooting the feature The Squaw Man (1914), which was one of the first films shot in California. The film was a hit, and by 1916 Lasky’s films were solid box office. Zukor proposed a merger, with an eye toward absorbing Paramount. After a suitably Byzantine series of negotiations, Zukor, Lasky, and Goldfish acquired control of the company (Gabler 36). The last remaining matter to be disposed of was buying out Goldfish (for $900,000)—Zukor’s son Eugene described Goldfish as “a very crude man . . . loud and not the most pleasant character” (qtd. in Gabler 37). Zukor became the undisputed head of Paramount Pictures, which soon, through Zukor’s plan of “vertical integration”—owning production, distribution, and exhibition facilities all at once, thus eliminating the middle man and acquiring a nationwide chain of theaters in the process—became known by the new name of Paramount Publix Corporation, a literal cinematic monopoly on a national basis. From the days of the Automatic Vaudeville, Adolph Zukor, once a penniless Jewish immigrant, had arrived at the top of the industry, powerful, respected, and feared. But if Zukor was arguably the first of the Jewish moguls, others were soon nipping at his heels, inspired by his example. Louis B. Mayer got his start in the cinema distributing DeMille’s The Squaw Man in the New England territory on a “state’s rights” basis from Lasky’s Famous Players Corporation, but he really struck a goldmine when he acquired the New England rights to D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) for a flat sum, and then, through canny exploitation, managed to wring nearly a million dollars out of a relentless series of saturation bookings (Eyman 40–42). The son of a junk dealer, Mayer was born in Minsk, Russia, in 1885, and came to the United States as a child (Katz 922). Mayer was initially part of his father’s business, but by 1907 was so smitten with the nascent film industry that he purchased a rundown nickelodeon in Haverhill, Massachusetts, for a pittance, renovated it, and began screening A-level films only—later reflected in his “family films” policy as the head of MGM—while also purInstitutionalized Anti-Semitism in Hollywood

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chasing other theaters until he was the largest distributor in New England (Katz 922). After the success of distributing The Birth of a Nation, Mayer branched out into production, moved west as the other moguls had done, and by 1924 became the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a combine of Metro Pictures, The Goldwyn Company, and Louis B. Mayer’s own production outlet. He remained at the helm until 1951 (Katz 922). Jack L. Warner, the youngest of a dozen children of Polish Jewish immigrants, working with three of his siblings, Harry, Albert, and Sam, formed the aptly named Warner Bros. Studio, beginning with the purchase of a nickelodeon in New Castle, Pennsylvania, in 1903 (Katz 1436). By 1917, they had moved to Hollywood and eventually absorbed First National Pictures and the Vitagraph Corporation, aggressively acquiring movie theaters as they went along. In 1927, when all the other studios dismissed talking pictures as a fad, the Warners bet nearly everything they had on the production of Alan Crosland’s The Jazz Singer (1927), a part-talking feature film starring Broadway sensation Al Jolson. The film and its sound process, Vitaphone, were immediate sensations, and the brothers began to build up an empire that, like Paramount, would last to the present day. Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, is traditionally portrayed as the most brutal of the studio bosses, uncouth and vulgar in the extreme. Cohn himself did little to disabuse his employees and/or business associates of this reputation. Born in New York in 1891, he was the son of an immigrant tailor, and he learned early on to hustle for a living—he was, in turn, a chorus boy, a shipping clerk, a fur salesman, part of a vaudeville act, and a “song plugger,” in addition to playing a very sharp game of pool when finances demanded it (Katz 274). Cohn’s way into the industry was as secretary to Carl Laemmle at Universal, where his brother Jack also worked. In 1920, the two Cohns and an associate, Joe Brandt, formed the C. B. C. Films Sales Company, in search of their own kingdom to rule (Katz 274). Jack Cohn and Joe Brandt stayed in Manhattan, while Harry went to Los Angeles to begin producing films for the new concern. Cohn started out on Poverty Row in Hollywood, making two-reel shorts and low-budget features on short schedules, but starting in 1924, when the company was rechristened Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn pulled it out of the gutter and up to street level by using new and promising actors, often as loan-outs from other studios (Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Barbara Stanwyck, and later Glenn Ford, Lloyd Bridges, and Kim Novak), gambling on unknown directors (Dorothy Arzner, Frank Capra, William Castle, Phil Karlson, Joseph H. Lewis, Budd Boetticher), aggressively pursuing talent that other studios failed to capitalize on, and luring them to Columbia with promises of artistic freedom. 62

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In 1934, when Columbia swept the Academy Awards with Capra’s It Happened One Night, the studio began its ascent into true A-level territory. By the late 1930s, Columbia was one of the majors, whether the other studios liked it or not. Harry Cohn was a shrewd judge of talent, creating a mixture of popular films and “prestige” pictures and ruling the studio like a despot until his death in 1958. Nicknamed “White Fang” by writer Ben Hecht, Cohn was inarguably one of the most abrasive and unbending of the Jewish moguls, but he understood how the game was played and nurtured such talents as Capra, Boetticher (Dixon 41), and the equally hard-nosed Fritz Lang (Bogdanovich 88). The latter two both went on rec­ ord as saying that they admired Cohn as a producer, despite his habitual crudeness. Carl Laemmle, another member of the émigré group, was one of thirteen children born to a well-to-do Jewish family in Germany in 1867, and so was the oldest of the mogul group, coming up through the ranks in much the same way as his competitors (Katz 776). Arriving in the United States in 1884, Laemmle, too, worked in the garment trade until the movie bug hit him, and he purchased a small nickelodeon in 1906. As with Zukor and the Warner brothers, this proved to be a good investment, and soon he opened another theater, and then another, before arriving at the conclusion that as an exhibitor he was at the mercy of producers who could charge whatever they wished for their wares. Thus, in 1907 Laemmle opened his own film exchange and refused to buckle under to Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company. The “Trust,” as it was known, claimed a monopolistic stronghold on motion picture production and exhibition, with Edison averring that the patents for motion picture cameras and projectors were his (and his partners’) alone; the Trust also had exclusive use of Eastman perforated motion picture film. Naming his own company the Independent Motion Picture Company of America, or IMP (the IMP logo was a little devil with a pitch fork, presumably tormenting Edison and his associates), Laemmle built up Florence Lawrence, formerly known as the “Biograph Girl,” into “the Imp Girl,” and then into a major star, while also acquiring the star power of Mary Pickford for his stable of performers. Laemmle engaged in a long-running and ultimately successful court battle with the Edison trust, in 1912 winning a decisive victory that put the Motion Picture Patents Company out of business (Katz 776). Laemmle also proved a master of cinematic exploration when his white slavery drama, Traffic in Souls (1913), directed by George Loane Tucker for a minuscule $5,000, returned more than $500,000 at the box office (Katz 776). In 1915, Laemmle, now a major figure in the industry, opened Universal City, which Institutionalized Anti-Semitism in Hollywood

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exists to this day: a sparkling entertainment complex dedicated to the mass production of films on an assembly-line basis. Like Harry Cohn, MGM’s “boy wonder” Irving Thalberg started his career working for Laemmle. Thalberg would come to dominate film production under Louis B. Mayer at MGM in the early 1930s before his untimely death in 1936 at the age of thirty-seven (Katz 1346). Laemmle was also notorious for placing his relatives on the studio payroll (giving rise to the oft-cited bit of doggerel, “Uncle Carl Laemmle has a very large faemmle [family]),” even turning over the studio to his son Carl Jr. as soon as the lad turned twenty-one (776)—a disastrous move for Laemmle, as Carl Jr. had little of his father’s business acumen and the old man was forced to sell out for $5 million in 1935. He died in 1939, but by then Universal had turned into the archetypal film factory, and with its gallery of horror icons (Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, the Mummy, the Wolfman) and the lowbrow antics of Abbott and Costello, it continued to expand and grow long after his death. As with the other majors, Universal continues to thrive to the present day. To this group of film pioneers the name of William Fox must finally be added, although it is all but forgotten today. Founder of the Fox Film Corporation, he labored mightily to create an empire to rival that of any of his colleagues, starting from his birth in 1879 in Hungary to GermanJewish parents, then continuing with his immigration nine months later to the Lower East Side of New York. Working in a sweatshop, the industrious Fox saved and planned for the future, and in 1904 acquired a failing penny arcade and peep show in Brooklyn, which through astute management he turned into a success. Soon Fox had a chain of theaters throughout New York City, and by the end of the 1920s Fox Films was responsible for the production of roughly fifty films a year and was valued at $200 million. However, with the stock market crash of 1929, coupled with over-expansion of his business interests and the lingering effects of a severe automobile crash, Fox saw his nascent empire crumble. In 1930, he was forced to sell the studio to a consortium of bankers; by 1936, he was bankrupt. Fox Films merged with 20th Century Films in 1935, with Darryl F. Zanuck in charge of production. William Fox retired, dying in 1952 (Katz 482). These were the major figures who framed the American film industry at the turn of the twentieth century and who soon collectively dominated the industry, much to the chagrin of their competitors. In looking at how these men rose to prominence, one is struck by the similarities in their career trajectories; originating from extremely humble beginnings, often in actual penury, the founders of the studio system worked their way up, bit by bit, 64

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using nickelodeons, distribution chains, and carefully organized exploitation campaigns to build an empire out of sheer hard work, starting from scratch. But with success came prominence in both the industry itself and in national and international affairs, and increased public scrutiny that put the moguls and their studios under a microscope. It was still nothing like today’s media coverage, where the slightest rumor is instantly broadcast around the globe via the web, Twitter, and text messaging, but by and large the studios were able to effectively control their public image and the press through a variety of threats and blandishments. And as the industry entered the late 1910s and early 1920s, censorship became an ever-increasing concern of the moguls, for good reason. The Jewish studio heads preferred to keep their religion separate from their films, in part to ward off any accusations of pro-Semitic bias. The most prominent religious leader for the Hollywood Jewish community was undoubtedly Rabbi Edgar Magnin, who commanded respect in the film colony for his showmanship, combativeness, and open embrace of Judaism at a time when the fledgling industry was under constant attack (Gabler 266–93). For example, Henry Ford’s newspaper the Dearborn Independent openly attacked the movie industry in a series of editorials in 1921 as being Jew-controlled, not in spots only, not 50 per cent merely, but entirely; with the natural consequence that now the world is in arms against the trivializing and demoralizing influences of that form of entertainment as presently managed.  .  .  . As soon as the Jews gained control of the “movies,” we had a movie problem, the consequences of which are not yet visible. It is the genius of that race to create problems of a moral character in whatever business they achieve a majority. In a second editorial a month later, he added, It is not that producers of Semitic origin have deliberately set out to be bad according to their own standards, but they know that their whole taste and temper are different from the prevailing standards of the American people. . . . Many of these producers don’t know how filthy their stuff is—it is so natural to them. (qtd. in Gabler 277) In such a poisonous atmosphere, a sense of Jewish identity was more than essential, and Rabbi Magnin provided this in a style replete with rhetorical flourishes, dramatically intoned readings from the Torah, and a Institutionalized Anti-Semitism in Hollywood

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conspicuously welcoming atmosphere that made his Wilshire Boulevard temple a gathering place for a displaced community of cultural exiles. In addition to Magnin, the entertainment attorney Mendel Silberberg was another charismatic figure who fought back against the racial and religious prejudice against Jews in Hollywood. Forming an organization called the Community Relations Council, Silberberg served as the secular ambassador between the Hollywood Jewish community and the Los Angeles community as a whole. A consummate politico, Silberberg was also such a powerful negotiator that he could even bring such disparate and difficult personalities as Harry Cohn and Howard Hughes to heel (Gabler 297). Finally, there was the figure of Max Nussbaum, who in 1942 became the rabbi of Temple Israel in Hollywood and thus a rival to Magnin (Gabler 306–8). Although the studio heads’ Jewish identity was constantly an issue both for themselves and their constituents, and certainly for their numerous adversaries, there was a sense of community among the various competing social factions of the industry. There had to be. The threat from without was too great. Although the Code had been around since the late 1920s, it remained largely unenforced until a plethora of suggestive films pushed audiences to protest that their children were being exposed to objectionable material. Prominent offenders included Mae West’s early movies; William Dieterle’s sexually charged drama Grand Slam (1933); Baby Face (1933), Alfred E. Green’s racy tale of a young woman who sleeps her way to the top; Stephen Roberts’s lurid The Story of Temple Drake (1933), based on William Faulkner’s sensationalist novel Sanctuary; and Mitchell Leisen’s bizarre musical Murder at the Vanities (1934), featuring a substantial amount of nudity and a lavish production number frankly entitled “Sweet Marijuana.” With the imposition of the 1934 Code, Hollywood was brought to heel. Among the Code’s many proscriptions were the warnings that “methods of crime shall not be explicitly presented”; “illegal drug traffic must never be presented”; “scenes of passion should not be introduced when not essential to the plot”; “excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embracing, suggestive postures and gestures, are not to be shown”; “miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races) is forbidden”; “pointed profanity (this includes the words God, Lord, Jesus, Christ—unless used reverently— Hell, S.O.B., damn, Gawd), or other profane or vulgar expressions, however used, is forbidden”; and that “ministers of religion . . . should not be used as comic characters or as villains.” How did the moguls react to this new regime? Louis B. Mayer, for one, never trusted Hollywood values. “If you have the right values, the dignity,” 66

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Louis B. Mayer in his palatial office. Courtesy Jerry Ohlinger Archives.

he told his daughters, referring to the sex scandals that swept through Hollywood in the 1920s and early 1930s, “none of this will touch you.” Yet, as Scott Eyman notes, Over the years, with perfect hindsight, men like Mayer have been castigated for their timidity about appearing too Jewish, their hesitance to use their power in the service of anti-Fascism. But Hollywood was run by Jews in the shadow of the predominantly Protestant city of Los Angeles. Hollywood was the only place in America where Jews had something approaching absolute power, and Mayer sought to maintain that power by reflecting not merely a Christian point of view, but a Catholic point of view. Mayer was instinctively inclusive; it was nothing less than a mandatory insurance policy, one he believed he could not afford to be without. The California right wing was deeply suspicious, not merely of leftist Jews, but of all Jews. A California state committee on unAmerican activities noted “quiet Communistic infiltration into the American Jewish Congress,” adding ominously that “nine out of Institutionalized Anti-Semitism in Hollywood

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twenty-one directors of Warner Bros. are Jews; five out of fifteen directors of Paramount Pictures, Inc. . . . Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. and Columbia Pictures have a slight majority of Jews in the directorate.” (66) But an immediate threat was much closer to hand. Joseph Breen, now the administrator of the Production Code, was a virulent anti-Semite who left little doubt as to his feelings on the industry and those who controlled it. He vented his frustrations in a number of letters in the early 1930s that revealed his opinion of the studio heads and their stewardship of the industry as a whole. In 1932, Breen wrote a letter to the Rev. Wilfrid Parsons, S.J., in which he characterized the entire industry, and not just the studio bosses, as simply a rotten bunch of vile people with no respect for anything beyond the making of money . . . Here [in Hollywood] we have Paganism rampant and in its most virulent form. Drunkenness and debauchery are commonplace. Sexual perversion is rampant. . . . Any number of our directors and stars are perverts. . . . These Jews seem to think of nothing but money making and sexual indulgence. The vilest kind of sin is a common indulgence hereabouts and the men and women who engage in this sort of business are the men and women who decide what the film fare of the nation is to be. They and they alone make the decision. Ninety-five per cent of these folks are Jews of an Eastern European heritage. They are, probably, the scum of the earth. (qtd. in Black 70) Here, then, was an enemy of the industry who was predisposed to hate the stars, directors, and producers who had built the industry from the ground up. Breen moderated his attitude toward Jewish culture as the years progressed, and there is a sharp break in his written comments after 1934, when, as Doherty argues, Breen became, at least for public consumption, “anti-anti-Semitic” (Hollywood’s Censor 204). This point seems to me problematic. Anyone capable of the virulent racism Breen demonstrated doesn’t simply abandon the attitudes and prejudices of a lifetime overnight. But it is clear that as the 1930s progressed, Breen was more careful about how he presented himself, perhaps for the benefit of posterity. By 1936 a host of organizations criticizing Hitler’s persecution of Jews in Europe were flourishing in the film capital, and on April 26 of that year, Breen served as the co-sponsor for 68

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an anti-Nazi banquet given at the swank Victor Hugo Café in honor of Prince Hubertus zu Lowenstein, a blue-blood exile from Hitler’s Germany. A leading Catholic intellectual and a fearless opponent of Hitler, Prince Lowenstein had brought together an unlikely mesh of Jews, Catholics, and Popular Frontiers. At $100 a plate, a phalanx of Irish Catholics (besides Breen, actors Pat O’Brien and James Cagney, screenwriter Marc Connolly, director John Ford, Fox producer Winifred Sheehan, and, serving as honorary chairman, Bishop Cantwell) joined hands with Jewish producers Irving Thalberg, Jack Warner, David O. Selznick, and B. P. Schulberg. (206) And yet Hollywood, as a whole, continued to do business with the lucrative German market, and it wasn’t until 1939 that Warner Bros., always the most socially conscious of the studios, produced Anatole Litvak’s Confessions of a Nazi Spy, which brought home the dangers of the German/ American Bund in the United States. By July 1939, Breen had modified his position. He issued a public statement that “it is my judgment that there is nothing more important for us Catholics to do at the present moment than to use our energies in stemming the tide of racial bigotry and hostility” (qtd. in Doherty, Hollywood’s Censor 211). Quite a turnaround. And yet, despite Breen’s public about-face it seems that screen depictions of Jewish life and culture were few and far between during his tenure as chief of the Code. This is partly because of the reticence of the rulers of Hollywood themselves, who wished to reach the widest possible audience while at the same time striving to alienate no one. Such a task is nearly impossible to pull off. Yet with few exceptions, favorable depictions of Judaism in the Hollywood cinema of the 1930s are rare, if not nonexistent; Jewish characters were consigned to stereotypes, the brunt of ethnic jokes, or Faginesque villainy. It was only after World War II, with such films as Elia Kazan’s Gentleman’s Agreement and Edward Dmytryk’s Crossfire (both 1947) that the issue of anti-Semitism in everyday American life was broached on the screen, and even then in a highly tentative manner (for example, casting Gregory Peck as a crusading magazine writer going “undercover” as a Jew for an “inside scoop” on anti-Semitism). But it was a start. An interesting note, however, is that Gentleman’s Agreement was produced by Twentieth Century–Fox’s Darryl F. Zanuck, a Nebraska-born Protestant. In the end, what really transpired with the imposition of the Code and its attendant restrictions? There can be no doubt that the Code’s rigid insistence on numerous prohibitions pushed the cinema back as an art form by Institutionalized Anti-Semitism in Hollywood

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several decades, until the Code itself began to crumble in the 1950s under the aegis of Otto Preminger and other filmmakers who pushed the envelope with such films as The Moon Is Blue (1953) and The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). Breen himself retired in 1954, and his successor Geoffrey Shurlock was a much less rigid figure. Shurlock held the post until 1966, when Jack Valenti, a consummate manipulator of public opinion who had learned his trade as press secretary for Lyndon B. Johnson, took the reins and initiated the ratings system. There was another major factor in the demise of the Code: the famous “Miracle” decision, which finally established the motion pictures as a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment, and thus spelled nascent doom for not only the Code but also Breen, and the dawn of a new era of frankness in motion pictures. The case was triggered by the release in New York of Roberto Rossellini’s Il Miracolo (The Miracle, 1948), which presented the story of a tramp who has an affair with a mentally unbalanced woman; when she gives birth to a son, she says he is the Messiah. The Catholic Church responded by mounting an aggressive campaign against the film. After it was finally released in the United States in December 1950, the New York State Board of Regents succeeded in banning it on the grounds that it was sacrilegious. But the film’s American distributor, Joseph Burstyn, took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1952 decided that the Regents’ ruling had violated the separation of church and state. This decision was enormously important for the future of motion pictures, because it was the first ruling to state that the medium was protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. The court specifically reversed the 1915 Mutual Decision, which had made it easier for the Hays/ Breen Office to control the production and exhibition of motion pictures. Now, in a single stroke, much of the Production Code’s authority had been stripped away. It would be more than another decade before the Code collapsed completely, but the “Miracle” decision of 1952 was a major step on the road to artistic freedom for the cinema (Dixon and Foster 171). Shortly after the provocative releases in 1966 of Mike Nichols’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, the old Code was abandoned. In 1968, the MPAA instituted the rating system we know today, with the PG-13 rating created later for Garry Marshall’s The Flamingo Kid and John Milius’s Red Dawn (both 1984) and the NC-17 rating used for the first time for Philip Kaufman’s sexually explicit Henry & June (1990) (Dixon and Foster 277–78). Thus the Code, which had been crafted by Jewish studio heads and the Catholic Church to uphold and in large part to create a mythical white, Protestant America that never really existed except on the screen, was now officially dead. 70

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Looking back, we can see that Breen’s anti-Semitism manifested itself not in any particular act of cutting nor in relation to any single moment in film but more diffusely and powerfully, in his entire attitude toward the Hollywood moguls. He thought they were all trash peddlers, and that none of their films were ever above suspicions. In his assumption, anything they presented to him was smut, and so he censored everything heavily and without reserve. Because Jewish filmmakers were the lowest of the low, their Hollywood was, too. Breen’s continual battling with filmmakers came at a price, however. Although he dropped his direct attacks on Jews after the early 1930s, he continued to refer to the moguls as “these people,” and he complained in a letter to Martin Quigley in 1937 that “I am convinced that unless I find some miraculous way to completely change these people out here—or get out of the job—I am due for a nervous breakdown and an early grave” (Weinberger 382). After his retirement in 1954, Joseph Breen received an honorary Academy Award for “his conscientious, open-minded and dignified management of the Motion Picture Production Code”; he was brusque and unsmiling in his acceptance of the honor, knowing that his reign was over and that the values he had spent a lifetime espousing were being cast aside. He died of the lingering effects of lung cancer in 1965 at the age of seventy-five. In his last years as the head of the PCA, Breen seemed to sense that his power was ebbing, and that the Code itself was, unlike the Ten Commandments, subject to revision and even outright rejection. As he wrote plaintively to Fr. Daniel A. Lord, S.J., in a letter in 1950, Heretofore, back over a period of seventeen or eighteen years, the difficulties we encountered were suggested, pretty much, by disagreements with our interpretation [original emphasis] of the Code. The charge would be made that we had the wrong slant on a given incident, or that the thing we were objecting to was a violation of the letter, but not the spirit of the document. . . . In recent years, however, there has been a growing disposition to seek to destroy the Code, to do away with it. . . . This manifests itself by the disposition to throw off all standards of decency, of honesty, of honor. Heretofore . . . they questioned our interpretation of the Code. Now they seek to repudiate the standards. (qtd. in Doherty, Hollywood’s Censor 298) But Breen was too myopic to see that the “standards” of the Code were really an extension of his own cultural prejudices, racism, and prudishness, which he had succeeded in imposing for two decades on both the Institutionalized Anti-Semitism in Hollywood

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studios and the filmgoing public, not only in the United States but around the world, wherever American films were shown. “Just you listen to me!” he once “informed a subordinate who was studying the regulations,” writes Weinberger, “I am the Code!” (381). His come-and-go anti-Semitism aside, Breen’s world was a fantasy projection of an America in which whole groups of people—blacks, Jews, atheists, homosexuals, just to name a few marginalized groups—were magically “disappeared.” Indeed, for Breen, these groups and the many women and men whom they comprised never really existed. In the end, and like the strictures of the Code itself, Breen’s anti-Semitism, along with his other prejudices, simply failed the test of an open society.

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Sumiko Higashi

Stardom, Intermarriage, and Consumption in the 1950s The Debbie-Eddie-Liz Scandal

A Photoplay story about MGM stars unwittingly symbolized the transition from wartime rationing to a cornucopia of goods in postwar America. Liz Taylor, accustomed to expensive restaurant menus, ordered steak for lunch at the studio commissary, while Debbie Reynolds brought ham and cheese on rye in a brown bag. Curious about the plainer fare unwrapped by her thrifty friend, Liz suggested they swap meals and ate Debbie’s sandwiches with gusto (Maxine Smith, “Liz and Mike’s Madcap Marriage,” Photoplay, May 1957, 114). As this gossip shows, these stars represented opposite cultural values in a burgeoning economy spurred by pent-up demand for tract housing and consumer durables. Debbie, who grew up in a lower middleclass family in suburban Burbank, remained close to her parents and was prudent and sensible. Liz, by contrast, personified the surfeit, boredom, and restlessness underlying the search for novelty that most Americans had yet to experience as consumers. As opposites in a studio typecasting system, these two stars became front-page news in a mass consumer society when they formed a scandalous triangle with popular crooner Eddie Fisher (Lull and Hinerman 1–33; McLean and Cook 1–21). After a highly publicized courtship, the Jewish pop singer married America’s Sweetheart Debbie, clasping her grandfather’s bible, in a ceremony signifying the rise of urban pushcart Jews in a celebrity culture. But the marriage was short-lived. Liz, the grieving widow of Eddie’s best friend, Mike Todd (born Avrom Hirsch Goldbogen), leaned on the crooner in her sorrow and made him her fourth husband. Who would have guessed that swapping lunches at the MGM Commissary was a sign of consumer behavior that included commodified and reified spouses as objects of exchange in showbiz (Jezer 120, 126)? 73

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Debbie Reynolds: Suburban Girl Next Door Marries Pushcart Jew Discourse on stars in newspapers and fan magazines such as Photoplay, usually addressed to female readers, was often constructed as hearsay in cooperation with studio publicity departments. At issue, then, is not authenticity in news about celebrities, which often cannot be gauged, but the value of the grapevine. What is gossip as opposed to rumor and do either have any value? According to social scientists, “gossip may or may not be a known fact” about personal matters, whereas rumor is suspect information about significant events and issues. Gossip is “rumor writ small.” When unsubstantiated news about individuals becomes media driven in a celebrity culture, as happened when Eddie courted Debbie, gossip and rumor intersect. Despite pejorative connotations linked with tattling women, rumormongering is substantive and represents a collective desire to find meaning in the uncertainties of life, especially during periods of social change. As such, rumor is a form of discourse that expresses both private and public anxieties. When fans became obsessed with the courting of a cute star attending the Church of the Nazarene, a fundamentalist sect, by a dark Jewish singer, more was at issue than opposites attracting. A standin for middle America, the girl next door confided to her suitor that when she moved to California from Texas, she didn’t even know what a Jew was (Fisher 75)! Chitchat about Debbie and Eddie was thus not just idle chatter but represented postwar ambivalence about such issues as small-town values eroded by affluence, resurgent domestic ideology, and Jewish intermarriage in a celebrity culture. Since hearsay itself is a valuable commodity, as all gossip columnists know, its dissemination involves transactions that resemble the conspicuous consumption of goods and services (Rosnow and Fine 4–12, 61–62). Gossip and rumor, in other words, are packaged and sold in a consumer society to saturate headlines (and recently merited a front-page story in the New York Times [Jim Rutenberg, “The Gossip Machine, Churning Out Cash,” May 22, 2011, A1, 16]). But since the construction of stars involves mythmaking that includes hearsay about personalities with fluctuating value, readers never know for sure if they are really in the know (see Morin). The courtship of Debbie and Eddie, “one of the most talked-about, guessed-about, written-about engagements in history,” was a sign of the growing importance of celebrities among suburban teenaged consumers (Howard Eisenberg, “Why Eddie Almost Left Debbie Waiting,” Photoplay, February 1957, 46). By 1956 there were thirteen million teenagers, with an income of $7 billion a year ($55.5 billion today), who were immersed in 74

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Although Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, MGM, 1952) is about the transition from silent to sound film in the late twenties, Debbie Reynolds embodies the insouciant suburban teenager of the postwar fifties. Digital frame enlargement.

popular culture and set trends as consumers. As concluded by a later study of Chicago suburban youth, they, unlike their elders, pointed to the stereo as the most prized possession in the house. RCA’s introduction of a small, lightweight 45 rpm record that was inexpensive and easy to collect transformed the music industry. Unsurprisingly, four hundred new recording labels came into existence to vie for a share of an increasingly lucrative youth market. Singers like Eddie thus enjoyed meteoric but brief careers before teenagers changed the tune and embraced rock ’n’ roll (Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton 7; Halberstam 473; Kammen 180; Cross 105). Also significant in his rising popularity was early television programming influenced by the presentation of vocalists on radio and in nightspots. Debbie’s wholesome appeal as the girl next door was basic to an American dream enhancing spectator identification because she had such an ordinary girlhood (see Morin; Stacey). As a young fan remarked, it was so “important for girls like me, just entering our teens, to have someone to look up to” (Pam Larner, “What I Found Out about Debbie,” Photoplay, April 1957, 87). Although Debbie’s parents suffered extreme privation in El Paso, their fortunes improved when they moved to Burbank. As a student, Mary Frances Reynolds displayed the personality, talent, and energy that The Debbie-Eddie-Liz Scandal

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would propel her into stardom. She won the American Legion Award for “character, service . . . and scholarship” in junior high; was a baton twirler in senior high; played the French horn in a youth symphony; earned fortyseven Girl Scout merit badges; and received a bible for perfect Sunday school attendance. Attracted by a prize, she wore her Easter dress and an old Jantzen bathing suit at a Miss Burbank contest. Not only did she win the title, she impressed a talent scout who arranged a Warner Bros. screen test (Ralph Edwards, “Gayer than Laughter Is She: This Is Your Life,” Photoplay, November 1954, 110–11). She was not entirely pleased, however, with the studio’s remaking of her subjectivity since, for years, she ignored anyone calling her Debbie (Louis Pollock, “The Story Debbie Wanted Told,” Photoplay, August 1958, 90). After eighteen months, Warners neglected to renew her option, but her agent then negotiated a contract with MGM. Always thrifty, Debbie was not above selling men’s shorts at J. C. Penney during the studio holiday layoff. A successful appearance in Two Weeks with Love (1950), in which she and Carleton Carpenter sang “Abba Dabba Honeymoon,” placed her on a trajectory to stardom. Shortly before being ousted by Nicholas Schenck, Louis B. Mayer shrewdly cast her in the musical Singin’ in the Rain (1952) with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. A new star was added to MGM’s constellation (see Higashi 69ff ). When Debbie appeared in a skirt and sweater on the cover of Life in February 1951, she embodied for 5,200,000 subscribers a delightfully effervescent teenager. Unaffected by fame, she received an allowance of $20 a week ($166 today) from her manager, lived in her parents’ modest bungalow while adding closets and a swimming pool, and traded her 1932 Chevrolet for a pink and white Mercury. Since she was petite, her mother sewed most of her clothes. She was too embarrassed to wear tight sweaters and low-cut gowns, avoided alcohol and cigarettes, and did not date “wolves” or expect to go to Ciro’s or Mocambo on a night out (Maxine Arnold, “Lil’ Lightnin’ Bug,” Photoplay, July 1951, 44–45; Robert Wagner, “Debbie’s Date Line,” Photoplay, August 1952, 82; Tab Hunter, “Why Debbie’s My Ideal,” Photoplay, February 1954, 98). She affirmed religious values and remembered her grandfather’s admonition to “live by the Ten Commandments.” As Louella Parsons summed up, if Debbie was typical youth, “the worried older generation . . . need have no fears” because she was an “old fashioned girl” (Parsons “Reynolds, Singers”). She was, in sum, a youthful star who personified American girlhood and could not have been more different from the high-living Jewish crooner who sang in swank nightclubs and whose name was suddenly linked with hers. At a time when 83 percent of the nation’s growth was taking place in suburbs that used lending practices and zoning laws to ensure a homogeneous population, cities remained 76

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the site of undesirable racialized peoples (Jackson). Debbie’s romance with Eddie intrigued and titillated the public because he was the urban Other signifying “the tempo, the raw exciting beat of the city . . . the symphony of tenements and skyscrapers and subways” (Maxine Arnold, “Love and Marriage,” Photoplay, June 1956, 86). Americans have always had an ambivalent, if not negative, attitude toward the city. At the time Eddie became enamored with a star symbolizing Protestant suburban America, he was a pop singer with nineteen hits, a televised show sponsored by Coca-Cola, and thousands of fans dubbed “The Fisherettes.” As homeowners with television sets already numbered forty million in 1957, he became famous in a medium then displacing the movies (Rosenberg and Rosenberg 77). A native of South Philly, an urban immigrant neighborhood, Eddie was one of seven children who grew up in a house with one bathroom. When he helped his father sell vegetables on Philadelphia streets, little Edwin Jack sang about the specials: “Fresh watermelon, red, ripe tomatoes, fresh corn” (Parsons, “Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher”). By the time he was eighteen, he was singing at Grossinger’s, a Catskills resort. Agent Milton Blackstone cautiously built the singer’s image so that he did not appear “too Jewish.” As a matter of fact, many fans did not know that he was Jewish and thought he was Italian. Cultivating the singer’s boyish image for bobby-soxers, Blackstone downplayed Eddie’s affair with Marlene Dietrich. Any rumor about a scandalous nightlife that involved his identity as a Russian Jew was undesirable. After all, Eddie was born only a few years after the Red Scare repressed the militant left and the Immigration Act (1924) restricted the entry of Jews and other undesirables. The arrival of one-third of eastern European Jewry during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had ignited anti-Semitism. As a racialized group Jews were largely not defined as white until after the Second World War. A majority worked as manual laborers and peddlers, but their descendants, eschewing intermarriage, rose with unparalleled speed (Sowell 78–98). Assimilation as an ethnic—as opposed to a racialized—people in the postwar years meant being accepted as white. Jews moved into suburban Levittowns, where blacks were not allowed, and became less religious even as they joined more synagogues. Eddie was thus a showbiz descendant of Al Jolson’s Jazz Singer (1927), son of a cantor, and was called “Sonny Boy,” a Jolson hit from The Singing Fool (1928) (Parsons “Reynolds and Fisher”). But unlike the film’s black-faced vaudeville singer who answered the cry of his race and sang Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur, Eddie crooned “You Gotta Have Heart” and married Debbie, a shiksa. Aptly quoting Philip Roth in his autobiography, he said she was the all-American girl who satisfied the “longing in all us swarthy Jewboys for those bland blond exotics” signifyThe Debbie-Eddie-Liz Scandal

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ing whiteness (Fisher 68, 70). As a Jew, however, Eddie himself represented the exotic Other and titillated screaming white bobby-soxers in suburban Protestant America. After a tour of MGM studios, Eddie invited Debbie to be his date at a star-studded Cocoanut Grove opening in Los Angeles on June 17, 1954. Characteristically, she wore a red formal that her mother made. Constant dating during the singer’s six-week stay on the West Coast ignited the curiosity of gossip columnists. Eddie gushed in Photoplay: “She has so much talent. She’s so intelligent. She’s honest. She’s sincere. She’s fun. She’s just a wonderful—wonderful girl” (Edwards 112). Following his big-spender friend Mike Todd, he indulged her with gifts like a pearl and diamond watch, a diamond necklace, and, for Christmas, a fire engine red Thunderbird convertible. During an engagement at the London Palladium, he phoned Debbie almost as often as the columnists who queried her for information about the romance. A phone extension had to be installed in the Burbank bungalow, but calls were forbidden during dinner hour. As rumormongers anticipated, Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds announced the engagement of their daughter to the singer on October 19, 1955. Debbie wanted a traditional wedding on June 17, the anniversary of her first date with Eddie, but delays fueled rumors. Significantly, rumors about Debbie and Eddie were most heated in tense periods before their wedding—“an event that would make greater headlines than any marriage since Princess Elizabeth . . . wed Prince Philip”— and during their scandalous breakup. Debbie’s career, not the novelty of an interfaith union, became the flash point. As a couple with busy calendars, they had to reschedule their June wedding (Eisenberg 46). Eddie was televising his thrice-weekly, fifteen-minute show, Coke Time, from New York, while Debbie was starring in The Tender Trap with Frank Sinatra and making a second picture on the West Coast. At a time when homemakers were not career women but secondary wage earners supplementing family income to achieve middle-class status, Debbie’s stardom conflicted with postwar domestic ideology. She would never be “just a housewife” suffering from the ennui that Betty Friedan diagnosed as “the problem with no name” in The Feminine Mystique (1963). Advertising strips on the pages of magazine accounts of her life produced clever intertextual commentaries on her romance by offering a “Beautiful Engagement and Wedding ring  .  .  . in 1/40 10-k GOLD plate” and Miles Nervine tablets to soothe “nervous tension” (ad for Miles Nervine, Photoplay, December 1955, 106, 107; ad for rings, Photoplay, February 1960, 87). Stardom comprised not only Debbie’s impressive gains in a celebrity culture but also her losing odds in a marital handicap. She intended, however, to be bicoastal and to 78

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compromise: “I don’t intend to give up my work. . . . I’ve worked hard to get where I am in films. . . . Just the same I feel that it is the husband’s career that’s most important . . . and that if concessions . . . must be made, it’s up to a wife to make them.” She accepted a seven-carat diamond engagement ring instead of having Eddie save a down payment on a house and invited her Burbank neighbors to a lavish engagement party given by Eddie Cantor at the Beverly Hills Hotel. All the publicity left enthusiastic fans breathlessly waiting for the nuptials. When the wedding was cancelled, rumor was rife about a broken engagement and at times conflated the couple’s ethnic and religious differences. According to one story, Debbie bolted because Eddie’s manager Milton Blackstone was forcing her to convert to Judaism. Photoplay, however, quoted her as saying, “Ill-informed and prejudiced people . . . have tried to make a religious problem for Eddie and me. . . . We’re both open-minded and both tolerant. . . . We both have faith in God.” Given the liberal outlook of showbiz personalities, Eddie’s Jewishness was an issue but not as problematic as Debbie’s career (Maxine Block, “Getting in Step for Marriage,” Photoplay, May 1955, 124; Eisenberg 88): an RCA recording of “Oh! My Pa-Pa,” No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1954, could have referred to any father, not just his Jewish one, in a decade of family togetherness. A sudden turn of events led to a hurried wedding at Grossinger’s at sundown after Yom Kippur. Debbie did not have time to order a gown so she wore the white lace, ballerina-length dress that Helen Rose had designed for her in The Tender Trap. Eddie was too busy for a honeymoon because he was involved in telecasts and recordings in New York. Accompanied by his cheerful and obliging bride, he promoted his television sponsor by making several hectic trips around the country. At the Coca-Cola convention in Atlanta, the newlyweds were welcomed by a master of ceremonies who claimed, according to Debbie’s autobiography, that “no niggers and Jews have ever held membership” in this wonderful club. Debbie retorted, “You’ve made my husband your honored exception. And as you see, he’s not black.” She had the luxury of addressing the convention goers’ bigotry with a quip that stigmatized blacks in a racialized hierarchy. But the incident revealed the degree to which anti-Semitism has historically been a form of racism. Eddie, however, had been passing as white for years in a society that was still prejudiced against Jews. As he explained to Debbie, who was both naive and broad-minded, in Los Angeles he would be expected to join the Hillcrest, not L.A., Country Club, as memberships were based on ethnicity. Certainly, his marriage to America’s Sweetheart was an asset, even though his family was shocked by his proposing to a shiksa, as he repressed his identity to succeed in the dominant culture (Reynolds 152–53, The Debbie-Eddie-Liz Scandal

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131, 139). Debbie might be a light brunette, not a blonde, but she was the girl next door signifying whiteness. Rumors about Debbie and Eddie continued during their brief married life and highlighted contrasts in their ethnic backgrounds. At first, they lived out of suitcases in East Coast hotels, as the groom had been accustomed; his large entourage meant long hours of drinking, smoking, and playing poker. Debbie, in other words, gave up a stable middle-class home to become part of an urban nightclub scene that she had earlier eschewed. But Photoplay described the couple as “two of Hollywood’s happiest advertisements for marriage” (Eisenberg 88). When Debbie and Eddie returned to the West Coast, their lives remained hectic because they worked while living in three houses in three years: a provincial farmhouse with a swimming pool off Sunset Boulevard in the Palisades; a gated, three-level stone castle in Bel Air, and an English Tudor brick house in Holmby Hills. Servants included a general handyman, a maid, and, eventually, a nurse. Despite expensive homes, Debbie’s culinary taste remained middle-class in that she preferred meat loaf, stews, frankfurter and beans, chili, macaroni, and, on occasion, roasts. As a high roller leaving his pushcart origins behind, Eddie savored Chateaubriands, New York cuts, and filets mignons (Pollock 52). Debbie learned to loosen her purse strings. Although she was pregnant, she agreed to co-star with Eddie in his screen debut, RKO’s Bundle of Joy (1957), even though a musical meant more rehearsals. Alert to the film’s correspondence with reality, the crew gave the couple a yellow satin and white organdy bassinet when the film wrapped. Photographers were camped outside the hospital on the morning that the baby girl, Carrie Frances, was born in October 1956 (Diane Scott, “Love and Marriage and a Baby Carriage,” Photoplay, August 1958, 106). Debbie, like other housewives who made Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care one of the biggest bestsellers of all time, wanted a big family. Rumors began to refocus on the hot button issue of competing careers, a not uncommon topic with respect to Hollywood marriages: Eddie’s ascent began to stall while Debbie, who made fewer films during their marriage, became a bigger star. A Photoplay article queried, “How long has it been . . . since Eddie’s had a hit record? . . . ‘Bundle of Joy’ didn’t make any bundles.” Debbie’s films were usually box office attractions, but Eddie failed in his film debut, a problem that beset the couple’s marriage even during production. Eddie’s interest in the lead in James Michener’s Sayonara (1957), a part later played by Marlon Brando, revealed unrealistic expectations. Unfortunately, his singing was also becoming problematic. Photoplay quipped, “Maybe the country’s getting tired of his type voice.” As white teenagers swooned over rock ’n’ roll, personified by Elvis Presley and 80

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his gyrations, Eddie continued to sing “Oh, My Pa-Pa!,” “Making Whoopee,” and “Lady of Spain” (Arnold, “Love and Marriage” 90; Ellin Thompson, “No Marriage Stories for Us,” Photoplay, April 1957, 86). Debbie, on the other hand, had a hit record, “Tammy,” the theme song from her film Tammy and the Bachelor, which ranked twenty-fifth in Variety’s top-grossing one hundred films of 1957 (Variety). She also gave birth to a second child, a son named after Mike Todd. She was unprepared, however, for the virulent rumormongering precipitated by the scandal that ended her marriage. A short while after Todd’s birth, the buoyant showman for whom he was named died in a plane crash and left Liz a disconsolate widow. Debbie volunteered to shelter Liz’s three children. Eddie accompanied Liz to the funeral in Chicago and later invited her to Grossinger’s, where he and Debbie had been married, for a promotional event. At home with the children on the West Coast, Debbie dismissed scandalous hearsay about her husband and Liz. When Eddie finally flew back to his wife in California, reporters were camped outside their home to verify rumors about a divorce. He violated protocol with a statement: “I alone accept full responsibility for . . . failure. Our marriage would have come to an end even if I had never known Elizabeth Taylor.” As noted by a columnist, “These kinds of public statements . . . are always made by the lady, no matter who is leaving whom.” Even Louella Parsons, whom Eddie affectionately called “Mom,” wrote, “Since his is the responsibility for the breakup . . . any statement about it should have been made by Debbie.” Eddie was not only abandoning his wife and children, he was a cad. Winning public sympathy, Debbie told Parsons, “It seems unbelievable to say that you can live happily with a man and not know he doesn’t love you, but that, as God is my witness, is the truth.” She informed Photoplay, “This separation was not my idea. I still love my husband. I want him back. I thought we were happy together.” What had gone wrong? Photoplay adopted the melodramatic mode of romance novels to explain the breakup: Eddie had always told Debbie that she ought to “dress up more” and be a glamour girl. Should she have “known better what kind of woman Eddie really wanted her to be?” (Irene Reich, “We’d Never Been Happier Than We Were Last Year,” Photoplay, December 1958, 82; Parsons “Unhappy”). Underlying gossip about Debbie’s thriftiness was the inference that she was sexually repressed. She had formed the Non Neckers club in high school only a few years before Alfred Kinsey and Hugh Hefner transformed discourse on female sexuality (Dorothy Day, “I Know Now How Much of What I Tried to Do Was Wrong,” Photoplay, February 1960, 84). But Victorians were insightful in their use of the term “spending” to mean orgasm. As American capitalism geared up to produce approximately half the world’s goods, Debbie’s self-denial became passé (Jezer 121). Diner’s The Debbie-Eddie-Liz Scandal

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Debbie as the lively girl-next-door and Liz as the world’s most beautiful woman were contrasting stars in MGM’s constellation when they became involved in a sex scandal with Eddie. Courtesy PhotoFest New York.

Club cards, Westinghouse refrigerators, sleek-finned automobiles, spacious ranch houses, and Disneyland vacations became desirable. Seduced by the pleasures of conspicuous consumption, Eddie discarded the girl next door as an outmoded symbol and traded up by marrying the world’s most beautiful woman. The Los Angeles Times registered the nation’s shock on February 10, 1959, by headlining “Debbie Divorces Fisher, Wins Million Settlement” and printed three successive photos of her on the front page (“Debbie Divorces”). At a time when divorce was still socially stigmatized and relatively low, at about 10 percent, the much-publicized breakup coincided with the end of the decade to signify the decline of togetherness and an increasing preoccupation with tabloid sex stories (Gilbert 57).

Liz Taylor: Marriage and Divorce as Consumption An enchanting child star who never experienced an awkward phase, Liz Taylor blossomed into the world’s most beautiful woman while she was still a teenager. As she herself revealed, “I’ve been able to wear a plunging neckline since I was fourteen. . . . I have a woman’s body and a child’s emotions” (Ralph Edwards, “This Is Your Life: Queen Liz of Hollywood,” Photoplay, December 1954, 103). Concealing the labor involved in the production of 82

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her stardom was a breathtaking beauty that elevated her above everyday reality (see Clark). Decidedly not the girl next door with whom fans could identify, she was a star who ignored conventional norms and invited fantasizing on a baroque scale. Unlike Debbie, she flaunted her décolletage and had an insatiable appetite for clothes, shoes, jewels—and men. A pattern of gossip and rumor that fixated on her successive love affairs was established early and persisted. After one of her marital separations, for example, Photoplay titled a story, “Who Will Be Elizabeth Taylor’s Next Husband?” (Aline Mosby, January 1957, 17). Several publicized relationships preceded a sensational marriage to Mike Todd, a Polish Jew, who engaged in ostentatious consumption and leisure as the basis for exciting sexual love. As a former child star, Liz personified both on-and offscreen the demographics of a decade when 50 percent of all brides were teenagers marrying at an unprecedented rate and then giving birth to baby boomers in record numbers (Rosenberg and Rosenberg 70). At eighteen, she starred in Father of the Bride (1950) with Spencer Tracy and then, in an orchestrated convergence of fantasy and reality, wore a white satin gown designed by Helen Rose at MGM to marry hotel heir Nicky Hilton (70). Elsa Maxwell reported in Photoplay that “Nicky definitely wears the pants” and would “not permit her work to interfere with their life together” (“The Breaking Point,” April 1951, 37). A few months later, however, Liz waived alimony at a divorce hearing and then went dancing with Stanley Donen at Mocambo, though he had yet to divorce his spouse. Photoplay summed up rumors about the vertiginous ups and downs of her life with the title, “Liz Spoiled Brat or Mixed-Up Teenager?” (Ida Zeitlin, May 1951, 96). Disrupting actor Michael Wilding’s romance with Marlene Dietrich, she married him in London, bought a modern house with a swimming pool in Beverly Hills, and gave birth to two sons. Although Photoplay portrayed Wilding as a protective, older husband, Liz was clearly bored when she exchanged British stodginess for Mike Todd, who was even older and more protective, but flamboyant, rich, and Jewish. A former street peddler, carnival barker, and bankrupt Broadway producer, Todd formed the Cinerama Company and produced Oklahoma! (1955) in Todd-AO widescreen. As a Jew, he personified the stereotype of the grasping, bankrolled, swarthy Other who desired enviable white women. At the time he met Liz, he had divorced his second wife, Joan Blondell, and was having an affair with Evelyn Keyes. When Liz skipped the Hollywood premiere of Giant (1956) to appear on his arm at the New York opening of his Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), slated to gross millions and win Oscars, rumor mills shifted into high gear. Allegedly, Liz’s mother, a Christian Scientist, was nonplussed to learn that Todd was a The Debbie-Eddie-Liz Scandal

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Jew (Kelley 166). As opposed to Debbie’s romance with Eddie, however, there was little publicity about ethnic or religious differences. Liz, unencumbered by Debbie’s wholesome girl-next-door image, was narcissistic, materialistic, and enticed, rather than repulsed, by Todd’s vulgarities. She could hardly be bored with a suitor who was every bit as temperamental as she was and called her “My fat little Jewish broad, Lizzie Schwartzkopf ” (Fisher 120)! Since Liz disputed conventional morality and divorced freely at a time when togetherness was a domestic ideal, she enjoyed a sensational affair with a Jew twice her age without alienating fans. As part of his share of the bargain, her Jewish lover theatricalized the extravagant consumption that became not only an integral part of her persona but an exciting part of her erotic relationships. A producer who habitually used stars, including his friend Eddie, to gain leverage, Todd spared no expense in pursuing Liz like a prized commodity and gave her a twenty-nine-carat engagement ring costing $92,000 ($703,655 today). As Eddie reminisced, before the showman “met Elizabeth, I was his front man. He’d blast his way through crowds or into restaurants yelling, ‘Make way for Eddie Fisher’ ” (Fisher 120). A mutually advantageous quid pro quo was thus part of the couple’s attraction: she enhanced his power in Hollywood circles, while he indulged her extravagant whims as a big spender. As Photoplay reported, “If others have done a good job of spoiling Liz, it’s Mike Todd who is adding the finishing touches” (“Fabulous Face,” Photoplay, May 1958, 83). But first, he had to orchestrate her divorce from Wilding. After the actor was flown in for four hours to finalize a Mexican divorce, a civil ceremony in Acapulco followed. Amidst coconut palms, hibiscus, and bougainvillea, Liz married Todd in the presence of family members, matron of honor Debbie, and best man Eddie. A spectacle of fireworks emblazoning the sky concluded the lavish festivities. Declaring that Liz would make an occasional film, Todd stated that “an actress with a real career has no time to look after the man she loves” (Smith 115). Rumors elaborated on their theatrical lifestyle and enhanced their value as idols of consumption (Dyer 45). The couple acquired a twenty-three-room estate in Westport, Connecticut, and a six-room duplex in Manhattan. During a trip to France, they stayed at the opulent Villa Fiorentina, which had Italian marble floors and a private dock on the Mediterranean. A shopping trip to Paris yielded couture gowns by Dior and Balenciaga, a Degas and other paintings from the Aly Khan auction, and a ruby and diamond necklace to match a red chiffon dress. Liz also bought fifty or sixty hats. According to Photoplay, the only French phrase Liz knew was “Van Cleef and Arpels” (“Liz Taylor’s Fight for Life,” Photoplay, October 1957, 60–63, 112–14). When she admired the Duch84

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ess of Kent’s chandelier earrings during a London excursion, Todd had a pair made for her. As they walked late at night past a hotel showcase, she admired a diamond and emerald necklace that was purchased on the spot after waking the jeweler. Unstinting, Todd also gave her a diamond tiara. A furrier was instructed to show Liz two mink coats so that she could have her pick, but her reply was, “My choice is both of them.” Photoplay reported that Liz spent hours trying on clothes in a salon and, if she could not decide, bought everything. She had a thousand pairs of shoes. Unlike Debbie, who was reared by budget-conscious parents, Liz had no “notion of the value of a dollar” (“Fabulous Face,” 83, 84). Rumors about her mind-boggling excesses revealed social ambivalence in the form of both envy and guilty conscience in an affluent decade. As John Kenneth Galbraith wrote, Americans chose to accumulate private wealth at the expense of public services even in their own, let alone poor urban, neighborhoods. Automobile ownership, for example, “got far out of line” with government budgets so that the landscape became chaotic. A record-breaking sixtyeight to seventy million vehicles were sold during the decade (Jezer 123; Halberstam 487). Always traveling first class, Todd owned a Rolls Royce equipped with a black leather bar and phone, and an eleven-passenger Lockheed Lodestar named after Liz. A new daughter named Liza was a delightful addition to display as he orchestrated everyday life as a “society of the spectacle” equivalent to commodification and divorced from reality (Debord 1–68). Signifying Liza’s image as an adored infant was a fetishized pink organdy dress that Todd hung in a gold frame on the nursery wall (Irene Reich, “These Tender Things Remind Me of You,” Photoplay, November 1958, 84). When Todd was suddenly killed, loan repayments and provision for Mike Jr., a son from a previous marriage who was Liz’s age, left the grieving widow only $13,000 ($97,000 today). She had earlier given the showman a gold money clip engraved with his philosophy: “Being poor is a state of mind. I’ve been broke lots of times, but I’ve never been poor” (“Goodbye My Love,” Photoplay, June 1958, 73; Reich, “These Tender Things” 85). Comforted by Eddie during her bereavement, Liz gave him the clip. When they were seen together in Manhattan nightspots while Debbie remained in Los Angeles, rumors grew about a scandalous triangle. A Photoplay ad opposite the page describing this scandal urged readers to send one dollar for a book instructing them about “Loneliness—the Killer.” Upon returning to the West Coast, Liz became a most unsympathetic other woman by stating, “I don’t go about breaking up happy marriages. You can’t break up a happy marriage. Debbie’s and Eddie’s never has been.” An ad for My True Story stressed the tag line “I Saved My Marriage” (Janet The Debbie-Eddie-Liz Scandal

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Graves, “Why Liz Turned to Eddie,” Photoplay, December 1958, 74, and ad for My True Story, 72). Kate Stupp, Eddie’s mother, was enlisted to court public opinion. Seemingly unaware of irony, she stated, “No man walks away from a truly happy life. . . . Not if he’s secure at home in his wife’s understanding, her laughter, warmth, and love. I am talking about decent men who . . . have loyalty” (Kate Stupp, as told to Marta Robinet, “Don’t Blame Liz,” Photoplay, May 1959, 82). When Debbie filed for divorce, Eddie and Liz dined on caviar and drank champagne. According to Photoplay, Eddie “should have realized that the filing of divorce papers is not a cause for celebration, for what looks like gloating and triumph” (Charlotte Dinter, “What Do Eddie and Liz Feel When They Look at These Pictures?,” Photoplay, June 1959, 72). Liz converted to Judaism at Temple Israel of Hollywood before discomfited Christian parents, promised to cast her lot with the Jews, and was renamed Elisheba Rachel. The L.A. Times noted that such a conversion was “rarely publicized” (Mathison). A few months later, she wore moss green taffeta when she married Eddie at the Temple Beth Shalom in Las Vegas. She was late to her wedding. Picketers targeted her at the Tropicana, where Eddie was performing, and negative publicity dogged her in Spain, where she went on location for Suddenly Last Summer (1959). Since Eddie had abandoned Debbie and was no longer a suitable icon for white teenaged bobby-soxers, NBC and Coca-Cola cancelled his show. Liz, who commanded fees larger than ever, paid the price for being a diva by failing to win Oscars for nominated performances in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Suddenly Last Summer. She asserted, “My ambition is to win an Oscar before I retire. Only then will I be really content to settle down to a full domestic life” (Jim Hoffman, “How Much More Can Liz Taylor Take?,” Photoplay, July 1960, 74). After meningism and pneumonia left her near death in a London hospital and generated worldwide sympathy, Liz finally won an Oscar for Butterfield 8 (1960), a film in which Eddie played a bland supporting role that reprised his offscreen existence. At the Academy Awards ceremony, she was still frail and leaned on him as they walked down the aisle to the podium. But instead of giving up her career, Liz signed with Twentieth Century–Fox to make Cleopatra (1963) for a million dollars ($7.27 million today). When she discarded Eddie for married co-star Richard Burton in an even bigger scandal that provoked an orgy of rumormongering, Photoplay emblazoned “Love . . . LUST . . . and LIZ” on its July cover in 1962. She was shown wearing a spotted leopard coat and hat that rendered her feline and animalistic. The magazine had assumed the characteristics of a tabloid since Debbie’s scandalous divorce but continued to solicit input with a poll, “CAN YOU FORGIVE LIZ TAYLOR?” (“Vote Today!,” Photoplay, July 1962, 53). 86

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Liz Taylor won an Oscar nomination for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks, MGM, 1958), but her blatant affair with Eddie Fisher did not win her many votes among Academy members or in the court of public opinion. Digital frame enlargement.

A study in contrasting subjectivities during the growth of unparalleled mass consumption in the 1950s, Debbie and Liz were polar opposites in MGM’s constellation. A breezy Photoplay story asserted that Debbie “wouldn’t know a complex if it brought a letter from Freud” (Ida Zeitlin, “Split Personality,” Photoplay, January 1953, 4). She was the wholesome girl next door. Rumormongering about Liz, on the other hand, hinted at a nervous breakdown during her tempestuous marriage to Hilton and a “father complex” in her relationships with Wilding and Todd. When she lured Eddie from Debbie, rumors flew that she had been hospitalized at the Menninger Clinic for psychiatric patients. She responded, “It’s cruel and terrible to insinuate that I’m mentally disturbed” (Ronald J. Brooks, “What’s Happening to Liz Now?,” Photoplay, May 1959, 80). Grapevine news in this vein intensified when Liz traded Eddie, a fading pop singer, for Burton, a mesmerizing Shakespearean actor. Photoplay published several articles with titles like “What Psychiatrists Are Saying about the Liz Taylor Syndrome” and “Why She Goes from Man to Man.” An “overprotected, overdriven, overstimulated” young girl with “no inner life of her own,” she had rebelled against her ambitious mother and distant father by repeatedly marrying the wrong man, not to mention embracing Judaism. She experienced numerous illnesses, including psychosomatic disorders, that required hospitalizations. A list included colitis, tonsillitis, crushed spinal disk, bronchitis, meningism, double pneumonia, phlebitis, anemia, torn knee ligaments, broken leg, eye injury, food poisoning, and so forth. She had bouts of comThe Debbie-Eddie-Liz Scandal

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pulsive eating and crash dieting. While still married to Eddie, for example, she ate nonstop during a five-and-a-half-hour flight from New York to Jamaica (Jim Hoffman, “What Psychiatrists Are Saying about the Liz Taylor Syndrome,” Photoplay, June 1962, 84, 85). A psychologist theorized in Photoplay that “eating helps to satisfy one’s desire for love. So, too, does collecting jewelry or other trinkets,” including a Jewish crooner. Liz thus equated “money, jewels, and high living with love” (Arthur Henley, with Dr. Robert Wolk, “Why She Goes from Man to Man,” Photoplay, September 1962, 81, 82). Was there any difference between collecting rare diamonds and famous husbands as forms of exchange in the marketplace? As Debbie’s mother bitterly said when Eddie traded up for Liz, “Everybody knows what she is . . .” (Graves 74). Well, what was she? Unlike the girl next door, Liz represented sexual excess that would be characterized as dysfunction in the 1950s but as liberation in the 1960s. Ahead of her time, she defined stardom as license. At the beginning of the decidedly narcissistic 1960s, America’s Sweetheart Debbie finally succumbed to the lure of consumption so that she no longer remained a startling contrast to Liz. About two years after her painful divorce from Eddie, she married another Jew, shoe magnate and playboy Harry Karl. He was nineteen years older, had three children from three prior marriages, and pursued showgirls and notable women as commodities. She could not have picked a suitor who better exemplified the stereotype of the debauched urbane Jew. Adopted by a Russian Jewish immigrant cobbler who found him in a New York orphanage and left him a chain of shoe stores, Karl shared philanthropic interests with Debbie. When she finally succumbed to his dogged courtship, he was able to trade up after brief marriages to widow Joan Cohn, who had been married to Columbia mogul Harry Cohn; actress Marie McDonald, whom he married twice; and socialite Ruth Lamb. Debbie thus wed the type of man who set tongues wagging and whom she had studiously avoided as the girl next door. Despite the upbeat tone of its stories, Photoplay conveyed vague disappointment. Good Housekeeping, a symbol of middle-American values, was discreet in characterizing the shoe manufacturer as “a nice man” but “hardly the Sir Lancelot the public felt their sad little princess deserved.” Debbie moved into a luxurious new house with Louis XV and Louis XVI accessories, Rodin and Picasso artworks, and a glassed-in living room that was nonetheless described as “a family home” (Jane Ardmore, “I’ll Just Have to Have Twins,” Photoplay, May 1962, 16; Carl Schroeder, “Don’t Let Gossip Hurt You!,” Good Housekeeping, September 1961, 174). Asserting that “women aren’t meant to be the heads of their own families,” she turned her “entire life” over to Karl because he was a mature man who took charge (Debbie Reyn88

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olds, “Why I’m Afraid to Have Another Baby,” Photoplay, November 1961, 93). As a token of her devotion, she gave her new husband Star of David cuff links studded with diamonds and accompanied him to the synagogue; in turn he attended the Presbyterian church in Bel Air with her and her two children (Milt Johnson, “Why Debbie Must Keep Her Real Love Out of the Family Picture,” Photoplay, September 1960, 66; Schroeder 178). Unfortunately, this story about a second intermarriage did not have a happy Hollywood ending. Debbie discovered years later that he had squandered a fortune inherited from his shoe business, not to mention her ten million ($72.6 million today), and that they faced staggering tax bills. According to the formulaic construction of female stardom in the 1950s, Photoplay portrayed America’s Sweetheart as a woman whose femininity was defined by her relationship with men and children. But insofar as she misread two Jewish husbands who cruelly disappointed her, self-fulfillment in marriage proved elusive. Still a trooper in old age, she recently affirmed on Oprah that she had had bad taste in men. The scandalous end of her storied marriage to Eddie and her relationship with Karl, revealed to be a spendthrift and philanderer, exemplified the disillusionment inherent in modern consumer practice that commodified marriage itself. What, then, may we conclude from rumormongering about two MGM stars who married Jews representing consumption as tantalizing Oriental license in the affluent 1950s? Analyzing consumption from a novel perspective is Colin Campbell’s argument that it is basically irrational and rooted, contrary to economic discourse, in romanticism, not utilitarianism. Acquisition is thus not an index of social status, as Thorstein Veblen, Pierre Bourdieu, and others have argued, but pleasurable daydreaming as a modern form of hedonism. An integral part of such hedonistic yearning is the imagined gratification ascribed to products (and lovers) whose possession is in fact disappointing so that the consumer seeks yet another object of desire. Consistent with romantic longing, consumption is not necessarily a means of defining identity and status, as social scientists argue, but self-illusory experience divorced from reality that results in “permanent unfocused dissatisfaction” (Campbell 77–95). Arguing in a similar vein, Grant McCracken interprets goods as bridges to “displaced meaning” that has been removed from daily life, is evoked by commodities, but can never be attained so that enough is enough (104–17). Celebrities like Liz who sought excitement through endless compulsive shopping in boutiques and on the marriage market were thus being irrational and experienced cycles of acquisition and disillusion on a scale far grander than most fans could imagine. Jewishness, like Orientalism, represented exoticism that spiced up marital relations before ennui set in. As for budget-conscious Debbie, she The Debbie-Eddie-Liz Scandal

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could hardly ignore the value of her exciting romance with a Jewish crooner as unparalleled publicity for her career. The economics of a ballyhooed love affair, let alone the fantasies the lovers had about each other, dictated the hurried wedding at Grossinger’s. But since materialistic values and pursuits have a negative effect on subjective well-being, as psychologists argue, stars on the marriage market became unhappy consumers (Kassner et al. 11–24). Rumors in magazines, newspapers, and tabloids stressed their psychological problems, failed relationships, and misery. Caught in Jean Baudrillard’s chain of signifiers, in which the shifting sign value of goods displaced use value, celebrities who had everything ended up with nothing in a world without meaning (38). Jaundiced about this alarmingly diseased process are leftist critics who, unlike Campbell, posit the concept of commodity fetishism in a classbased society: shoppers under consumer capitalism endow objects, divorced from the labor that produces them, with magical properties. Why else would they become so obsessed with buying goods? Advertising and merchandising are part of the capitalist dynamic that obscures the reality of class relations, stimulates demand, and construes shopping as freedom. But as goods become subject to market exchange value, so too are human relations determined by the cash nexus (Lukács 83, 110; Slater 117, 130). What sensational marriages and divorces in celebrity culture exemplify is the commodification of stars undermining the most sentimental domestic ideology. Debbie and Liz both considered scaling back their professional commitments while married to Eddie, but they were too invested in careers that conflicted with home life. Not for nothing did MGM boast that the studio had “more stars than there are in heaven.” Stardom represented the ultimate trajectory in a mass consumer society in which individuals struggled against anonymity and defined identities with changing fashion and goods designed for obsolescence. Although stars too were commodities with exchange value, they still retained the power to inspire dreaming, if only for a few moments, divorced from marketplace realities. Aspiring Jews like Eddie Fisher, Mike Todd, and Harry Karl pursued glamour as a sign of their elevated status in the entertainment world and in American society. Such heights could be intoxicating. When Eddie tried to comfort Liz during a quarrel with Todd, he thought, “I was next to the most desirable woman in the world. . . . I couldn’t concentrate. I was overwhelmed by the scent of her. It was extraordinary. . . . It was heaven. Absolute heaven” (Fisher 121).

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William Rothman

Hats Off for George Cukor!

The Cukor Manner In the fall of 1981, George Cukor spent several days at Harvard to help promote Rich and Famous, which turned out to be his last—and perhaps most vastly underrated—film. In preparation for his visit to the class I was teaching on film directors, I screened for my students several of his enduring classics. After our viewing of The Philadelphia Story (1940), one of his

George Cukor at home in Los Angeles, 1973. Photograph by Allan Warren.

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greatest films, Cukor arrived to answer questions. Thirty years later my recollection of this occasion has grown hazy, but there are two moments that stand out vividly in my memory. The first was Cukor’s answer to a question a bright, mischievous student put to him. “If you were to cast Professor Rothman in a film,” my student asked, “in what role would you cast him?” Looking at me appraisingly, the director, celebrated for his shrewd eye for casting, answered with perfect comic timing—what else would one expect from the director of The Philadelphia Story, Adam’s Rib (1948), and Born Yesterday (1950)?—“A mad violinist.” Three of the films the class had watched prior to Cukor’s arrival were A Bill of Divorcement (1932), Camille (1936), and A Woman’s Face (1941). Each has a memorable scene in which a musician becomes so swept away by his ever more frenzied piano playing that his eyes burn with maniacal glee. In A Bill of Divorcement, the musician (John Barrymore), escaped from the asylum, is a poignant figure as he shows his daughter how the ending of his piano sonata should be played. In the others, the musician is a dastardly villain (Henry Daniell and Conrad Veidt, respectively). I realized that Cukor was being witty when he answered my student’s question. I was not about to give up my day job to wait by the phone for his casting call. Nonetheless, I took him at his word. I found myself quite moved that he could see in me—that he could see that the camera could see in me—such a capacity for wild abandon, or even the capacity to be startled, amused, and flattered by the idea that the camera could see this in me. In this entirely unexpected way, I gained a firsthand glimpse of Cukor’s genius as a director. I have never held a violin in my hands, much less played one. I was a writer nearing completion of my first book, Hitchcock—The Murderous Gaze, and I was a Harvard professor teaching film studies. My two instruments were the IBM Selectric II typewriter and the Athena projector (which made it possible to stop a film in its tracks with the touch of a button, freezing the projected image without burning the frame so that those in the room could speak about a film moment even as its spell was lingering). I can well imagine that the camera would have discerned in my eye the maniacal gleam that is the sine qua non of a mad violinist had Cukor been filming me while I was in the act of composing my book’s chapter on Psycho (1960), or when I excitedly hit the Athena projector’s pause button and began to think out loud in the classroom the first time I noticed that Norman Bates’s hand hesitates before he chooses, fatefully, to give Marion Crane the key to Cabin 1. In short, Cukor was right. To be sure, if I were an actor I would wish to 92

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be at least considered for the kind of role Cary Grant plays in The Philadelphia Story, but I am confident that a mad violinist is a role I could play convincingly. If I were auditioning for the role of a mad violinist, I believe that I would play second fiddle to no one—at least, if the film had a director who possessed Cukor’s ability to envision in me such a capacity for imaginative existence. And yet, if my student had asked me, not Cukor, what role I could imagine playing in one of the director’s films, I would have been at a loss. I would have had no idea what Cukor believed the camera would be able to see in me. What he had discerned was a part of me I had never consciously recognized in myself. No doubt, the mad violinist in me was—is— only a fictional or mythical part of myself. But this does not mean it is only illusory, not real. The camera is a catalyst that has the power to provoke human beings to reveal fictional or mythical parts of themselves that, as Jean Rouch never tired of reminding us, can be the most real, the most human. Andrew Sarris writes, in The American Cinema: “It is no accident that many of Cukor’s characters are thespians of one form or another. . . . Even when Cukor’s characters don’t appear formally behind the footlights, they project an imaginative existence. . . . Cukor is committed to the dreamer, if not to the content of the dream” (90). It still delights me to think that George Cukor could see the dreamer in me. Throughout his brief stay at Harvard, Cukor’s demeanor bespoke the elegance, refinement, and civilized wit for which he was renowned. But it is clear from his films—and not only from his affinity for musicians who play their instruments with wild abandon—that he harbored within himself a mad musician of his own. The camera was his instrument. In saying, however jokingly, that he could see me as a mad violinist, Cukor was neither looking down on me nor (God knows) looking up to me. The part of me he believed the camera had the power to see was also a part of himself, one that he recognized. With those three little words, “a mad violinist,” Cukor had won my trust. Thanks to this brief exchange, to which I do not imagine he ever gave another thought, I have become aware that the principle “It takes one to know one” was a key to his unsurpassed ability to get the best from performers. Seemingly effortlessly, he convinced them that he knew the characters they were called upon to play, and that he knew them, better than they knew themselves, and that what gave him such power was the fact that he knew himself so well that he could recognize in them a part of himself. If, knowing them, such a man had faith in them, who were they not to have faith in themselves? I feel I have an inkling of what Judy Holliday meant when she observed, about working with Cukor, “He didn’t maintain my illusion of myself, he gave me an illusion of myself. Before I met him, I never thought of myself as an actress. Boy, he sidetracked me in a great way!” (BrainyQuote.com). Hats Off for George Cukor!

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“She has a horror of men who wear their hats in the house.” James Stewart and Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, MGM, 1940). Digital frame enlargement.

The second moment of Cukor’s visit that I remember vividly after all these years occurred when, at the end of the class, another bright student, eager to tell the director how much he admired his films, and wearing a fedora on his head, pushed his way past several of his classmates. But before this student had a chance to open his mouth, Cukor took him down a peg or two by saying, “Take off your hat, young man!” In truth, I was not unhappy to see this happen. While I knew that this student was sincere in his admiration for Cukor’s films, I also knew he hadn’t even considered the possibility that the elderly director would consider it rude to wear a hat in a classroom, much less when paying respects to a man of Cukor’s age and stature—this, even though he had just watched The Philadelphia Story, in which Dexter (Cary Grant) answers Mike’s (James Stewart) question about Tracy’s (Katharine Hepburn) “leading characteristics” by saying that she has “a horror of men who wear their hats in the house.” (In Born Yesterday, it might also be noted, Harry Brock [Broderick Crawford] manifests his uncouth manners, both in the early sequence in which he and his entourage are shown around their hotel suite and in much of the long scene that follows, by keeping his hat on the whole time, while 94

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his educated associate, Jim Dewery [Howard St. John], takes his off the moment he arrives.) Both Patrick McGilligan and Emanuel Levy, authors of the only biographies of Cukor published to date, comment repeatedly on what they take to be a conflict or tension between the respect for humanity, without regard to class or station, that is ingrained in his films and in his everyday life, and what they call his “elitism” or “snobbism,” his preference for being in the company of elegant and tasteful objects and people. Was he behaving as an elitist or as a snob when he reacted to my pushy young student the way he did? I do not think so. If he really judged people by the degree to which they conform to the rules of etiquette, that would, indeed, give unfair advantage to the privileged. In Born Yesterday, Paul Verrall (William Holden) is hired by Harry to teach Billie (Judy Holliday) how to behave in elite circles so as not to embarrass herself—or him. But Paul himself does not consider it shameful of Billie not to know the rules of etiquette. What he considers shameful is not to know how our democratic system of government works, hence not to fulfill one’s responsibilities as a citizen. And what he thinks not only shameful but sinful is to treat other human beings—as Harry does—as if they can be bought and sold and bullied. Paul is observant enough to notice in Billie that this is something she does not have to be taught not to do. If one traces the origins and history of rules of etiquette, one often finds practical or moral reasons for them to have developed as conventions. To a degree, though, they are also arbitrary. In mainline Philadelphia society, sipping soup quietly is de rigueur; in Japan, it is considered rude not to slurp one’s soup. If my student had not bullied his way past his fellow students, if he had behaved courteously, with due consideration for others, I have no doubt that Cukor would either have ignored his hat and simply let the young man have his say or else invited him politely to remove it. What it was in this young man’s behavior that really irked Cukor, I suspect, was what had always irked me about him. It wasn’t for breaking a rule he may not have known even existed that Cukor upbraided him, but for slighting his classmates. As Stanley Cavell writes: “In our slights of one another, in an unexpressed or disguised meanness of thought, in a hardness of glance, a willful misconstrual, a shading of loyalty, a dismissal of intention, a casual indiscriminateness of praise or blame—in any of the countless signs of skepticism with respect to the reality, the separateness, of another—we run the risk of suffering, or dealing, little deaths every day” (Rothman, Cavell 339–40). George Cukor’s family, of Hungarian Jewish stock, was already middleclass when they arrived in the United States more than a decade before he was born. George grew up, as I did, knowing only a smattering of Yiddish Hats Off for George Cukor!

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words, and with no Yiddish inflections in his speaking voice. As a child, he had minimal involvement with Jewish religious life; as an adult, none. He had a bar mitzvah, but I assume he learned the Hebrew for his reading only phonetically (as I did in my Reform synagogue in Brooklyn half a century later). He had no intention of being a “hyphenated American,” like his uncle Morris, who could have become a prominent New York lawyer had his circle not been limited to the Hungarian American community. He was what we call an assimilated Jew. When he reached adulthood, he cultivated impeccable manners. He knew, and mastered, the rules of proper behavior so as to assure that his manners never betrayed him when he was in the company of gentiles. By cultivating the manners of a gentleman, Cukor was not denying his Jewishness. His goal was not to pass for a gentile. Like the early Jewish American novelists discussed by Leslie Fiedler, he needed to “establish an image of the Jew capable not only of satisfying [himself ], but also of representing [him] to [his] Gentile neighbors . . . an act of assimilation: a demonstration that there is an American Jew (whose Jewishness and Americanness enrich each other) and that he feels at home!” (66). It can be said of Cukor’s homosexuality, as well, that he never tried to pass for what he was not. To paraphrase Fiedler, his goal was to demonstrate that there is an American gay man whose homosexuality and Americanness enrich each other, and that he feels at home. The Hollywood film world both knew he was gay and respected him. As to the fact that he was Jewish, it was as plain as the nose on his face. He seems always to have regarded himself—as even his friends seem generally to have regarded him—as “not particularly attractive,” which is a euphemism for “ugly.” Combined with his emerging homosexuality, his conspicuously Jewish looks meant that even as he became a consummate insider in Hollywood society he remained also an outsider, as perhaps one must if one is to find oneself fully at home only behind the camera, not in front of it. What does it mean, in any case, to say that Cukor was an assimilated Jew? Does it mean that he had so mastered the rules of behavior in proper (i.e., gentile) society that his manners betrayed no sign that he was Jewish? For an Orthodox Jew who always keeps his head covered inside all buildings, not only synagogues, not to wear one’s hat indoors might be to break a commandment. To be an Orthodox Jew means that one follows a set of strict laws or commandments that affect every facet of one’s everyday life. If assimilating meant rejecting one set of strict rules, it also meant adhering to another: the rules of etiquette. Thus there would be a homology of sorts between living the life of a religious Jew, on one hand, and denying one’s Jewishness in one’s everyday life, on the other. Both would be a matter of obeying laws or commandments (whether they were passed down to us by 96

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generations of rabbis or by Emily Post). But I do not believe that for Cukor “Thou shalt not wear one’s hat indoors” had the status of an Eleventh Commandment. By pushing his way past his fellow students, the student had broken what was for Cukor the First Commandment: “Thou shalt not slight another human being.” Cukor thought of the relationship between manners and morality the way Ralph Waldo Emerson did, not as a matter of following rules but as a way of striving to make oneself the best person one can be. In general, what might appear to be elitism or snobbism on Cukor’s part was his aspiration to walk in the direction of what Emerson called the “unattained, yet attainable, self,” with the understanding that selfhood cannot be achieved apart from the acknowledgment of others.

Perfecting Possibilities “Every art, every worthwhile human enterprise, has its poetry,” Cavell writes, “ways of doing things that perfect the possibilities of the enterprise itself, make it the one it is” (Rothman, Cavell 96). Film is a worthwhile human enterprise that achieves its particular poetry, in Cavell’s view, when it achieves the perception of what he calls the “poetry of the ordinary”—the perception that “every motion and station, in particular every human posture and gesture, however glancing, has its poetry, or you may say its lucidity” (96). The poetry of film is open to us all to perceive; we cannot fail to perceive it unless we fail to “trace the implications,” as Cavell puts it (with a nod to Henry James), of the moods of faces and motions and settings by which films express themselves (282). Few directors were Cukor’s peers in achieving such poetry. Such was the aspiration that underwrote, and was underwritten by, Cukor’s art. It is why in his best films the characters’ postures, gestures, and expressions—and their words as well—consistently possess what Cavell calls lucidity. Every moment Judy Holliday is on the screen in a Cukor film—or Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, or so many other stars he directed—the good of humanity shines through. Onscreen and off, they possess what Cukor calls “the grace of dignity.” Such grace is a function of respecting one’s own humanity, and the humanity of others, by doing one’s best to avoid those slights of one another by which we risk “suffering, or dealing, little deaths every day.” Cukor rarely indulged in elaborately choreographed camera movements to rival Max Ophuls’s or Vincente Minnelli’s. There are few shots in his films that rival John Ford’s magnificent landscapes. Self-conscious declarations of the camera, à la Hitchcock, are few and far between. When Hitchcock’s camera declares itself, it is the film’s author showing his hand. Hats Off for George Cukor!

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Cukor’s films are not about his authorship. They are about the characters. It is their story, not his. The director only establishes the “climate,” as he liked to say. Cukor’s art is self-effacing, in a sense. And yet in his films the camera is no less a presence, its role no less important, than in Hitchcock’s films. Cukor has an unerring intuition as to where the camera should be placed to assure that the characters’ postures and gestures—and the camera’s—are accorded their full expressiveness, their full lucidity. There is no moment at which he aims for a merely theatrical effect. Near the end of The Philadelphia Story, James Stewart’s Macaulay (Mike) Connor proposes to Tracy Lord both because he thinks it is the gentlemanly thing to do and because he thinks (a little immaturely) that this is what he wants to do. There is a pregnant pause before she graciously turns him down. Onstage (at the Shubert Theater, on March 28, 1939, and for 417 performances thereafter), Hepburn could—and probably did—pause (with Van Heflin). What the camera does, during that pause, is cut to C. K. Dexter Haven (Grant), who is waiting, as we are, for Tracy’s answer. For Dexter, everything is riding on the answer Tracy will give Mike. But he knows that she has to make up her own mind. There is nothing for him to say or do. All he can do, and what he must do, is remain silent. This means that if Cary Grant were playing Dexter on stage (as Joseph Cotten did), he would have no way of motivating the audience to attend to him, to read the volumes his silence speaks. By cutting to him at this moment, the camera allies itself with Dexter’s own Emersonian outlook, in particular his understanding that if Tracy is to awaken to her own humanity and to his as well, awaken as she must do if she is to be worthy of his faith and his love, not to mention ours, she has to open her own eyes. And he has to wait, and be seen waiting, for her to have the full opportunity to do so. When by 1932 the “talkie” had sounded the death knell for what film historians like to call “the Golden Age of Silent Cinema,” no one could foresee that it was ringing in a new “Golden Age.” The expressive cinematic qualities epitomized by F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise (1927) seemed incompatible with the primitive sound equipment. The awkwardness of the static camera setups of the earliest talking pictures was exacerbated by notably stagy acting that resulted, in part, from the studios’ belief that talking pictures required theatrically trained voices. As the novelty of talking pictures wore off, attendance slumped. With the economy falling off a cliff, the expensive conversion of theaters to sound threatened to bankrupt Hollywood. As early as 1930, however, cinematographers such as Lee Garmes, Victor Milner, Karl Struss, and Joseph Walker, collaborating with directors of the stature of Frank Capra, Howard Hawks, Ernst Lubitsch, Josef von Sternberg, King Vidor, William Wellman, and William Wyler, had begun 98

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to reclaim the fluidity and expressiveness the camera had achieved in their silent films. A new generation of performers was emerging, sharing the screen with a handful of silent stars, such as Greta Garbo, who successfully “made the transition.” And it was in 1930 that Cukor, having made something of a name for himself as a stage director in Rochester and in his native Manhattan, directed his first film. In the course of the turbulent 1930s, the American cinema not only came of age but reached its artistic high-water mark. Hollywood movies of the period spoke to everyone—each studio with a distinctive accent, from working-class Warner Bros. to high-toned MGM—at a time when for most Americans going to the movies was a regular part of their week. Why not go to the movies when the silver screen held the likes of James Stewart, John Barrymore, Constance Bennett, Ina Claire, Joan Crawford, Melvyn Douglas, Marie Dressler, W. C. Fields, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Leslie Howard, Fredric March, Rosalind Russell, Norma Shearer, and Spencer Tracy, to name a few of the stars Cukor directed during the 1930s and early 1940s, helping each to project, in the new medium of the “talking picture,” his or her own intelligence, wit, and imagination as well as beauty and glamour. In Hollywood movies of the early 1930s, much was shown and said that violated the letter as well as the spirit of the Production Code that the studios accepted in principle in 1930 but did not enforce until four years later. These so-called pre-Code films were never sexually explicit, but they kept getting sexier as, hoping to increase ticket sales, the studios continued to push the envelope. In the notorious Baby Face (1933), for example, the Barbara Stanwyck character sleeps her way to the top, turning the tables on men ready to exploit the privileges granted them by a society both patriarchal and hypocritical. To be sure, the film concocts a “moral” ending: she will live happily ever after, married to the man who teaches her the error of her ways. But the sexy untamed Stanwyck, not the self-sacrificing tamed one, is the film’s trump card. Surely viewers did not want this woman to become self-sacrificing. Viewers wanted her quest for selfhood to be fulfilled. But how could that happen unless society changed? And no hope for change appeared on the horizon. It is characteristic of Hollywood movies of the early 1930s for there to be a tension between the conventional morality to which the film pays lip service and the pleasures it subversively offers, albeit without claiming a moral purpose of its own. Such films seem vivid expressions of America’s desperate mood while the Wall Street panic morphed into the Great Depression and the Hoover administration stood idly by. Declaring that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Franklin Roosevelt rallied the nation to an agenda Hats Off for George Cukor!

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founded on a commitment to change. At a time when millions were on bread lines, he understood that Americans hungered for a renewal that was spiritual as well as material. Whether knowingly or not, his administration tapped into a deep reservoir of American thought whose major source was the nineteenth-century writings of Emerson and Thoreau when it assured the nation that if it embraced the New Deal’s commitment to change, America could at last realize the utopian dreams of its founders. Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night—the runaway hit that swept the 1934 Academy Awards— exemplified the New Deal spirit. For the remainder of the decade, that spirit, as epitomized by the genre It Happened One Night inaugurated—Cavell calls it “the Hollywood comedy of remarriage”—was in the ascendancy in Hollywood, as it was in America. The definitive members of that genre include The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), His Girl Friday (1940), and The Lady Eve (1941), as well as two of Cukor’s greatest films, The Philadelphia Story—a summary statement, on the eve of America’s entrance into World War II, as to what makes America worth fighting for despite its failures to fulfill its utopian aspirations—and Adam’s Rib (1949), which brings the genre into the fundamentally changed world of postwar America. A year before It Happened One Night, however, Cukor directed Katharine Hepburn in Little Women (1933). It was in this film that the Emer­ sonian worldview that was to be exemplified by the comedies of remarriage first emerged full-blown in the American cinema. Cukor had given Hepburn her first screen role the previous year as John Barrymore’s co-star in A Bill of Divorcement. Always respectful of literary texts, Cukor worked with the several screenwriters who had a hand in the adaptation to ensure that Little Women’s screenplay was true to the spirit of Louisa May Alcott’s enduringly popular novel. Alcott’s father was a member of the Concord circle of Transcendentalists, and Emerson’s way of thinking about morality, and about human relationships in general, infuses every scene of Cukor’s film, as it infuses every page of Alcott’s novel. A Bill of Divorcement expressed the same idealism, or we might say humanism, as Little Women. A Bill of Divorcement anticipates a defining feature of the remarriage comedy genre in the close bond between Hepburn’s Sydney Fairfield and her father Hilary (John Barrymore), who wants only happiness for his daughter. Unlike remarriage comedies and Little Women before them, however, the ending of A Bill of Divorcement leaves the woman utterly isolated from society, with no hope of finding happiness within the world. After escaping from the asylum where he has been locked up for many years, Hilary returns home, his madness in remission, only to find his wife on the eve of remarrying. Believing that any children she might have would be doomed to inherit her father’s insanity—as she is, perhaps—Sydney forgoes marriage to the 100

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man she loves. She is at her father’s side when she begins to play the piano sonata he had composed before being committed to the asylum. He gently takes over from her to teach her how it should really be played. As Sydney, deeply moved, watches and listens, he begins playing with great feeling. At first lyrical, his playing becomes increasingly passionate. Pounding the keys tempestuously, his playing takes on an ever more manic intensity as the music turns, unnervingly, into a crescendo that shows no signs of ever abating. By the time the image fades to black, we sense that he has again descended, or risen, into madness. Underlying the Emersonian moral outlook that was in the ascendancy in Hollywood from 1934 to the end of the decade rests the principle that human happiness is not to be deferred to some heavenly “other” realm in which we might live happily ever after. Happiness is to be pursued here and now. The goal is to live every day and night together in a festive spirit, a spirit of adventure, as the characters played by Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in Cukor’s Holiday (1938) are committed to doing. Pre-Code Hollywood had already embraced an aspect of this principle when its leading directors, writers, and performers came to recognize that talking pictures are best served when performers speak in their own voices. Cukor’s all but unrivaled success in helping actors and especially actresses to find the humanity of their characters by revealing themselves in the face of the camera, not trying to hide behind masks, was a powerful catalyst in this collective awakening. Incarnating characters who find themselves moved to give voice to their thoughts and feelings, to find their own words (and gestures) with which to express themselves, brought the gods and goddesses of the silent screen down to earth. James Harvey puts it eloquently: The stars, like the movies themselves, were both real and unreal. . . . Just like the best of their movies, they were about common life—or at least its possibilities. They stood for equality—but an equality without illusions. It wasn’t their job (unlike the left-wing rhetoric of the time, with its sentimental populism) to flatter us and to tell us we were wonderful. But they made us feel wonderful, and they gave us hope. Because what they were, so to speak, in front of our eyes—in their different forms of toughness, commonness, openness, in their glamour and their final mystery and inviolability— testified to the possibility of American community. (678) The Emersonian worldview that in Hollywood emerged full-blown in Little Women was not particular or idiosyncratic to Cukor, in the way diHats Off for George Cukor!

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rectors like Lubitsch, Hawks, and Von Sternberg had highly particular and idiosyncratic ways of viewing the world. What Cukor’s films have it at heart to say about society, about community, about marriage, and about America is of a piece with what films in all the leading Hollywood genres were affirming in the period between 1934 and 1941. Cukor just said it better, and with greater sophistication, than all but the tiny handful of directors who can be considered his peers. In Cukor’s films, above all, the stars are mortals, not gods or goddesses. They are fit to be loved or hated, not worshipped. They are human beings, just as we are. Yet they are stars. Projected on the silver screen, Katharine Hepburn appears godlike, at least at times: in The Philadelphia Story, for example. Hepburn onscreen is a touching, vulnerable human being. Yet she is as radiant, as mysterious and deep, as a sacred icon. We understand why her fiancé George Kittredge calls her a goddess. Even as Cukor’s films elevate their merely human stars to godlike heights, they bring them down to earth, acknowledging that these glorious beings are mortals like us, creatures with human desires and powers. Hence these films reveal to us that we, too, are touched with divinity—when we aren’t busy slighting our own humanity, or the humanity of others.

Jewish Does Cukor’s special affinity for the way of thinking that Cavell calls “Emersonian perfectionism” have anything to do with his being Jewish? I believe so. At the least, never having been a Christian meant that for Cukor there were obstacles to embracing the Emersonian worldview that he did not have to overcome—the belief, for example, that Jesus was the son of God, with the corollaries of the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin Birth, the ability of saints to perform miracles, the redemption of sins, the sanctity of sacrifice, the resurrection, eternal life in heaven or hell, and so on. He could see directly, as Emerson saw, that the responsibility of being good to people falls upon people themselves; that morally and critically the place and time to build paradise are here and now, while we live with one another. Emerson himself, training for the Unitarian ministry, found that he had lost faith in the doctrines upon which Christianity, as an organized religion, was based. In a sense, the faith Emerson embraces in his writings is the Christian faith minus faith in Christ. There are no supernatural deities. The only divinity is in our own nature when we aspire to perfect ourselves, to become more fully human. A Jew is still a Jew even if he does not believe in God or follow the rules that Orthodox Jews follow religiously. But can one be a Christian without believing that Jesus was the son of God? Christianity without Christ is harder to embrace for a Christian, even a lapsed one, 102

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than it is for a Jew, at least for an assimilated Jew, an insider who is also an outsider, like Cukor. By the time Cukor made The Philadelphia Story, the period when Emersonian perfectionism was in the ascendancy was coming to an end. When in the previous year David Selznick removed Cukor from the set of Gone with the Wind (1939) and replaced him with Victor Fleming, a man more to Clark Gable’s liking, the handwriting was already on the wall. The failure of Cukor’s Two-Faced Woman (1941), even with Greta Garbo in the starring role, seemed to ring the death knell for the remarriage comedy genre. During the wartime years, it was effectively superseded by the genre Kathrina Glitre calls the “career woman comedy.” Cukor never stooped to making films like Woman of the Year (1942), Take a Letter, Darling (1942), She Wouldn’t Say Yes (1945), and Without Reservations (1946), which share many features of The Philadelphia Story but are anything but Emersonian in spirit. During the wartime years, Cukor’s signature achievement was the dark melodrama Gaslight (1944), in which a woman (Ingrid Bergman) marries a musician (a mad one, indeed) (Charles Boyer) who deliberately sets out to undermine her confidence and convince her that she is incapable of thinking for herself. Apart from the fact that Gaslight views this man as a villain, not a hero, this is a scenario not unlike that of a career woman comedy. Like Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and Lifeboat (1944), Cukor’s film bucked the tide of propagandistic wartime films that extolled the virtues of Americans and our allies—as if our enemies were simply inhuman monsters, not human beings, like us, for whom denying our own humanity, and the humanity of others, remains always a threatening possibility. Career-woman comedies share many features of comedies of remarriage but with a glaring ideological difference. In learning to embrace her nature as a woman, the “career woman” embraces domesticity and motherhood as well. For example, Woman of the Year, in many ways a wonderful film, genuinely seems to set out to humiliate its leading woman—she is Katharine Hepburn, no less—and to do this not, as in The Philadelphia Story, to open her eyes to her thirst to become more fully human, but rather to force her to conform to an essentialist view as to which forms of life are, and which are not, appropriate for a woman, as if for a woman to pursue a career is for her to repress her “true” or “real” feminine nature, to deny what “actually” makes a woman a woman. A woman’s nature is best reflected, these films assert, by embracing the life of domesticity and motherhood that “naturally” follows marriage. Comedies of remarriage revolved around the creation of the woman, the fulfillment of her quest for selfhood. In the career-woman comedies of the wartime years, the woman’s creation is aborted. Not only do the films expect this to please viewers, they insist Hats Off for George Cukor!

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that the woman herself finds happiness by repudiating her unwomanly aspirations and devoting her life solely to her husband and to the children to come. The Philadelphia Story superficially resembles such films in that it revolves around Tracy’s coming to acknowledge her sexuality, the fact that she is a flesh-and-blood woman with human desires and not a chaste goddess or a cold, unyielding statue. Tracy is softened, not tamed or broken, when she learns to stop passing judgment on others for their frailties and comes to acknowledge her own humanity and the humanity of others. The goal of all the men who lecture her (other than George Kittredge, that is) is not to make her fit for domesticity and motherhood. In the end, it is her nature as a human being that she learns to stop denying. When she turns down Mike’s proposal, she does so gently, sensitively, in a way that respects his feelings. Essentialists would think of this as evidence that she has finally embraced the “femininity” that is a woman’s “true” nature. To be sure, she does come to acknowledge that what is conventionally thought of as feminine is part of her nature. But she equally acknowledges that what is conventionally thought of as masculine is part of her nature as well, as she does when she decisively gives George the boot. Dexter, too, acknowledges that “masculinity” and “femininity,” as conventionally understood as active and passive, are equally parts of his nature. In order to keep George from punching Mike, for example, Dexter finds it necessary to punch Mike himself. But when Mike proposes to Tracy, Dexter accepts that she is the one who has to make the decision. In comedies of remarriage, men and women alike, in their quest to become more fully human, learn to take matters into their own hands when there is something it is necessary for them to say or do in order to walk in the direction of the “unattained, yet attainable self,” and to let events take their own course when that is what is called for. Postwar America was a different world from America of the 1930s. There was a massive ideological shift when Roosevelt died; when America dropped two atomic bombs on Japanese cities, ending the war and with it the Great Depression; when the doors of the death camps were opened; when America and the Soviet Union in concert rang up the Iron Curtain on the Cold War; when Americans by the millions migrated to the newly built suburbs that ringed every city; when commercial television, the engine of consumerism, superseded movies as the dominant medium of American culture; when the Hollywood studios, still under the censorship of the Production Code, capitulated to the infamous Blacklist; and when Hollywood participated in repressing America’s collective memory of its glorious cinematic history by perpetrating, even in films as brilliant as Sunset Blvd. (1950) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952), a myth about Hollywood’s past that 104

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was at once nostalgic and condescending toward prewar films, filmmakers, and viewers (see Rothman “Nobody’s”). By encouraging postwar Americans to think of themselves as incomparably more advanced, more modern, and more sophisticated than Americans were before the war, Hollywood repressed the Emersonian outlook that made the 1930s a golden age of the American cinema, inducing a cultural amnesia from which America, to this day, has not fully awakened. Cukor was one of the few Hollywood directors who never lost his Emersonian bearings. In a remarkable series of films made in collaboration with Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, husband-and-wife screenwriting partners, Cukor explored various avenues for keeping alive the worldview of 1930s Hollywood and demonstrating its relevance to a changed America, an America in which that worldview was anything but in the ascendancy. It was a great achievement of Adam’s Rib and its successor, Pat and Mike (1952), both Hepburn/Tracy vehicles written by the Kanins, that in the inhospitable atmosphere of Hollywood in the late 1940s and early 1950s they found a way to bring the career-woman comedy into alignment with the Emersonian perspective of the comedies of remarriage. As Cavell has observed, in a comedy of remarriage the action characteristically moves, at a point when the couple’s conflicts seem irreconcilable, to a place where magic is real. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this is a moonlit forest outside Athens; in romantic comedies of the 1930s, it is usually called “Connecticut.” In Adam’s Rib, when the couple pays off the mortgage on their summer home in Connecticut, making their shared dream come true, this ratifies their aspiration to make the Shakespearean “green world” an everyday part of their lives. Postwar America spawned the growth of suburbia, as if by moving to the real Connecticut Americans could fulfill the utopian aspirations of the prewar Hollywood movies that embraced the New Deal’s hopeful spirit. But suburbia was a trap, as Douglas Sirk’s melodramas were not alone in recognizing. Suburbia did not free the married couple to embrace each day and night as a shared adventure. While the man in his gray flannel suit commuted to his office in the city, his wife, tied down by a house and a yard and children, was left isolated at home, where she was easy prey to the rampant consumerism that was beginning to snowball out of control (and to this day shows no signs of slowing). That is why Cukor does not find fertile ground in the suburbs. City life is what continues to interest him.

The Hol(l)iday in Cukor’s Eye Adam’s Rib features Judy Holliday (who had made her screen debut in a supporting role in Cukor’s wartime Winged Victory [1944]), again in a supHats Off for George Cukor!

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Judy Holliday’s big scene in Adam’s Rib (George Cukor, MGM, 1949). Digital frame enlargement.

porting role. Hepburn and Cukor conspired to persuade the Kanins to add a scene for Doris Attinger, the Holliday character, so as to showcase her unique talent—“genius” is not too strong a word—as a comedienne and actress. Their intention was to compel Columbia mogul Harry Cohn, who doubted her sex appeal, to give up his opposition to allowing her to reprise, in the film version of Born Yesterday that Cukor was slated to direct, her starring role as Billie Dawn in the smash hit that had run for four years on Broadway (1,642 performances, from February 4, 1946, through December 31, 1949). In the scene they wrote, Amanda (Hepburn), the lawyer defending Doris on an attempted murder charge, interviews her client in prison. Cukor films the scene in one continuous five-minute shot favoring Holliday. There are no cutaways to close-ups or reaction shots as Amanda’s straight-forward questions elicit a remarkable stream of verbiage, at once funny and touching, that makes her lawyer, and us, take notice of just how “dumb,” but also how shrewd, this “dumb blonde” is. The rave reviews Holliday received for her performance in Adam’s Rib cinched the case with Cohn, and from this point on such a mutual admiration society developed between director and star that after she triumphed in Born Yesterday, Cukor directed her in two more remarkable films, The Marrying 106

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Kind (1952) and It Should Happen to You (1954), both written by Kanin and Gordon. Kanin had Jean Arthur in mind when he wrote Born Yesterday for the Broadway stage. When she pulled out at the last moment, Judy Holliday was cast with only four days to learn her lines. The rest is theater history. Jean Arthur herself has said that she could have played the part, but she could not have brought to it what Holliday did. That is the simple truth. Jean Arthur, no less than Judy Holliday, possessed what Cukor called the “grace of dignity.” She is glorious in all her films, but it would not seem to be in her DNA to play a “dumb blonde.” Like Holliday, she was insecure about her physical appearance but not her native intelligence. Also like Holliday, her trump card was her highly distinctive voice. But while Jean Arthur’s voice was music to the ears, Judy Holliday’s, at least in Adam’s Rib and Born Yesterday, is more like chalk on a blackboard (but chalk we hope we will never stop experiencing). When Billie Dawn tells Paul Verrall that she wants him to teach her to “talk good,” it is a poignant moment because it reveals that she is ashamed of her voice—ashamed not only for the ignorance she exposes whenever she speaks but also of the very sound of that voice. Lina Lamont, the character Jean Hagen plays in Singin’ in the Rain, speaks in a voice that sounds, at least superficially, a lot like Billie’s, but Hagen makes Lina’s voice ugly in a way that Billie’s is not. Lina’s voice exposes not only the character’s ignorance—this “dumb blonde” really is dumb—but also her meanspiritedness. A Holliday character is never mean-spirited. Nor is she ever really dumb. All she lacks is the confidence to be herself, to think for herself, to take pride in her voice. No real human being speaks in the purely stereotypical voice the talented Hagen affects in Singin’ in the Rain. It is appalling how often films of the 1950s, whatever their genres, make their one entirely mean-spirited character a woman. Such characters are all stereotypes, not believable as human beings. The key to the effectiveness of Judy Holliday’s performances in Cukor films is that her characters always speak in a fully and deeply human voice, specifically, indeed, in a recognizable New York Jewish voice—an incompletely assimilated New York Jewish voice in which Yiddish inflections can plainly be heard. In a voice sometimes squeaky, sometimes scratchy, always sing-songy, Holliday characters tend to begin their sentences at an almost hysterically high pitch and to end them by raising the pitch instead of lowering it, thereby making their every assertion also a question. These characters’ sentences also betray the Yiddish influence by their unusual word order, which reminds me of the sentences that used to be spoken by my Aunt Jenny and Uncle Sam, who, unlike my father, Sam’s much younger Hats Off for George Cukor!

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brother, were already young adults when the family left the “old country,” as we always called it. A case in point (from Adam’s Rib): “He used to not do that a lot, come home.” And this, from the same film: “I bought a gun and they gave me a book how ta.” These from Born Yesterday: “So what’s that to know?” Or, “All through history there’s been bigger men than you and better. Now, too.” And this from The Marrying Kind, where she is talking about the mumps: “And if you’re a male, it’s worse than if you’re a female. Much.” Born Judith Tuvim, Judy Holliday herself was as quintessential a Jewish New Yorker as Woody Allen. But Doris Attinger and Billie Dawn do not speak in Holliday’s “real” voice. In Cukor’s The Marrying Kind and It Should Happen to You, the voice that comes out of Holliday’s mouth is much closer to her “real” voice; in Vincente Minnelli’s Bells Are Ringing (1960), the voice is closer still. And yet, the microphone, no less than the camera, has the power to provoke human beings to reveal fictional or mythical parts of themselves, parts that can be the most real, the most human. There is a sense in which Holliday’s voice when she was playing Doris or Billie was closer to her “natural” voice than her “real” voice was. This is how she would have spoken in her everyday life had she not been trained, and trained herself, to “speak good.” To find the humanity in Doris or Billie by speaking in such a voice, it was not enough for Judy Holliday to be a New Yorker; she had to be a Jew (as Katharine Hepburn had to be a WASP to find Tracy’s humanity, in The Philadelphia Story, by speaking in the character’s voice, which was Hepburn’s own voice, as Philip Barry was well aware when he wrote the Broadway play with her in mind). Although none of Holliday’s films explicitly identify her character as Jewish, the authenticity of the character’s voice, its authentic Jewishness, was inseparable from what made this brilliant performer so funny, so touching, so human. It was a part of Judy Holliday that Cukor recognized as also a part of himself. He, too, had taught himself to “speak good.” Hepburn’s voice was no less authentic, no less quintessentially human, but it was not a part of herself he could recognize from the “inside.” (The voice of Cary Grant, an assimilated Cockney, is still another story.) Billie’s decidedly goyish love interest in Born Yesterday, Paul, wants to help her broaden her understanding of what she is capable of saying in her own voice. But he does not want her to change that voice the way Henry Higgins wants Eliza Doolittle to do in Cukor’s My Fair Lady (1964). (It must have amused Cukor no end that the pompous, self-styled arbiter of matters linguistic, Zoltan Carpathy [Theodore Bikel], finds Eliza’s English too refined for her actually to be English and comes to the conclusion that she must really be Hungarian.) George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion might seem to have been a prime inspiration for the remarriage comedies of the 1930s. 108

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At the end of Shaw’s play, and Anthony Asquith’s 1938 film starring Wendy Hiller (who is great) and Leslie Howard (who is less so), we have the sense, as we do with Noel Coward’s Private Lives, that nothing has really changed between the man and the woman. As written, the Lerner and Loewe musical My Fair Lady is much less skeptical about the couple’s relationship, but as played by Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison on the Broadway stage, their romance never seemed quite believable; she seemed far more romantic than he, hence still vulnerable to being manipulated by him. Admirers of Julie Andrews were upset that she was passed over for the film version, especially because Audrey Hepburn’s singing had to be dubbed by Marni Nixon. But Cukor’s casting Hepburn was a brilliant stroke. She is so irresistibly charming, and so unquestionably possesses the “grace of dignity,” that it is impossible to doubt that by the end of the film, when Eliza has been trained to speak in Audrey Hepburn’s delicious “real” voice, even a jaundiced Rex Harrison is head over heels in love with her. Thanks to Cukor at the helm, the film’s triumph of romance over skepticism at last brings Pygmalion firmly into the Emersonian orbit. Billie Dawn’s voice was Judy Holliday’s creation; she created it out of the stuff of her own voice. Because she was a great artist, as Cukor recognized, this creation was a profoundly human part of herself. Recognizing that the actress possessed the “grace of dignity,” Cukor was deeply interested in helping her to discover what this voice was capable of expressing, and what could perhaps only be expressed by such a voice. Cukor understood, as Judy Holliday herself did, I believe, that the voice that was her artistic creation was her own voice, the voice that became assimilated, as we might put it, when she learned to “speak good.” This means that her “real” voice, the voice in which she spoke in her everyday life, was itself a voice she created, just as Cukor had created his own. In learning how to “speak good,” her goal, like Cukor’s, was not to deny who she was, not to try to pass for what she was not. In creating her onscreen voice, which required that she “unlearn” how to “speak good,” her goal was not to hide her own acute intelligence (she had a genius-level I.Q.). It was to reveal, in the characters she was playing or incarnating, the same kind and degree of intelligence that she possessed and to reveal, as well, that they, too, were capable of walking in the direction of the “unattained, yet attainable, self.” No wonder Cukor felt a special affinity for this woman and took such pains to direct her in a way that provided a “climate,” as he liked to put it, that was supportive of her art. Directing Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight, Cukor had helped this warm and gifted actress to find the “grace of dignity” in the character she played, a woman condemned to live in a world that saw her only as a “dumb blonde.” Hats Off for George Cukor!

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After he and Judy Holliday worked their magic together, Cukor persevered with a troubled Judy Garland and helped her give the performance of her life in A Star Is Born (1954). In the aborted Something’s Got to Give, he hoped to work his magic yet again with Marilyn Monroe, as he had with so many actresses. Monroe’s problem was the opposite of Holliday’s. She doubted her own intelligence, but not her physical attractiveness. The “dumb blondes” she had played all lacked the “grace of dignity,” and if she had not, sadly, been so lost, perhaps he could have helped her achieve a “grace of dignity” of her own. After this sad experience, Cukor more than bounced back with My Fair Lady, for which he won his first Oscar—the film won eight—after having been nominated four other times. He went on to work his magic with Anouk Aimée in Justine (1969) and Maggie Smith in Travels with my Aunt (1972) before making two memorable movies for television, Love among the Ruins (1975), with transcendent performances by Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn, and The Corn Is Green (1979), his last collaboration with Hepburn, who was never more moving and luminous. Sandwiched between these was The Bluebird (1976), a U.S.-Soviet co-production that was a flop despite its all-star cast, which included Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Jane Fonda, and Cicely Tyson. Finally, there was Rich and Famous, which brings us back to where we started. Rich and Famous (1981), like almost all American movies of the 1980s, even most of the best ones, has an imperfect screenplay. It also has more than its share of witty and often eloquent dialogue that gives Cukor and his two stars, Jacqueline Bissett and Candice Bergen, a lot to work with. Every scene with these women reveals that Cukor had not lost his touch as the greatest director of actresses in the history of the American cinema. The film also features an incandescent Meg Ryan, who under Cukor’s watchful eye makes the most of a small role that was her screen debut. Cukor’s direction in this film is not good; it is great. But it is great in a way that makes his achievement seem so effortless that it is easy to fail, like most reviewers at the time, to recognize it as an achievement at all, much less a worthy swan song of a major artist.

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Notes on Sontag and “Jewish Moral Seriousness” in American Movies

Serious Jews In her widely read 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp,’ ” Susan Sontag places the camp aesthetic in direct opposition to a more elevated mode, in what seems almost like a throwaway thought: The peculiar relation between Camp taste and homosexuality has to be explained. While it’s not true that Camp taste is homosexual taste, there is no doubt a peculiar affinity and overlap. Not all liberals are Jews, but Jews have shown a peculiar affinity for liberal and reformist causes. So, not all homosexuals have Camp taste. But homosexuals, by and large, constitute the vanguard—and the most articulate audience—of Camp. (The analogy is not frivolously chosen. Jews and homosexuals are the outstanding creative minorities in contemporary urban culture. Creative, that is, in the truest sense: they are creators of sensibilities. The two pioneering forces of modern sensibility are Jewish moral seriousness and homosexual aestheticism and irony [my emphasis].) (Against Interpretation 291–92) Sontag’s main thrust in her essay is on sketching the outline of the space held by camp. She never defines the other pioneering force, “Jewish moral seriousness.” Nor does she explain her linkage of these sensibilities to Jews and gays, other than to write,

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The reason for the flourishing of the aristocratic posture among homosexuals also seems to parallel the Jewish case. For every sensibility is self-serving to the group that promotes it. Jewish liberalism is a gesture of self-legitimization. So is Camp taste, which definitely has something propagandistic about it. Needless to say, the propaganda operates in exactly the opposite direction. The Jews pinned their hopes for integrating into modern society on promoting the moral sense. Homosexuals have pinned their integration into society on promoting the aesthetic sense. Camp is a solvent of morality. It neutralizes moral indignation, sponsors playfulness [my emphasis]. (Against Interpretation 292) These quotations merit discussion. First, one spots a conflation in these passages of two different words and concepts: Jews as liberals morphs into Jewish “moral seriousness” in the first paragraph and then back again to Jewish “liberalism” in the second. Surely not all moralism is liberal, nor are all kinds of liberalism moral. However, Sontag here posits Jewish moral seriousness as liberalism. Second, “seriousness” is a strangely old-fashioned term for such a sixties radical as Sontag. It reverberates with echoes of its strongest popularizer, the Victorian poet and essayist Matthew Arnold, who toiled for many years as an inspector of schools in the belief that culture should concentrate on “high seriousness” as opposed to Philistinism. Although in other passages Sontag goes out of her way to critique Arnold’s humanism, using Arnoldian vocabulary as a touchstone turns out to be a common trope in her criticism, as literary critic James Seaton has painstakingly traced (122–25). Indeed, “seriousness” becomes Sontag’s lodestone. Craig Seligman notes, “In 1988 Sontag told an interviewer, ‘Sometimes I feel that, in the end, all I am really defending—but then I say all is everything—is the idea of seriousness, of true seriousness.’ She has no higher term of praise” (5). Ultimately Sontag turned against the frivolity of camp—even in 1964 she revealed, “I am strongly drawn to Camp, and almost as strongly offended by it.” She skewered the class ties of camp: “The relation between boredom and Camp taste cannot be overestimated. Camp taste is by its nature possible only in affluent societies, in societies or circles capable of experiencing the psychopathology of affluence” (Against Interpretation 291). (Years later she even vehemently repudiated this essay on camp [Castle].) Seriousness became her highest criterion. But if seriousness has a long history as a term of approbation in arts and culture, the intriguing aspect of Sontag’s oracular pronouncement in 1964 112

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comes from ascribing modern seriousness—primarily? exclusively?—to Jews. After all, Matthew Arnold was a devout Christian; his literary criticism was firmly ensconced in a Christian context. Although Sontag traced her heritage to Polish Jewry, according to her, her family had been entirely secular for three generations (Sontag, Stress 308). Even the extent to which her Jewish background was part of her self-identity is unclear: on one hand, Susan Sontag once defined herself to a friend as first a Jew, second a writer, and third an American (Rollyson and Paddock 161). (Jewishness seems to always have been on her mind, even to the point of comparing the North Vietnamese martyrdom to that of the Jews, after her controversial trip to Hanoi in 1968 [Sontag, Styles 247].) Yet, according to another friend, she knew almost nothing and showed no interest in Jewishness or Judaism (Rollyson and Paddock 194). Pausing over this same puzzling passage from “Notes on ‘Camp,’ ” Seaton argues that Sontag must not have truly meant to ascribe moral seriousness to Jews; in a plethora of other writings she cites with admiration the seriousness of many non-Jewish artists and philosophers (Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Paul Sartre, etc.). Seaton sensibly concludes that “the attempt to pair off Jews against Gentiles quickly becomes unrewarding” (126), and he moves on. But I’d like to keep the topic open—at least for a few pages. For Sontag was a painstaking, careful writer, and while she wrote in aphorisms, nothing in her essays is off the cuff. “Notes on ‘Camp’ ” rocketed her to stardom because she put her finger so unerringly on a pioneering modern sensibility and dared to discuss out loud its association with homosexuality. To claim that modern liberal, moral seriousness is the exclusive domain of one religious/ethnic heritage is absurd, but drawing a particular association between Jews and this post-Victorian sensibility may be plausible. After all, Sontag herself points to the “immense moral seriousness” of such landmark figures as Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud (Sontag, Against 256).1 And without question, Jews have played striking leadership roles in twentieth-century American liberalism. The historian Marc Dollinger replicates Sontag’s claim that this embrace of liberalism served Jewish interests: a liberal pluralistic society is one that would accept, acculturate, and protect the waves of Jewish immigrants that swept into the United States as refugees. Aside from the self-interest of Jewish immigrants, the adoption of liberalism by many Jews is related to demographics: Jews settled in urban centers, which are more liberal than other parts of the country; they worked their way up into the educated classes, which also skew liberal. Many of the leaders in the liberal causes that have swept twentiethcentury society have been of Jewish heritage if not religiously observant. Notes on Sontag

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(Religiously observant Jews are more likely to identify with conservatism.) One only has to look at American history to note influential figures such as the Supreme Court justices Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, the social-activist Emma Goldman, or Benjamin V. Cohen, “called the architect of the New Deal.” The left-wing playwrights Elmer Rice, Sidney Kingsley, Clifford Odets, and Arthur Miller dramatized social injustice. Jewish activists helped found the ACLU and Jews have remained prominent in its leadership and membership rolls. Jewish liberals were involved in the creation of the NAACP; indeed, Jewish organizations were central to the civil rights struggles of the 1950s. (“About 50 percent of the civil right attorneys in the South during the 1960s were Jews, as were over 50 percent of the Whites who went to Mississippi in 1964 to challenge Jim Crow Laws” [“From Swastika to Jim Crow”].) Later movements for equal treatment, such as women’s rights, were spearheaded by Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem; gay rights pioneers included Harvey Milk and Larry Kramer. Philosophers, scholars, and writers such as Arthur Koestler, Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, Studs Terkel, Noam Chomsky, Victor Navasky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Peter Singer, and Martha Nussbaum have influenced debates on moral issues, from the causes of evil to the ethics of “naming names” before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and from the exploitation of the working class to the rights of animals. If all I wanted to say is that Sontag’s claim in “Notes on ‘Camp’ ” about the pioneering force of Jewish moral seriousness has a ring of plausibility to it, I could stop here. However, the reason I was initially attracted to that phrase is that I’ve long been interested in a tradition of liberal, moral seriousness in American film, a tradition that—while hardly the exclusive provenance of Jews—owes a great deal to Jewish filmmakers (Desser and Friedman 14–16).2 Although nearly all academic study of cinema stresses that Hollywood movies impart conservative messages to their viewers, I believe that this tradition of filmmaking has had a deep—and underappreciated—influence on American society in terms of mobilizing public sentiments toward inclusiveness, empathy, tolerance, and civil rights. Accordingly, I am captivated by the high value that Sontag assigns to this sensibility: although we all believe that we live in a culture saturated with postmodern irony, she judges Jewish moral seriousness as an equivalent, creative, pioneering force!

Serious Film The origins of film are thought to lie in the wish for sensory novelty and amusement. Yet in Behind the Mask of Innocence, Kevin Brownlow shows 114

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Gregory Peck’s confrontation with an anti-Semitic hotelier in Gentleman’s Agreement (Elia Kazan, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1947). Digital frame enlargement.

how quickly narrative films took on social issues and how deeply imbricated the silent era was with the progressive politics of the decades after the turn of the nineteenth century. Films about birth control, labor abuses, women’s suffrage, poverty, and unequal justice—many produced by independent companies—dramatized these subjects for the mass audiences of the early movie theaters.3 However, those early silent films were not necessarily created by Jews. Some of the turn-of-the-century reformers, such as the path-breaking female director Lois Weber, came from an evangelical Protestant tradition. The early sound era, which coincided with the depths of the Depression, clearly saw the creation of a biting string of social commentaries by Jewish filmmakers employed by the well-established Jewish-owned studios. Lewis Milestone made All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) for Universal. Street Scene (1931), a study of anti-Semitism, directed by the non-Jewish King Vidor, had a script by Elmer Rice and was produced by Samuel Goldwyn; I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) was directed by Mervyn Le Roy for Warner Bros. Dead End (1937), a stirring tale of class inequities, was directed by William Wyler from a script by Lillian Hellman and also produced by Goldwyn. Notes on Sontag

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The postwar social problem films that tackled racism and antiSemitism were heavily inflected by Jewish liberal moral seriousness (even if Twentieth Century–Fox’s Darryl Zanuck, the one non-Jewish studio head, produced many of the most famous examples). No Way Out (1950), a story about racism against a black doctor, was written and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz. Abraham Polonsky co-wrote and directed Force of Evil (1948), an indictment of capitalism, before he was blacklisted. At Columbia in 1949, All the King’s Men, a study of political corruption, was written and directed by Robert Rossen. Elia Kazan, who is sometimes thought to be Jewish but actually emigrated from Greece, where he grew up in a Greek Orthodox family, made A Face in the Crowd (1957) from a script by Budd Schulberg. The fifties and sixties were the years when Stanley Kramer came to prominence: he produced Home of the Brave (1949), another film about race, and High Noon (1952), which famously took on cowardice against McCarthyism. Then he turned director with The Defiant Ones (1958), starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis as prisoners shackled together. On the Beach (1959) dramatizes the coming of nuclear war; Inherit the Wind (1960) replays the Scopes trial; Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) examines Nazi culpability. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)—though laughable now—was progressive in its day in presenting the engagement of a white woman and a black man. Martin Ritt, another Jewish liberal filmmaker, didn’t share Kramer’s epic aspirations. His films, such as The Molly Maguires (1970), Sounder (1972), and Norma Rae (1979), were lower-budget, more realistic productions about the tribulations of ordinary people on the low end of the economic scale. Sidney Lumet epitomizes liberal moral seriousness. From his first film, 12 Angry Men (1957), onward he concentrated on themes of social justice. After returning to television, where he notably directed All the King’s Men (1958) and The Sacco-Vanzetti Story (1960), he circled back to the big screen with Long Day’s Journey into Night (1962), The Pawnbroker (1964), and Fail-Safe (1964). Later works include his great trilogy of exposés of police corruption in New York: Serpico (1973), Prince of the City (1981), and Night Falls on Manhattan (1996). Network (1976) and Power (1986) analyze the control of the media. Lumet takes a searching look at the Old Left in a film about the Rosenberg case, Daniel (1983), and studies the compromises of the New Left in Running on Empty (1998). In these films and others, Lumet probes beneath society’s facile divisions of good and evil, uncovering more and more ambiguities and compromise in shades of gray. As the reviewer David Denby once noted, “Corruption has indeed become 116

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Treat Williams as the honorable cop in Sidney Lumet’s masterly exposé of police corruption, Prince of the City (Orion, 1981). Digital frame enlargement.

Lumet’s great subject. In a modern corporate state, good and evil may not be clear and many people wander around in a fog of compromise, torn between ambition and guilt” (64). Yet Lumet treats the corrupt and suffering protagonists without judging them, without looking down on them out of superiority, a directorial posture that was explicit and even controversial with his Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007). Younger directors have intermittently concentrated on serious, liberal subject matter. Mike Nichols, who started his career as a comic (in a celebrated duo act with Elaine May), turned deadly earnest for Silkwood in 1983 and Angels in America in 2003. Steven Spielberg alternates between fluffy crowd-pleasers like Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and grave projects such as The Color Purple (1985), Empire of the Sun (1987), and Schindler’s List (1993). Michael Mann, who gave us the epitome of empty style by producing the television series “Miami Vice” (1984), also wrote and directed the layered and subtle 1999 exposé of both Big Tobacco and television journalism, The Insider (1999). Kimberly Peirce’s Boys Don’t Cry (1999) and Vadim Perelman’s House of Sand and Fog (2003) are good examples of smaller-budget serious films that sometimes sneak through the Hollywood juggernaut. Documentary films also lie outside the orbit of Hollywood block­busters, treating important social subjects from a liberal perspective. Classic documentarians, such as Ralph Steiner, Leo Hurwitz, and David Maysles, were all of Jewish heritage, as are Albert Maysles and Frederick Wiseman. More Notes on Sontag

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contemporary examples include Barbara Kopple, director of the awardwinning Harlan County, USA (1976), Robert Greenwald, who made Outfoxed (2004), and Davis Guggenheim, director of An Inconvenient Truth (2006), the documentary that raised awareness of global warming and may or may not save the planet. Jewish professionals are highly represented in this tradition of solemn filmmaking, partly because Jews have been so dominant in American filmmaking in general. But of course not all films that treat liberal moral themes seriously were made by Jewish directors, writers, or producers. We can hardly overlook such important works as Robert Mulligan’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), John Sayles’s body of work, Gregory Nava’s El Norte (1983), Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989), or Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia (1993). Playing “here’s a Jew, there’s a Jew” is an admittedly limited approach to the history of cinematic liberalism, but the links are still intriguing.

Serious Critics To return to Susan Sontag, for all her high esteem for liberal-moral seriousness (Jewish or gentile) as a pioneering force, and for all her inveterate cinephilia, Sontag never has a kind word to say about this tradition of filmmaking. Instead, she rhapsodizes over the 1960s and 1970s school of European art cinema: Bresson, Godard, Antonioni, Resnais, and Bergman. In a 1996 essay in the New York Times, she has nothing but contempt for the “commercial standards of the sound era” and the “hyperindustrialized films” of contemporary cinema. Why would Sontag—or any serious critical thinker—dismiss this strand of filmmaking entirely? Mostly, one gathers, because of the dictates of her modernist aesthetics (O’Brien). In “Against Interpretation,” the title essay of the anthology in which “Notes on ‘Camp’ ” appears, Sontag belittles the very idea of content in art.4 “Whatever it may have been in the past, the idea of content is today mainly a hindrance, a nuisance, a subtle or not so subtle philistinism,” she writes (15). She doesn’t want artistic texts to be plumbed for symbolism or subtexts but simply to be experienced: she demands “an erotics of art” (23). Writing years before the development of technologies that aid film study, Sontag sees the cinema as an exemplary modern art because in its speed and immediacy it resists analysis. “In good films, there is always a directness that entirely frees us from the itch to interpret” (21). In another essay in the same volume, “On Style,” she claims that “a work of art, so far as it is a work of art, cannot—whatever the artist’s personal intentions—advocate anything at all. The greatest artists attain a sublime neutrality” (35). 118

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The devaluation of content and hyper-appreciation of style became one of the central tenets of the auteur theory, and thus widely influential in all of film studies. As Peter Wollen writes in his classic text Signs and Meaning in the Cinema, the screenplay is just a “catalyst” or “pretext” for the auteur’s conscious or subconscious motifs (113). La politique des auteurs had as one of its aims the dethroning of filmmakers who concentrated on adaptations of classics or other “reputable” material in favor of directors who produced genre films—the pulpier the better. Moreover, like many critics, Sontag is quick to judge films that try to discuss moral issues as offensively deficient. In “Notes on ‘Camp,’ ” in fact, she explains that many serious works are so faulty that they become camp. “In naïve, or pure, Camp, the essential element is seriousness,” she proclaims, “a seriousness that fails.” To attempt a serious subject matter and to disappoint—to come up short in one way or another—leaves the film and film artists open to disdain and laughter (285). Many serious films cannot even be redeemed as camp love objects. Sontag continues, “The reason a movie like On the Beach (1959), books like Winesburg, Ohio and For Whom the Bell Tolls are bad to the point of being laughable, but not bad to the point of being enjoyable is that they are too dogged and pretentious.” Sontag is hardly alone in her scorn for the dogged and pretentious. A common conception maintains that American film at its best and in its true nature is breezy, irreverent, iconoclastic, and unassuming. Indeed, most of the “serious” films I list above have been dismissed by leftist critics as ponderous, pretentious failures. Andrew Sarris famously created a section in his bible of American auteurism, The American Cinema, Directors and Directions, titled “Strained Seriousness” (seven categories down from the Pantheon directors), into which he slotted “talented but uneven directors with the mortal sin of pretentiousness” (189). Here he places such considerably accomplished filmmakers as John Frankenheimer, Stanley Kubrick, Sidney Lumet, and Robert Rossen. Even more avid on the truffle hunt for “pretentiousness” is Pauline Kael. In “Trash, Art and the Movies,” she connects the love of movies with all that is anti-serious and anti-moralistic: “At the movies we get low life and high life. . . . Perhaps the single most intense pleasure of movie going is this non-aesthetic one of escaping from the responsibilities of having the proper responses required of us in our official (school) culture” (For Keeps 209, 211). Kael waged a life-long battle against moralistic films, particularly those from the left, which she sees as sanctimonious, self-satisfied, and astoundingly hypocritical. Her excoriation of Stanley Kramer in the compendium Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (1968) is so devastating that critical consensus has dismissed him completely (203–14). (I’m not even going to try to defend On the Beach from Sontag and Kael— Notes on Sontag

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as a movie it is indefensible—but an interesting study recently proved that it had a demonstrable effect in raising consciousness about the threat of nuclear war [see Poe].)5 A movie that dares to approach liberal, moral themes will face high standards from critics and scholars. The deep-seated aversion among the literati to anything that smacks of moral preaching (or—as with the archetype of American individualism, Huck Finn—Sunday School, schoolmarmish correction) will bring out the whetted knives aimed at any flaw in accuracy, any lapse in sensitivity, any ahistorical standard, and especially any concession to commercial appeal. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) and Pinky (1949) (both by Elia Kazan) opened up conversations about antiSemitism and racism in America—at a time when such prejudices were so virulent that “Zanuck’s office received some five hundred hate letters about Pinky”—but Nora Sayre turns these movies into objects of derision for their compromises and evasions (36–44). In the hindsight of decades of change in the social fabric, Gentleman’s Agreement and Pinky do indeed seem timid, but I’m not sure it is fair to stomp on them for not being prescient concerning the cultural change that they may have helped bring about. As for Steven Spielberg and Schindler’s List, critics have not stopped pummeling him for the film’s apparent shortcomings. Films that disavow any connection to reality or serious issues are more likely to win critical approbation from the left. Jaws (1975) delighted critics—Pauline Kael said it “may be the most cheerfully perverse scare movie ever made” (For Keeps 691). The more irreverent and inconsequential, the more it seems hip and daring and immune to criticism. Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Todd Solondz have won fans with their refusal ever to be serious, ever to put themselves on the line about moral issues. As they push the bounds of violence, obscenity, or perversion further and further, they take camp irony to the nth degree. Sontag herself devotes an essay in Against Interpretation to singing the praises of Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures (1963), a forty-four-minute short featuring transvestism, onscreen sex, and gang rape. Perhaps she was drawn to write about the film because it faced censorship. But she doesn’t make the argument that the film advances sexual freedom. Instead she claims: “There are no ideas, no symbols, no commentary on or critique of anything in Flaming Creatures. Smith’s film is strictly a treat for the senses” (Against Interpretation 231–32). I find it hard to square Sontag, the president of the writers’ association, P.E.N., who fought hard to protect authors and their rights of free speech, and the advocate of American intervention in Bosnia who spent months in war-torn Sarajevo directing Waiting for Godot with such a thoroughgoing 120

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disregard for content. And indeed, later in her career, she rethought some of her critical positions. Whereas in “On Style” she gave the Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl a pass concerning her subject matter to praise her aesthetics, in “Fascinating Fascism,” an essay from 1975, she rethinks her divorce of content and style. Mark Oppenheimer, writing a review of a posthumous collection of her essays and speeches in The Forward, entitled it: “Susan Sontag: Juggler of the Moral and the Aesthetic,” which pretty much sums up the conundrum.

Serious Viewers To further complicate the issues, we should look at another essay written in 1965, the year after the essay on camp. In “The Imagination of Disaster,” Sontag provides a brilliant sketch of the fifties and sixties science fiction film. She breaks this genre down into common plot moves and elements of mise-en-scène, such as “The arrival of the thing,” “Reports of further destruction. Authorities from other countries arrive in black limousines.” She talks about the use of color, the spectacle, the vicarious thrill the audience gets from all the scenes of destruction, and the connections with the horror genre. Her writing is all terrifically smart and terrifically funny, especially when she quotes the films’ dialogue: “Come quickly, there’s a monster in my bathtub.” “We must do something about this.” “Wait Professor. There’s someone on the telephone.” These movies are delightfully silly; they practically cry out for a camp appreciation. However, at the end of “The Imagination of Disaster,” Sontag surprises the reader by turning deadly serious. She sees these light, harmless, escapist films as “in complicity with the abhorrent” because of the way they toy with fantasies of nuclear destruction. She sees these films as questionable “from a moral point of view” because they “perpetuate clichés about identity, volition, power, knowledge, happiness, social consensus, guilt, responsibility which are, to say the least, not serviceable in our present extremity” (Against Interpretation 227–28). What Sontag provides is a serious, liberal, and overtly moral interpretation of a cycle of films. Pauline Kael, who loved the energy and eroticism of cinema so much that she gave all her anthologies sexual titles, also frequently stops her readers in their tracks by staking strong moral positions. Take her peerless review of A Clockwork Orange (1971) in which she wrote: I can’t accept that Kubrick is merely reflecting this post-assassination, post-Manson mood. I think he’s catering to it. . . . When I pass a newsstand and see the saintly, bearded, intellectual Kubrick on the cover Notes on Sontag

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The scene in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (Warner Bros., 1971) that Pauline Kael slams. Digital frame enlargement.

of Saturday Review, I wonder: Do people notice things like the way Kubrick cuts to the rival teen-age gang before Alex and his hoods arrive to fight them, just so we can have the pleasure of watching that gang strip the struggling girl they mean to rape? . . . At the movies, we are gradually being conditioned to accept violence as a sensual pleasure. . . . How can people go on talking about the dazzling brilliance of movies and not notice that the directors are sucking up to the thugs in the audience? (For Keeps 416–18) What Kael and Sontag have thus exemplified is that whether or not the artwork exudes moral seriousness, the viewer has a responsibility to take the work seriously, that is, to weight it with all one’s moral faculties. We don’t want to be “the thugs in the audience”; we want to be like Kael and Sontag, judging 1950s’ science fiction or Kubrick by exacting, ethical standards. But let’s remember, as James Seaton has pointed out, that Sontag’s label for old-fashioned or inept cultural figures or interpreters is also a term she has borrowed from Matthew Arnold: “philistines” (122–23). Nowadays, of course, “philistine” refers to unenlightened people without taste or education, but the word comes from the enemies of the Jews, whom the Israelites 122

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fought in the twelfth and eleventh centuries b.c. (If you recall your Bible stories, Goliath was a Philistine, and Samson brought their temple down on his Philistine persecutors.) Thus, the people who do not understand the ramifications of art are Philistines, that is, non-Jews, even foes of Jews. “Jewish” moral seriousness ultimately turns out to be a training of the mind that allows one to see ideological ramifications. If it is to be the pioneering force of modern times—and especially if it is to be a force that can compete with camp’s seductive amorality—this type of seriousness cannot be the exclusive domain of cult figures such as Sontag or Kael, or of any one ethnic or religious group.

Notes 1. I am indebted to James Seaton for this reference. 2. Desser and Friedman argue that one of the major hallmarks of Jewish filmmakers is a commitment to social justice. 3. Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film, 1900–1934, curated by Scott Simmon for National Film Preservation Foundation (Chatsworth, Calif.: Image Entertainment, 2007), presents a wonderful collection of these forgotten films. 4. One of the most interesting rebuttals to Sontag’s argument is Andrew Britton’s essay, “For Interpretation: Notes Against Camp,” in Britton on Film. 5. Murray Pomerance takes the use of sound in On the Beach very seriously in The Horse Who Drank the Sky, 110–15.

Notes on Sontag

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Peter Krämer

The Good German? Oskar Schindler and the Movies, 1951–1993

The worldwide success of Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List in 1993 and 1994 turned its protagonist, Oskar Schindler, into a curious kind of household name. The name “Schindler” not only came to represent this one individual, a Nazi party member and war profiteer who had rescued over a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust, but could be applied to other rescuers of Jews as well, especially if they were, like Schindler, highly unlikely and largely forgotten heroes. For example, when the Los Angeles Times reported in March 1994 that Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Lithuania in 1940, had defied his government’s orders and issued transit visas that saved the lives of several thousand Jews, the article was entitled “Japan’s Schindler” (Watanabe 243). More recently, headlines of articles in the British press about Sir Nicholas Winton, a former stockbroker who in 1939 moved 700 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia to Britain, proudly announced: “Czechs nominate ‘Britain’s Schindler’ for Nobel Prize” (De Quetteville 21; see also Craig 24). In addition to making Oskar Schindler the archetype of the unlikely and forgotten rescuer of Jews, Schindler’s List also left its imprint on how the actual person is remembered. An intriguing example can be found at the Holocaust memorial in Berlin. When I visited the adjacent museum in April 2007, I noticed that Schindler’s first name was here spelled with a “c” rather than a “k” (as it should be), thus making him the exact namesake of the statuettes given out at the Academy Awards, of which Schindler’s List won seven (Fensch 262). In addition to winning those Academy Awards and numerous other prizes, Schindler’s List was a surprise hit at the box office. With a gross 125

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Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) presents himself, in Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, Universal, 1993). Digital frame enlargement.

of $96 million it was the ninth biggest hit of 1993 in the United States (box­officemojo.com). Yet what is even more astonishing is that, outside the United States, of all the films released in 1993 only one had a bigger gross than the $225 million of Schindler’s List, and that was another Steven Spielberg film—Jurassic Park (IMDb.com). A disproportionate share of Schindler’s List’s foreign revenues came from Germany. Here, not only did the film become the third biggest hit of 1994 but, with over six million cinema tickets sold, it was also one of the fifteen most successful films in the first decade of the reunified country (Krämer, “Hollywood” 180–81). In many ways, the success of Schindler’s List, in the United States, Germany, and the rest of the world, was unprecedented for the kind of story that it tells—a story of personal transformation set against the epic backdrop of the Nazis’ destruction of European Jewry; and a story of just over a thousand Jews being saved set against the backdrop of millions being murdered. If one looks for earlier, similarly successful, Holocaust stories, only two come to mind. The first is the 1978 American television miniseries Holocaust—The Story of the Family Weiss, which told the contrasting stories of two fictional German families—one Jewish, the other Christian—by placing them in many of the most important actual places and embedding them in events associated with the Holocaust (Baron 51–55). Indeed, reviews of Schindler’s List, both in the United States and in Germany, often 126

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referenced the extraordinary impact that Holocaust had previously made (see, for example, Hoberman; Kilb). The second, more distant precursor is The Diary of Anne Frank, first published as a book in Dutch in 1947, subsequently translated into many languages, and then adapted into a Broadway play in 1955 and a Hollywood movie in 1959, which in turn helped with the international success of this story of the maturation of a German-born Jewish girl in Amsterdam, set against the backdrop of the persecution of Jews in which she eventually perished (see Sagan; Kushner). It is well known that, in publishing and publicizing Anne Frank’s story from the late 1940s onward, her father, Otto Frank, edited her diary and also worked closely—and controversially—with American playwrights and screenwriters, debating the meaning and impact that he wanted The Diary of Anne Frank to have (see Graver). By contrast, the involvement, also from the late 1940s onward, of Oskar Schindler and of the Jews he saved (who called themselves “Schindler Jews”) with American writers and filmmakers interested in telling Schindler’s story is a little-known and fascinating aspect of the long pre-history of Schindler’s List. I here explore key aspects of this pre-history, in particular a number of earlier attempts to turn Schindler’s life into a movie, starting in 1951, when Schindler, then a totally unknown German from the Czech lands living in Argentina, corresponded with people in Hollywood about a possible biopic. From that time on, plans for a Schindler film were being developed on an almost continuous basis, first in the United States across the 1950s and 1960s, then in Germany from the 1970s to the early 1990s, with the German project largely running parallel to Spielberg’s Schindler project that began in the early 1980s. I discuss these Schindler film projects with reference to trends in Holocaust filmmaking in the United States and around the world, and with reference to the meanings attached to Schindler’s story by the people who aimed to make it public. As it turns out, the driving force behind most attempts to publicize Schindler’s story, attempts that started soon after the war had ended, were Jewish individuals and Jewish organizations, who wanted not only to honor this particular individual but also to hold him up to others as an example of righteous behavior. Schindler’s good deeds could be understood as an implicit or explicit accusation of all those who witnessed the Holocaust but did not intervene to help its victims. In this view, Schindler’s story proved that it had indeed been possible to help, thus undermining the standard excuse that nothing could be done. While Schindler’s story was initially closely tied to the specific historical circumstances of the Holocaust in this accusatory interpretation, over the decades its frame of reference broadened, so that it could also serve more generally as a condemnation of Oskar Schindler and the Movies

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people and governments passively standing by in the face of all manner of contemporary atrocities.

Oskar Schindler and Fritz Lang On the basis of reports by several Polish Jews who had been saved by Schindler, in September 1945 the New York headquarters of the American Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish organization active in postwar Europe, prepared a letter of recommendation for Schindler, who had lost all his possessions and wealth when he left his factory in Czechoslovakia at the end of the war. The letter was intended to help Schindler with his professional endeavors in postwar Germany. It stated: “[Schindler] was able to prevent the transportation of Jews to Concentration Camps by giving them employment in his Factory in Cracow. Although this may seem incredible Mr. Schindler has documents which prove that it is true” (Rice). Two and a half years later, the destitute Schindler received care packages from Kurt Grossmann, a German Jew who had emigrated to the United States in the 1930s and was now working for the World Jewish Congress in New York. In his accompanying letter, Grossmann wrote: “This is merely a small expression of gratitude for your humane behavior during the terrible Hitler years” (Grossmann to Schindler, May 3, 1948). Schindler Jews had alerted Grossmann to Schindler’s deeds, as had also been the case with the American Joint Distribution Committee (Grossmann to Schindler, September 4, 1956; Crowe 514). Grossmann, who would write an important book about rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust a few years later, was obviously already inspired by Schindler’s story in 1948. In his letter he asked, “Have you written down the story of how you saved the Jews? I would appreciate it if you could send me a copy” (Grossmann to Schindler, May 3, 1948). The first attempt to publish Schindler’s story was made the following year by the young Jewish Canadian journalist Herbert Steinhouse. In an article entitled “The Man Who Saved a Thousand Lives,” Steinhouse acknowledged that Schindler’s story was both hard to believe and potentially offensive. He wrote: “Can there be such a person as ‘the Good German’? Jews the world over, in bitterness and in anger, today might well howl down the suggestion,” because they knew all too well that “the prayed-for salvation of an uprising of bystanding ‘decent’ Germans that would overthrow the criminal madmen [of Nazi Germany] never did come” (Steinhouse 21). Yet, as Steinhouse pointed out, the Jews Schindler had rescued were the ones who wanted most to talk about “the deeds and character of the one exception who seems to prove the rule” (22, 30). For these Jews, Schindler’s 128

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story, rather than in any way exonerating the Germans, helped precisely to highlight their guilt. This, according to Steinhouse, was also one of Schindler’s main concerns, as articulated in a speech he gave at a reunion with Schindler Jews early in 1949: “Germans today seem to share a collective innocence . . . not the collective guilt they should” (30). Despite this clarification of the meaning of Schindler’s story, Steinhouse was unable to publish his celebration of this wholly unrepresentative “good German,” probably for the very reason that he himself had identified: the story was simply unbelievable. Two years later the first attempt to turn Schindler’s life into a movie also came to nothing. In July 1951, trying to make a new start in Argentina after he had failed to do so in Germany, Schindler wrote to Fritz Lang, one of the leading directors of Weimar cinema before emigrating to the United States, who was now interested in making a film about Schindler’s life (Schindler to Latte, May 6, 1951). For Schindler, the most important audience for such a film would be Germans, and its main purpose would be to “rouse the conscience of those who gradually begin to believe in their collective innocence,” by showing that “it was possible, despite the uniform, to remain human, even in a dictatorship” (Schindler, Ich 39).1 Schindler’s contact with Lang had been established by one of the Schindler Jews, Leopold “Poldek” Pfefferberg, who acted as his representative in dealings with American media (Schindler to Latte, May 6, 1951; see as well Crowe 511–12, 543, and Keller, “Schindler” 68). As a number of commentators, including Schindler’s recent biographer David Crowe, have pointed out, Pfefferberg has been the single most important driving force behind the efforts to publicize Oskar Schindler’s story across the decades. Having moved to the United States after the war, Pfefferberg anglicized his last name to Page and in 1950 settled down in Beverly Hills, where he ran a small leather repair shop. The shop became, in Crowe’s words, “his Schindler pulpit,” and he never tired of telling his customers, who included many people associated with Hollywood, about Oskar Schindler (Crowe 512). It was Leopold Page who in 1951 first attracted Fritz Lang’s attention to Schindler’s story by relating it to Lily Latte, Lang’s companion and future wife, who wrote to Schindler later that year about Lang’s interest in his life (Schindler to Latte, May 6, 1951; Crowe 512–13). In Crowe’s estimation, Lang’s interest in the story derived from its Jewish dimension. While Lang regarded himself as a Catholic, he was, in fact, halfJewish, and he surrounded himself with Jews, including Lily Latte and the majority of the people with whom he worked closely in Hollywood (Crowe 514). To some extent, this merely reflected the social composition of the Hollywood elite, which largely consisted of Jewish immigrants from eastern and Oskar Schindler and the Movies

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central Europe and the descendants of such immigrants (Gabler; see also Powers, Rothman, and Rothman 79). It could be expected that the Jews of Hollywood would show a particular interest in the Holocaust, in which many of them had lost relatives, and that they would translate their interest into the production of films. Indeed, Lawrence Baron’s comprehensive study of Holocaust-related films shows that throughout the second half of the 1940s and the 1950s, Hollywood produced on average three such films per year, far more than were produced in any other country in the world (Baron 25). At the same time, it is worth noting that, like Fritz Lang, many of the Jews in Hollywood were recent immigrants or political refugees from Austria and Germany, where they had largely assimilated themselves. Indeed, Oskar Schindler was particularly enthusiastic about Lang as a director for the projected film about his life because of his very Germanness. He wrote to Lang: “As a master of the German mentality, you have a great advantage over other filmmakers in the United States for a film such as this one” (Schindler, Ich 40). Schindler also shared with Lang a concern about ongoing anti-Semitism in postwar Germany. Indeed, for Schindler, the welldisguised “anti-semitic attitude” of “certain German circles” in 1951 was “less controllable and more dangerous than before 1938” (25). Although Schindler had left Germany for Argentina in 1949, his perception of high levels of German anti-Semitism in the early 1950s was correct, as demonstrated by opinion polls. When asked about their “attitude towards the Jews,” 23 percent of respondents in a 1949 West German poll gave anti-Semitic replies and 15 percent gave “guarded replies”; by 1952 these figures had risen to 34 and 18 percent, respectively (Noelle and Neumann 186). When asked about the cause of anti-Semitism, 53 percent of respondents in the 1949 poll pointed to the “characteristics of Jewish ethnic groups”; that is, anti-Semitism was the Jews’ own fault (186). In response to the question of whether “it would be better for Germany not to have any Jews in the country,” in 1952 only 20 percent said it would not be better, while 37 percent said it would (189). Against this backdrop, it is understandable that Schindler saw the planned film as an opportunity to “rouse the conscience” of postwar Germany. Yet he was fully aware that his story could also be interpreted very differently, if his deeds were presented “as the general norm” rather than as the exception, which would then help to “cement the loudly proclaimed collective innocence” of Germans (Schindler, Ich 52). In fact, Schindler was so concerned about Hollywood’s adaptation of his story that in his letters to Latte and Lang he insisted on the truthfulness of the planned film, that it rely both on facts and on a proper understanding of these facts, which, he thought, required his “personal co-operation” with the director (Schindler to Latte, May 6, 1951). 130

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To kick off this cooperation, Schindler provided Lang with a detailed written account of his life in the 1930s and 1940s. This account highlighted a number of highly problematic aspects of his background, his outlook, and his past actions, which would make it difficult to turn his life into an acceptable movie. At the beginning of his account, Schindler wrote: “First of all I want to declare that I am not an ‘Altreichs-Deutscher’ [a German from the Old Reich], but a ‘Sudetendeutscher’ [a German from what was then Czechoslovakia]  .  .  . and today I belong to the vast army of ‘Heimatvertriebene’ ” (Germans expelled from eastern Europe after the war) (Schindler, Ich 26). Indeed, throughout the letter, Schindler equated the suffering of German expellees after the war with that of European Jewry during the war, and suggested that the proposed film should deal with these “two great catastrophes of our generation,” going so far as to propose Sudetia as a possible film title (26, 39–40). While the emphasis on the suffering of non-Jewish Germans was a dominant discourse in postwar Germany, according to Robert Moeller, it is easy to see that in the American context Schindler’s vision for his biopic was highly problematic (Moeller; see also Niven Germans). What is more, Schindler’s account revealed that he had been a member of the Nazi Party, had worked as an agent for the German military’s counterintelligence branch (the Abwehr) both in Czechoslovakia and in Poland, and had supported the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and the German annexation of large parts of the country in 1938–39. Such facts made Schindler a very unpalatable hero indeed—a spy who betrayed his country to Nazi Germany—and so it is perhaps not surprising that, given Schindler’s insistence on the truthfulness of the planned film, the project never got beyond the initial stages. It should also be noted that the project simply did not fit into Hollywood’s production patterns at the time. Hollywood’s output of Holocaust-related films—thirteen in the second half of the 1940s and another thirty-three in the 1950s—tended to focus on the Holocaust’s aftermath rather than on the wartime developments that the Schindler biopic would have covered (Baron 27, 39). It would seem, then, that Hollywood was not yet ready for a film about Schindler, just as Schindler—with his insistence on truthfulness, including unpalatable truths about himself, his emphasis on the Sudeten German dimension of his story, and his specific concern about the prospective German audiences for his biopic—was not yet ready for Hollywood.

MGM’s Sixties Blockbuster Biopic By the 1960s, both Hollywood and Schindler had changed. From the late 1950s onward, Hollywood’s steady output of Holocaust-related films Oskar Schindler and the Movies

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“Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” Schindler leaves his factory in Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, Universal, 1993). Digital frame enlargement.

achieved an ever higher profile through the adaptation of best-selling books, the deployment of bigger budgets and all-star casts, and boxoffice success and/or critical recognition. High-profile releases from this period included The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Exodus (1960), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), The Pawnbroker (1964), and Ship of Fools (1965). It is also worth pointing out that Hollywood operated in an increasingly integrated global film market that saw the circulation of dramatically more Holocaust-related films from other countries, increasing from forty-three in the 1950s to 102 in the 1960s (Baron 25). Furthermore, according to Baron’s analysis, within the worldwide output of Holocaust-related films in the 1960s, the third most common genre was the biopic and the most common theme was rescue (66, 202). The time was right, then, for a big-budget Hollywood film about a rescuer of Jews. Oskar Schindler had finally gained some public recognition for his wartime deeds by the early 1960s. In 1956, Kurt Grossmann had contacted him again because he was preparing a book on individuals who had rescued people persecuted by the Nazis, in particular Jews. Grossmann was deeply impressed by the written account of his activities that Schindler sent him at this time: “Your case alone would justify the publication of a book” (Grossmann to Schindler, September 4, 1956). Indeed, the first case study presented in Grossmann’s book, which was published in Germany in 1957 under the title Die unbesungenen Helden: Menschen in Deutschlands dunklen Tagen (Unsung Heroes: People in Germany’s Dark Days), was that of Schindler, whom Grossmann described as one of the few people in the 132

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Third Reich “who actively opposed crimes against humanity” (Grossmann 29). Grossmann confronted his German readers with the following rationale for his collection of portraits of rescuers: “This book argues against the convenient excuse used by false patriots for any and all terrible deeds: ‘Right or wrong, my country.’  .  .  . Instead it promotes another principle which is to obey the eternal laws of morality” (11). For Grossmann, the “unsung heroes” he portrayed in his book “proved that it was possible, despite the terror, to fulfill one’s duty as a human being.” This, he argued, was a lesson that needed to be taught to all passive bystanders, the “conformists and cowards”: “Let them look into the mirror of goodness and humanity, in which they can’t recognize themselves” (13). The first and most extensively discussed exemplary figure Grossmann held up to his readers was Schindler. In the summer of 1957, Grossmann made additional efforts to publicize Schindler’s deeds in Germany. He wrote to newspaper editors, informing them about this man’s “humanly and journalistically extraordinary” story and asking them to “grant his story the widest possible distribution” (Grossmann to Kirn and Proebst, June 26, 1957). At the same time, Schindler returned from Argentina to Germany after a stopover in New York, during which he met up with many of the Schindler Jews who had emigrated to the United States. His trip attracted the attention of newspapers both in the United States and in Germany, and stories about his wartime deeds began to circulate more widely (see, for example, Perlmutter; “Retter von 1100 Juden”). Even more important for Schindler’s public recognition were events in Israel. Itzhak Stern, for example, acted as a mediator between Schindler and Yad Vashem, the newly established Holocaust memorial and archive in Jerusalem. After a long (and, it should be said, acrimonious) debate, Yad Vashem’s directorate eventually decided that Schindler would be included in the first group of “Righteous Gentiles” who were deemed to have been selfless rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust (Crowe 515–36). In May 1962, Schindler was honored with a treeplanting ceremony at the Avenue of the Righteous in Jerusalem (Crowe 528). The official citation given to Schindler in December 1963 declared: “Oskar Schindler has undertaken outstanding actions to rescue Jews during the Jewish catastrophe in Europe. . . . Mr. Schindler constantly endangered his life to do this. By doing this, Mr. Schindler has obtained the deepest gratitude of hundreds of Jews that he saved and is worthy of recognition by the entire Jewish people” (qtd. in Crowe 536). Thus Schindler was becoming a much more attractive subject for a Hollywood biopic. Consequently, Schindler—now living in Germany and mostly working with and through Leopold Page—had the luxury to negotiate with a number of Hollywood studios, producers, and directors from 1962 onward, inOskar Schindler and the Movies

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cluding the German subsidiary of MCA, the Viennese branch of the Walt Disney Company, and director Otto Preminger (Crowe 542; Keller 69). In 1964, Schindler finally signed a contract with Martin Gosch, an independent producer affiliated with MGM, for what was envisioned to be a film of epic scope, comparable, it was said at the time, to Doctor Zhivago, which was then in production at the studio (Crowe 543–53; Keller 70). The project’s chances for success were enhanced by the fact that in his negotiations with Hollywood, Schindler was now much more willing to compromise. According to a 1962 contract with George Marton, who was acting as Schindler’s agent and producer, Schindler was still trying to maintain control over Hollywood’s representation of his life, yet he had accepted the need for strict limits on his influence over film projects. The Marton contract stated: “Schindler is assured that he will be able to read all versions of the script and to suggest changes, which Marton and his scriptwriters will have to take into account, unless these changes are unacceptable from a dramatic point of view” (Schindler contract, November 3, 1962). Similarly, in his correspondence with Gosch, Schindler expressed his wish to see the script in order to check it for factual errors and also to suggest new dialogue (Schindler to Gosch, November 28, 1965). However, when Gosch replied that handing over the script was not practicable, Schindler seems to have accepted this straightaway (Gosch to Schindler, January 20, 1966). Furthermore, Schindler was now perfectly willing to concede that in the development of his biopic certain compromises had to be made. He acknowledged that “seventy percent of the box office revenues come from the U.S. and Canada,” and North American interests and sensitivities therefore had to be taken into account (Schindler, Ich 414). Hence, in his correspondence with people in Hollywood Schindler no longer emphasized—or even mentioned—either the particular impact the film was supposed to have in Germany or the Sudeten German dimension of his story. His main concern for the project, which after several title changes eventually came to be known as To the Last Hour, now seemed to be simply to document the atrocities of the Holocaust. Thus, he wrote to his American attorney Irving Glovin, “I am very proud that through this film I can help to bring the truth about the events during the gruesome time of war to light”; and to Leopold Page, “We absolutely must try in our film to deal with all the scenes of suffering and horror, which your people had to endure, even if they are not causally connected to Schindler’s story” (Schindler, Ich 429; Schindler to Page, October 30, 1964). That Schindler here referred to himself in the third person indicates how much he had detached himself from the film’s protagonist, seeing the character mainly as a means to an end. Howard Koch’s March 15, 1965, treatment for To the 134

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Last Hour did indeed include numerous scenes focusing on the actions and suffering of various Jewish characters. It ended with the statement that the people Schindler saved “will live to testify to one man’s humanity to his fellow-beings” (Koch 130). In a very general way, it could be said that the film was meant to offer Schindler’s celebrated “humanity” as a model to be emulated by viewers. However, the specific power of Schindler’s story to “rouse the conscience” of those who had stood by passively during the Holocaust, which both Schindler and Kurt Grossmann had emphasized with reference to German audiences, no longer seemed to be central to this project, which was addressed primarily to Americans and secondarily to the world at large. The producers’ universalized conception of the film’s meaning and intended impact was conveyed in their biggest publicity coup. In February 1965, California congressman James C. Corman, whose congressional district included Hollywood and Beverly Hills, gave a speech about Oskar Schindler and To the Last Hour in the U.S. House of Representatives (Crowe 555–56; Keller 70). After praising Hollywood for every so often making important films such as the planned Schindler biopic, he summed up the film’s meaning with a phrase suspiciously close to the concluding statement of the treatment discussed above. According to Corman, the film’s message was “that man’s humanity to man must always prevail,” and Schindler’s deeds were to be understood as a “sign of hope that one day a true peace will be built from friendship and understanding,” bringing all the peoples of the world together (Corman). In many ways, this message of world peace and international understanding could be said to be appropriate for a blockbuster production that, for purely financial reasons, needed to appeal to audiences all over the world, bringing them together for the shared experience of watching To the Last Hour. Yet, in the end, despite extensive preparations and substantial investments on the part of MGM, To the Last Hour was never made, apparently due to what Gosch called “severe internal stockholder problems” (Gosch to Wanrowsky, January 19, 1967). Whatever the actual reasons for MGM’s decision, the cancellation of its Schindler project provoked a strong response and a fair amount of speculation. Schindler, for one, thought that in addition to the difficult subject matter of the planned film, his own nationality might have been a deciding factor: “The American film market is not responsive to concentration camp themes or the story of a good German” (Schindler, Ich 432). The American newspaper Heritage: Southwest Jewish Press, on the other hand, suspected a religious dimension in MGM’s decision. An article from October 1968 suspected that it was the Catholic president of MGM, Robert O’Brien, who had Oskar Schindler and the Movies

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ultimately rejected the Schindler film (Heritage). The article suggested that supporters of the project should now approach the Jewish entrepreneur Edgar Bronfman, “who is rumored to be the next controlling power of MGM.” The same paper had emphasized a year earlier the significance it attached to the Schindler biopic: “The fact that one man placed his life on the line and became involved raises the lie to others who cried they were powerless to act” (Heritage). Indeed, the paper went as far as declaring, “The single most important film on the human spirit to come out of the days of Holocaust is the Schindler Story—and Hollywood owes it to history to produce this work.”

Artur Brauner’s Schindler Project and Schindler’s List The chances for a major Hollywood film about Schindler, who died in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1974, seemed to decline throughout the 1970s. One reason was that, following several years of severe overproduction and enormous losses, Hollywood in the early 1970s largely discontinued super-expensive epic productions in the Dr. Zhivago mold (Hall 16–18). In addition, both the American and the non-American output of Holocaust-related films decreased in this decade. The American output declined from thirty-three films in both the 1950s and 1960s to only twenty-five in the 1970s (Baron 25). What is more, across the international output of Holocaust-related films, biopics now ranked only fourth in the list of popular genres, behind dramas as well as action films and pornography such as Ilse: She Wolf of the SS (1974) and Salon Kitty (1975) (Baron 66). Finally, rescue was no longer among the most popular themes of Holocaust-related films (Baron 202). Nevertheless, a Schindler project began to take shape in Germany. In the early 1970s, Schindler had been approached by Artur Brauner, one of the leading film producers in Germany (Knorr). Brauner was a Polish Jew who had narrowly escaped the Holocaust and had endeavored, from the very beginnings of his producing career in postwar Germany, to complement his steady output of popular genre films with films about the Nazi era, in particular about the Holocaust (Dillmann-Kühn). In the 1980s, this became the main focus of his activities, and the Schindler project received a lot of his attention. Brauner submitted the project to the Film Subsidy Board in Berlin in 1984 and again in 1992, and on both occasions he was turned down, the rejection letters deeming the submitted script to be in bad taste and uncommercial. Furthermore, stated one board member, “If we Germans film this story, it will probably be said that we want to hide behind Schindler and whitewash ourselves” (qtd. in Knorr). Brauner saw the meaning of Schindler’s story differently. In his view, the Film Subsidy Board and the German government, which, he said, had failed to honor 136

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Schindler adequately, wanted to “play down Schindler’s deeds, because he proved that even in those barbaric times a German could remain human. This proof destroys the general assumption that the refusal to follow orders resulted in death” (qtd. in Knorr). Brauner’s film was never made. While Brauner accused his fellow Germans of not wanting to face the implications of Schindler’s deeds, the American psychologist Luitgard N. Wundheiler suggested that people everywhere had refused to confront what Schindler’s story might imply for how they themselves were implicated in the suffering around them. In a 1985 article Wundheiler asked: “Why . . . is Oskar Schindler not better known,” or as well known as other rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust such as Raoul Wallenberg? (Wund­ heiler 334). Wundheiler’s answer was that Schindler “had many human weaknesses, he accomplished his rescue actions quite often by dishonest means, and he was a member of the Nazi Party. . . . If a human being with so many shortcomings could [become a rescuer], is there any one among us who can say: ‘I am not good enough or powerful enough to help?’ It is uncomfortable to know about Schindler because he stirs our consciences precisely because of his weaknesses” (334). Despite these uncomfortable implications of Schindler’s story, the 1980s turned out to be a good time for another attempt at a Schindler biopic. No doubt partly influenced by the enormous impact made by the 1978 TV miniseries Holocaust in the United States and abroad, the 1980s saw a dramatic increase in the production of Holocaust-related films, with an average of six such films made every year in the United States alone (a trend that continued into the 1990s) (Baron 25). What is more, among the 227 Holocaust-related films produced around the world during the 1980s, by far the most popular genre was the biopic and the most popular theme was rescue (Baron 66, 202). In the United States, many of the Holocaust-related films—notably Sophie’s Choice (1982), with five Oscar nominations, including a win for Meryl Streep as Best Actress—achieved a relatively high profile, although none of them was a major box-office hit. In addition, five Holocaust-related films were nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar from 1979 to 1990, with two of them winning the award (Friedman 295). Thus, by 1990 the time once again seemed right for a big-budget Hollywood epic on Oskar Schindler and the Holocaust. Indeed, by then Steven Spielberg had finally committed himself, after several years of prevarication, to filming Schindler’s List, an adaptation of a non-fiction novel by the Australian writer Thomas Keneally (Krämer, “ ‘Very Good’ ” 28). Upon its publication in 1982 under the title Schindler’s Ark, Keneally’s book won the prestigious Booker prize and attracted the attention of MCA/Universal head Sid Sheinberg, who purchased the movie rights for his protégé Steven Oskar Schindler and the Movies

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Spielberg and announced that a group of Schindler Jews would assist in the development of the project (Krämer, “ ‘Very Good’ ” 23). It later emerged that the most important member of this group was none other than Leopold Page, who in 1980 had introduced Keneally to Schindler’s story and acted as a consultant on the novel. In addition, Keneally based his novel to a considerable degree on the testimony of other Schindler Jews and on the script and research for MGM’s To the Last Hour (Crowe 597; see also Keneally). It is not surprising, then, that in the end Spielberg’s Schindler’s List resonated strongly with earlier attempts to make a film about Oskar Schindler’s wartime deeds. As had been the case for To the Last Hour, the publicity surrounding Schindler’s List addressed both American and non-American audiences. With regards to the former, Spielberg talked about the lack of knowledge regarding the Holocaust as revealed by opinion polls in the United States (Spielberg). On a very basic level, Spielberg simply intended Schindler’s List to document the horrific reality of the Holocaust, much as Oskar Schindler had defined the main purpose of To the Last Hour in the 1960s. In interviews Spielberg also referred to the very public reemergence around the globe of religiously and ethnically motivated mass incarceration, abuse, and murder, especially the so-called ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, which was widely discussed with reference to the Holocaust (Spielberg; Russell 86–87, 97). In this context, Spielberg implied, a better education about the Holocaust was essential for helping to prevent its recurrence in the contemporary world. Here, Schindler’s List had an important historical lesson to teach audiences all around the globe. Yet building on the long tradition of Jewish interpretations of Schindler’s story, the way Spielberg presented his lesson about the Holocaust deeply implicated the film’s viewers as guilty bystanders. This is most obvious in the newly invented scene of Schindler’s breakdown toward the end of the film, when, in the face of the millions who perished, all he can say is “I didn’t do enough.” After blaming himself for not using all his resources to save more people, he tearfully concludes with terrible clarity and finality, “I could have got one more person—and I didn’t.” Thus, if even this exceptional rescuer of over a thousand Jews is overwhelmed by guilty despair, how infinitely greater must be the guilt of those who stood by without doing anything at all? As we have seen, in the immediate postwar period, this accusatory interpretation of Schindler’s story had been presented with specific reference to the Holocaust and, even more specifically, to the vast majority of Germans who failed to protect Jews from the Nazis. Yet in the early 1990s, Spielberg—much like Luitgard Wundheiler and the makers and promoters of To the Last Hour before him—suggested a much broader frame of ref.

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Schindler collapses in an agony of regret. “I could have got more of them!” Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, Universal, 1993). Digital frame enlargement.

erence. In the light of contemporary atrocities and suffering, Schindler’s deeds and his final breakdown in the film posed a direct question to the film’s viewers: Are you doing enough? Can you help one more person? Indeed, in a rather hyperbolic statement made in support of the film, Disney chief Jeffrey Katzenberg had this to say about the possible consequences of the film’s moral challenge to its viewers: “I think Schindler’s List will wind up being so much more important than a movie. . . . It will affect how people on this planet think and act.  .  .  . I don’t want to burden the movie too much, but I think it will bring peace on earth, good will to men” (qtd. in Schiff, “Seriously” 174). In this way, Katzenberg echoed the hope expressed by James Corman in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1965 that Hollywood films like the Schindler biopic could teach important moral lessons to people all around the world and thus perhaps affect their behavior. In both instances one is left to wonder whether such exaggerated claims for a film are an expression of genuine, albeit surprisingly naive, beliefs or of the commercial imperative to promote a major Hollywood release. Most likely, I think, they are a mixture of both.

Conclusion Schindler’s List was the culmination of a long, drawn-out process of historical commemoration, in which Leopold Page and other Schindler Jews, Oskar Schindler and the Movies

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Oskar Schindler himself, Jewish writers such as Herbert Steinhouse and Kurt Grossmann, and Jews in Hollywood as well as in the German film industry aimed to present this story of a “Righteous Gentile” to global audiences. From a Jewish perspective, Schindler’s story was not at all intended to serve an apologetic function, whereby the deeds of this one “good German” would somehow exonerate the behavior of his compatriots. Quite the contrary, Schindler’s deeds served precisely as an accusation of those who stood by passively during the Holocaust. However, with increasing historical distance to the Holocaust, the frame of reference for the moral challenge posed by Schindler’s story has been widened, so as to address our relationship to the suffering of other human beings more generally: What are we doing about this suffering? It is also important to note that, despite this generalized frame of reference, the original intention of Oskar Schindler and his initial promoters to “rouse the conscience” specifically of Germans was to some extent realized with the release of Schindler’s List. As William J. Niven’s study of the film’s reception in the German press has shown, the most persistent response to Schindler’s deeds as portrayed in the film was a simple question with “damning implications for those millions of Germans who did nothing to help the Jews or resist Nazism. If even Schindler could do something, why could other people not have done more?” (Niven 177). However, this does not mean that apologetic appropriations of the film that use it to shift attention from German perpetrators and bystanders to German rescuers did not take place. Indeed, Harald Welzer, Sabine Moller, and Karoline Tschuggnall’s study of the ways in which Germans remember the Nazi era has demonstrated the centrality of such a shift of attention for familial memory. The study contrasts the dominant public discourse in Germany about Nazi crimes and German guilt with private recollections across several generations of German families being interviewed, and it highlights the important role played by films in these interviews, none more so than Schindler’s List (Welzer, Moller, and Tschuggnall 132). Family recollections invariably exonerate members of the older generation who have lived through the war from any participation in Nazi crimes and indeed often portray them as quiet resisters against the Nazis and even as secret rescuers of Jews (98–104). Due to such wishful thinking, one might say, every German family has acquired its own Schindler.

Notes 1. All translations from German in this essay are by the author.

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David Sterritt

Representing Atrocity September 11 through the Holocaust Lens

The attacks of September 11 unleashed waves of media representation that served multiple and often conflicting purposes. Among them were three imperatives of the American mass media: the journalistic need to report an overwhelmingly important news event to the American and international publics; the commercial need to attract and retain the largest possible audience, even after the central facts had been disseminated, discussed, and analyzed at length; and the ideological need to stir up a sense of national unity and purpose in the wake of the catastrophe. These three orders of perceived necessity—the journalistic, the commercial, and the ideological— are interconnected, of course. And each is easily detected within the others; for example, the ideological drive to kindle feelings of nationalism and patriotism served to justify the news media’s protracted and repetitive obsession with visual minutiae of the attacks, and this in turn fed the sense that prolonged and repetitive TV watching had become a patriotic duty for real Americans who cared about their country—a perception that was quite a boon to commercial networks like CNN, which had gained its first great popularity with 24/7 coverage of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. As cataclysmic as the events of September 11 were, their effects on the American psyche were driven more by the shock and awe of the attacks than by the absolute number of people killed. Most of the fatalities occurred at the World Trade Center in New York, where 2,819 died; by contrast, the number of U.S. deaths from motor-vehicle accidents in 2001 was 37,862.1 Shock and awe are real phenomena, however, and soon after September 11 the conventional wisdom was clear: Everything has changed, nothing will be the same again, and, as a corollary, America will 141

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never allow things to be the same again. The position had a familiar ring: Never again. In terms of moral weight and historical magnitude, the bellicose “never again” of the George W. Bush administration bears no comparison with the principled “never again” voiced by much of the world after the Holocaust and its horrors were unveiled. Yet any pledge to forestall some future possibility raises important questions about historical memory and representation—questions about how we are to remember the past that has shaped our perspectives on the present and on the time to come. In an era as saturated with images as ours, matters of visual depiction must be front and center when such matters are discussed. I addressed this in an essay about two years after September 11, 2001, considering representations of 9/11 in the dark light of Holocaust iconography; in the present essay I revisit the subject and update my observations.2 My comments aren’t meant to be exhaustive, and my goal is to raise questions, not look for answers or solutions to the conundrums that arise. I have two basic questions in mind. The first, on the level of content and technique, is whether images can capture, reproduce, or convey the essence of events and situations more vast and horrifying than anything encountered in everyday life or the so-called normal world. The second, on the level of ethics and aesthetics, is whether it’s decent or permissible to try. On the practical level of everyday visual discourse, these questions can be boiled down to half a dozen words: to show or not to show.

Comparisons and Contrasts The attacks of 9/11 have been compared with Nazi atrocities almost from the moment they occurred. “This is like the Holocaust,” a witness told a Toronto Sun reporter the following day. A week later, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen found rays of hope for the future by recalling “the people who survived the Holocaust and made a life for themselves.” Like those imprisoned in Adolf Hitler’s death camps, an Ohio newspaper observed, Americans could not control the enormity that had befallen them, but they could control their response to it (qtd. in Carr “ ‘American Holocaust’ ”). The urge to draw these parallels is easily understandable, but communications scholar Steven Alan Carr points out that they run the danger of overlooking great differences between the Holocaust and the 9/11 attacks. The former took place over twelve years and utilized an evolving “infrastructure of death” that claimed millions of lives, most of them Jewish, and brought such ancillary evils as concentration camps, reckless medical experiments, and slave labor. The latter used an existing infrastructure (air142

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planes, skyscrapers) to take thousands of lives within a few hours, working its traumatic effects not through systematic and long-lasting operations but rather through the terrorists’ demonstration of their ability to inflict a great deal of carnage in a small amount of time by turning readily obtainable resources against the very people who normally controlled them. A difference not addressed in this analysis (although Brett’s article touches on it) is the multifaceted contrast between media representations of the two atrocities, which had their origins in visually opposite circumstances. In the case of the Holocaust, no imagery was publicly shown until the death camps had been liberated and the worst of the horrors was over; and even then, most films and photographs necessarily showed little of the horrors themselves—aside from limited footage shot by Nazis—but rather the appalling aftermath, captured by Allied soldiers with 16mm movie cameras (see Frodon). In the case of the World Trade Center, on the other hand, television provided the entire world with instant access—via live transmissions and instant video replays—to the sight of hijacked planes crashing into the towers’ walls and those walls crumbling under their own weight as thousands struggled to escape and flee. A second dissimilarity is also important. The evils of the death camps reached public awareness through indelible images of human bodies— corpses bulldozed into mass graves, prisoners in states of near starvation, and the like—that circulated around the world immediately after the camps were liberated. By contrast, the physical containment of the 9/11 tragedy, determined by the nature of the attacks and the fact that the Twin Towers imploded instead of scattering their wreckage outward, rendered the devastation of human bodies almost invisible to the eye. A paradox is at work here. Both atrocities, the protracted one of the Holocaust and the concentrated one of 9/11, produced widely seen images, and both did so despite limitations of visibility built into their material conditions—the concealment and secrecy with which the Holocaust was carried out, the suddenness and localness of the Twin Towers’ destruction. Once put into circulation, the images have proved enduring. Concentration-camp footage has been cycled and recycled in a long list of documentary, docudrama, and fiction films. Video and photographs of the 9/11 attacks are universally available on the Internet and elsewhere. Re-creations of the tragedies have proliferated as well, in narrative movies, television dramas, and the like. While popular representations of the Holocaust have usually been attended by a certain solemnity, 9/11 has produced a more varied crop. On the positive side one finds an intelligent theatrical feature such as Paul Greengrass’s United 93 (2006). On the negative side one recalls the blitz of ideological belligerence that poured from September 11 through the Holocaust Lens

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radio and TV right after the tragedy, hammering incessantly on aspects of the case that were readily narrativized (the hunt for Osama bin Laden, for instance) and coopting the so-called war on terror—itself an ideologically coded and intellectually incoherent concept—to support commercially marketable “public affairs” coverage. As a bonus for the media that cooked up and promoted this “reportage,” the war-on-terror rhetoric easily morphed into uncritical support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and John McCain didn’t hesitate to resurrect the bin Laden hunt for the purposes of presidential politics in 2008. With this in mind it’s interesting to note the progression of cinematic Holocaust representation, with its considerably longer history, through several stages. The paradigm was originally set by such pioneering films as Orson Welles’s The Stranger (1946) and Alfréd Radok’s Distant Journey (1950). A new phase began with Alain Resnais’s elegiac documentary Night and Fog (1955) and continued with more conventional documentaries and narrative movies such as Otto Preminger’s Exodus (1960), Stanley Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), and Andrzej Wajda’s sentimental Korczak (1990). Another crucial shift took place with the towering documentaries of Marcel Ophuls, most notably The Sorrow and the Pity (1969), and Claude Lanzmann, most notably Shoah (1985); these worked a sea change in Holocaust representation by omitting “atrocity footage,” a development that I discuss presently. Most influential of all, Steven Spielberg released Schindler’s List in 1993, earning applause and sparking controversy. I find many flaws in it—among them its portrayal of captive Jews as a mass of faceless figures, its egregious sentimentality toward the eponymous hero, and the suspense-movie manipulation of the infamous shower scene—but it deserves a measure of respect for being Spielberg’s most morally mature film to date (see the essay by Peter Krämer in this volume). And production continues around the world. In the third edition of her definitive book Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust, film historian Annette Insdorf lists no fewer than 170 films on Holocaust-related subjects released in the fourteen years between 1989 and 2003. Her next updated filmography is sure to add many more.

Ophuls and Lanzmann Examining this evolution in more detail, Resnais’s Night and Fog is unarguably the first Holocaust film to become a classic, which makes it all the more striking that Resnais was deeply concerned about the question of whether he had a moral right to deal with the subject. “To make a film about the concentration camps,” he explained later, “it seemed to me you had to have 144

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Views of Auschwitz after the Holocaust are a recurring presence in Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog (Argos, 1955), the first film about the Shoah to become a classic. Digital frame enlargement.

been an inmate, or deported for political reasons.” He initially turned down the project but decided to proceed on the condition that it have a voiceover commentary written by Jean Cayrol, a Holocaust survivor (Insdorf 201). This pairing of narrator and image maker is a key to the distinctiveness and power of Night and Fog, since it juxtaposes the perspective of a witness with that of an artist working to make sense of what the witness endured. In subsequent years Holocaust documentaries have taken a wide variety of approaches. Some rely heavily on archival film footage, while others supplement or partly displace such images with didactic narrations, interviews with survivors, and so on. In positive or negative ways, all engage with the questions I mentioned earlier: whether filmed images can capture “truths” about sets of events so extraordinary as these, and what boundaries are established around representations of such events by moral and ethical considerations. The mightiest of all Holocaust documentaries, directed by Ophuls and Lanzmann, address these questions in especially fascinating ways. The Sorrow and the Pity, Ophuls’s investigation of French collaboration and resistance during the Nazi era, was immediately recognized as an September 11 through the Holocaust Lens

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unprecedented work, and its reputation has scarcely dimmed. Film historian Marc Ferro calls the 251-minute study “a kind of October Revolution” in documentary filmmaking, since it introduces a novel use for the timetested device of the filmed interview (142). I agree. Not only do the interviews serve to confront individuals with the past, and to challenge versions of the past that they cling to for sometimes dubious reasons; beyond this, the exchanges are structured and interwoven in ways that allow Ophuls to substitute them for the voice-of-God narration that had been common in previous Holocaust documentaries. The film’s most important element is not a presence, therefore; rather it is the absence of a privileged voice meant to guide and influence our perceptions (which are, of course, guided and influenced more than enough by the director’s choice and ordering of materials). When I interviewed Ophuls for the first time in 1988, he expressed his disdain for conventional narration in both practical and ethical terms. On one level, he said voiceovers are “too easy to do” and reduce films to “illustrated editorials” (Sterritt “Ophuls”). Ophuls carried his avoidance of conventional narration into two more Holocaust documentaries, where he also pursued a new tendency in his work: a wish to project his own personality, opinions, and directorial problems visibly into the film. The Memory of Justice (1976), a study of the Nuremberg war-crimes inquiry, includes conversation with his wife and daughter as well as a remarkable sequence where songs on the sound track comment mischievously on the more commercial projects that friends and colleagues often urge him to undertake. He further escalates this personalized filmmaking in Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie (1988), including more ironic music and personal, sometimes fierce confrontations with interview subjects. Ophuls has eliminated traditional narration, but commentary clearly remains, albeit in novel and increasingly personal ways. In Hotel Terminus Ophuls confronts another central issue that concerns me here: the question of when utilization becomes exploitation in the handling of horrific images. Lanzmann also engages with this, coming to even more radical conclusions. Provocatively framing the issue, critic and theorist Fred Camper has suggested that “the photographing of any cinema image of a part of the actual world [might be construed as] an act of aggression,” since the photographer “wrenches a specific part of reality from the context with which it makes a whole, places that fragment in a rectangular frame, and further delimits it in time.” Camper also notes the filmmaker’s “need to exercise control over what is in front of [the] camera” and the tendency of the passive spectator in the darkened theater “to feel that the images are in some sense his [or her] own” (6). I will add that this tendency might be even stronger when viewing via video technologies, where the 146

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images are seen at close proximity and can be stopped, started, fast-forwarded, and replayed at will. Such considerations must weigh heavily in the minds of those documenting the Holocaust, who don’t wrench, place, delimit, and control just any part of reality but parts that are directly connected to modernity’s most overwhelmingly horrific crime. If one grants André Bazin’s contention that photographic images are literal “tracings” of reality (96), the moral ramifications are obviously profound. The situation is even more serious if we agree that, as Camper further argues, film images viewed in big-screen splendor are “inevitably glorified by the projector’s beam” and thereby “charged with a certain aesthetic beauty, or at least a kind of energy [that] is hard to imagine . . . being utterly controlled by condemnation” (6). Again, this must be pondered by any filmmaker seeking to depict an event as purely evil as the Holocaust or the destruction of the World Trade Center without giving it a hint of aesthetic beauty or artistic energy, however subtly, subliminally, or unwittingly. Susan Sontag makes a related point. “To photograph people is to violate them,” she writes in On Photography, “by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. . . . To photograph someone is a sublimated murder” (Sontag 14–15).3 I hasten to add that some scholars take a more benign view of these matters; one is Judith Doneson, who sees the issue of who took the photographs, and under what circumstances, as deciding factors: since some Jews documented ghetto life with photos, she says, using them as testimonies today would “comply with the wishes of the Jews to have their history remembered” (177). The fact remains, however, that to depict the Holocaust in any way and for any purpose is to depict an event that must be measured entirely on the scale of human misery, human suffering, human death. Since pictures of human beings must necessarily be used, whether these are authentic Holocaust images or filmed statements by Holocaust survivors, we are faced with a moral dilemma if we see an inherent violation of human dignity in the photographing of people as objects in the material world. The problem is deeper still when we consider the inhumanly vast magnitude of the Holocaust and its apparatuses of death. The ultimate impossibility of capturing these in representational terms is precisely the point addressed by Ophuls in Hotel Terminus and Lanzmann in Shoah and Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 p.m. (2001), where they address it by means of another absence, this one even more far-reaching than the absence of spoken commentary: none of these films contain any trace of atrocity footage, instead seeking to document the Holocaust entirely through the recollections of people who went through it. As with voice-of-God narration, Ophuls September 11 through the Holocaust Lens

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tends to explain his avoidance of atrocity footage in simple, perhaps oversimplified terms. Such evidence “doesn’t get the job done anymore,” he told me in our 1988 interview, since audiences have become desensitized to it by seeing it so often. But his decision to make a four-and-a-half-hour film without a single minute of such material points to a deeper motivation, and clues to it may be found in Shoah, a film that Ophuls deeply admires. I convey this by focusing on one of the most memorable features of Shoah: the obsessive return to shots of the front area of the Auschwitz camp, filmed by a camera moving along the railroad tracks that once carried trainloads of Jews to their deaths. Once it has reached the gate, the camera continues along its trajectory into the camp, but it does so by switching to a zoom lens instead of moving physically ahead. “If camera movement tends to suggest movement through space, as of a human body,” writes Camper, “the zoom tends to represent the movement of the mind, shifts in human perception” (6). On this view, Lanzmann fulfills his film’s obligation to take us into the concentration camp, yet by physically stopping his camera at the gate he acknowledges the inability of present-day observers to truly enter such a place or truly understand what occurred there. He also tacitly acknowledges the violation that might take place if his camera were to penetrate the cursed space about which we hear so much from the witnesses he interviews. Lanzmann’s refusal to use film footage, still photos, and other kinds of archival material may be understood in the same way: as a suggestion that to use any product of the death camps, for however well-meaning or enlightening a purpose, might be to participate, in however small a way, in the Nazis’ enterprise. This is a tremendously meaningful message for filmmakers who take on the challenge of dealing with the Holocaust or with 9/11, to which we now return.

Exploring and Exploiting I lived one short block from the World Trade Center in 2001, and when I first wrote about media responses to 9/11, not long after the attacks, I was outraged by media garbage such as, for just one example, the coverage of “Our War Against Terrorism” by WABC radio; complete with rock ’n’ roll background music and crash-boom sound effects, it exemplified the media’s instant capacity for turning what was supposed to be a fight for democracy into a shamelessly crude entertainment show. I knew such stuff would continue to pour forth, and that television in particular would keep exploring and exploiting the disaster in mostly conventional forms—news-hour specials with recycled video and commentary, docudramas re-creating traumas of the apocalyptic day, and so on. Theatrical movies would take longer to 148

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arrive, given the lengthy time between an initial concept and a finished film; but it was clear that they would reach the screen as soon as producers felt safe from accusations of capitalizing on the disaster by rushing in too soon, and it wasn’t hard to predict what they would stress: terrors faced by victims, heroic acts by rescue teams, and how on earth the cataclysm could have happened. And where conspiracy theorists were able to join the fray, why shadowy government figures either Let It Happen On Purpose or Made It Happen On Purpose (schemes nicknamed LIHOP and MIHOP, respectively, both now subsumed by the “911 Truth” or “Truther” movement). As things turned out, the conspiracy angle was too hot for mainstream or semi-mainstream filmmakers to touch, and even conventional approaches generated fewer movies than I expected, partly because attention was siphoned off by the drumbeat for invading Iraq and the debacle that developed there. But even before Iraq took over the headlines, 9/11 projects were hindered by Hollywood’s nervousness about seeming to exploit the tragedy. This apprehension was underscored by one of the first debates to arise—a bizarre debate, centering on whether it was acceptable to include shots of the Twin Towers in movies already filmed but not in theaters yet. Everyone from Hollywood moguls to independent auteurs weighed in on the issue, although it turned out to have little relevance beyond the case of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, which was reworked before its 2002 release to eliminate views of the World Trade Center. Still, producers remained edgy about scenes of large-scale urban violence. Exhibit A was Andrew Davis’s Collateral Damage, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a firefighter turned vigilante who hunts down members of a Colombian drug cabal after his wife and child are killed in the politically motivated bombing of a Los Angeles building. Warner Bros. postponed the film’s opening from October 2001 to February 2002 because of worry that its depiction of fiery urban disaster might be too disturbing, and before its belated premiere the fictional inferno scene was significantly toned down. Then came the release of Phil Alden Robinson’s The Sum of All Fears in May 2002, touching off speculation about whether Americans were “ready” for an action-adventure yarn in which nuclear bombs decimate Baltimore. Americans proved to be very ready, making the picture a box office hit. One short week later the query returned with a different twist, asking whether Americans were ready for Joel Schumacher’s Bad Company, a rollicking comedy wherein Chris Rock chases down a nuclear device smuggled into Manhattan by terrorists. This picture made less money, but few were offended by it. Very soon after 9/11, Americans were in the mood for anything that provided a sufficient number of entertainment bangs for their bucks at the box office. September 11 through the Holocaust Lens

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As trivial as these debates seem now—and seemed at the time, for that matter—in their own small ways they tapped into the same questions that Holocaust filmmakers have to face: How does one deal responsibly with evil through artistic representation? And more specifically, when are the benefits of artistic representation outweighed by the pitfalls of sensationalism and vulgarity? Looking at more recent films about September 11, the record shows many productions with widely varying ambitions, but few that have made significant contributions to analyzing its causes and understanding its ramifications. A website called 9/11docs.net, no longer extant, listed more documentaries, TV clips, and miscellaneous videos than I had time and energy to count, much less watch, many of them devoted to conspiracy-theory hokum. A current movie-related website is conspiracyarchive.com, which features a print essay by John Valentini redundantly titled “Hollywood 9/11: 9/11 Synchronicities in Film.” Its thesis is that Hollywood projected auguries of 9/11 on “a subliminal level” long before the event itself. Alert spectators of Roland Emmerich’s 1996 science-fiction epic Independence Day may notice that when David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) watches the countdown to a disastrous invasion on his laptop, we see a closeup of the computer screen in which, Valentini points out, “one of the ticks is 9:11:01.” Emmerich struck again with The Patriot (2000), in which farmer Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) weighs a chair he has made and says, “Nine pounds, eleven ounces. That’s perfect.” When he sits on it, “it collapses under his weight,” in Valentini’s words, whereupon he angrily “throws it against a wall where other chairs he has made lie in pieces.” After noting similar stuff in Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984), Tony Scott’s Enemy of the State (1998), and other films, Valentini moves toward his conclusion: “Coincidence or design? You decide, but there is a growing faction of people who feel that something more sinister is at work.” And he names names, outing some of the “secretive societies that have a history of machinations against the people of the United States and Britain,” to wit, the Masons, the Opus Dei (of Da Vinci Code fame), and Yale’s Skull and Bones club (which figures in Robert De Niro’s 2006 political drama The Good Shepherd), plus the CIA, the FBI, and the Jesuits. (All of these strike me as likely suspects, but my money’s on Mel Gibson.) If this sort of absurdity has a counterpart in the history of Holocaust films, it would lie in movies that provide witting or unwitting cover for the screeds of Holocaust deniers, which are also spreading through the democratized channels of the Internet. Errol Morris exposed one such ideologue in Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999), an original and often brilliant documentary that is, however, flawed by a tendency toward the aestheticized expression I discussed earlier, diverting attention 150

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Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 (Fellowship Adventure Group, 2004) shows President George W. Bush sitting clueless in a classroom for seven long minutes after being told that the World Trade Center has been hit and his country is at war. Digital frame enlargement.

from its argument with conspicuous strokes of cinematic style. This problem also weakens Morris’s otherwise excellent Standard Operating Procedure (2008), which explores the torture-and-photography scandals that made the Abu Ghraib prison an international byword for arrogance and ineptitude in the American military. To date, I have seen only two 9/11 documentaries that fully rise to the importance of their subject. One is The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (2004), produced as a three-part BBC series by Adam Curtis, who provides an indispensable analysis of the tragedy and its exploitation by neoconservative demagogues. The other, more famous one is Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), which shows President Bush proceeding with a photo-op visit to a Florida elementary school after being informed of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, and then staying in the classroom, with a book in his lap and a perplexed expression on his face, for seven long minutes after learning that a second plane has struck and the country—his country—is under attack. “Not knowing what to do . . . Mr. Bush just sat there,” Moore says in his voiceover, “and continued to read ‘My Pet Goat’ with the children.” This image of paralysis has become a widely known icon that retains its ghastly strength now that the Bush government is—literally—history. Here is a vindication of the first-person narration that Ophuls has abjured, joined to a personal involvement with the subject matter that is no less intense and idiosyncratic than Lanzmann’s engagement in Shoah. September 11 through the Holocaust Lens

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Art as “As If” Turning to the more rigidly commercial domain of narrative film, some observers felt that 9/11 spelled the demise of the disaster-film genre. This prediction arose from the idea that “the experience of art as ‘as if ’ had somehow been spoiled,” in the words of religion scholar Wendy Doniger, “that the . . . genre had become real and therefore no longer viable as ‘mere’ art, no longer amusing” (402). Doniger rightly finds this view simplistic, noting that temporary crisis management is not the same as finding long-term strategies for “making sense of a tragic universe.” And in point of fact the disaster movie has remained alive and well. The film industry has, however, steered mostly clear of 9/11 subject matter. The only widely released narrative movie that equals Fahrenheit 9/11 for moral seriousness is United 93. Much farther down on the spectrum is Oliver Stone’s erratic World Trade Center (2006), which has some interesting experimental ideas—whole portions of it, set beneath a mountain of rubble after the attack, look like a particularly grim Samuel Beckett play—but dilutes them with sentimental flourishes and a badly miscalculated subplot about a man whose contradictory impulses, toward both charity and revenge, are superficially treated. At least Stone’s film is less offensive than such saccharine Holocaust fairy tales as Mark Herman’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008), about friendship between a German eight-year-old named Bruno and a Jewish boy named Shmuel in the concentration camp run by Bruno’s father, and Stephen Daldry’s The Reader (2008), about romance between a German teenager and a woman who turns out to have been an SS guard with possible links to the hideous deaths of three hundred Jewish captives. The former film is sheer counterfactual fantasy; the latter reduces the Holocaust to one individual’s travail; and both carry the same disheartening message: We all feel bad about the Shoah, but hey, Nazis had problems too (Sterritt, “Hollywood’s” 60–61). A few other fiction films about 9/11 are worth mentioning. Jim Simpson’s The Guys (2002) tells the lachrymose tale of a fire captain and an editor preparing funeral speeches for firefighters killed in the Twin Towers’ collapse. Jarek Kupsc’s The Reflecting Pool (2008) shows the grieving father of a 9/11 victim and a Russian American journalist uncovering information about the attacks that leads them to believe the U.S. government was complicit in them. Kabir Khan’s New York (2009), an Indian production about a taxi driver arrested for terrorism when weapons are found in his cab, received respectful reviews from American critics. In production at the time of this writing is George Clooney’s Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, starring Matt Damon and based on the actual experiences of an Osama bin Laden 152

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chauffeur who was captured in Afghanistan, imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, and held in violation of Geneva Convention rules. Also in progress is Gregor Jordan’s Unthinkable, based on a comic book about a man (to be played by Samuel L. Jackson) hired after 9/11 to anticipate possible scenarios for attacks on the United States, only to become a suspected terrorist when his imaginary creations start to materialize. Both movies are thrillers, and it remains to be seen whether they will elevate the level of Hollywood’s 9/11 discourse. The scarcity of worthwhile films about 9/11 suggests that while Americans were ready for terrorism as entertainment in 2002, their appetite for even vulgarized treatments has diminished to such an extent that Hollywood no longer pays much attention to it. A central thesis of Jean-Luc Godard’s monumental video work Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988–1998) is that cinema passed through a fateful doorway in the 1940s when it declined the challenge of depicting and interpreting the Holocaust, the defining event of the twentieth century, which was also cinema’s first century. The cinema’s overall failure to face 9/11 effectively and intelligently is perhaps a lesser sin, but it is still a momentous one. In his 2000 film Éloge de l’amour (In Praise of Love), Godard attacked Spielberg for making “une histoire de Hollywood” out of actual historical horror in Schindler’s List. For all its problems, Spielberg’s movie takes on near-Shakespearean gravitas when compared with the likes of World Trade Center and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

Holocaust Historiography In a useful analysis of Holocaust film after 9/11, scholar Janet Ward limns the influence of 9/11 cinema on Holocaust films of the past decade, distinguishing between two schools of Holocaust historiography. One school takes the functionalist approach, which agrees with Frankfurt School philosophers Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno in Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944, revised 1947) that Western modernity was the “underlying progenitor” of the German atrocities. Since it deemphasizes human volition, Ward maintains, this argument excuses Jews from self-blame, lets perpetrators off the hook, and threatens to weaken the moral imperatives that the Holocaust conveys. Lanzmann exemplifies the functionalist approach, in Ward’s view, because he rejects “the potentially graphic (or even pornographic) disruption of . . . aestheticizations or reenactments” while setting forth the message that “against forces such as these, nothing could have been done” (30; emphasis in original). The contrasting intentionalist approach affirms German responsibility and guilt by pointing to purposeSeptember 11 through the Holocaust Lens

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fully destructive acts—the Wehrmacht’s crimes against humanity, atrocities committed by ordinary citizens, and so on—and stressing the intentions and motivations behind them. Ward holds that the intentionalist school has been gaining influence among historians, bringing with it a reaction against the notion that an inherent, historically determined passivity made Jews into hapless victims incapable of active resistance against their Nazi tormentors. This perceptual shift is reflected in the growing prominence of films with central Jewish subjects, such as Lanzmann’s documentary Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 p.m. and Roman Polanski’s prize-winning drama The Pianist (2002), which “take the Schindler’s List theme of survival one step further to that of resistance” (32; emphasis in original). I add Edward Zwick’s Defiance (2008) to the list; centering on the Bielski Brigade, which opposed German forces and saved hundreds of Jews in Nazi-occupied Byelorussia, it is a well-meaning film, if a simplistic and cliché-ridden one. A related shift in Holocaust epistemology is an increasing eclecticism that allows such disparate elements as humor and sexuality to play stronger roles in filmic representations. Ward’s examples include Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful (1997) and Agnieszka Holland’s Europa Europa (1990), and I see Lina Wertmüller’s Seven Beauties (1975) as a precursor of the trend. This helps Holocaust cinema transcend the “Lanzmann versus Spielberg” dichotomy, comporting with theorist Andreas Huyssen’s acknowledgment of a new “mimetic approximation” by means of which Holocaust representation has been moving beyond the limitations of a “canon based on narrow aesthetic categories pitting the unrepresentable against aestheticization, or modernism against mass culture, memory against forgetting,” in Huyssen’s words (135; Ward 34–35). Ward finds a parallel between this tendency and the observation by sociologists Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider that the expanding crop of Holocaust films and other representations (e.g., the advent of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., in the same year when Schindler’s List brought the Shoah into primetime) reflects the new status of the Holocaust as carrier of a “universalizing message” that can be appropriated globally because it raises “Jewish-victim status to the privileged point whereby non-Jews would want to identify with Holocaust victims and assume the role of memory witnesses” (35–36). Universalizing the Holocaust carries the danger of diluting its significance, however. Ward sees the possible weakening of Holocaust memory as especially hazardous in the wake of 9/11, when a fierce new wave of antiSemitism has arisen, fed by everything from (these are my examples) the rhetoric of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to rumors that Jews stayed home from work on the day of the attacks because they knew their World Trade Center offices were to be obliterated. To suit the era’s psycho154

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logical needs, Ward concludes, the means by which Holocaust memory is created and the purposes it serves have been radicalized, responding in new ways to new religious and ethnic realities. It is possible that films about Holocaust resistance will fuel reenergized fantasies of the all-powerful Jew; it is also possible that, as Ward writes, “other types of Holocaust memory [will] be produced in response to this new, unwanted postmillennium condition,” forging a “bridge to 9/11 and [maintaining] the distinctive memory culture of both events” (38). Which eventuality will manifest itself remains an open question.

Offending Images Returning to the fundamental issue of atrocity representation, to show or not to show, it’s clear that the answers are rarely obvious. This is more of a high-wire act than an either/or proposition, as was demonstrated when television had to make decisions about what to show and not to show in its initial 9/11 coverage. One network played video of flaming victims leaping from the towers, for example, but withdrew the footage after a single latenight broadcast. Others chose not to display such material at all. The same issue arose with regard to 11’09”01–September 11 (2002), an anthology film comprising eleven short works by eleven major directors, all on 9/11 themes and each exactly eleven minutes, nine seconds, and one frame long. In my view its most courageous segment is the contribution by Mexican

In the 2002 anthology film 11’09”01–September 11 (CIH Shorts), Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu presents a mournful cine-poem with fleeting images of bodies plummeting from the World Trade Center towers. Digital frame enlargement.

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filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu, a mournful cine-poem consisting of a blacked-out screen intermittently lit up by fleeting images of the plummeting bodies of people who leapt from the blazing towers, accompanied by chaotic sounds recorded on the day of the attacks. The portmanteau film’s inability to find U.S. distribution is largely attributable, I think, to distributors and exhibitors being frightened away by González Iñárritu’s chapter. One wonders if the revelation of the Holocaust in the 1940s would have carried such impact if the most shocking filmed evidence had been similarly sifted out. The power of González Iñárritu’s haunting vision informs my conclusion that showing is no less essential than telling when an artist’s goal is not only to educate but also to galvanize public consciousness, seizing and holding its attention on visceral as well as intellectual levels. Keeping the history of Holocaust filmmaking in mind, however, I have to ask why even González Iñárritu’s passionate threnody depicts the human toll of 9/11 in glimpses so brief that they exaggerate the difficulty of seeing what they show and excuse us in advance for looking at them with, so to speak, our eyes wide shut. If America’s visual culture could produce the wretched photographs of Abu Ghraib, it should be able to document the 9/11 tragedy with an unshielded, undenying gaze. Only after we have seen the worst there is to see—the equivalent of the bulldozed corpses, skeletal prisoners, and cremation sites of the early Holocaust documentaries—will the cinema be justified in turning to subtler means of exploration, as Lanzmann and Ophuls eventually did. Visual theorist W. J. T. Mitchell begins his 2004 book What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images with a discussion of images that define and summarize our time. One of them is the image of the World Trade Center under attack. “The towers themselves,” he writes, “were . . . widely recognized as icons of globalization and advanced capitalism, and that is why they were the target of attack. . . . The real target was a globally recognizable icon, and the aim was not merely to destroy it but to stage its destruction as a media spectacle. Iconoclasm . . . was rendered as an icon in its own right.” Since the towers were images of global capitalism, Mitchell argues, those who found these images offending felt “the moral imperative . . . to offend the images themselves, to treat them as if they were human agents or at least living symbols of evil, and to punish them accordingly” (13–14, 15). This account of why the Twin Towers were destroyed, and why the destruction has acquired such iconic power around the world, helps explain why the memory of September 11 can agitate and disturb Americans, and others, to a degree out of proportion to the amount of death and destruction that actually took place, which, as noted, was less than from an average 156

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month of highway driving. Mitchell’s words apply to the Holocaust as well, even though the Holocaust is barely mentioned in his book. Through centuries of anti-Semitic bigotry, oppression, and violence, Europe and later America produced the Jewish people as “symbols of decadence and evil,” to apply Mitchell’s words about paranoid perceptions of the Twin Towers. Amorphous defamations and foundationless libels, promulgated in uncountable ways through cultural channels of every size and design, constructed “world Jewry” as an “offending image” for bigots and xenophobes to despise, fear, and, again quoting Mitchell’s words about 9/11, “treat . . . as if they were human agents or at least living symbols of evil, and to punish them accordingly.” My interest in viewing images of September 11 through the lens of the Holocaust began considerably before Mitchell published What Do Pictures Want? But it was stimulated by my own sense that in the modern cultural unconscious, teeming as it is with living symbols and offending images, the realities embedded in such terms as “world Jewry” and “global capitalism” are now inextricably tied to icons of hellish trauma—the Holocaust death camps, the World Trade Center’s fiery towers. What pictures of the Holocaust want is to be treated with the dignity and deference they overwhelmingly deserve, even if this leads artists like Lanzmann and Ophuls to the conclusion that picturing them is no longer a fitting way to honor them. The pictures of 9/11 also call out for reverence and respect, but forces of aggression and xenophobia have appropriated them for reactionary ends, turning the violent results of ideological brutality into excuses for more of the same, with God supposedly on our side this time. Nazism lost its war in the 1940s, and, thanks in part to visual representations of the Holocaust, that particular brand of fascism has been held largely in check ever since. Terrorism is a more diffuse and multifaceted phenomenon, and too much of the visual discourse surrounding it has been on one hand too reticent— suppressing the images of burning, plummeting bodies, for example—and on the other hand too belligerent, draped in slogans of vengeance, xenophobia, and payback. If the interminable “war on terror” is ever to terminate, if we will ever be able to say the terrorists have lost, the purveyors of trash like “Our War Against Terrorism” and The Reader could do worse than revisit the history of Holocaust representation and take its sophisticated lessons to heart.

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Notes 1. The Fatality Analysis Reporting System Encyclopedia, Fatality Analysis Reporting System, n.p., http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx (accessed March 22, 2010). 2. I first presented some of these ideas in my keynote address, “Identity and Self-Representation: Cinematic Challenges and Opportunities,” at the Conference of American Jewish Film Festivals held by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture in Washington, D.C., on November 29, 2001, and in a 2003 paper presented to the Society for Cinema and Media Studies in Minneapolis in a panel on “Images of Suffering.” A more developed version then appeared as Sterritt, “Representing” 63–78. 3. Discussing the 1977 film Our Hitler, a Film from Germany, Sontag similarly suggests that writer-director Hans-Jürgen Syberberg could not “rely on documents to show how it ‘really’ was [since] the display of atrocity in the form of photographic evidence risks being tacitly pornographic” (qtd. in Insdorf 188). Critical commentary on Leni Riefenstahl’s documentaries often points up related dangers.

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Lucy Fischer

David Mamet’s Homicide In or Out?

Yes the world hates you. It may intermittently award the Jew the mantle of pseudo-human beings (cf. Albert Einstein . . .) but the observant will find the very exercise of this dubious prerogative an example of race superiority. The world hates the Jews. D avid M amet , The Wicked Son 6

“You Can Just Be Nothing” When one thinks of Jewish American literary or cinematic artists, the name of David Mamet does not immediately leap to mind. Instead, on the literary front, one considers such figures as Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Erica Jong, Saul Bellow, or Tillie Olson; and in the cinematic realm, such directors as Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Elaine May, or Paul Mazursky. In contrast, Mamet is associated with a muscular brand of American theater in which tough guys (whether working-class stiffs or seedy businessmen) aggressively interact, using salty language to communicate. In general, this is not the world of Jewish masculinity that has often been stereotyped as mild-mannered and ineffectual. Mamet’s American Buffalo (1975), for instance, concerns a junk store owner who feels that a collector has swindled him in the purchase of a buffalo nickel and conspires with two friends (small-time crooks) to steal it back. Glengarry Glen Ross (1988) the Pulitzer Prize–winning play that made Mamet famous, concerns four ruthless real estate salesmen who compete for new leads in a sales contest. 159

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Writer/director David Mamet on the set of Homicide (David Mamet, Bison Films, 1991). Collection Lucy Fischer.

While these are two of Mamet’s most celebrated works, he also wrote several others that have been collected under the title Three Jewish Plays (1987): The Disappearance of the Jews (1982), Goldberg Street (1985), and The Luftmensch (1984). In the first of these, two long-time buddies in their thirties (Bobby and Joey) discuss old times—acquaintances from their childhood in the neighborhood, fellow kids at a winter camp. Most of the names mentioned (e.g., Greenberg, Frankel, and Rosen) are classically Jewish and reference is made to various synagogues (e.g., Rodfei Zedek). At times, the conversation turns openly to Jewish subjects. Bobby, who is in a failing marriage, complains of having wed a shiksa and is troubled by the fact that, according to Jewish law, his child is not officially a Jew. While Joey says that Bobby’s blonde son might pass for a Christian, Bobby (recalling neighborhood ethnic fights) responds, “They start knocking heads in the schoolyard looking for Jews, you fuckin’ think they aren’t goint [sic] to take my kid” (Three 11). Furthermore, Bobby says that his wife once told him, “If you’ve been persecuted so long, eh, you must have brought it on yourself ” (11). Hence, the serious question of anti-Semitism is raised here, about which these two guys (hardly intellectuals) begin to philosophize. Joey, for instance, asserts, “The reason that the goyin [sic] hate us the whole time is addition they were envious, because we wouldn’t fight” (12, emphasis in original). Moreover, referencing the Holocaust, he pre160

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dicts that “it will happen again” (13)—a thought that invokes the notion of “disappearance” in the play’s title. Moreover, Joey seems to have a curious longing for old-fashioned Jewish European life: farming, craftsmanship, studying Talmud, living in a shtetl. He even claims that he could have survived the Camps. In some ways, however, Mamet’s most direct exploration of Jewish issues comes in his expository writing, particularly The Wicked Son: AntiSemitism, Self-Hatred, and the Jews (2006). As this essay’s opening epigraph (from the chapter “In or Out”) makes clear, Mamet takes the pessimistic position that, even in the twenty-first century, the world continues to abhor Jews and that, regardless, an individual Jew must make the choice to identify with his hapless group or not. This decision is made more complex by the fact that many Jews can pass in a Christian world (as can Bobby’s son). As Mamet notes: You have been taxed, as the African American was not, with the ability to “pass”; or better, with the illusion that you can do so. To avail yourself of the same is to be in a position similar to a homosexual in the church or in the army: the majority culture has “allowed” you a provisional membership, provided that you never pursue your proclivities. (Wicked 6) In a second essay in the collection, “You Can Just Be Nothing,” Mamet sketches out the perils of assimilation. On the one hand, he finds such a position perplexing. As he inquires: Why would anyone who possessed a heritage, racial, cultural, or otherwise, prefer to “just be nothing”? Can one simply choose to embrace a negative, and must not such a choice be, effectually, a repudiation? Why would assimilated Jews (Jews by race or cultural heritage) choose to repudiate a culture, a history, and a religion about which they knew nothing? (Wicked 45) On the other hand, he mocks those Jews who think they can select certain elements of their religion and culture to embrace while rejecting others. Such a Jew feels that, rationally, a person . . . may be free to choose, to opt out of any inconvenient association, free of debt, and so of guilt. But he may not and is pursued by an unquenchable sense of loss. He may identify this loss as a desire for justice, for redress, for equality, for David Mamet’s Homicide

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freedom. The sense of loss will persist. His guilt and anxiety are not for the unfortunate state of the world but for his identity. This identity cannot exist outside the tribe. (Wicked 46) Finally, referencing the Passover Haggadah (and title of his volume), he calls such individuals “wicked”: This is the wickedness of the wicked son. He feels free to enjoy his intellectual heritage, the Jewish love of learning, and reverence for accomplishment; he enjoys, aware or not, a heritage of millennia of Jewish Law and values; he enjoys his very life, which would have been denied him and his ancestors in the Europe they suffered to leave; he enjoys the right to protection from the community he disavows and, through it all, parrots “My parents were Jews, but I do not consider myself a Jew.” This is certainly wickedness. (127–28) Ultimately, Mamet claims that the “ex-Jew” (Wicked 46) will be unhappy: The costs of assimilation are many. They include fatigue, sorrow, loneliness, and self-doubt. Ignorance leads the troubled to ascribe their anomie to their heritage rather than to their rejection of it. (127) Given this perspective, it not so surprising to learn that Mamet has also collaborated on two illustrated books about Jewish holidays and rituals: Passover (1995) and Bar Mitzvah (1999). While Mamet made the film Homicide (1991) some fifteen years before writing The Wicked Son, the same ideas surface emphatically in this cinematic work. In fact, he has said, “I wrote Homicide because I wanted to explore who I was and my Jewish roots” (Price 104). But first a word about Mamet and filmmaking. The topic comes up in several of his plays. In The Disappearance of the Jews, Bobby confesses that he would have loved to be in Hollywood in the 1920s. “Jesus,” he says, “I know they had a good time there. Here you got, I mean, five smart Jew boys from Russia, this whole industry” (Three 18). Clearly, Mamet is alluding to the Jewish moguls, all immigrants from eastern Europe, among them Carl Laemmle, Harry Cohn, Louis B. Mayer, the Warner brothers (Jack, Harry, and Sam), and Adolph Zukor. Another play, Speed-the-Plow (1984), explores the tension between commerce and art through the relationship of two film producers. Mamet has also been directly involved in the film in162

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dustry in numerous ways: as a screenwriter (e.g., Hannibal [2001], Wag the Dog [1997], Hoffa [1992], and The Untouchables [1987]) and as a director of someone else’s material (e.g., Catastrophe [2000]). Furthermore, versions of his plays have been adapted for the screen by others: American Buffalo in 1996 (Michael Corrente) and Glengarry Glen Ross in 1992 (James Foley). Mamet did direct a movie version of one of his theater pieces, Oleanna, in 1994. Moreover, he has written and directed several original films, among them House of Games (1987), Things Change (1988), The Spanish Prisoner (1997), State and Main (2000), Heist (2001), and Spartan (2004). Furthermore, between 2006 and 2008, he wrote some sixty-six episodes of the TV series The Unit, directing four of them. Finally, he has also published two essay collections on the subject of filmmaking: On Directing Film (1991) and Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business (2006).

The Police Procedural and Jewish Identity [The screenplay] is no longer an oddity, no longer a localized West Coast phenomenon; it is now a fact of life that everyone has written his or her screenplay. The butcher, the baker, and their progeny have written a screenplay. I know, because they all have tried to get me to read them. And, if the modular, schematic nature of the Hollywood movie is clear to all, sufficiently clear that those daunted by the formal requirements of a thank-you note are essaying the thriller or romantic drama, must that not mean the end is at hand? Yes. The end of what? Of film as a dramatic medium. (Mamet Screenplay) For the film Homicide, Mamet directed his own original screenplay. Like many of his other works, he sets it in the world of macho guys, this time Baltimore cops. Given that the narrative raises Jewish questions, it is significant that Mamet has said, “As a Jew it kind of burns me that the only way that the Jewish experience is ever treated in American films is through the Nazi murder of the European Jews” (Barton 181). Certainly, in the police environment in which Homicide occurs, we are far from the milieu in which Woody Allen operates—that of the artsy/intellectual New York upper-middle-class elite. As Toby Silverman Zenman has observed, Mamet has fashioned a world of “Jewish tough” (212). Among the ranks of Baltimore detectives is Robert Gold, played by Joe Mantegna, the same acDavid Mamet’s Homicide

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Bobby Gold in action: anxious, but prepared (David Mamet, Bison Films, 1991). Collection Lucy Fischer.

tor (and, like Mamet, native Chicagoan) who took the role of Bobby in the Goodman Theatre’s production of The Disappearance of the Jews. Mamet has said that he became interested in writing a police story after hanging out with his cousin, a NYPD captain. As Homicide unfolds, Gold gets sidetracked from a major case involving an African American drug dealer, Robert Randolph (Ving Rhames), about whom he has some leads, when he happens to stop at another crime scene where an elderly white variety store owner has been murdered in a black ghetto. That proprietor is a Jewess (a fact we learn quite subtly as Gold examines her body and finds a Star of David pendant around her neck), and her family is convinced that her death is an anti-Semitic act. As her son Dr. Klein says upon arrival at the scene, “It never stops.” There is some immediate evidence that his conjecture might be true, since an African American neighborhood kid calls the dead woman “a Jew broad” and asserts that she had a “fortune in her basement” (tapping stereotypes of Jews and wealth). Though Gold at first dismisses this theory and tries to dump the seemingly insignificant case, he gradually takes the hypothesis more seriously and becomes embroiled in his own struggle with Jewish identity.1 When we first meet Bobby, his ethnicity seems of interest only to others, and not in a good way. Rather, he is the lone Jew in a cadre of officers 164

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and city officials, a Caucasian “Other.” The first instance of his “outing” arises when he gets into an argument over the pursuit of Randolph with Patterson (Louis Murray), an African American assistant to the deputy mayor, who calls him a “kike.” (Some have found Homicide’s presentation of African Americans problematic in this regard [see Bigsby 187].) Later on, when Bobby pleads to be assigned to the Randolph case, Lieutenant Senna (Vincent Guastaferro) tells him, “I’m sorry, Bobby, I got a call. The Jewish guys downtown, the doctor’s got this clout. He wants you, you were there, you’re his ‘people,’ you’re on the case.” To this Gold responds, “I’m his people . . . ? I thought I was your people” (meaning the homicide squad). Clearly, Bobby asserts here that his primary identification is professional and not religious or cultural. It is also obvious that the tendency to judge Bobby by his racial or ethnic roots is not without a broader context. At one point in the film a supervisor requests that an Irish cop bring in a “perp” with the assumption that he will be rough. At another point, Bobby humorously calls his partner (who is Irish) “one smart Indian.” His partner also makes a racist joke by claiming that one of the detectives would not be able to find Randolph (who is black) in “a bowl of rice.” Furthermore, with tensions hot between African Americans and Jews throughout the film, at the end, when Bobby finally confronts Randolph, he stoops to calling him a “fuckin’ nigger”—visiting upon another group the abuse that has been aimed at him. Critic Ranen Omer asserts that this wider view dilutes the film’s emphasis on Jewish issues in particular: “In the end, it seems that Mamet’s genuine intent to explore the specificity of the Jewish condition itself evaporated in the universality of Bobby Gold’s existential crisis” (Barton 183). As we shall see, however, this is decidedly not the case. After failing to be released from the Jewish murder case, Bobby learns that Dr. Klein has reported gunshots on the roof of his apartment building and he is sent to investigate. Clearly, he thinks that the Kleins are hysterics who have mistaken automobile backfire for ammunition. Dr. Klein, sensitive to Bobby’s condescension, responds: “When the fantasy is true, when we’ve been killed, then you say ‘what a coincidence.’ . . . That at the same time we were being paranoid, someone was coincidentally trying to hurt us.” At one point, Bobby receives a phone call from headquarters and goes into Dr. Klein’s study to talk, reporting to his caller, “I’m stuck here with my Jews  .  .  . buncha high-strung fuckin’ bullshit, they pay so much taxes. . . . Fuck ’em.” Clearly, his refusal to identify as a Jew has turned into outright hatred of the group. He continues: “You tell me. Ten more bucks a week they’re making lettin’ her work down there? Not . . . ‘my’ people, baby. . . . Fuck ’em, there’s so much anti-Semitism, last four thousand years, David Mamet’s Homicide

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they must be doin’ something bring it about.” Here, we see that he accepts the notion that Jews are greedy (sending old ladies to work for a few dollars a week), and we recognize the similarity of his statement to the line in The Disappearance of the Jews that blames Jews for anti-Semitism. While, on the one hand, this scene positions Bobby further away from Jewish selfidentity, on the other, it is during this sequence that his feelings start to change. First of all, he is overheard on the telephone by Dr. Klein’s daughter (Rebecca Pidgeon, Mamet’s second wife). She realizes he’s a Jew and asks him if he is not ashamed for what he has said. She also inquires: “Do you hate yourself that much? . . . Do you belong nowhere?” He then swears apologetically that he’ll pursue her grandmother’s killer. At this point, however, a second possible gunshot is heard and, when Bobby looks out the window, he sees a man on the roof. Now, taking Klein’s claim more seriously, he runs to the roof but the man gets away. He surveys the scene and finds a pigeon coop; he also picks up a folded piece of paper on which the puzzling word grofaz is written. Finally, when he returns to the Kleins’ apartment (still convinced that what he heard was probably auto backfire), he begins to explore some photographs of the murdered woman (in her youth) on the wall. As he straightens one that is hung crookedly, another photo drops down from behind it. It pictures the same young woman holding a rifle and smiling. He picks up a magnifying glass lying nearby and sees that at the woman’s feet is an entire box of guns and that the picture is labeled “Laughing Pines, Elkhart, Wisconsin.” This photograph piques his curiosity enough for him to return to the variety store crime scene that evening, where he notices posters taped to buildings on the street, blaming Jews for ghetto poverty. When he descends into the store’s basement, he finds an empty crate labeled so as to make clear that it once contained numerous “tommy guns.” He finds an invoice in it, dated 1948, as well as a list of Jewish-sounding names (ostensibly customers). We assume that, like the viewer, he is beginning to connect old Mrs. Klein’s past with the rise of the Jewish state in the late 1940s and with the Irgun soldiers who fought on its behalf. Hence, Bobby’s initial certainty that Dr. Klein is paranoid about anti-Semitism becomes more tenuous. Significantly, as he investigates the store basement, an African American officer assigned to the scene talks to him from above: “A rich Jew lady [meaning Mrs. Klein] in this neighborhood is goin’ to get took off ”—again implying that she had no business being there, that her death was her fault. What Bobby finds in the basement leads him to become more curious about the possible gunshots on the Kleins’ roof as well as the meaning of the word grofaz on the crumpled paper. He therefore goes to a Jewish library to investigate. There he learns that, rather than being nonsensical, 166

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the term was an acronym for a German phrase used at the end of World War II to signify Adolf Hitler as “the greatest strategist of all time.” He asks the librarian to get him the file on recent uses of this epithet but, as he waits, another researcher stares at him. Bobby thinks it’s because he’s carrying a gun and explains that he’s a police detective. The research scholar responds, however, that it’s not his gun that disturbs him but his badge—a five-pointed star: “The pentagram . . . it is identified as a star, but it is not the symbol of heaven. It is the symbol of earth. . . . The Mogen David is the intersection of the opposites and can be deconstructed into heaven and earth, but the pentagram cannot be deconstructed.” He then asks Bobby if he’s a Jew, implying that his allegiance should be to the Mogen David and not the police badge—to the more spiritual realm rather than to the state. When the scholar wants to show Bobby a text he is reading, he asks him if he knows Hebrew. When Bobby replies in the negative, the scholar chides, “You say you’re a Jew and you can’t read Hebrew? What are you then?” Again, Bobby is shamed for his decision “to be nothing,” to be what Mamet deems an “ex-Jew.” No wonder he feels alienation and anomie. The librarian informs Bobby that the file on grofaz has been borrowed by another user. He sneaks a look at the individual’s address and sets out to go there. What he finds upon arrival is an underground Jewish “cell,” made up of elderly veterans of the Israeli war of independence and younger people who wish to be radical fighters against anti-Semitism in the current era. He tells them he wants to help and hands them a photocopy of the list of individuals found in the rifle box at the variety store. But they want the original. He then explains that it has already been entered as official evidence and he cannot violate police rules by taking it. They throw him out—mocking his lack of commitment to the cause. One of them tells him, “Be a Jew!” and shouts: “Where are your loyalties? You want the glory, you want the home, you are willing to do nothing.” As he leaves the building, he reencounters a woman who was a guest at the Klein’s apartment, Chava (Natalija Nogulich)—again connecting the issue of anti-Semitism to the old Mrs. Klein’s death. He tells Chava that he wants to help the cause and the two sit in a diner and talk. It is here that Bobby confesses hurtful elements of his Jewish status within the police force. He feels he has been made a hostage negotiator because he’s already an outsider. His assignment also reflects stereotypes of the Jews as good “talkers” rather than actors. (His partner, Sullivan [William H. Macy], calls him “the orator.”) He reveals that he’s been called a “pussy” all his life (tapping stereotypes of Jewish male effeminacy), and that it was said that one might as well send in a “broad” to do violent police work. We recall that David Mamet’s Homicide

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Homicide detective Bobby Gold (Joe Mantegna) talks with Jewish activist Chava (Natalija Nogulich) (David Mamet, Bison Films, 1991). Collection Lucy Fischer.

Sullivan has asked him why he brazenly strove to be the first one in the door in a police raid, and we realize that this was a compensatory act. Bobby calls the Jewish men he has just met “heroes” and wonders what it’s like to “have your own country” and not be working for someone else. He begs to assist Chava in her fight and we soon realize (since she is carrying a suspicious black suitcase) that she intends to plant a bomb at a store that is a front for the neo-Nazi group responsible for the anti-Semitic posters we have previously seen. Bobby insists that he be the one to detonate it (thus entirely abnegating his role as a law enforcement agent). His allegiance to the six-pointed star is now seemingly complete. Some critics have viewed Bobby’s quick and radical turnaround (cop to criminal) as entirely unmotivated; but this treats the story as a realistic psychological study, which it is not (Barton 185–86). Rather, Edmond Grant seems correct when he asserts that the film is a “perfect union of Dragnet and Brecht” (Barton 185). It has the veneer of realism but, in truth, is a much more distanced, cerebral, and mannered drama than it first appears. Significantly, the store that Bobby blows up is a train hobby shop. When he enters it we see numerous models, some in dioramas replete with toy soldiers. Clearly, trains have a particular resonance with events of the Holocaust since they were used to transport Jews to the camps. Realizing this, Gold eventually smashes some of the displays. In order to 168

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find the neo-Nazi heart of the train shop, Bobby must go through a series of doors. In the stockroom, he finds a brown shirt with a swastika. Opening a second door, he locates a printing press and a Nazi flag. The camera pans over a series of anti-Semitic printed tracts, one of which reads: “The admixture of Jewish blood into the clan’s White Race is a crime against humanity.” He sets up the bomb, escapes, and drives off with Chava to the diner. There, however, some of the Jewish men he has met that evening show up again, once more requesting the original list of names found in the rifle box. He once more refuses. They produce photos of him sabotaging the hobby shop and it is clear that they intend to blackmail him. This is the first sign that Bobby’s turn to Jewish identity may not be entirely benign—that it is fraught with its own problematic—that no group is exempt from bad behavior. The negative ramifications of his act grow even stronger when Bobby realizes that he has missed an assignation with Sullivan, who is still involved in the Randolph case. By the time he arrives on the scene, Sullivan has been shot by Randolph and soon dies. Hence, Bobby’s allegiance to one star has caused the death of a beloved friend associated with the other. To avenge Sullivan, Bobby pursues Randolph on his own. Although the latter is eventually arrested, Bobby is seriously wounded in the process. The film ends with Bobby limping into the detective squad some months later. His fellow cops treat him coldly and his superior tells him that they have solved the case of the variety store murder. We then see the African American kids who had been present at the crime scene emerge from an office and state that they killed Mrs. Klein for her alleged stash of money. Finally, someone hands Bobby a file and when he opens it he learns that the paper on which grofaz had been written is a fragment of a bag for Grofazt feed (i.e., “grow fast”), a pigeon food that was used for the birds in the rooftop pigeon coop. As the camera pulls back, we leave Bobby sitting stunned on a chair in the police station corridor. One wonders how we are to interpret the denouement of the film. On the one hand, given Mamet’s thoughts on the unaffiliated Jew, Bobby Gold seems to have made a transition toward cultural identity that the author would applaud. On the other hand, Bobby’s foray into Jewish identity leads to his (1) taking a wrong turn in a murder case (one that supports possible ethnic conspiracy theories), (2) misinterpreting a clue (the grofaz paper), and (3) fatally letting down his partner. So Bobby’s Jewish identification ultimately seems as problematic as it is positive. Perhaps that is why Mamet has commented, “I am neither expecting people to call the film antiSemitic, nor will I be surprised if they do” (Bigsby 187). There is another possible reading of the film that is less dismissive of Gold’s quest, however. David Mamet’s Homicide

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If one believes that the neo-Nazi group that Gold uncovers is real (and not, as some have argued, an elaborate fiction to maneuver him into being blackmailed [Barton 191–93]), then we have learned that, even when one takes a wrong turn in investigating alleged anti-Semitism, one will simply uncover yet another (and perhaps unrelated) case of the same phenomenon. In other words, no matter where one looks (on the correct or incorrect trail of a hate crime), one will hit the target. There is yet one other aspect of the film’s conclusion that bears consideration and relates to Mamet’s thoughts on writing. In Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama (1998), he discusses his reservations about the so-called “problem play,” calling it “a melodrama cleansed of invention” that infantilizes the spectator (14, 18). It presents a “false struggle,” gives the spectator a sham sense of power, tells her what she already knew, and offers indignation “undergone in safety” (19, 15, 16–17). Worse yet, it is unsatisfying: the viewer’s concern about the problem reasserts itself the moment she leaves the theater (19). To the extent that Homicide fits this genre (a film about the problem of religious/cultural identification), Mamet seeks to pull the rug out from under us, to disabuse us of the notion that all will be settled at the end, that we will have gleaned a clear message. Rather, Mamet prefers tragedy, which avows human powerlessness, involves heroes “unfit for the journey they must take.” As he notes, referencing the audience: “I’m not going to give them what they want if what they want is a lie” (Three 18). There are also formal aspects of the film that are interesting in and of themselves and have ramifications for its complex theme. The film starts in medias res with a group of armored, hooded, gun-toting FBI enforcers in a tenement house, sneaking upstairs for a raid on (what we later learn is) Randolph’s apartment. Since they are trying to be silent, they only mime to one another and do not talk. This conforms to Mamet’s theory of filmmaking. As he comments: “Basically, the perfect movie doesn’t have any dialogue. So you should always be striving to make a silent movie” (On Directing 72). The sequence is important for other reasons as well. It is the first of many break-ins that we see throughout the film. Sullivan and Gold later break down several doors to enter another apartment relevant to the Randolph case; and eventually Gold breaks into the hobby shop and breeches another set of doors. In general, the camera in these sequences identifies the viewer with the intruder as he brashly enters the space. Given the shadow of the Holocaust that hangs over the film, the act of breaking and entering resonates with the memory of the violation of Jewish homes by the Gestapo. In Homicide, however, the Jew represents the state, which makes the act highly ambiguous. 170

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Epilogue: The Dream and the Film The dream and the film are the juxtaposition of images in order to answer a question. Mamet, On Directing 6

On one level, Homicide is a police procedural, a genre in which the reader follows a law enforcement professional as he goes through the codified steps of cracking a case. In a sense, Mamet also sees the task of filmmaking as requiring a systematic set of procedures: “The film is directed in the making of the shot list. The work on the set is simply to record what has been chosen to be recorded. It is the plan that makes the movie” (On Directing 5). For Mamet this is not an empty or conventional rule but a process for liberating the imagination: The purpose of technique is to free the unconscious. If you follow the rules ploddingly, they will allow your unconscious to be free. That’s true creativity. If not, you will be fettered by your conscious mind. Because the conscious mind always wants to be liked and wants to be interesting. The conscious mind is going to suggest the obvious, the cliché, because these things offer the security of having succeeded in the past. (On Directing 6, emphasis in original) When Bobby Gold abandons the logic of the detective’s rule book, his unconscious is likewise unshackled. But rather than the creativity of art, he finds the confusion of paranoia as well as its flip side—the lesson that even paranoids have enemies.

Notes 1. For many years I have taught Homicide (in classes on Jews and American cinema and on film and literature); I have also given talks on the film to various local Jewish groups. I therefore long ago organized my thoughts on the film without benefit of reading scholarly material. When asked to write this piece, however, I looked at the scholarly literature for the first time and found that numerous ideas I had already formulated were also discussed in Barton and summarized from others in Price.

David Mamet’s Homicide

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Vincent Brook

Boy-Man Schlemiels and Super-Nebishes Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller

“The neurotic nebbish is out, the swaggering ass-kicker is in,” proclaimed a December 2003 cover story in Timeout New York entitled “The New Super Jew.” “From music and film to comedy and fashion, Jewish artists and performers are exploring edgy new personas,” the piece declared (Rakoff ). The article’s cause célèbre was the recently released blaxploitation-film parody The Hebrew Hammer (2003), starring Adam Goldberg as Shaft-like private eye Mordechai Jefferson Carver, given to wearing a black fedora, a long leather coat, payot (sidelocks), and an oversized gold Chai (Hebrew letters symbolizing “life”). “New Jew” citings in general were nothing new, of course. The term had been applied to the Zionist-era Muscle Jew, and to the more romantically appealing, conspicuously Jewish actors such as Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, and Woody Allen, who burst on the scene in the late 1960s and 1970s. As to the New Super Jew, Daniel Itzkovitz also found this designation redundant in a 2006 essay: “Aren’t ‘neurotic nebbishes’ and edgy Jews often one and the same, as The Hebrew Hammer itself demonstrates? And is the neurotic nebbish really ‘out,’ or for that matter is ‘edgy-Jews-exploringnew-personas’ really a new phenomenon?” (238). Itzkovitz cited the “politically subversive pleasures” of the Marx Brothers films of the 1930s as prime precursors of swaggering edginess. And while he might have referenced Gene Wilder’s Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles (1974) or his eponymous Polish rabbi cowboy in The Frisco Kid (1979) as more immediate, and more direct, antecedents, Itzkovitz was right to detect in all the parodic ethnic posing “a persistent dilemma that has long faced American Jews: that nei173

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ther a complete and comfortable assimilation, nor a solid and stable sense of Jewish identity, is easily attained” (238). Nuance notwithstanding, however, I side with Timeout New York in discerning a distinctively new coloration in the latest variation of the New Super Jew. More confident about being Jewish, but less sure about what being Jewish means, is the qualitatively new dilemma facing the assimilated multicultural Jew. Where I differ from Timeout New York is in its periodization of the phenomenon, which I see emerging, at least in American film, a decade before Goldberg’s Hebrew Hammer—most prominently in the two most significant post-Hoffman/Streisand/Allen-era Jewish actors: Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller. Several other figures have made their mark in the recent period, of course—Billy Crystal, Jeff Goldblum, and Kevin Kline, among others, in the generation preceding Sandler and Stiller; Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Fran Drescher, and Debra Messing, among others, contemporaneously; Sarah Silverman, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Judd Apatow’s “Jew-Tang Clan” (Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Segal, et al.) among the up-and-comers.1 But over the past two decades, no film stars have contributed as much to a (changing) sense of Jewish identity (while consistently wearing Stars of David on their sleeves) or had as great an impact on American popular culture (via mainstream commercial success) as Stiller and Sandler.

The New Super-Nebish Itzkovitz’s notion that the New Super Jew merges long-standing nebishe and edgy tendencies is both supported and challenged by the representations and personae of Sandler and Stiller, who have updated the romantically appealing schlemiel while also playing characters that possess super powers in several of their films. Stiller has been the more tentative of the two in the super-powers direction, more often playing, as in his Focker series (2000, 2004, 2010) and in other comedies such as Flirting with Disaster (1996), Keeping the Faith (2000), and Along Came Polly (2004), what Terri Dougherty calls “a nebishe but kind-hearted soul” (57). When his characters have possessed special powers, these have been portrayed parodically. In Mystery Men (1999), Stiller’s Mr. Furious is, oxymoronically, an incompetent superhero; in Zoolander (2001), his eponymous male supermodel is a super nebish; in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004), his White Goodman is a misnomered diabolical dodgeball champ; and in Tropic Thunder (2008), his Tug Speedman is a movie-star portrayer of superheroes whose acting ability leaves much to be desired. Sandler, though his early films especially are even more broadly farcical 174

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than Stiller’s, has taken his characters’ super powers more seriously. In one of his first breakout hits, Happy Gilmore (1996), Sandler’s titular protagonist is a hard-luck loser with a hair-trigger temper but also an innate, untrained ability to drive a golf ball over 400 yards—ultimately leading, once his temper is tempered, to triumph on the pro golf tour, as a populist hero, and in love. In his next big hit, The Waterboy (1998), Sandler plays Bobby Boucher Jr., a Jerry Lewis–like goofball with a heart of gold who again superhumanly channels extreme anger into athletic gain, this time on the football field, here propelling his underdog (Jewish-coached) team’s conference championship and his own celebrity status. In Little Nicky (2000), a more archetypally supernatural farce, Sandler’s Nicky, the youngest of Satan’s three sons, ventures to Earth to combat his two evil brothers bent on usurping their father’s throne. Here again, Sandler’s Jerry Lewis–like juvenile with a kind-hearted soul must learn to harness his inner anger, in this case his evil powers, which have been compromised by his “interfaith” genealogy (his mother is a heavenly angel). Once he manages to harness the Evil side and combine it with the Good, he is able to defeat his singularly wicked brothers and bring peace to the world. Even in Bedtime Stories (2008), a children’s film made for Disney, Sandler’s standard-issue “sympathetic underachiever” Skeeter Bronson fan-

Zohan (Adam Sandler) and prize shtupp (Lainie Kazan) in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (Dennis Dugan, Columbia, 2008). Courtesy PhotoFest New York.

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tasizes himself into various heroic guises—a medieval knight, a Wild West cowboy, a Roman gladiator, and a futuristic mash-up of Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter—which end up magically interfacing with his everyday life (Stern 192). And finally, in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008), the most explicitly Jewish and super-heroic of Sandler’s super-power series, Sandler is the Muscle Jew writ large—an Israeli special-forces commando with otherworldly strength, impossible martial arts skills, and hyper-sexual potency, but whose counterintuitive dream is to be a hair stylist. Fleeing the Middle East for New York City, the Zohan becomes an instant Ehud Scissorhands cum Warren Ben Beatty,2 falls for his Palestinian American hairdresser boss (Emmanuelle Chriqui), and ultimately allies with a Palestinian super-rival (John Turturro) against their common enemy, Walbridge, an amoral mega-developer (Michael Buffer) who plans to Walmart/ Trump-ify a start-up business district run by immigrant Israelis on one side of the block and immigrant Palestinians on the other.3 Zohan is a comical mash-up of myriad superhero, kung-fu, and James Bond films, with the Israeli-Palestinian twist lifted from the 2005 Oscarwinning short film West Bank Story. But by taking the latter’s punchline (“Is there any place in the world where Jews and Arabs can live in peace?”— “Beverly Hills!”) to its logical conclusion, Zohan’s reverse aliyah (migration from Israel to the United States instead of the other way around) even more cannily negotiates American Jews’ ambivalence toward post-1967 Israel. By hyper-romanticizing but also Americanizing the Israeli superhero, the film both fetishizes and familiarizes his Otherness. By promoting Israeli-Palestinian coexistence to the point of intermarriage, it reduces complex political issues to the narcissism of minor differences (the film’s Israeli and Arab immigrants look, speak, and eat much alike). By positing the United States, through Israeli intercession, as the only plausible staging ground for a peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict (“Here in America, we’re all the same,” the Zohan’s boss-beloved proclaims), the film allays post-9/11 anxieties, and culpability, on all sides. By having the Zohan “make a man” of a New York nebish, Michael (Nick Swardson), but also valorizing the superhero’s “unheroic conduct” (his hairdresser proclivities), it promotes a synthesis of the Muscle Jew and yeshiva boy strands of Jewish masculinity. Similarly, by having the Zohan flex both his anti-terrorist and anti-mega-developer muscles, it suggests the practical and political benefits of combining Israeli militant and diasporic humanist character traits. Cumulatively, by getting it both ways on so many levels, the film manages to affirm both American solidarity with and independence from the state of Israel. And superstar Adam Sandler is able to come out of his Sabra-face disguise as both assimilated American and multicultural Jew. 176

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Messing with the Kabbalah Having one’s kugel and eating it too, a Zohan-like tendency found in much recent Jewish-themed American film and culture in general, has not been to every Jewish commentator’s taste. Baz Dreisinger, for instance, decried the new Jewish multiculturalism for its superficial, “content-less relationship to Jewish identity,” and the “ ‘new’ Jewish comedy” for recasting “Jewishness—otherness—as a trendy accessory that can be taken on and off at will” (Itzkovitz 239; Dreisinger). Malina Sarah Saval lamented the lack of meaningful religious expression in Jewish American film, claiming that, in the 1990s, “not one American movie featured a rabbi. On the flip side, an everlasting stream of movies keeps us in constant supply of Christian clergymen” (16). Edward Norton’s Keeping the Faith (2000) was an exception that proved the rule. Although the film’s elder generation of rabbis struggles to maintain tradition while bending with the times, Stiller’s Rabbi Jake Schram is seemingly broken by them: breaching religious protocol by giving rock-music sermons, having a gospel choir perform during services, and, most heretically, by hooking up in the end with an Irish Catholic, Anna Riley (Jenna Elfman). And though Schram’s Yom Kippur confessional to his congregation, before running off to his shiksa true love, might satisfy postmodernists—“We live in a really complex world, in which boundaries and definitions are blurring and bleeding into each other in ways that I think challenge us not just as Jews but as human beings”—the sermon, for Saval, even more than an insult to tradition—given intermarriage rates approaching fifty percent by 2000—was a threat to Jewish survival. Nor did a concurrent pro-Jewish cultural counter-trend provide much comfort to Jewish survivalists. As the first decade of the twenty-first century wore on, a pop-cultish kabbalistic craze, spawned by the Kabbalah Centre and spurred by high-profile, mainly non-Jewish celebrities— Madonna, Britney Spears, Demi Moore, Posh Spice, A-Rod, among others— began “sweeping across America,” with Madonna even visiting Israel and changing her name to Esther. Thus while it seemed that Norman Mailer’s philosophical boast in 1951 that “we are all Jews” might be coming home to roost (xvii), the malleability of postmodern self-reinvention—was pilgrimage to Mecca next on Madonna’s itinerary?—rendered the effects of neo-kabbalism, like much multiculturalism, largely cosmetic and likely ephemeral. Nevertheless, it is worth taking another look at Don’t Mess with the Zohan’s historical moment, in relation to the kabbalah trend. The Zohan’s name, it can hardly be coincidental, is a hairbreadth from the word Zohar, the ur-text of kabbalah compiled by Moses de Leon in the thirteenth Boy-Man Schlemiels and Super-Nebishes

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century. Michael’s mother, Gail (Lainie Kazan), one of the Zohan’s prize shtupps (sexual conquests), even “mistakenly” calls him Zohart. But the kabbalistic connotations are more than nominal, for the Zohan’s demiurgical powers can’t help but also conjure pop cultural and folkloristic associations with the font of Jewish mysticism. The classic comic book superheroes that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s were almost all conceived by Jews: Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; Batman by Bob Kane (né Robert Kahn) and Bill Finger; Captain America by Jack Kirby (Jacob Kurtzberg) and Joe Simon; Spider-Man by Kirby, Stan Lee (Stanley Lieber), and (non-Jew) Steve Ditko; Iron Man, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, and the Fantastic Four all (at least partly) by Lee. All these artists plied their trade in New York, more specifically the Lower East Side and the Jewish Bronx, and most “shared a common, East European Jewish background” (Fingeroth 9, 18). And their (largely nonobservant) Jewishness crucially inspired and provided a narrative backdrop for the superhero. “Superman was the ultimate assimilationist fantasy,” comic-book artist and cartoonist Jules Feiffer explains. “The mild manners and glasses that signified a class of nerdy Clark Kents was, in no way, our real truth. Underneath the schmucky façade there lived Men of Steel! Jerry Siegel’s accomplishment was to chronicle the smart Jewish boy’s American dream” (29). The superhero also functioned symbolically to combat and psychologically to compensate for anti-Semitic victimization. “All the superheroes,” cultural critic Andrea Most observes, “have double identities. They spend their lives negotiating different personae, an experience not unlike that of their Jewish creators, who needed to negotiate the Jewish/American divide with similar finesse in order to succeed in an antisemitic culture” (19). Stan Lee concurred: “When we created stories about idealized superheroes, we were subconsciously trying to identify with characters who were the opposite of the Jewish stereotypes that hate propaganda tried to instill in people’s minds” (Fingeroth 10). The east European element, meanwhile, responded directly to the late 1930s historical moment from which the comic book superhero sprang. “You look at Superman,” comic-book artist Jerry Robinson observed, “the story of an orphan coming to America, keeping his identity secret and even the names, Kal-El and Jor-El [Superman’s and his birth father’s given names, but also variations on the Hebrew signifiers for God], you can trace lines to the background of the creators” (qtd. in Boucher E10). Indeed, Superman wasn’t from Krypton at all, Feiffer famously quipped in “The Minsk Theory of Krypton,” but from “planet Minsk or Lodz or Vilna or Warsaw” (29). And not only Jews have drawn the Semitic conclusion: no less an authority than Adolf Hitler “pronounced Superman a Jew” (Robinson 21). 178

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Not to disappoint their real-life nemesis, the comics’ creators gave several superheroes—Captain America, Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Human Torch, and Sub-Mariner—the express mission of confronting the Nazis (and other Axis powers). But the east European roots go deeper. “Superman was a golem,” contemporary (non-Jewish) comix creator Frank Miller stated in a 2006 interview—an analogy Michael Chabon had already literalized through his characters’ fictionalized superhero, the Escapist, in his reimagined history of the golden age of comic books, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000) (qtd. in Fingeroth 23; Chabon 86). In the novel, Escapist creator Joe Kavalier is an emigré from Prague, the same city where, according to Yiddish folklore, the sixteenth-century rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel conjured into existence an avenging clay monster through kabbalistic incantation as protection against anti-Semitic attacks. For modern-day assimilated American Jews, the superhero became a secular messiah conceived as defense (and offense) not only against the Nazis and other anti-Semitic forces, but against the forces of evil altogether (Fingeroth 29; see also Gunning “Gollum”). Miller’s noiring of the comix canon in the 1970s and 1980s, inspiring the ever-darkening expressionist reimaginings of the Batman series in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, tapped the cynical Gen-X mood and the New Hollywood paradigm shift toward youth-oriented, special effects–laden blockbusters. And though Miller isn’t Jewish, a disproportionate number of the directors of post-1980s superhero films have been: Richard Lester— Superman II, Superman III (1980, 1983); Joel Schumacher—Batman Forever (1995); Sam Raimi—Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3 (2002, 2004, 2007); Bryan Singer—X-Men, X2 (2000, 2003), Superman Returns (2006); Brett Ratner—X-Men: The Last Stand (2006); Jon Favreau—Iron Man, Iron Man 2 (2008, 2010). Not until Sandler’s Zohan, however, would the metaphorical “veiling of the superhero’s ethnic roots” be lifted, at least in a major American motion picture (Fingeroth 27). A stream of “outed” Jewish superheroes had previously infiltrated the post-classical comic book scene, from Acidic Man to Toot Braunstein to Captain Israel and Boy Chick.4 However, while Captain Israel might seem a likely precursor of the Zohan (the former was created by Eric Reuben and Stan Kay in 1966), a physical comparison contradicts the kinship. The superhero pioneers “kept Jewish bodies  .  .  . out of their comics,” Most explains. “The muscle-bound men in tights who flew across the pages of DC Comics sporting ridiculously angular jaws and cleft chins were the epitome of the White, non-ethnic, all-American hero” (Most 19). Captain Israel, by contrast, is bespectacled and scrawny with a ridiculously curly bouffant, and while he flies across the Lancer Books pages in tights Boy-Man Schlemiels and Super-Nebishes

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and flowing cape, it’s as if a puny Clark Kent, pathetically disguised as a Halloween Superman, has finally “come out” as nebishy Jewish. Sandler’s Zohan, meanwhile, morphs Captain Israel with Mr. Olympia: bronzed, buff, kick-ass tough, with (at least on his home turf ) biblically long hair and beard. Significantly, however, the Zohan is also, in the all-American sense, still an (undocumented) alien, thereby preserving the classic superhero’s obligatory otherness but also failing to fully resolve, for American Jews, the assimilationist/multicultural dialectic.

Anger Management If the Zohan’s Sabra-ized superpowers can be seen as an updated sublimation of American Jews’ outsider/insider syndrome, then the violent temper of many of Sandler’s other characters represents the syndrome’s repressed return. Derived from his Saturday Night Live roles (he appeared on the show from 1990 through 1995), Sandler introduced his trademark “loveable loser” persona as Pip in the rock band spoof Airheads (1994) and exposed the signature short fuse of his “ironically infantile” personality in his first major star vehicle, Billy Madison (1995) (Stern 91–92). Unbridled anger as a defining character trait and driving narrative force only became de rigeur with the aforementioned Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, and Little Nicky. This element was extended in Punch-Drunk Love and Eight Crazy Nights (both 2002), the latter in the explicitly Jewish Davey, and reached its self-reflexive zenith in Anger Management (2003), in which the implicitly Jewish Dave Buznick, after a violent eruption on a plane, is assigned a court-appointed anger manager, Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson). Anger as an essential ingredient in all humor is an analytical given, but the comedian’s professed goal of “killing” or “knocking dead” an audience is, like all clichés, as trite as it is telling—particularly in its Jewish comedic context. Neither the Jewish scriptures nor Jews’ historical experience can be regarded as fertile ground for a sunny disposition. The public Jewish humor that did emerge—and then only in the post-emancipation period from the late 1700s on—can be viewed, Sarah Blacher Cohen believes, as an ironic response to the cruel joke of God’s singling Jews out to be a light among nations, then bequeathing them a “benighted existence.” Confronted with this theological paradox and the anxieties of survival in a hostile world, the Chosen People created a humor “in which laughter and trembling were inextricably mixed” (Cohen 2). Albert Goldman mined modern Jewish humor’s self-loathing aspect in his study of the motivations and modus operandi of the Brooklyn-bred comics who invented stand-up comedy: Milton Berle, Shecky Green, Lenny 180

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Bruce, et al. These comedians’ particular mode of satire, per Goldman, was born of rejection of their immediate Jewish-immigrant families, neighborhoods, and milieus. But instead of “swallowing or disguising their [negative] emotions, these young Jews—consumed with self-hatred or shame—came out in the open and blasted the things that hurt them” (Goldman 178). By turning a perceived weakness into a weapon, such volatile humor served to assuage self-hatred by both acknowledging its source and distancing the comics from it, while also offering protection from the source’s careerand potentially life-threatening consequences. In the post–World War II/ post-Holocaust era, as overt anti-Semitism in the United States receded and government policies and Jews’ own upward mobility encouraged widespread Jewish entry into the white middle class, the self-preservational basis for Jewish humor may well have declined but by no means disappeared (see Dinnerstein; Brodkin). Sandler not only experienced anti-Jewish hostility when at five years old his parents moved from Brooklyn to Manchester, New Hampshire, but connects this experience to his subsequent comedic counter-reaction: “I think a lot of my comedy comes from the fact that I’m Jewish, and I lived in a town full of no Jews. . . . Everywhere I went, I heard comments about being Jewish. And it would hurt. . . . It made me develop some funny skills” (qtd. in Stern 17, 23). The conflation of Jewish-based anger and comedy comes full circle in Sandler’s most self-reflexive film to date, Funny People (2009). As the culmination of his maturation as a serious film actor—which began with his work for P. T. Anderson in Punch-Drunk Love and James L. Brooks in Spang­lish (2004)—his teaming in Funny People with director Judd Apatow and his Jew-Tang Clan also serves as a cross-generational bridge comparable to Stiller’s with Hoffman and Streisand in the Focker films, only one generation removed. In their roles as Stiller’s hyper-Jewish parents in Meet the Fockers (2004) and Little Fockers (2010), Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand’s intertextual association as the eminences grises of Jewish film actors with Stiller as their heir apparent is crucial to “getting the joke” in this white bread/matzo-ball farce (co-starring Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner as Stiller’s character’s über-WASP parents-in-law). Funny People, even more self-reflexively, both honors and troubles the generational relation between a somewhat older, more established guard of Jewish performer (Sandler) and a younger, up-and-coming contingent (the Jew-Tang Clan).5 In pitting comedy superstar George Simmons (Sandler) against wanna-be comic Ira Wright (Seth Rogen)—the novice hired as the veteran’s jokewriter and caretaker when Simmons is diagnosed with terminal cancer—Funny People belies its title. A deadly earnest satire spiced with one-liners, the film is a surgical probe, a biopsy if you will, of American Boy-Man Schlemiels and Super-Nebishes

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popular humor. The titular “funny people” extend beyond Simmons and Wright to a microcosm of the comedy profession—from stand-up comics to TV and movie stars—whose jokes are revealed as fundamentally scabrous and whose principal jokesters—across the generational spectrum— are shown to be predominantly Jewish. The film also stands as an illustrated primer for Goldman’s analysis of the demonic streak in American Jewish humor, whose anti-Semitic-based insecurity and alienation Goldman sees as augmented by a trait found in the early fiction of Philip Roth and Bruce Jay Friedman: “a prolonged adolescence” (Goldman 178). The result is a “boy-man schlemiel” born of and prone to “a complex blend of tenderness and rage,” what Goldman terms a “farcical ambivalence—a love that pursues through mockery and an anger that disguises itself as humor” (Goldman 178; also Weber 259). Funny People opens with an in-joke prologue: a video clip that Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann (Simmons’s ex-wife Laura in the film), presented on The Tonight Show in 1999 as part of a promotion for Sandler’s Big Daddy, in which Mann had a supporting role. The video was shot by Apatow when he and Sandler shared an apartment in North Hollywood in the late 1980s, before either of their Hollywood breakthroughs (Pfefferman, “What” 21). It shows Sandler in a hotel room in pajamas, complaining on the phone to Jerry’s Delicatessen in an elderly woman’s voice of becoming sick from one of the deli’s roast beef sandwiches and demanding a replacement. Jewishinflected anger disguised as humor is thus introduced right off the bat, on two levels: by the videomakers toward the delicatessen personnel and by Funny People’s makers toward their movie audience, of whom none but the most ardent Sandler (or Apatow) fan would be familiar with the clip’s provenance, and which doesn’t apply to Funny People’s overall narrative except in its sadistic tone and incestuousness. Subsequent in-references to Sandler’s career, in the body of the film, are legion, most conspicuously in the clips of Simmons’s blockbuster hits. One of these, titled Mer-Man, features Simmons, in his “best” Jerry Lewis voice, as the infantilized male version of the mythic sea creature. The juvenile nature of the role is emphasized when Wright remarks how he loved the film and Simmons retorts, “Yeah, you and five-year olds!” Another mega-hit, Re-Do, literalizes Simmons’s infantile regression through his transfiguration into a freak with an adult head on a baby’s body—because he asked a wizard to make him young again (though as his Re-Do character complains, “I didn’t mean that young!”). And Simmons’s chronic immaturity extends to his everyday life. He needs Wright to talk him to sleep (this is based on Apatow’s actual experiences with Sandler [Pfefferman, “What” 21]), and his narcissistic failure to relate to Laura’s children ruins his hopes (briefly 182

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raised when his cancer goes into remission) for reviving intimate relations with his ex-wife. Conversely, the self-destructiveness in Simmons’s personal life, which is taken as at least a partial by-product of his illness, is shown as the taproot of stand-up comedy itself. His joking insults to his super-tall, Swedishaccented oncologist—“You ever notice that your accent makes things sound worse than they are? You may sound like an average Joe from where you are but here I keep thinking you’re going to torture James Bond later”—and the doctor’s response—“I’m sure your sense of humor will serve you well in this situation”—cut to the heart of the comedic process. Simmons’s ad-libbed cabaret number at a Hollywood comedy club (in his terminal period) dispenses with the niceties altogether: “George Simmons soon will be gone, and he will not miss you people at all! Our relationship has always been strained. You always wanted too much from me. And I’m very mad at you. Don’t visit my grave, cocksuckers. Peace!” Wright, who shares top billing with Simmons both as Funny People’s co-protagonist and the film’s most explicitly identified Jew, finds that his ethnic identity is inextricably bound to his appearance. Whereas Simmons must “show and tell” his Jewishness, via an old video (of a young Sandler) in which he jokes to a club audience that he made more money on his bar mitzvah than he’s ever likely to make again, Wright’s ethnicity is branded on him. People telling him that his looks, not his jokes, are what make him funny is a running gag, the Jewish implications of which are teased out when Simmons interrogates his surname: “Ira Wright is not your real name, right? You’re hiding some [chuckling] Judaism!” Wright explains that he changed his name from “Weiner” because both its correct and incorrect pronunciations (“whiner” versus “weener”) were embarrassing. But he couldn’t hide his Jewishness in any case because . . . “my face is circumcised.”6

Flirting with Jewishness Even before his famous coming out in the “Chanukah Song” on his hit 1996 album What the Hell Happened to Me? Sandler’s Jewish provenance—two Jewish parents, Hebrew school, bar mitzvah—was never in doubt. Ben Stiller’s, on the other hand, remains open to question. His mother, Anne Meara, was born a Christian, then converted to Judaism. That controversy still touches the issue is evident from web chatter and a heated debate on the topic I overheard among audience members at a 2008 panel on Jewish comedy (“They’d Love Us”). The recent dramedy Greenberg (2010), starring Stiller as the titular character, even self-reflects on the actor’s Jewish Boy-Man Schlemiels and Super-Nebishes

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question. In an early scene, one of Greenberg’s Jewish friends comments, in a seeming non-sequitur, that Greenberg looks Jewish—both in his facial features and effusive hand gestures. Greenberg counters defensively that he’s only half-Jewish, that most people think he looks Italian, and since “my mother is Protestant, I’m not Jewish at all.” This protestation is belied, of course, by Greenberg’s name and hook nose—not to mention by Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism, which decades ago accepted patrilineal descent as a Jewish determinant.7 Greenberg’s Jewish self-denial, as Naomi Pfefferman suggests, also informs his intense self-hatred, as manifested in his Adam Sandler–like temper tantrums, Larry David–esque misanthropy, and Woody Allenish addendum to George Bernard Shaw’s dictum about youth being wasted on the young: “I’d go further. I’d say that life is wasted . . . on people” (Pfefferman “Ben”).8 Greenberg is in a sense Stiller’s Funny People, in its exposure—both extra-and intertextually—of the Jewish-based insecurity at the core of the comic superstar. For the Jewish identity issue resonates with Stiller’s own in more than just the “Who is a Jew?” sense. Around the time of his first, and only other, serious dramatic role, as real-life Jewish television writer Jerry Stahl in Permanent Midnight (1998), Stiller said that, like the once drugaddicted Stahl, he considered himself “funny and Jewish and not particularly confident or comfortable” in his own skin, “somewhat of an outcast in the WASP culture”—and pressured to assimilate not because he was selfhating, but because he hated people typecasting him (qtd. in Pfefferman “Ben”). Greenberg’s intertextual connections to the Jewish question go back even further, to one of Stiller’s first hit films, Flirting with Disaster (1996), which turns on his character Mel Colpin’s ancestral origins and offers Stiller’s “circumcised face” as prima facie evidence. Colpin is an adoptee who, as a married father with a young child, becomes obsessed with meeting his birth parents—not least because his adopted parents are so (New York Jewish) neurotic. An added in-joke here is that his Sophie Portnoyish adoptive mother is played by the non-Jewish and quintessentially WASP-playing Mary Tyler Moore (the reliably Jewish George Segal plays the adoptive father). Colpin’s quest for his real parents leads, among other farcical detours, to an ex-Hells Angels trucker, Fritz Beaudrau (David Patrick Kelly), who takes to the paternity idea until his putative son’s appearance plants serious doubts: “You know somethin’, you’ve got a Jew look.” Colpin tries to deflect the suspicion: “That’s ’cause my adopted parents are Jewish.” But Fritz’s redneck pal’s comeback, “They gave you a real Hebe look,” combined with Colpin’s scientific profession—Jews are, and are commonly known to be, disproportionately represented in the sciences, both social and physical—indicates that something ain’t—or rather is—kosher here. Colpin 184

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Circumcised faces? Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen in Funny People (Judd Apatow, Universal, 2009). Courtesy PhotoFest New York.

finally locates his real parents, Richard and Mary Schlichting (Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin), a seemingly normal couple who turn out to be unreconstructed ’60s acid heads. Besides showing Colpin that, by comparison, his adopted parents aren’t so weird after all, the Schlichting name confirms that Colpin’s “Hebe look” is as much a product of nature as nurture.

Shiks-Appeal While several of his film characters have Jewish names, Sandler put off playing explicitly Jewish or dealing with overtly Jewish themes (except in stand-up routines, recorded music, and animation) until well into his career: You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008) and Funny People (2009). Stiller, on the other hand, has pursued a more overtly Jewish course from Flirting with Disaster onward, most prominently in Keeping the Faith (2000), Along Came Polly (2004), the Focker series, and Greenberg. Not that this greater ethnic specificity has necessarily endeared Stiller to Jewish critics, as previously indicated in Malina Saval’s indictment of Keeping the Faith, in which Stiller’s Rabbi Schram strays from his calling to unite with his non-Jewish true love. Indeed, the “shiks-appeal” syndrome, a nagging complaint for Boy-Man Schlemiels and Super-Nebishes

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decades in some Jewish circles—among Jewish feminists especially (the Morningstar Commission, a Jewish feminist watchdog group, was formed in 1997 expressly to deal with the issue)—continues to complicate valuation of Stiller’s films from a Jewish perspective.9 The problem is not so much that Stiller’s characters are attracted to non-Jewish women. This reflects the actor’s own reality (Stiller is married to non-Jewish actor Christine Taylor) and that of a large number of Jewish men, many of whom end up (as is the case with Stiller himself ) raising their children Jewish. The question, rather, is why shiks-appeal must come at Jewish women’s expense. In Keeping the Faith, for example, Rabbi Schram is not only drawn to Anna Riley but driven away from a bevy of less appealing Jewish women thrust upon him by his overbearing Jewish mother. In Along Came Polly, the anti–Jewish woman bias goes even deeper. After a Jewish wedding of Stiller’s Reuben Feffer to Debra Messing’s quite attractive Lisa Kramer, Lisa has an affair, on their honeymoon, with a hunky French scuba-diving instructor (Hank Azaria). Worse, Lisa has the gall to try to mend fences with Reuben months later, although by that time Reuben is well on his way to a second marriage with Jennifer Aniston’s freespirited but less ethically challenged—and non-Jewish—Polly.10 Stiller had a chance to redress the ethnic-gender imbalance in the Farrelly brothers’ The Heartbreak Kid (2007), a fairly faithful remake— except in regard to faith—of Elaine May’s 1972 original. Based on a Bruce Jay Friedman play and Neil Simon screenplay, the 1972 version revolves, in the baldest terms, around the shiksa/Jewish woman conflict. In May’s film, Lenny Cantrow (Charles Grodin), following a Jewish wedding to Lila Kalodny (Jeannie Berlin), dumps his wife for another woman on their honeymoon. But it’s no mere hormonally driven fling: in golden-haired, rich college girl Kelly Corcoran (Cybill Shepherd), thirtysomething Lenny has met the shiksa goddess of his dreams. “I’ve been waiting for a girl like you all my life!” he tells Kelly, and proves it by getting a lightning divorce, trekking to Kelly’s hometown in wintry Minnesota, and, through his “Jewish cleverness,” convincing her implicitly anti-Semitic father (“Just from appearances, he doesn’t like you”) that he’s a worthy suitor (Friedman 201).11 The film’s ending at the Corcoran wedding reception is ambiguous. For Lester Friedman, the incipient disillusionment we sense in Lenny at the posh but cold affair (in contrast to the modest and intimate Jewish reception that began the film) represents the price the Jewish male pays for landing the “romanticized American dream made flesh. To capture this dream, Len gives up his family, friends, and heritage, a poor bargain in the eyes of May and Simon” (201). Perhaps, but what competes psychoanalytically with this redemptive assessment, for the Jewish-oriented viewer and likely 186

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for Lenny, is his enthralled comment on first seeing Kelly nude: “Thank you, God. I’ve seen your masterpiece, and I thank you for it!” Whatever the interpretation, Stiller and the Farrelly brothers had a chance to clarify the conflict in the remake. As it turns out, they hewed remarkably close to the original on most plot points: Stiller’s Eddie Cantro, like Lenny Cantrow, is in the sports equipment business; his wife, also named Lila, withholds sex until after marriage; on their honeymoon, Lila’s annoying (for Eddie) sexual habits and other idiosyncrasies generally match those of the earlier Lila; and her severe sunburn on their honeymoon likewise enables Eddie’s pursuit of his newfound love, Miranda. And Stiller’s character is still, implicitly at least, Jewish. His father in the film is played by real-life dad Jerry Stiller; his name Eddie Cantro is even closer to legendary Jewish comic Eddie Cantor; and Eddie’s spouse Lila ups the ante by calling her testy husband not just any old grouch but a “grouchy Marx.” Otherwise, however, and especially in its key romantic aspect, the remake is completely, and inexplicably, de-Judaized. Not only is there no Jewish wedding but while Lila (the Swedish-born Malin Akerman) is the blonde this time and Miranda (Michelle Monaghan) is a brunette, neither woman is portrayed as Jewish. The shiks-appeal complex that formed the crux of the first Heartbreak Kid has been “resolved,” in other words, not by reversing the Jewish and gentile objects of desire but by removing Jewish women—and thereby the “Jewish question”—from the picture altogether. The surrogate culture clash is based on Miranda’s hailing from Mississippi. But since she possesses neither a southern accent nor red-state values—indeed, she’s generically hip—this potential conflict remains untapped. The only change that adds anything to the remake, from a progressive ideological and Jewish perspective, comes at the very end. We find that Eddie’s perseverance, unlike Lenny’s, is not even ambiguously rewarded with his true love’s hand in marriage. Instead, partly because, unlike Lenny, he had neglected to tell Miranda that he was on his honeymoon, he returns empty-handed from his trek to Mississippi to win back his beloved. Cut to eighteen months later, to the site of the original sin: the paradisiacal Acapulco resort where Eddie and Lila’s honeymoon was eclipsed, but where Eddie now lives and runs a thriving tourist business. Who should appear but Miranda, whom Eddie obviously still has a thing for but again cannot bear to tell the truth—not only that he has remarried, apparently more happily than before, but that he is celebrating his first wedding anniversary. Sisyphusian narrative implications aside, what interests most here is Eddie’s choice of bride this time: neither shiksa goddess nor Jewish woman, his second wife Consuela (Eva Longoria Parker) is a lovely, dark-skinned Mexican. Boy-Man Schlemiels and Super-Nebishes

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However compromised by his residual hankering for Miranda, what Stiller’s interracially remarried Eddie Cantro has become is another kind of New Jew, what Itzkovitz describes as “an ideal standard bearer for a new American multiculturalism” (236), and what I call the Multicultural Jew. Itzkovitz perceives the tendency emerging most conspicuously, if still problematically, in the 1996 sci-fi blockbuster Independence Day, in which Jewish computer geek David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) teams with black fighter pilot Steve Hiller (Will Smith) to save the world from an alien invasion. “Here Jews play a pivotal role in a new (American) world order  .  .  . [but only] after they are remade into an unironically hypermasculinized and stunningly generic ethnic: my big-fat-Jewish-savior, whose ultimate job is simultaneously to stand as a universal representative of an unthreatening and vacuous difference, and to do so in part by converting everyone else to the newly watered down Jewishness too” (234). The conversion is exemplified when David’s yarmulke-bedecked father, Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch), while leading a prayer circle with mainly African American children, asks a white government official to join in. “I’m not Jewish,” the official (a perfectly stiff James Rebhorn) tries to beg off. “Nobody’s perfect,” Julius retorts, quoting the legendary, queer-inflected last line from Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959), and thus implying that Jews’ multicultural embrace extends to gays as well as to people of color.

Fockerizing Multiculturalism The Jewish-Latina tagline to Stiller’s Heartbreak Kid, though it lacks Independence Day’s queer inflection, literalizes the ethno-racial embrace. Meet the Fockers engages both sexual orientation and race—the former still somewhat tangentially, through Stiller’s characterization of sensitive (but straight) male nurse Greg/Gaylord Focker; the latter even more primally, through his liaison with the Fockers’ Cuban maid, Isabel Villalobos (Allanna Ubach). Although Greg/Gaylord ends up marrying another goldenhaired shiksa (Teri Polo’s Pam Byrnes), he not only lost his virginity as a teenager to Isabel, but even appears (through most of the film) to have sired a son, Jorge (Ray Santiago), by her. While this turns out to be a red herring, the running gag of Jorge’s striking resemblance to Greg, and the Latina/oJewish link in general, has intriguing implications from a multicultural perspective. For as defensive as Jewish claims to the multiculture have tended to be—based on a marginalized status shared historically (but less contemporarily) with people of color—a more ethno-racially compelling case can be made on the basis of mutually assured DNA. Sephardic Jews, those stemming diasporically from Spain and Portugal, 188

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“Shiks-appeal” trumps all: Ben Stiller and Teri Polo in Meet the Fockers (Jay Roach, Universal, 2004). Courtesy PhotoFest New York.

make up one of the four main Jewish regional strands. Besides a generally darker complexion than central/east European Ashkenazis (due to Arab/ Moorish intermixing) and other cultural markers (Ladino Jewish dialect, Iberian/North African food), Sephardis must be considered—within the limits of any ethno-racial categorization—distinct from the white European norm. Further “coloration” resulted from those Sephardis who were driven to the Americas by the Iberian expulsions—including Marranos or crypto-Jews (forced converts to Christianity who secretly maintained Jewish practices)— and who procreated with the Native American and mestizo populations. As for the other three Jewish regional strands, two of these are heavily tinted as well. Beta Israel, black African Jews from Ethiopia, are the most obvious example. But even Mizrachi Jews, from the Muslim Middle East, bear strong physical and cultural resemblance to the host peoples of the area—not to mention Sabra Israelis themselves, as Don’t Mess with the Zohan makes comically clear. Indeed, multicultural ambiguities square the circle in Zohan when, in acknowledging their outward similarities to the New York Israelis, the Palestinians add that they are often confused with Latinos as well (indeed, one of them had posed as a Puerto Rican to infiltrate the Zohan’s hair salon). Boy-Man Schlemiels and Super-Nebishes

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Not unlike Latinos themselves, then—who, due to migrations, incursions, colonizations, and the slave trade—boast an ethno-racial spectrum ranging from white to red to brown to black (with the “red” itself a hybrid of migratory “yellow”)—Jews have always already been, intra-ethnically, a multicultural people. And there’s the rub. For unlike Latinos in the United States, who have collectively veered from one ethno-racial pole to the other—declared white in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, declaring themselves non-white in the identity-political sixties, and reclaiming whiteness in the post-ethnic 2000s—American Jews, less secure in their sameness or otherness, continue to strive to be, yet grapple with being, both same and other. Thus the Multicultural Jew’s perpetual compromises: from the Zohan’s swarthy-skinned, heavily accented assertion that “we’re all alike in America” to Greg/Gaylord’s quasi-Jewish wedding to Pam Byrnes at the conclusion of Meet the Fockers—“quasi” not only because Pam isn’t Jewish, but because, while the ceremony dutifully includes a marital canopy and a ritually crushed wine glass, an über-sheygetz (non-Jewish male) presides at the ceremony. With eight months on a kibbutz and an Internet course under his belt, Pam’s golden-haired ex-fiancé Kevin Rawley (Owen Wilson) has been ordained an interfaith minister and deemed qualified, at least in farcical Hollywood terms, to act as “rabbi” here. And as Peruvian flutes and Hawaiian ukeleles play, the Hebrew blessing over the wine is chanted and shalom wished to everyone—until “next year” in Little Fockers. Leaving us to wonder, Peggy Lee–style: Is that all there is, to a Multicultural Jew?

Notes 1. Other Jew-Tang Clan members include Jason Schwartzman, Paul Rudd, and Michael Cera. 2. Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) in Tim Burton’s film (1990) and Warren Beatty’s George Roundy in Shampoo (1975) are both employed and extolled as hairdressers, the former for his creative genius, the latter for his “shtupp-appeal.” 3. If the Donald Trump connection wasn’t obvious enough, Walbridge has an Ivana Trump–like girlfriend with, as he says, a “perfect [pneumatically enhanced] breast-to-ass ratio.” 4. For a remarkably extensive list of the new Jewish comic book superheroes, see “Jewish super-heroes, villains, and other characters” (http://www. comicbookreligion.com). 5. The Jew-Tang Clan members in Funny People are Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Jason Schwartzman.

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6. This quote, reported from a preview screening (in Pfefferman, “What” 21), was (unfortunately) removed from the wide release. 7. The Orthodox and Conservative branches of Judaism still adhere to strict matrilinealism. 8. Some credit for the Allenish line, of course, as for Greenberg’s character in general, must go to the film’s writer-director, Noah Baumbach. 9. The term “shiks-appeal” is derived from a Seinfeld episode, “The Serenity Now” (1997). 10. Sandler returns the favor by hooking up with Aniston in Just Go with It (2011). 11. Another coded indication of Mr. Corcoran’s Judeophobia: “I don’t want him in this house, I don’t want him in this town!”

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Murray Pomerance

Who Was Buddy Love? Screen Performance and Jewish Experience

Time Travels Two chronologies, two histories, and thus two forms of life run in tandem through our conception of time. One of these, which we may think of as a relative history, positions events in a linear order that is more or less agreed upon by members of a culture who share a language for interaction and system of reference for orientation. This relative abstraction is the “History” we read about in history books. It is a scheme that permits each of us to identify the boundaries of experience in relation to some shared discourse and map that transcend us, a scheme that we take to have been there before we were born and that we presume will outlive us and, outliving, either mark us for posterity or consign us to oblivion. This is the history that makes comprehensible such questions as, “Where were you on December 7, 1941?” (when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor) or “Where were you on November 22, 1963?” (when John F. Kennedy was shot) or “Where were you on August 9, 1974” (when Richard M. Nixon resigned) or “Where were you on September 11, 2001?”—comprehensible exactly because these dates are widely accepted and acknowledged as dramatic and significant; and because we have already succeeded in placing them relative to one another in a “picture” of our contemporary world. I call this history relative because in any culture its method of ordering depends largely on the prevailing forces that are shaping public memory and anticipation. (All four dates above focus on nationalism.) We tend to reify this history as fixed and unchangeable, but its constitution is based on a negotiated agreement about temporality, measurement, recordkeeping, and social memory. 193

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The “agents” we most often put in charge of shaping and recording this history tend to be the press, the media, the universities, publishing, and “established” artists. The second history, what I would call absolute history, is embodied through experience and personal memory, personal memory understood as a perduring trace of feeling, Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquility.” In absolute terms, time begins wholly and entirely as we experience its beginning. Example: for me, born in August 1946, motion pictures began with Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), not Edison’s peep shows (c. 1895) or that little-train-that-could chugging in La Ciotat (1896), all of which I have learned about but that in a crucial way I do not recognize. Dorothy Lamour riding on an elephant in a glittering parade thus “absolutely” predated the Barbara Stanwyck of Stella Dallas (1937) and the Ingrid Bergman of Casablanca (1942), in my view. Each of these two histories, the cultural history and my own, is a historyas-I-know-it, since I feel and remember absoluteness (in patches) and take pains to recognize the relativity of culturally assigned and valorized information, but these two histories I must articulate in different ways as I try to make my historical consciousness sensible to others. Relative cultural history, being shared by you, must continually reflect this collective ownership in my expression; this is like giving directions by making reference to a set of landmarks other people know and agree upon just in the way that I do: history as language. There is a historical canon, according to which Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon and Theodore Herzl come before Emma Goldman, who comes before Hannah Senesh and Anne Frank and Oskar Schindler. But surely there are young people today, born in the mid-to late 1980s, for whom, thanks to Steven Spielberg, Schindler takes precedence over those others. And speaking of my own—entirely uncanonical—history: it is something I can make intelligible only through a more poetic process, a process that begins with my feeling of truth and then outs itself through my struggle to chisel and refashion language so that, far from merely rigidly containing the common code (as Paul Goodman refers to meaning and capacity for meaning that are generated through the system [Speaking]), it works to facilitate actual speaking. Actual speaking is not language. Speaking is to language as absolute is to relative history. Absolute history begins with my need, in this case my first memories: that is, what seem to me, as I move in darkness backward to the source I will never discern, the earliest discernible moments. For instance, Christopher Walken recently revealed that he could still, at age sixty-seven, remember lying on a kitchen table as an infant, having his diaper changed in a warm spring breeze, and turning his head to confront a plate of scrambled eggs (Stevenson 33). While such 194

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“earliest” moments are, as Hitchcock’s Madeleine Elster reminds us in the redwood forest, only tiny marks in the great span of historical time when seen relatively, they also, at the same time, constitute the absolute beginning of a world that is, for any one of us at least, everything. One’s life and memory are everything. One’s life and memory are but a dot on a huge plain. Both of these statements are true at (and in) the same time. Now, as I cast my mind back to the roots of my own Jewish experience— that is, to my first recognition of Judaism and of myself as being involved with it—and remember the dingy synagogue my parents brought me to for High Holy Days, with old smelly men wrapped in prayer shawls shuckling and moaning in a language that was half the Yiddish I could identify yet not understand and half unknown; and as I think of my youngest days in the company of voluble giants who stank of sweetish red wine and told jokes I did not get, who put me on their laps and rubbed their unshaved faces against mine; of women who doted on me; of my adored grandmother with her challahs baking in the oven; as I remember all this, and recall the sermons of the rabbi a few years later, full of big words and spoken in a panicky voice; as I remember the cantor singing out in unmistakable tones (pretending he was at the Metropolitan Opera); as again from here and now I experience my first inklings of Judaism, I note that it was strikingly not a Judaism of the silver screen—not a Judaism with an “appearance.” I was taken to see all the great movies of the time—it often touches me warmly to know the interesting relative fact that I am the same age as Steven Spielberg; he and I saw all the same movies at the same moment: The Greatest Show on Earth, and Boy on a Dolphin (1953) by Jean Negulesco, and Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953) by Robert D. Webb, and Lili (1953) by Charles Walters, and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) by Alfred Hitchcock, and Tarzan the Ape Man by W. S. Van Dyke (a film I only decades later came to know had been in re-release when I saw it, since, though it was made in 1932, it looked absolutely fresh in the mid-1950s from the balcony of the Tivoli theater in Hamilton, Ontario, as, nauseated from too much popcorn and with a headache from the tilting balcony, I stared at natives who mumbled incomprehensibly and ended up plunging into quicksand). But my Judaism, the atmosphere I knew as “the fact of being Jewish,” was just not there to be detected. Nobody in DeMille’s gaudy circus represented it—not Lyle Bettger malevolently pushing his elephants around, not Cornel Wilde in his royal blue spangles, not, certainly, Gloria Grahame or Betty Hutton with their blonde curls and blue eyes, nor, absolutely, Jimmy Stewart walking around in clown makeup, even though, like so many Jews I had met, he was hiding something from the outside world. My young Screen Performance and Jewish Experience

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Judaism did not encompass clowns and spangles and sawdust. Hitchcock’s thriller did not contain or effuse my Judaism, that had no conceivable links to Marrakech or London (it was years before I met people who came from Marrakech and London and said they were Jews; and the fact that Daniel Gélin, who got murdered in a marketplace, was a Jewish actor simply did not register as a real fact in the context of my own Jewish experience, which encompassed neither Frenchmen nor, to be sure, actors). My Jews were all attached to me or to my parents; they were business people or wives of business people and their children, not artists. And Tarzan’s jungle: it had no Jewish creatures. Negulesco’s and Webb’s adventures in the Mediterranean didn’t have Jews, they had strange types in swarthy makeup—like Robert Wagner and Gilbert Roland—who spent their time underwater, not doing what the Jews I knew did: talking, praying, going to Hebrew School. I also saw Robert Wagner in Henry Hathaway’s Prince Valiant (1954)—the Middle Ages, crossbows, boiling oil—too long ago for Jews as I knew them, and Jews didn’t throw oil on people, they fried latkes in it. As to Lili, it was puppets singing songs set in a major key, church songs, finally. I loved it all, but I couldn’t see my world there. So in my beginnings, movies were in one space and Judaism was in another. I can say this categorically, because it seemed absolutely and positively true that the movie theater and all the worlds it held were “out there” and quite disconnected, even though much later I was able to learn and know that there had been plenty of Jews onscreen for a long time. Al Jolson had been there, and George Tobias; Eddie Cantor, Danny Kaye, John Garfield, Tony Curtis, Shelley Winters, Kirk Douglas, and George Burns; and then later Dustin Hoffman and Woody Allen and Jeff Goldblum and Bette Midler, and so many others. But none of these were Jews onscreen for me in an original sense, not even the ones who, having been photographed for public consumption relatively before my own consciousness was born, might have held priority status. I watched Walt Disney’s 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), for instance, and saw Peter Lorre goofing around with Kirk Douglas as Conseil and Ned Land. It was decades before they transmogrified for me, into Peter Löwenstein and Issur Demsky.

Fatumak My first Jew of the screen was altogether of a different sort and magnitude: he was all strangeness, didn’t once call himself a Jew, didn’t live anywhere near my tranquil little North American diasporic urban world. One afternoon I was watching Byron Haskin’s gripping movie His Majesty O’Keefe (1954), in which a sun-tanned seafaring adventurer, Burt Lancaster, slosh196

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ing to and fro across the Pacific in search of copra from which he hoped to make a big profit, got marooned on the island of Yap—with its magical Technicolor blue blue sky and green green palms—and thus came to be welcomed and attended to by stunning Fatumak, the medicine man. With Fatumak, for the first time in my life, I had the feeling that I was looking at one of those people who surrounded me in my family life, but now bigger, ineffably remote and proximate all at once, momentary and enduring, ghostly and hyperreal. What could it have been about this man that I recognized as part of my Jewish world? That he was richly tanned—as though fresh off the plane from wintering in Miami Beach, perhaps, like my parents’ close friends who spent half the year there. That he stood with dignity as though having been “chosen.” That his language was unintelligible, like the Yiddish I kept hearing and not comprehending all around me. That, like a synagogue officiate, he was bedecked in ornamentation and regalia, and every syllable he uttered rang out with a precise religious evocation. That he was a medicine man! And that from the normal white Christians in the film (epitomized by Burt Lancaster) he stuck out as exotic in the extreme, with his huge, ravenously hungry eyes that one didn’t quite know how to read smoldering under a very intelligent brow. He had a very intelligent, even rabbinical, way of speaking (and one of the most mellifluous voices I have ever heard); he spoke like a British rabbi, in fact, and this was hardly strange because I was watching a performance by the great Burmese Jewish character actor Abraham Sofaer, who had performed onstage in London and had once been a schoolteacher. If I was old enough to memorize his name when it flashed by in the credits— perhaps that he was called Abraham was all I needed—I was young enough to believe utterly in the performance. So, that afternoon it was only Fatumak I saw, that I have been seeing in memory ever since when I think of this film, Fatumak a Jew like me in my warped imagination but trapped in the South Seas. Everything about him cried, “You know me! I am yours! And if I belong here, so can you.” “Here,” of course, didn’t mean just “in the movies” but also in a territory that was not quite defined by the community and the state, that was memorable because half unreal, that invoked not only intelligence but also, even more commandingly, imagination. I don’t mean to be cute or metaphorical in saying this was the first screen character who had reached out to me in a local relation, who had demonstrated some likeness to the people I actually knew. Until Fatumak, the movies were Neverland. Lancaster and all the other screen forces of O’Keefe and other films were totally puffed up, unbelievably and fabulously Other, indeed untouchable, but even in his exoticism—Sofaer had bizarre cowrie shells strung around his tawny neck—this so-called spirit-man of Screen Performance and Jewish Experience

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Yap was totally intelligible, totally familiar, and also, like all the Jews I knew, totally alien to anything beyond the pale of his little social enclave. His awkwardness with the hero of the film was like my awkwardness going to an elementary school in which I was the only Jew, where on Jewish holidays it was only I who stayed home. I could see myself in germ form as that medicine man, unable to make sense of the invading Europeans who fluttered aggressively around him, so white under their tans, and incapable of being really understood by them. When I grew up, of course (and, thought I, having forgotten Fatumak), I went to medical school. The point about Fatumak, of course, was that in every moment of his presence he was also Abraham Sofaer; deeply, he was Jewish and an alien in the broader culture. That broader culture, that alien Christian cultural sea on which my experience was bobbing in its tiny bubble of encapsulation: Lester Friedman notes how it forced screen representations of Jewishness to lean toward “ ‘safe’ Jews, uncontroversial Jews, . . . with their ethnic blandness and thematic timidity” all evidencing in Hollywood a “fear of presenting anything too new, too different” (Hollywood’s Image 135). When my generation came of age, Desser and Friedman note (29), it would express itself through the millenarian politics of the New Left more than in religious observance and display. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, according to Neal Gabler, the Jews of Hollywood—like the Jews of Hamilton—“were safe among fellow Jews, and only verbally. Otherwise gentiles were to be courted and given deference” (280). It wasn’t many years before I learned to understand motion pictures as a world chock full of characters who called themselves Jews and demanded to be recognized as such, characters other people recognized this way; and a world full of people beneath those characters who, like Abraham Sofaer, were called Jews, too. The list is, in a way, obvious. It doesn’t include the Irish Catholic Jimmy Cagney speaking a few lines of fluent Yiddish in Taxi! (1932), but it does include the Jerry Lewis who in Living It Up (1954) wasn’t the Italian American Dean Martin. It does include Sam Levene, maybe in Crossfire (1947). There is a certain type we find onscreen in the 1940s, slightly changed in the 1950s, turned into Dustin Hoffman by the late 1960s as, in The Graduate (1967), he plays that sweet little gentile Benjamin Braddock with such a Jewish twang: or is Benjamin Jewish, indeed—Desser and Friedman wonder if anyone can doubt that he is—with a forename like that and a father who seems to have married out of the faith and changed his name for business purposes? Mrs. Robinson is certainly a Jewish princess, and she has certainly married a sheygetz, and possibly what is really going on in this picture as these two improbably get together is a love affair between two Jews who don’t quite recognize themselves as such but do 198

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find something they can recognize in each other. At any rate, there was something onscreen that people were pointing to as Jewishness, and that I learned how to point to, as well: Rod Steiger, Nehemiah Persoff, David Opatoshu, Molly Picon, Zero Mostel, and Topol, who resembled certain stereotypes well enough; and Paul Newman’s Ari Ben Canaan, for example, in Exodus (1960), who really didn’t resemble stereotypes at all, but who was treated onscreen as Jewish even as, through most of his long and celebrated acting career, the Jewish Paul Newman wasn’t. Or Sal Mineo in that same film, who had the Mediterranean skin and lambent eyes and thus broadcast the aura that Newman didn’t and that I had been trained to look for, perhaps because some of my friends were dark or because Jews were supposed to be, or to simulate, dark-skinned peoples of the Mediterranean. In characterizations and actor appearances, the screen was full of embodiments of Judaism and the Jewish experience, and an important aspect of their appearance, regardless of the fact that many of these characterizations didn’t speak to me very strongly, was that society at large authenticated them through identification and labeling. From Hollywood, I learned how a Jew in our society apparently looks and behaves, speaks and responds. If, as Desser and Friedman suggest, being “Jewish” meant subscribing to, or rejecting, a certain religious tradition; having a sympathy for Israel; resonating with the fact of the Holocaust; having an affinity for dark humor; aspiring to success in America in a particular way; nevertheless one could also appear as Jewish, give a certain performance, regardless of one’s birth history, cultural experience, sentiments, and convictions. Thus the Jews of the screen raised a powerful question: given that the construction of screen Judaism is largely a question of scripting and casting—that once an actor has his lines and has been chosen for having the right kind of notably sensitive, notably tormented face, all he has to do is speak and presto! he is Jewish—what in fact are the conventions by which the Hollywood system manufactures this screen Jewishness so predictably and tellingly? The wonder is not that trained actors can put on voices, facial expressions, and postures—think of Lee J. Cobb in The Brothers Karamazov (1958) or Steiger in The Pawnbroker (1964) or Woody Allen in The Front (1976)—but that the masquerade is so conventional. The wonder is not that makeup can be used to change complexion or that putty can stretch a nose—think of Ron Moody in Oliver! (1968)—but that makeup will do the trick and the strategies for applying it are available. The wonder is not that whatever can be done by ordinary people can be observed and then imitated; that actors, who are good imitators, can seem to do things, and thus to be people, that they are not under any other circumstances except when they are pretending and through their pretense—but that some imitations get repeated and perdure and become Screen Performance and Jewish Experience

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iconic. Is there something to the Jewish persona onscreen that goes beyond affiliation with New York, obsessiveness of a certain kind, connection to orality, a kind of gallows frankness, dropping code words or attitudes, looking vaguely Mediterranean, apparently believing that words matter? Isn’t the screen Jew only a stereotype, a stereotype concocted largely out of performable gestures and ostensible characteristics, such as can be recorded on film and magnetic tape? Looking at all these features through a lens of relativity, one can decode them as emerging out of specific historical forms and spreading by way of particular agencies through a population whose attention and receptivity have been prepared in a distinctive way. But as we think of them absolutely, in terms of our own real and private traces of experience, do the characters of the screen succeed in conveying more than a very small aspect of our felt and remembered life? Not only do actors mimic everyday behavior; audiences can mimic the antics of actors; and so the screen can be influential to the degree that people take what they see there seriously and find themselves engaged with the physicality of it. I was never a huge fan of The Graduate, possibly because when I saw it I had, like Benjamin Braddock, just graduated; but had I been that fan, I could have learned from nervous Benjamin how to stutter attractively, as one of my teachers, a Jewish man who gave a striking impression of being Jewish, advocated once that I should. I could certainly teach myself to use a guttural, grinding, East London half-Yiddish like Moody’s Fagin, and with the right clothing and the right marks of age on my face and in my posture, I could be an old Jewish codger. I remember distinctly that in my teenage years, when I used to go to synagogue a lot, I watched many other people and learned how to shuckle when I prayed just as they did. I certainly learned something of how to speak in public by imitating not only my rabbi but also Charlton Heston—that epitome of screen “Jewishness.” Why could I not whine for fresh lemonade, made with real lemons and crushed ice, like Richard Benjamin in Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970), and whining this way come to think myself authentically a Jew? What I am saying, of course, is that among other things Jewishness is performative, and movies have helped us grasp that fact and play with it in our imaginations and our own presentations of self. Erving Goffman writes that our mode of engagement with stage (and, by implication, screen) characters is through imagining a projection of our musculature into that of the performer, with the result that the performer’s gestures and movements become, sympathetically and temporarily, our own. Noting about Jim Carrey that what he performs and provokes is “a multitude of spatial ‘double takes’ that emphasize the infinite extensibility of not only the space of the body but also the space of the world,” 200

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and calling attention to “the attentive turn of a head spatially exaggerated into whiplash; the self-confident cockiness and ‘come on’ of a slightly tilted hip hyperbolized into celebratory priapic pumping, the eager friendly grin expanded to a size that not only overtakes the face but also threatens to engorge its human object” (203, 202), Vivian Sobchack performs a tour de force of critical observation, a complete projection of her own embodiment into the comedian’s. Through techniques of projection, the ethnic essence of the performer—voice, posture, gestures, rhythms, melodies—can become intensely familiar to, even apparently embedded within, us. For Jewish viewers, Jewish characters have the capacity to get identified as proximate and then, in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, to be treated that way. If we think we should recognize someone onscreen, perhaps we do just that; and then we become easily, almost instantly convinced that of course recognizing was the right and proper thing to do with a familiar such as this: that is, with a person who was, apparently all along, what we have in fact just now permitted him to be. In bonding with the Jewish character, we make ourselves rather like him; and we also convince ourselves that all this makes sense because he is now, and ostensibly has always been, rather like us. And yet this formula can go stunningly wrong, in what we casually tend to call “bad” performances. Writing about the structure of reading, Walker Gibson points to the “author” as the penman who inscribes a work of fiction; the “speaker” as the voice of, and within, his text, the character that the author takes on and “becomes” on the page; the reader as the person who pays for a book and moves his eyes across its pages, and the “mock reader” as the character this reader must become to read successfully, a personage who accepts without question the fictional postulates offered by the speaker, travels to whatever locale, whatever clime the speaker points to, accepts the premises and assumptions the speaker demands be accepted, and so on. The work of reading is in large part, for Gibson, transforming oneself into the sort of mock reader that the speaker requires. Gibson suggests that “bad writing”—not bad composition, or bad grammar—that “bad writing” is writing the mock reader for which we are unable or unwilling to become (265–69). I would say that just as an actor transforms his or herself into a character, a viewer transforms his or herself into a mock viewer, and a “bad performance” is a performance or characterization the mock viewer for which we are unable or unwilling to become. Let me consider three cases of “performed Judaism.” When we are struck by and engaged with a performance, when a performance “works,” we make our way through it by actually reading the discernible surface as emerging spontaneously and directly from a hidden wellspring—this is Goffman’s “Doctrine of Natural Expression,” that objects produce signs that Screen Performance and Jewish Experience

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are informing about them (see Gender). We believe in a truth beneath what we can see, indeed we believe wholeheartedly. So, for instance, Woody Allen’s Alvy Singer seems so patently Jewish because the man underneath him is patently Jewish, too, and this patent Jewishness of the performer, this inner “received” Jewishness, is merely springing forth, not being artfully put on by someone offscreen who is a very different person altogether. An example of a purely performative Jewishness is Ryan Gosling’s effective turn as the tormented and disaffected Jewish boy Danny Balint in Henry Bean’s The Believer (2001): so meticulous and precise are Danny’s gestures, rhythms, and displays of fear that we refuse to believe the Gosling animating them could be anything but a Jew, too, until Danny turns violently antiSemitic and we must witness a Jewishness that doesn’t fit so nicely with typical bourgeois expectations; now it soothes us to think of Gosling as only a crafty alien who was hiding in Jewish clothing. Danny might not be a “good” character, morally speaking; but Gosling certainly gives a good performance. And as we can see from the entirely believable case of Sal Mineo in Exodus, or Roy Scheider in Marathon Man (1976), or Joe Mantegna in Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993), it is quite possible to put on and wear the mask of Judaism successfully enough that viewers smoothly transition to mock viewers and the performance comes across as “good.” Yet there are plenty of performances by actors who do not manage to give a sufficiently convincing performance as Jewish characters. Sometimes, these are even Jewish actors: Cecil Linder playing Felix Leiter in Goldfinger (1964); Tony Roberts as Alvy Singer’s friend Rob in Annie Hall (1977). If giving the appearance of being Jewish, if playing Jewish, has nothing to do with fabrication and is only an uncontrived flow of authenticity; if, further, those who have learned, even a little, to seem Jewish by watching people seeming to be Jewish onscreen do nothing—in seeming to be Jewish offscreen themselves—but allow some natural expression to seep out just as their models did before their astonished eyes; and if, therefore, to be Jewish is simply to manifest qualities inherently and always present, then two obviously distinct possibilities should not be possible at all: first, that “good appearances” or at least “believable appearances” or “unquestioned appearances” might be given by those who do not really possess the characteristics they are mocking up in front of the camera, and secondly that “bad performances” might be given by those who do. As an example of the first, I would pick Helen Hunt’s leading role as April Epner in her own film, Then She Found Me (2007), and also Charlton Heston’s surge of splendor as Moses in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956) and later, a little less convincingly, his eponymous hero in William Wyler’s Ben-Hur (1959). As an example of the second, I take Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor (1963). 202

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If Jewish experience is only and wholly embodied and intrinsic, how can the very Jewish Jerry Lewis, in this remarkable film, leave a talmudically nerdy Julius Kelp behind, shed him, indeed, like a dead snakeskin, and transmogrify himself into the epitome of the failed Jewish performance, that arch-sheygetz Buddy Love? Kelp becomes Buddy by way of better living through chemicals, according to the plot; but plot is only the characters’ contrivance: how does Jerry do it? Conversely, how can Charlton Heston, born John Charles Carter, so persuasively become Moses or Judah BenHur? And how can Helen Hunt, also not a Jew, manage to be so convincingly Jewish in her role in Then She Found Me? If we look at Hunt’s April Epner, we see a young woman on the cusp of her middle years, whose husband (Matthew Broderick) has just left her but who struggles with the desire to be a mother. April has been adopted into a typical East Coast Jewish family with European origins, and has an aging and very Jewish Jewish mother (Lynn Cohen) and a Jewish doctor brother (Ben Shenkman). Unsurprisingly, therefore, she understands herself as Jewish, even prays in articulate Hebrew—good American Hebrew, that is, since all Americans and Canadians speak a Hebrew that for Israelis rings like an alien tongue—and generally identifies herself as Jewish to others. Partly because as director of the film Hunt calls for her character’s bleach blonde hair to be lit without a lot of hair light, we have no trouble distinguishing her still rather bright form of Jewishness from the darker, brilliant medicalschool Jewishness of her adopted brother. When the mother dies, April falls in love with a beleaguered Colin Firth—absolutely no Jew, although properly neurotic—but is at the same time discovered by her original birth mother, who wants a relationship. Cued and repeatedly prompted by Hunt’s presence onscreen—her long blonde hair and snappy coolness typified her for a decade on television’s Mad About You (1992–99) as the ultimate shiksa—we have no doubt been expecting that she was born Methodist or Catholic and that the elusive birth mother, now presenting herself, will reveal this; but no: she’s a famous New York TV talk show host, played with a shiny assimilated polish by none other than Bette Midler (who, of course, has shown herself in plenty of films as capable of doing mouthy Brooklynese Jewishness to a T, or should I say, to a “tof”). Midler helps Hunt work out a crisis of faith, and although all through the film Hunt has been rejecting the advice of family and friends to adopt a nice little Chinese baby, it finally turns out as a result of Midler’s therapeutic interventions that she does exactly this, giving herself not only the family she has always wanted but also a child who is even more alien in America than she is. Midler’s performance is the pivot of this film in an interesting way: Helen Hunt the filmmaker knows that Helen Hunt the actress is prone Screen Performance and Jewish Experience

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Helen Hunt, not a Jew, managing to be convincingly Jewish in Then She Found Me (Helen Hunt, Think Film, 2007). Courtesy PhotoFest New York.

to being found incredible as a Jewish girl. Dominating her star presence was Mad About You. In later performances played to match Kevin Spacey, Jack Nicholson, Richard Gere, and Tom Hanks, and to contrast against the hyper-Jewish Woody Allen (in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion [2001]), she strengthened her screen identity in purely non-Jewish terms; and so in Then She Found Me her Jewish identity is strictly fictive, a “Jewish identity,” conferred narratologically through adoption and covering what we easily take to be a gentile undersurface. When, therefore, we meet Midler as the birth mother and discover her to be touchy, neurotic, and oral, there is an opening for dislocation and dissonance. As director, Hunt addresses this by focusing on April’s gaunt face and somewhat elongated nose in many shots in the second part of the film, since we need some grounding for believing she could really be the daughter Bette Midler left behind. Through this trick, and the emphatic playing of her neurotic personality and neurotic love affair with Firth, the performance is coherently readable in the context of a (relative) history of screen Jewishness established by such performers as the non-Jewish Ali McGraw and the Jewish Shelley Winters. If Helen Hunt’s previous screen career established her against the Jewish type, and thus imported ambiguity to her performance in Then She Found Me, Charlton Heston’s turn as Moses—a performance filled with masculine sensitivities, worshipful gazes up into the heavens, powerful oration, and 204

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fixation upon maternal women—includes the most definitive kind of identification display possible for the Jewish boy, a direct conversation with God in which he is named and tagged for all time. This performance set him up perfectly for a role screened three years later: the handsome Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur. Contemporary audiences did not read Ben-Hur strictly in the terms it offered, however, and accordingly, in some vital way, the performance fell apart. The film is the story of the tribulations of a Jewish man in Judea who several times in his life encounters the rabbi known at the time as Jesus. Viewers are to take as given the strict (again relative, because received outside our personal experience) historical Jewishness of Jesus the man, his embeddedness in the Jewish tradition of military messianism (as Marvin Harris put it [see “Secret”]), and must acknowledge that Judah Ben-Hur’s alienation from the power structure of Rome, his torture at Roman hands, is not different in kind from what Jesus suffered. As historically or anthropologically accurate as this narrative structure derived from Gen. Lew Wallace’s novel may have been, Jewish audiences who paid showcase prices in 1959 to see Wyler’s film were thus experiencing their Judaism, a conflation of personal experiences and historical identifications, defensively, especially the Canadian audience in which I saw the film, saturated as it was in the 1950s with self-consciousness and a sense of political debility because of what sociologist John Porter called the “vertical mosaic” of Anglican and Catholic institutional forces that controlled the country. North America in general was not a Jewish community, and so Jews formed enclaves in which to support and recognize one another while outside the margins a wholly alien, even aggressive Christian state treated them, by and large, as tolerable outcasts who could occasionally provide entertainment, keep the economy lubricated, and provide convenient human simulacra of the scapegoat. In Hollywood of the time, the Jewish enclave for many in the film business was centered on Rabbi Edgar Magnin and his Wilshire Boulevard temple (see Gabler 266–72). Given this diasporic Jewish consciousness, Judah BenHur’s fascination with Jesus and his final humble submission to the magical power of Jesus the rabbi all seemed like surrender to at least the iconicity of dominant culture. Therefore Judah was, in his depths, for all his Jewish trappings, a goy—he was deeply, truly, and really Charlton Heston. Audiences raved about the vast landscape of the film, the pictorial splendor, the extensivity of the story, but identifying with Judah as a Jew was really quite impossible given the audience’s absolute experience of Judaism. Because he suffered in its narrative precincts the horror of not quite knowing who he was, of not being what the surrounding society demanded that he should be, Heston was more Jewish in Planet of the Apes (1968). Jerry Lewis’s celebrated film The Nutty Professor (written about so perScreen Performance and Jewish Experience

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An epitome of “screen Jewishness”: Charlton Heston (born John Charles Carter) as Moses preparing to smash the tablets in The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille, Paramount, 1956). Courtesy PhotoFest New York.

ceptively by Susan Hunt and Peter Lehman, among many others) is a paean to the painful struggles of the alienated personality in a society that neither supports nor deeply understands him. In Professor, the personality of the protagonist is split in two. Part of him, Julius Kelp, is a model of the cerebral giant trapped in the physically awkward, even spastic, body of a somatic ruin, a kind of symbolic embodiment of the destroyed Temple surrounded on all sides by vigorous and cheery manifestations of goyish ascendency and control—not least of which is his rather dominating pet raven, stolen from that 206

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powerfully poetic antitype of the Jew, Edgar Allan Poe. Kelp is as Jewish as can be, although in the film nobody openly acknowledges this, least of all him. His self-consciousness, his intensified mentality, his “darkness” (with slightly swarthy skin and black hair), his desire to fit smoothly into the gentile university where he teaches—all these are clues. So, also and most emphatically, is a general and pervasive cultural context of anti-Semitic sentiment in which Kelp’s construction is grounded, a context itself developed from European— specifically German—anti-Semitism of the nineteenth century. Tom Gunning has generously brought to my attention the stunningly paranoiac, and only superficially masked, diatribe that is Oskar Panizza’s story “The Operated Jew” (1893), clearly in some oblique way a source for The Nutty Professor at least as much as Stevenson’s classic tale The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) is more directly. Here, if not by chemical experimentation as in the Stevenson then by systematic application of surgical, psychological, linguistic, and other “therapeutic” techniques, the initially hideous and darkly Jewish Itzig Faitel Stern is transmuted into Siegfried Freudenstern, a blond neo-Wagnerian apotheosis of effete Christian dignity whose marriage to a buxom German maiden collapses in tragedy as the “ameliorative” transformation suddenly wears off and he is reduced again to the slobbering Jew he “really” is. After all, as Panizza has it, “Whatever pomade, make-up, white buckram, some yards of worsted, cotton, and some varnish could accomplish with a human being, all this had been accomplished with Faitel. But what did everything look like inside?” (59). Panizza’s early descriptions of Itzig could be contemporary critical evaluations of the buck-toothed, slobbering, whining Jerry Lewis who embodies Julius Kelp: What philologist or expert in dialects would dare analyze this mixture of Palatinate Semitic babble, French nasal noises, and some high German vocal sounds that he had fortuitously overheard and articulated with an open position of the mouth? . . . There was a spreading of the hands at shoulder height in a slightly squat position; an ecstatic look with a glossy reflection; an exposure of both rows of teeth; a rich amount of saliva. (50–51) Jerry’s other half in The Nutty Professor is rather different. Produced from Kelp in a self-administered, purely chemical transformation (that recalls that of the Anglican Dr. Jekyll into the equally Anglican, but not so genteel, Mr. Hyde) is the lounge lizard Buddy Love, arrogant, condescending, suave, and garish as no self-respecting Jew in a predominantly antiSemitic culture, demeaned by power and subservient to the defining gaze of others, dares to be except, of course, where Buddy in his self-awareness Screen Performance and Jewish Experience

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is not: onstage or on film. As Buddy, Lewis can not only symbolize the assimilated Jew in mid-twentieth-century American culture but also invoke supernatural powers in a way that strict Judaic practice would deem blasphemous—specifically through his galvanizing performance of “That Old Black Magic.” He uses language sparingly, like those epitomes of Christian culture, the cowboys, as described by Peter Lehman in reference to Rio Bravo (1959) (“Scars” 58). He bristles with cool, muscular sexual allure, and as he surveys his audience in the college hangout, the Purple Pit, he exudes a gaze of power and control. Kelp, by contrast, always trying to say too much, is linguistically challenged by the superfluity of meaning he can interpret but not express: he falls victim to Jerry Lewis’s trademark vocal fracturing, always a technical exercise for drawing our attention precisely to the orality of the Jewish characterological fixation (see Pomer-

A model of either assimilation or disguise. Jerry Lewis (born Jerome Levitch) in costume as Buddy Love, directing a scene in The Nutty Professor (Jerry Lewis, Paramount, 1963). As the intent was to surprise audiences with Lewis’s transformation in the film, photographs of him as Buddy Love were not circulated to the press and are virtually impossible to obtain. Courtesy Jerry Lewis.

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ance “Introduction”). His voice cannot complete syllables because of focal distraction; or, because of unbridled emotions and a weak body, maintain its tonal register, so that it is often shockingly harsh, often too loud, often inarticulate while at the same time evincing a thoroughgoing commitment to the principles of articulation and intelligence. His is the genius far too well developed even to indicate itself, whereas the alter ego Buddy Love is beneath genius in a clubby and superior way. As with “The Operative Jew” so with The Nutty Professor: the narrative is calculated to show just how easily, and with what rapidity, the Jewish nerd can be transformed into the goyish stud. While anti-assimilationists at the time either critiqued this film for precisely this demonstration, or else used it to bolster their sermonizing about the inherent threat of assimilation to the North American diasporic Jewish community, what I believe this film shows much more fundamentally than Kelp’s surrender to the dominant Christian culture—a surrender Judah Ben-Hur had demonstrated unmistakably four years previously—is the performativity that is in some part associated with Judaism as a public posture. Just as Julius Kelp can be understood to be inside Buddy Love, some wellspring from which the handsome, mainstream characteristics of Love uninterruptedly flow (after chemical inducement); so Kelp, even in his seemingly unalterable Jewishness, can be an expression produced out of some generating actor who knows the right faces to make, the right way to use his voice, the right way to seem Jewish under the identifying gaze. Kelp is Jewish the way Heston’s Moses and Hunt’s Epner are Jewish, even if played by a Jew. It is simplistic, I think, to regard Julius Kelp as an essential underpinning of Love; Love also underpins Kelp: Kelp possesses, or is, a substrate sufficient for transformation given the right circumstances. Having seen Jerry Lewis offcamera for more than fifty years, we have plenty of reason for knowing that the physical disintegrations he so artfully produces onscreen are no more real to his offscreen persona than the artfully staged Buddy Love is real to the backstage Julius Kelp, and no more real than the artfully staged Kelp is to the real-life Lewis. When we catch a glimpse of Kelp’s parents, they are a twittering, anxious, orally challenged, and generally humiliated Howard Morris and a dominatrix giant, the clearly non-Jewish Elvia Allman. What we can learn by watching these performances is, I believe, something strange and fascinating: that while Jewish experience for any one of us is a matter of being embedded in a field of relations, manifestations, discourses, and therefore meanings; while we know our Jewishness as a feeling and awareness, and as a memory of feelings and awarenesses gone by, and as an acceptance of the validity of stories of such feeling and awareness set for us as “history,” there is still more to Jewishness than Jewish experience. Screen Performance and Jewish Experience

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There is the appearance of Jewish experience, which is connected to its performance through a prevailing currency of the times. Because Jewish experience can have an appearance, it can be filmed, and we can revel in Topol’s eyes welling with tears as he sings “Tradition” while Norman Jewison, a man with the word “Jew” in his name and who reportedly longs to be Jewish but who is not Jewish, films him. We can see the humiliated, tortured Jew in Jeff Goldblum as in David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) he degenerates and disappears; or accept the eccentric but always cerebrally dominant Judaism of the Italianate Milo Tindle that Michael Caine plays in Sleuth (1972), subject to the scathing anti-Semitism of Laurence Olivier’s Andrew Wyke; or watch Helen Hunt davening; or watch Charlton Heston bravely clutching the tablets on top of Mt. Sinai (I am reminded by Ariel Pomerance that in biblical epics, Jews almost never play Jews—this certainly at least to some extent because, as Vivian Sobchack has written, the splendor of the epic genre has required the legitimation of the British WASP voice). Even not played by Jews, these screen “Jews” are successfully constructed to seem “Jewish” enough, to call up the spirit of recognition and thus seem absolutely Jewish for those of us who experience them. As Jewishness is made to appear, it is always and wonderfully offered to recognition. And through that recognition, through that isolation and pointing out, audiences also learn how to know Judaism personally, what issue to foreground, what gestures to imagine as guides for response. The Judaism that becomes absolute experience can, ironically enough, flow from the relative portraitures one sees on the screen. If the family and world out of which each of us bears Judaism like a gland and the catalogue of performable demonstrations that cumulate to the recognizable identity “Jew” have little, if anything, in common, still either can generate the other. Indeed, I would argue that in a culture dominated by—swept away by— media imagery, the catalogue of Jewish characteristics we see onscreen overshadows any one person’s feeling or remembrance of a Jewish self. Once, as a child, I was rather quiet and introverted—in fact I had a speech defect. But learning how to be Jewish from the mouthiness of Jerry Lewis, and then the mouthiness of Woody Allen—the two great Jewish prophets of our cinematic age, Mel Brooks notwithstanding—I have made myself, if not a Julius Kelp or an Alvy Singer, at least someone who works with words, indeed whose verbiage is, to quote Amazon.com, “overwrought,” whose brain stands for his personality and personal life. The flavors and smells, the visions, the sounds that are Judaism for me cannot be shown in performance, alas. And so if in memory and present life I continue to experience them, all the while I must work my song and dance to fit into the gallery of portraits so many other performers, like me and not, have convincingly offered before. 210

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Vivian Sobchack

Assimilating Streisand When Too Much Is Not Enough

I want to do everything. . . . I like to know everything. . . . There are a lot of things I want. . . . I’ll have them all, you know. B arbra S treisand to S idney S kolsky You push too hard. You expect too much. H ubbell G ardner to K atie M orosky in The Way We Were (1973)

Let me pose a troubling question: Why do so many people in our culture (Jews and non-Jews alike) hate Barbra Streisand? Certainly, no other major “star of David” has been so celebrated and yet so reviled as she of the voice like “buttah” and “she, who must be obeyed.” Although Streisand’s fans are legion, their adoration in no way matches the virulence of those who can’t stand her. Their hatred is excessive—that is, highly disproportionate not only to the star’s achievements as a singer, actor, producer, and director but also to the various social and political pronouncements of her self-admitted big mouth. What follows, then, is, an exploration of the social and emotional terrain of this hatred, an exploration that will result in not a rational and static cartography, but rather, as Giuliana Bruno suggests, a “kind of spiraling journey of understanding” whose twists and turns involve encounters not only with others but also with oneself (“Cultural” 160). Interested in journeys across a “terrain of affects” that generate both history and selfdiscovery, Bruno sees emotion as a form of transport, and thus intimately linked to movement (Atlas vii). Etymologically and historically, emotion 211

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has also been associated “with a moving out, migration, transference from one place to another” (Atlas 6); and, as Bruno suggests, “this ‘moving out’ is exactly what one does as one crosses a border, which can be the territory of a nation,” or—important here—“a culture” (“Cultural” 159). Hatred, then, can be considered a negative form of transport or transference, a heightened response to, among other provocations, transgressive migration across territorial and cultural borders. Often in concert with fear of invasion on one side and the push for free movement on the other, hatred accompanies the desire not only to exclude or evict cultural “others” but also to escape and leave “behind” or move “beyond” the perceived constraints and limits of one’s own cultural community. Furthermore, and particularly important in Streisand’s case, hatred is also an affective response to expansion—to a transgression of a border achieved not merely by crossing it, but, rather, by changing its contours, “taking it over” in what is perceived as an invasive assimilation of the “other’s” own cultural territory. Thus, in the context of traditional critiques of assimilation as a disavowal of one’s own cultural terrain, this is assimilation writ in reverse—as threatening to overwhelm the “other’s” cultural terrain rather than disappear into it. Certainly there are also positive affective responses to the moving possibilities of cultural migration across borders, to the liberating act of “moving out.” Take, for example, the unadulterated adoration of Streisand apotheosized by Linda Richman, a fictional character conceived and played by comedian Mike Myers on Saturday Night Live and modeled after his New York Jewish mother-in-law.1 In a recurrent skit during the 1990s, middleclass and middle-aged Linda, with big hair, big rhinestone-studded glasses, and big gold jewelry, hosted a show called “Coffee Talk” dedicated to Streisand, whom she praises to her Jewish women friends and guests as “the best entertainer in the history of show business”—and, she says, “a god.” In the inaugural skit, Linda asks her friend Sheila, “Why do we love Barbra Streisand so much? Is it because she’s so vaulty and brash?” Sheila’s response: “No, it isn’t. The reason is, she got out. Now, when I was a little girl, I wanted to be a ballerina, and my mother told me, ‘Sheila, you’re . . . from Brooklyn with a hook nose. You will never, ever be a ballerina.’ And like a schmuck, I listened. Barbra, no, she got out. Excuse me, I’m a little emotional about this right now.” Also choked with emotion, Linda says to Sheila: “Listening to your story, I’m a little verklempt myself. Give me a second,” and, claiming a moment to regain her composure, she tells her guests (and the audience) to “talk amongst yourselves” (Myers). So, let’s talk amongst ourselves (if only rhetorically). Up front, at the beginning of this circuitous affective journey, I have to admit to my own ambivalent responses to Streisand—which also means admitting to my of212

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ten reluctant and squeamish relation to my own second-generation Jewish American background. Indeed, my own mother, like Sheila (albeit without a “hook nose”), also wanted to become a ballerina but became a public school teacher instead. She “moved up” but, try as she might—and despite my parents’ determined, upwardly mobile first-generation flight into a New York Jewish secularism that simply meant bagels and lox on Sunday and avoiding Volkswagens—she never quite “got out.” I suppose my ambition then (and I feel both pride and guilt about it) was to fulfill her emotional desire to cross a cultural and territorial divide into another country: not, of course, to become a ballerina, but to “get out”—to “escape” the constraints I felt from within and without by being marked both female and Jewish. “Escape,” however, is a relative term; “moving forward” and “moving out,” one is always turning backward, looking over one’s shoulder for those in pursuit (whether others or one’s own guilty self ). The past, the “old country” (even when one never really lived comfortably within it), will not so easily let one migrate beyond its borders to disappear—to be assimilated—into what seems the expansive openness and anonymity of a terra incognita. So—to begin by asking why “so many” people hate Barbra Streisand elides the personal ambivalence that led me to ask this question in the first place. Certainly, over the years, I have greatly admired and strongly identified with Streisand both on-and offscreen, many of her film roles (particularly Katie Morosky in The Way We Were) self-referentially (some say narcissistically) conflating with her “real-life” persona—and also with mine. Only a year older than Barbra (I’ll be familiar here), I, too, was Brooklyn-born and had a big mouth. I was also male-identified in relation to my ambitions but always wondering if I were a pretty and desirable enough “girl.” Like Barbra, I was also passionate about social justice, also hungry for knowledge and power but on my own terms, and also—and mainly—always wanting “more” and “it all” (however vague “more” and “it all” happened to be). The real question, then, is why am I less fascinated by the adulation than by the widespread hatred of Streisand—and why do I both share in and abhor it? Indeed, although I admire her talents, ambition, and assertiveness, I also have been quite often appalled and embarrassed by Streisand, shrinking from (and ashamed of ) any alliance or similarities I imagined between us. Is this because she really didn’t “get out”?—that instead of leaving the “old country,” she hyperbolically expanded it, dragging with her all that cultural baggage I thought I’d left behind? Or is it that, as an ambitious and outspoken woman who hates the thought—and feeling— of being “caught” and “recuperated” as a “Jew,” I shrink from her in fear, her powerful expansionism not only a parody and mockery of my own impossible desire for a “real” escape from my “roots” but also threatening to catch Assimilating Streisand

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Streisand as political activist Katie Morosky in The Way We Were (Sydney Pollack, Columbia, 1973). Courtesy PhotoFest New York.

up with me, to re-assimilate me, just when I thought I’d fled into an openness and otherness that had nothing to do with identity politics? Indeed, riffing on my mother’s unseen and mysterious involvements with a Jewish women’s organization when I was a child, as an adult I’ve often described this fear of re-assimilation as the terror that, somehow, somewhere, Hadassah was “going to get me.” In sum, my initial question is skewed by personal history—and thus, in what follows, I want to explore not only the affective dynamics that inform the widespread hatred of Streisand but also the ways in which my and others’ more ambivalent embarrassment and dismay at her expansionism and excessiveness reveal much about Jewishness in its relation to gender, power, and abjection. In this regard, the extreme animosity toward Streisand that is given voice across the media is itself excessive, and goes way beyond aesthetic distaste for her middle-brow sentimentality and/or homophobic horror at 214

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the baroque extravagance that delights her large gay following. Indeed, in most instances, aesthetics are not the issue. Streisand’s work (primarily her concerts and films) is engaged solely to excoriate her supposed “bad behavior” backstage and on set, and thus the discourse tends to focus on her person, her presence, her magnitude. For every adoring Linda Richman who thinks the star is “a god,” there’s a Roseanne Barr who thinks Barbra is merely full of herself. Writing about “those who dislike Streisand” and “find her strident and overbearing,” Camille Paglia (a “diehard” Streisand fan) reports that the Jewish Roseanne was “daunted” when she met the star and accused her of behaving like the “queen of the United States” (Paglia 22). Let me provide, then, three (among myriad) examples of this virulently articulated and excessive hatred of Streisand’s own excess. The first appeared in a 1997 New York Times book review of an unauthorized and “star-struck” biography of Streisand that, as reviewer Daniel Mendelsohn begins, is “as deeply admiring of its subject as Ms. Streisand herself tends to be” (15). Mendelsohn (a Jewish male who writes also for the New York Review of Books and whose prose is usually restrained) goes on to criticize Streisand even more than he does the biography: Ms. Streisand’s success seems to have precipitated a positively Caligulan disintegration: increasingly voracious bids for total control, almost infantile demands for recognition, graceless behavior on her sets. . . . Lately, Ms. Streisand has cannily sought to make herself critic proof by casting herself—how else?—as a victim, a pioneering feminist who courageously champions “collective female energy” in a male-dominated industry . . . [but who uses her control to] whittle down or delete scenes featuring more conventionally attractive rivals—er, “sisters.” . . . One word that might leap to mind is “narcissistic,” and surely the buzzards of megalomania are circling overhead as well. (Mendelsohn 16) Mendelsohn ends the review by fantasizing a Streisand biography not yet written: “a story of astounding talent hobbled by a dearth of good sense; of driving ambition curdled into self-glorification; of endless self-absorption masquerading as meaningful self-exploration.  .  .  . The voice may be like buttah, but everything else is as hard as nails” (16). My second example is from a less august source—Entertainment Weekly—and was published when Streisand (producer, director, and star) was in production for The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996). The piece by Jeffrey Wells summarizes the film as being about “an ugly duckling professor and her quest for inner and outer beauty” and then goes on to say that Assimilating Streisand

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“the lessons of the film are lost on the hyper-picky Streisand” (8). Focus is primarily on “the [then] 54-year old star’s” production woes. Although she is the film’s director, Streisand is denigrated for what is considered her untoward attention to trivial details: “Among the things she fretted over: the density of her panty hose, the bras she wore, and whether the trees would have falling leaves” (Wells 9). Wells quotes an ex-employee who tells us: “Her reputation is that of a perfectionist. . . . Point of fact, she’s a meddler. She doesn’t let anyone do their job” (9). Emphasis is also on her age. Commenting on plot changes that Streisand made to the French film from which Mirror was adapted, Wells writes: In the original, the mousy hausfrau undergoes . . . plastic surgery. But Streisand rejected that idea—perhaps because of the negative message—and went with attitude adjustment instead. Which might work for the character, but does it work for the star? “Certain wrinkles and gravitational forces seem to be causing Streisand concern,” says one ex-crew member. “She doesn’t want to look her age. She’s fighting it.” (9) Reading this at the time, I was incensed. For one thing, Barbra, a year younger than I, looked pretty good to me. And, for another, not only was she a persistent, passionate, and outspoken woman from Brooklyn—but she was also making a movie about a female professor! Indeed, except for the income and, of course, the ability to sing “People,” Barbra and I had a lot in common and I wanted to defend her. Thus, Barbra and the Entertainment Weekly hatchet job soon found their way into an essay I wrote about how aging women seemed a particularly terrifying affront to American culture. As cinematic illustration, I focused on a number of low-budget horror and science fiction films in which despised middle-aged women were transformed by potions or aliens into gorgeous and young femme fatale monsters like the Leech Woman, the 50-Foot Woman, and, yes, the Wasp Woman (no Jews here!), all bent on revenge on men for their earlier humiliations. In homage, I added to this triumvirate the middle-aged Barbra, ironically imagining her as also transformed and, at least for a while, triumphantly marauding the countryside as a glamorous 50-foot monster draped, of course, in a Donna Karan jersey. Which brings me to my third example, a 1998 episode of the animated television series South Park (season 1, episode 112). Appearing when my essay was still in the process of publication, the episode, entitled “MechaStreisand,” actually realized my imagined scenario of transforming the middle-aged Barbra into a 50-foot monster—here, however, metal-clad rather 216

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than wearing Donna Karan, and bent on trashing the Colorado town of South Park as if she were Godzilla. The backstory to Streisand’s transformation is provided in the episode by film critic Leonard Maltin (who has come to South Park to save it from destruction). Driving into the town, he asks another character, “Haven’t you ever been curious about the insanity Barbra Streisand exhibits?” The reply: “Well, I always heard she was a kind of a bitch.” “More than a bitch,” Maltin exclaims. “She’s a calculating, selfcentered egotistical bitch! . . . When she was five, she knew that she wanted to be a famous singer, but by the time she was six, her ambitions became to rule the universe” (Parker, Stone, and Stark n.p.). Maltin goes on to relate how Streisand found out about an ancient magic diamond that would allow her to realize her ambitions. To prevent this, the “gods” split the diamond in two, but Streisand, having secured one half of it, was in search of the other half, now in the possession of one of the South Park kids, who found it on a school field trip to a nearby Native American archeological dig. Summing up, Maltin warns, “If Babs gets a hold of it, she will fulfill her prophecy and become the most threatening thing ever known to mankind: Mecha-Streisand!” Streisand, however, does unite the two halves of the diamond into a powerful whole and Maltin, unable to save South Park singlehandedly, calls for assistance—first, from Sidney Poitier and then from the British rock band The Cure’s Robert Smith—to fight the transformed Babs. The men all become Mecha-superheroes, battling and ultimately destroying the megacelebrity monster—who, in the midst of decimating the town, stops to sign an autograph. It is worth noting, however, that earlier in the episode, before Streisand is transformed into a gigantic monster, the South Park kids barely know who she is. Indeed, one explains to the others (shades of my essay on aging) that “Barbra Streisand” is “just this really really old lady who wishes she was still only forty-five.” The kids all snicker and one adds, “Yeah, and you should have seen her nose. It was big enough to land stealth bombers on.” Is all this unabashed hatred (in a newspaper, a magazine, a television show) because Streisand is a Woman? Middle-aged? A powerful Star of great “magnitude”? A Narcissist? A Liberal Democrat? A Perfectionist? Strident? An Activist? A Control Freak? A Bitch? A Self-Righteous and Humorless Bore? In relation to the last, South Park’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have said they hate Streisand because, during “one of her big crusades” against an anti-gay amendment in Colorado, she announced, “ ‘If you don’t change the law, I am never coming back to the state again,” selfimportantly assuming the loss of her presence as major leverage in the fight for gay rights (Pond 66). Furthermore, after the South Park episode aired, she “attacked the show, not for showing her as a monster but for promoting cynicism among children” (Gillespie and Walker n.p.). Assimilating Streisand

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Streisand as yeshiva boy Anshel in Yentl (Barbra Streisand, United Artists, 1983). Courtesy PhotoFest New York.

On one hand, and given the litany of existential descriptors above, hatred of Streisand may be so widespread because she can be perceived negatively in terms of any one of them. On the other hand, however, that hatred may be exceptionally vicious because she offers all of them up to criticism at once. Certainly, each of these characterizations has served to generate animosity toward her from some quarter. Yet, taken all together, they produce something perceived as more negative than any one of them: an inassimilable hyphenate that, in magnitude and quality, like Mecha-Streisand, adds up to something monstrous and threatening, something monumentally expansive and voracious. Thus, those negative responses that describe Streisand as “too much”—as the quintessential and extreme figure of excess personified—regard her not merely as a social threat but also as an existential insult. In sum, if we take all her many aspects and qualities together—including her objectionable big mouth but also, as the South Park kids tellingly reference, her big nose—might the reason that Streisand is 218

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“really” hated be that she is monumentally, monstrously, and excessively Jewish? Indeed, given Streisand’s background, career, and persona, it is certainly possible to entertain the argument that, in their sum, and whether directed at the star from without or within Jewish American culture, all the negative characterizations listed above constitute a thinly disguised displacement of virulent anti-Semitism: a hatred and fear of the visible excess not only connected to the Jewish body but also culturally associated with Jewish upward mobility and the ornately showy consumerism of the nouveau riche; with Jewish ambition and success as the will to secret and limitless power; and with Jewish appetite writ large as voracious greed not only for “more” but also for “everything.” Thus, although I think it’s hardly the whole story, let’s entertain this argument for the moment and, led by the Semitic nose, turn back on our journey to Streisand’s early career, shortly after her 1964 Broadway success in Funny Girl, as an “in your face” (and possibly “up yours”) cinematic signifier of Jewishness. After her Academy Award–winning turn as Fanny Brice in the film version of Funny Girl (1968), Streisand was celebrated by both the media and the Jewish community as a key figure in the increasingly overt representation of Jews on the screen during what later scholars dubbed Hollywood’s “Jewish New Wave”—a loosely defined period beginning in the late 1960s with the Israeli Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars (June 5–10, 1967; October 6–26, 1973) and Streisand’s appearance in Funny Girl, and declining in the mid- to late 1970s sometime after her appearance as Jewish activist Katie Morosky in The Way We Were. Indeed, “appearance” is the word of note here. Streisand emphasized her different “look,” telling Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky during the filming of What’s Up Doc? (1972), “I arrived in Hollywood without having my nose fixed, my teeth capped, or my name changed. That is very gratifying to me” (Skolsky). It was also gratifying to any number of Jewish and feminist film scholars. Patricia Erens, for example, writes in 1984 of Streisand: “Certainly she is the first major female star of motion pictures to leave her name and her nose intact and to command major roles as a Jewish actress. Stanley Kauffman was aware of this when he spoke of ‘the social importance of Miss Streisand’s face’ ” (268).2 More recently, Bernice Schrank, in the journal Shofar, also points to “Streisand’s rehabilitation of the stereotypical Jewish nose” and praises the star’s lack of “the need to deconstruct her ethnicity” (37). Indeed, quoting Dorothy Parker’s savage witticism about the real Fanny Brice (who did have a nose job), Schrank writes that, unlike Brice, “Streisand never ‘cut off her nose to spite her race’ ” (37). Certainly, throughout her career, Streisand has both acknowledged her Assimilating Streisand

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own Jewish background (however secular) and played many explicitly Jewish characters onscreen—all ostensibly strong and positive narrative heroines: in addition to Fanny Brice and Katie Morosky, there’s Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! (1969), Esther Hoffman in A Star Is Born (1976), Hilary Kramer in The Main Event (1979), the title character in Yentl (1983), Susan Lowenstein in The Prince of Tides (1991), and most recently Rozalin Focker in Meet the Fockers (2004) and its 2010 sequel. Thus, as Lester Friedman points out, by the late 1970s and The Main Event, which begins with an extreme close-up profile of Le Nez perfume’s Hilary (“The Nose”) Kramer, the widespread cinematic and cultural prominence of Streisand’s Jewish nose is overtly exploited as a “visual joke on those who seem obsessed with its size and shape” (Jewish Image 79). And, as Felicia Herman more recently writes of the film, “After years of comment from reviewers and critics about her most prominent facial feature . . . [The Main Event] turns the tables and uses Streisand’s nose to her character’s advantage; once the most vilified feature of a Jew’s physique, the nose now becomes the Jew’s greatest asset” (182). In this regard, however, it is worth noting that—except for the snickering reference to Streisand’s nose by the South Park kids—extremely negative attacks on Streisand tend not to directly mention either her nose or the fact that she is Jewish. Indeed, this would bring their probable anti-Semitism to the surface. Rather, overt mention of Streisand’s nose and Jewishness seems to be the province of more positive and celebratory discussion of her work and persona. Of course, Streisand has also played characters who were written as ethnically “neutral”: Claudia Draper in 1987’s Nuts and Rose Morgan in The Mirror Has Two Faces come to mind. Nonetheless, as Mark Gorney points out, “The Jew remains a Jew even when disguised.  .  .  . One cannot hide—nose job or no nose job—from the lessons of race” (qtd. in Gilman 193). That is, even playing non-Jewish characters, Streisand’s Jewishness is still ostensibly signaled to press, public, and scholars alike not only by, yes, her nose but also by her New York accent, her wisecracking, her “attitude” and quirky mannerisms, her liberal persona—all integral to both her screen and public image. In these supposedly neutral roles, she is always (and at the least) re-cognized as Jewish—in what Jon Stratton has called “ ‘Jewish moments,’ wherein audiences with various cultural competencies draw meaningful Jewish references from texts in which these references may be only vaguely inferred” (qtd. in Byers and Krieger 47).3 Nose job or no nose job, and whether the filmgoer is Jewish or not, Streisand’s “Jewishness” is perceived as such through a large and evolving body of cultural signifiers such as regional accent, modes of speech, a certain “attitude,” particularly excessive mannerisms, and excessive ways of dressing or decorating one’s person and home. This last often comes to the forefront in the discourse on Streisand, 220

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whether positive or negative. Much has been written about her many homes and her particular passion for decorating them to the (excessive) nth degree. This began relatively early in her career. Consider, for example, Skolsky’s description of Streisand’s “block-long” trailer during the filming of What’s Up Doc?: “It’s decorated in semi-modern, semi-Victorian style with crystal chandeliers and white couches. It is entered by two curved stairways, with iron handrails and red carpets. The entire length of the trailer exterior is carpeted in red, and spotted with potted palms and ferns.”4 Skolsky’s awed description of this excess evokes not only the decorative tendencies of the nouveau riche but also those of upwardly mobile first-generation Jewish Americans— reminding me (admittedly with a second-generation shudder) of my Aunt Ceil’s overly ornate, chandeliered, white and gold living room or my mother’s more tasteful (if oxymoronic) French “provincial” furniture worthy of Versailles. In this same piece, Skolsky also admiringly describes the star as having “smooth skin, a neat figure, splendid eyes, good legs, and a Streisand nose.” Here, cultural signifiers not only reduce a woman to body parts but, more important in this context, generalize the particularity of her nose into a type; it’s not “the” Streisand nose, but “a” Streisand nose, suggesting there are many others like it. Thus, although there is no overt mention of Jewishness in Skolsky’s descriptions, like that nose, it looms large and prominent. So let’s turn again to that litany of negative signifiers that have been used to describe the star in excessive terms as “the most threatening thing ever known to mankind” (gender designation here hardly an accident). Figured as inexcusably—monstrously—“too much” in my three examples, Streisand is (and I again quote): “voracious,” “ambitious,” “Caligulan,” “megalomaniacal,” “totally controlling,” “excessive,” “self-glorifying,” “hard as nails,” “hyper-picky,” “perfectionist,” “meddling,” “aging,” “infantile,” “selfabsorbed,” “narcissistic,” “self-centered,” “egotistical,” “extravagant,” and, of course, “a bitch.” These descriptive signifiers should, through inference, not only vaguely ring a bell but also, in their accumulation, sound an alarm as blatant, if secularly encrypted, references to Streisand’s Jewishness. In this regard, film scholars Lester Friedman, Patricia Erens, and Sarah Cohen (among others) have written extensively about dominant media stereotypes of Jews and Jewishness.5 In particular relation to Jewish women, these include overbearing, ambitious, controlling, and self-glorifying mothers; self-absorbed, high-maintenance, spoiled, and demanding daughters or “Jewish American princesses” (JAPs for short); and an assortment of voracious, consumerist, upwardly mobile, smart, mouthy, usually urban, and always critical Jewish women who make the Jewish men in their lives (whether fathers, suitors, husbands, or sons) utterly miserable. Certainly, the extremity and excesses inscribed in and by these negaAssimilating Streisand

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tive stereotypes are sometimes given a positive spin but, nevertheless, they keep their edge. For example, Paglia, describing the “rich range of New York Jewish society” at Streisand’s 1994 Madison Square Garden concert, writes: “Everywhere I was happily jostled by mesmerizingly powerful women, from the old-style Yiddish-inflected dowagers, barreling down the aisles like tanks, to the assimilationist era’s tanned, vivacious, sylphlike princesses, whom Ali MacGraw skillfully played in Goodbye, Columbus. Matriarchal Jewish culture, from which Streisand sprang, never needed feminism to liberate its raucously outspoken women” (Paglia 21). Most often, however, these stereotypes are viewed as horrific by Jews and non-Jews alike. Rhonda Lieberman, for example, writing on “glamorous Jewesses” on the Hollywood screen, describes how Streisand, playing the “soigné, cosmopolitan ‘Über’ Jewish shrink” in The Prince of Tides, turns into the “JAP nightmare”; she writes: “Reaching the goal of total Princesshood, she becomes grotesque; our sympathy with her as a desiring subject turns to shit” (196–97). And even Paglia, the diehard fan, commenting on the projection of the star’s home photos at her 1994 concert, describes her horrifically as “hovering [over her son Jason] like a vulture” (n.p.). So, to the question of why Streisand is so vilified, the obvious answer is again that she personifies not merely one negative Jewish female stereotype but all of them—all of

Streisand as psychiatrist Susan Lowenstein in The Prince of Tides (Barbra Streisand, Columbia, 1991). Courtesy PhotoFest New York.

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these de-ethnicized and secularized as a “hyphenated” and hyperbolized accumulation of “character flaws” that serve as an alibi for the expression of a virulent anti-Semitism directed specifically against Jewish women by Jews and non-Jews alike. The excessive and self-absorbed Jewish princess (now “Queen of America”), the Jewish wife as threatening “ballbuster,” the voracious Jewish mother as overprotective and infantilizing, and the Jewish mogul as greedy and calculating: Mecha-Streisand is clearly a mega-female Jew who is seen as threatening “all of mankind.” In regard to gender (as well as race), it is telling to return to South Park. As they sometimes do, the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone (who is, by the way, Jewish), introduce the “Mecha-Streisand” episode in a live-action sequence. Dressed as cowboys à la Hopalong Cassidy, they beat and kick a stereotypically costumed “Indian” lying on the ground at their feet as they tell viewers that the week’s episode “will follow singer Barbra Streisand as she tries to take over the world.” They then rhetorically ask, “Do we really hate the celebrities we make fun of on South Park?” And they answer, “Of course not. It’s all in good fun—except when it comes to Barbra Streisand. We hate her! In fact, we’re pretending our Indian companion is Barbra Streisand. That’s why we’re kicking him.”6 So  .  .  . let’s talk amongst ourselves (also rhetorically). Topic: displacement! Streisand’s Jewish “otherness”—never mentioned in this TV episode—is displaced not only explicitly and obliquely onto the bodies of other ethnic and racial “others” (the hapless Indian and African American Sidney Poitier) but also onto the bodies of men. (The desire to take over the world—to be “master of the universe”—is culturally coded as a male desire, as well as often attributed by anti-Semites to covert and male Jewish conspiracies.) Mecha-Streisand, then, becomes even more horrific. Not only is she Jewish but, in terms of desire, power, and effect, she is also a he—metallic, “hard as nails,” and threatening to take over not only the universe but also the more earthly territory of both Jewish and non-Jewish men. Indeed, we could argue with justification that the hatred Streisand provokes is an aggressively masculinist (and primarily heterosexist) defense against abjection—what, in her aptly titled Powers of Horror, Julia Kristeva defines as a “violent, dark [revolt] of being” that is “directed against a threat that seems to emanate from an exorbitant outside or inside, ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable” (Powers 1). Hence the extraordinary virulence of Daniel Mendelsohn, Jeffrey Wells, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone. But what, then, of women (Jewish or not) and their relation to Streisand? What of my own? Obviously, for those who adore, celebrate, or admire her (whether laywomen or scholars), Streisand does not provoke abjection. InAssimilating Streisand

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deed, if to varying degrees, and like Linda Richman, these women glory in Streisand’s “too muchness,” her exorbitance—Barbra’s hyphenate power experienced by them not as a threat from the “outside” but, rather, as their own secret and desiring “inside” that wants “to get out,” that yearns to expand and if not take over the world at least leave a mark on it. Feminist Jewish scholar June Sochen, for example, writes admiringly of Streisand not only as an entertainer but also as a reformer “in conflict with patriarchical tradition” (77). She goes on to highlight the star’s “thoughtful efforts to portray women as intellectually formidable, interested and engaged in their society,” as well as her “willingness to take on controversial film projects [that can be] viewed as part of her private interest in bettering the world” (77–78). Many other Jewish women journalists and scholars, particularly those who are second-generation, also celebrate the cultural and social significance of her appearance in terms of their own. Marcy Sheiner, for instance, writes that “Streisand served as a reference point that finally validated my looks. . . . By showing a Jewish girl’s face in front of the camera she was announcing . . . ‘I’m here, I’m a bagel, and you’re gonna learn to love me’ ” (10–12). In sum, for her celebrants, Streisand’s exorbitance as both a “feisty” woman and a “feisty” Jew on- and offscreen allows them to imagine grand confirmation of and expansive alternatives to their own lives. As Letty Pogrebin puts it, Streisand and her films “have assured girls with big noses and frizzy hair that they too can invent their own kind of terrific and leave Miss America in the dust” (267). No threat of abjection here! Indeed, sharing etymological and psychic roots, “terror” is transformed to “terrific.” Thus, Sochen tells us with feminist satisfaction: “A performing Jewish woman is a force to be reckoned with—and possibly feared” (69). It is notable, then, that, in a 1996 exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York called “Too Jewish?” several Jewish women artists appreciatively (and playfully) acknowledged Barbra’s power—taking her image as their subject to emphasize not only her excessive magnitude but also her expansive assimilation of mainstream, non-Jewish culture. Hence, Deborah Kass’s silk-screened “Four Barbras,” a parody of Warhol’s similar work celebrating Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Rhonda Lieberman’s installation, “Barbra Bush,” “a fake Christmas tree [decorated] with Barbra Streisand ornaments” (Herman 171). Here, Barbra as “too much” (and too much Barbra) is a positive thing. Nonetheless, there are a number of women scholars who (like me) are more ambivalent about Streisand, admiring her but also critically drawing back—albeit often for different reasons. For example, Herman writes that Streisand and her films are not Jewish enough! In an essay entitled “The 224

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Way She Really Is,” Herman criticizes Yentl for both the producer/director/star’s simplistic treatment of Judaism (among other things, getting the Talmud wrong and having Yentl pray like a Christian) and the film’s egregious historical omissions. Pointing to the 1904 east European setting, she writes: “There are no pogroms, no oppression of Jews, and no Christian authorities—either good or bad” (Herman 187). Yentl thus “stands outside both history and religion,” Streisand crafting “a nostalgic shtetl and yeshiva world where Judaism is nothing but a love of books” (188). Furthermore, Herman argues more generally that Streisand’s films are not only not Jewish enough in terms of religion and history but also “only poorly reflect cultural Jewishness, relying instead on reductive stereotypes of Jews and symbols of Jewishness that equate Jewishness at the most with political liberalism and at the least with stereotypes” (189). Streisand’s avowed feminism is also subject to criticism. Her women protagonists are seen, at best, as exhibiting a troubling and conservative “liberal feminism” that argues not for changing the status quo but, rather, for merely asserting “that women can exhibit the qualities that society most values and . . . traditionally attributes to men” (Herman 173). Furthermore, Streisand’s women protagonists are seen as too often “long suffering”; they pay “a heavy price for wanting more than the role traditionally allotted to women,” and “they lose the men they love, and thus, to great degree, allow their success to be also perceived as a ‘failure’ ” (176). Indeed, the emplotment of romance in Streisand’s films, as Herman suggests, not only “dilute[s]” her characters’ feminism but also “condemn[s]” it (173). (I might add that this seems equally true of Streisand’s repetitive emplotment of her personal romances in interviews through the years—these revealing less her desire for equality than for dependency and even, at times, servitude.) Also significant is another problem provoked by romantic emplotment in Streisand’s oeuvre. Patricia Erens and later Jewish feminists are hard put to deal positively with the protagonist’s desire in most of her films for what Erens calls her “gorgeous goyisher guy” (323). Erens tries to redeem as feminist what later scholars criticize as a perverse reversal of the stereotypical narrative of the Jewish male’s desire for and pursuit of the blond shiksa. In this gender reversal, Streisand’s excess and expansionism, her assimilation of, not by, the “other,” casts her in the role (thank you, Linda Richman) of a “god”—to wit, the Jewish “savior.” That is, the “gorgeous goyisher guy,” as Rhonda Lieberman writes, “is a blond object to be rescued by the Jewess from his own sorry condition” (196). Think not only of Robert Redford’s blond and politically passive Hubbell Gardner in The Way We Were but also of Nick Nolte’s blond and psychically damaged Tom Wingo in The Prince of Tides, the latter “cured” by Streisand’s loving psychiatrist of his “gentile Assimilating Streisand

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dysfunction”—a WASP dis-ease also the object of Roz Focker’s ministrations in the more comic Meet the Fockers (Baskind 4). Indeed, driving off into the sunset and back to his wife at the end of The Prince of Tides, Tom chants the sacred words “Lowenstein, Lowenstein, Lowenstein” as if they were “Yahweh, Yahweh, Yahweh.” In effect, Streisand’s wanting it all, including the “goyisher guy” (which in real life she finally got), means wanting it both ways. Not Jewish enough, she’s (once again) too Jewish. Without overtly mentioning Streisand’s Jewishness, Paglia has written the following: [The superstar’s] life and work are one; complaining about her ego is like spitting at a force of nature. Her materialism—the sharp deals, the acquisition of objects, the compulsive redecorating—is her ritualistic way of anchoring herself in externals, of rebalancing herself against the buffeting emotional vortex from which she draws her knowledge of the psyche.  .  .  . The importance of Streisand’s deprived Brooklyn childhood—the rejecting mother, the dead father and the bleak, cramped quarters—has been overstated. These are diminishing psychodramas in our era of victimhood. Artists of Streisand’s dimension have power and aggression on a massive scale virtually from birth. (Paglia 22) For Paglia, Mecha-Streisand is a force of nature from the start. Nonetheless, this power and aggression, this desire for dimension, does not come from nowhere—even as it is over the top and out of place. Which brings me finally back to issues of cultural border crossings, invasions and assimilation, and the desire to “get out”—be it through escape or (like Streisand) expansion. It also brings me finally to another (and perhaps deeper) reason that Streisand sometimes horrifies people (particularly would-be escapees like me) and makes us shrink from her even as she grows in stature. And this is the dirty, little, and disappointing secret that, despite her excessive ambition, power, and dimension, she, mirroring those she threatens, is also abject. Informing her ostensible Jewishness, her refusal to “fix” her nose, her “Hello, Gawjus,” is immense insecurity born of a self-hatred related to the very Jewishness she would proudly assert. In her films, as well as elsewhere, despite her refusal to alter her appearance, this insecurity emerges in the constant worry about whether she’s “pretty enough”—particularly to non-Jewish men. Offscreen, despite her manifest magnitude in concert and elsewhere, this insecurity makes her shrink from contact with her fans, and despite her manifest passion makes her selfprotectively distant and cold. She also feels “scape-goated,” threatened, “cor226

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nered”—and not only by the press (Skolsky). Indeed, as Paglia points out, she is “edgy, suspicious, and dogged by stage fright” (n.p.). Indeed, even early in her career, Streisand tells Skolsky (in terms of pronouns, displacing and splitting herself in two), “I think other people hate success  .  .  . they hate famous people really. . . . It’s very scary because you see that a lot of extras, certain people, they’re waiting for you to make a mistake” (Skolsky). Despite all her “chutzpah,” then, terror accompanies the burden of being (or acting like) a “chosen person,” and we see in this abject terror a desire for total control that projects her own suspected “inferior” qualities onto others. In this regard, Kristeva writes that “abjection is above all ambiguity . . . and [a] sense of perpetual danger . . . when ‘I,’ or the subject” feels so “overwhelmed” that it becomes “dissociated, shattered into painful territories, parts larger than the whole” (“Subject” 152). This is Mecha-Streisand as the monster ultimately shattered to smithereens. However, unlike in South Park, Streisand’s abjection, the split between the affirmation and negation of her “I” (and her Jewishness), comes not from outside but from within—its force a sign, to quote Kristeva, “of the breaking down of a world that has erased its borders” (Powers 4). This is the sign from which I (and perhaps certain other Jewish women who have wanted to erase borders) shrink in horror—for, at certain highly affective moments that we understand at our core, Streisand’s existence instead of signifying freedom questions the possibility of it. Ambiguous, her insistent, excessive, and hyphenated hunger to assimilate the world not only explodes abjectly into often “painful territories” but also implodes as “the [overwhelmed] subject collapses in on itself ” (Kirkby 111). Thus, despite all her admirable “chutzpah,” talent, and magnitude, the star is also a disappointment, and even an embarrassment. For those of us who strive to leave that excessive décor and cultural baggage behind and “get out” into really open territory, her “too much” is a sham—and far too little.

Notes 1. “Coffee Talk with Linda Richman” ran from 1991 until 1994 on Saturday Night Live (NBC). One further episode appeared in 1997 when Mike Myers guest-hosted the show. 2. Erens is quoting from Stanley Kauffman’s review of Funny Girl (1968) in the New Republic (November 11, 1968). 3. Byers and Krieger are quoting from Jon Stratton’s Coming Out Jewish (New York: Routledge, 2000). 4. Even more excessive than this trailer in Streisand’s early career are the furnishings of her various homes, these brought to overwhelming visibility on

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the hundreds of pages in the 2009 Julien’s Auctions catalog for The Collection of Barbra Streisand. (Auction proceeds were to benefit the Barbra Streisand Foundation.) 5. On cinematic stereotypes of Jews, see not only Friedman, Erens, and Cohen, but also the essays in Hoberman and Shandler. 6. I have transcribed this “preface” to the “Mecha-Streisand” essay from the DVD South Park: The Complete First Season.

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Contributors

Daniel Bernardi is Professor and Chair of the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University (SFSU). He is also the Director of the Documentary Film Institute at SFSU. Bernardi’s research explores the representation and narration of cultural difference, including race, gender, and sexuality, in media and popular culture. He is currently extending this work to address the cultural dimensions of counterinsurgency operations, where he uses critical theory, narratology, and ethnography to study rumors as narrative IEDs. He is the author of Star Trek and History: Race-ing Toward a White Future (1998), co-author of Explosive Narratives: Rumors, Islamist Extremism, and the Struggle for Strategic Influence (2012), editor of four books on whiteness in American cinema, and the author of numerous articles on early cinema, U.S. television, and new media. Vincent Brook teaches media studies at UCLA, USC, Cal-State Los Angeles, and Pierce College. He has written numerous journal articles, anthology essays, and encyclopedia entries; edited the anthology You Should See Yourself: Jewish Identity in Postmodern American Culture; and authored two books: Something Ain’t Kosher Here: The Rise of the “Jewish” Sitcom and Driven to Darkness: Jewish Émigré Directors and the Rise of Film Noir. Wheeler Winston Dixon is the James Ryan Endowed Professor of Film Studies and a professor of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and, with Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, editor-in-chief of the Quarterly Review of Film and Video. His newest books include Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia and A Short History of Film, the latter written with Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. As a filmmaker, his complete works are in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art, following a career retrospective there in 2003. 245

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Lucy Fischer is a Distinguished Professor of English and Film Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, where she serves as director of the Film Studies Program. She is the author or editor of eight books: Jacques Tati; Shot/Countershot: Film Tradition and Women’s Cinema; Imitation of Life; Cinematernity: Film, Motherhood, Genre; Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans; Designing Women: Cinema, Art Deco, and the Female Form; Stars: The Film Reader, and American Cinema of the 1920s: Themes and Variations. She has edited Teaching Film for the Modern Language Association (with Patrice Petro). She has held curatorial positions at The Museum of Modern Art (New York City) and The Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh), and has been the recipient of both a National Endowment for the Arts Art Critics Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Professors. She has served as president of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (2001–3) and in 2008 received its Distinguished Service Award. Lester D. Friedman is professor and chair of the Media and Society Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. His most recent publications include Citizen Spielberg; Cultural Sutures: Media and Medicine; American Cinema of the 1970s: Themes and Variations; the second edition of Fires Were Started: British Cinema and Thatcherism; and The Picture of Health. Co-editor of the multivolume series Screen Decades: American Culture/ American Cinema, he is currently working on an introductory text about film genres and a health and humanities reader. Sumiko Higashi is professor emeritus in the Department of History at SUNY Brockport. She is the author of Cecil B. DeMille and American Culture: The Silent Era and Virgins, Vamps, and Flappers: The American Silent Movie Heroine, as well as essays on film history as cultural history, women in film and television, and film as historical representation. Currently she is working on a study about stars, fans, and consumption in the 1950s. Sarah Kozloff is Professor of Film on the William R. Kenan, Jr. Chair at Vassar College. Her publications include Invisible Storytellers: Voice-Over Narration in American Fiction Film, Overhearing Film Dialogue, and the BFI Film Classics volume on William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives. Peter Krämer is a Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of East Anglia in Norwich and a regular guest lecturer at Masaryk University in Brno. He has published more than fifty essays on American film and media history and on the relationship between Hollywood and Europe in Screen, The Velvet Light Trap, Theatre History Studies, the Historical Journal of 246

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Contributors

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Film, Radio and Television, History Today, Film Studies, Scope, Sowi: Das Journal für Geschichte, Politik, Wirtschaft und Kultur, the New Review of Film and Television Studies, Iluminace, and numerous edited collections. He is the author of A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The New Hollywood: From Bonnie and Clyde to Star Wars as well as co-editor of Screen Acting and The Silent Cinema Reader. Murray Pomerance is professor in the Department of Sociology at Ryerson University and the author of Michelangelo Red Antonioni Blue: Eight Reflections on Cinema; Edith Valmaine; The Horse Who Drank the Sky: Film Experience Beyond Narrative and Theory; Johnny Depp Starts Here; Savage Time; An Eye for Hitchcock; and Magia d’Amore. He has edited or co-edited more than fifteen volumes, including Shining in Shadows: Movie Stars of the 2000s; A Little Solitaire: John Frankenheimer and American Film (with R. Barton Palmer); Cinema and Modernity; American Cinema of the 1950s: Themes and Variations; and Enfant Terrible! Jerry Lewis in American Film. He edits the Horizons of Cinema series at SUNY Press, the Techniques of the Moving Image series at Rutgers University Press, and, with Lester D. Friedman and Adrienne L. McLean, respectively, the Screen Decades and Star Decades series at Rutgers. In the summer of 2009, he appeared on Broadway in conjunction with a production of The 39 Steps. Catherine Portuges is professor of Comparative Literature, founding director of the Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies, and curator of the annual Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of Screen Memories: The Hungarian Cinema of Márta Mészáros, editor of New Perspectives on Hungarian Cinema (www.kinokultura.com), and co-editor of Cinemas in Transition: Post-Communism in East-Central Europe. Her essays have appeared in numerous collections, including Projected Shadows: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Loss in European Cinema and Structures et Pouvoirs des Imaginaires. She is a contributor and editorial board member for Psychoanalytic Inquiry, Cineaste, American Historical Review, The Moving Image, Slavic Review, Studies in Eastern European Cinema, and Film Criticism. She has programmed and designed film series, seminars, and screenings for the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary (Los Angeles), the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, D.C.), the Museum of Jewish Heritage (New York), the Open Society Archives/Central European University (Budapest), La Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris), the Film Society of Lincoln Center (New York), and The Barbican (London). Contributors

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William Rothman received his Ph.D. from Harvard, where he taught for many years. He is professor of Motion Pictures and Director of the Graduate Program in Film Studies at the University of Miami. He was founding editor of Harvard University Press’s Harvard Film Studies series and is series editor of Cambridge University Press’s Studies in Film series. His books include Hitchcock—The Murderous Gaze; The “I” of the Camera; Documentary Film Classics; Reading Cavell’s The World Viewed: A Philosophical Perspective on Film; Cavell on Film; Jean Rouch: A Celebration of Life and Film; and Three Documentary Filmmakers. Vivian Sobchack is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media and former Associate Dean at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. She was the first woman elected president of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies and served many years on the Board of Directors of the American Film Institute. Her essays have appeared in anthologies and journals, including Film Quarterly, Film Comment, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, camera obscura, and the Journal of Visual Culture, and her books include An Introduction to Film; The Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience; Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film; and, most recently, Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture. She has also edited two anthologies: The Persistence of History: Cinema, Television and the Modern Event and Meta-Morphing: Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick Change. David Sterritt is chairman of the National Society of Film Critics, adjunct professor at Columbia University and the Maryland Institute College of Art, chief book critic of Film Quarterly, editorial board member of Cinema Journal and Quarterly Review of Film and Literature, film critic of Tikkun, and a regular contributor to Cineaste. He was film critic and cultural correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor for decades and his writing has appeared in Cahiers du cinéma, the New York Times, Journal of French Philosophy, the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, and many other publications. His books include Mad to Be Saved: The Beats, the ’50s, and Film; The Films of Jean-Luc Godard: Seeing the Invisible; Guiltless Pleasures: A David Sterritt Film Reader; The B List; and The Honeymooners. Hava Tirosh-Samuelson is director of Jewish Studies and Irving and Miriam Lowe Professor of Modern Judaism and professor of history at Arizona State University. She is the author of The Life and Thought of Rabbi Judah Messner Leon and Happiness in Premodern Judaism: Vir248

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Contributors

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tue, Knowledge and Well-Being, as well as editor of Judaism and Ecology: Created World and Revealed Word; Women and Gender in Jewish Philosophy; and The Legacy of Hans Jonas: Judaism and the Phenomenon of Life. She is currently completing Judaism and Nature: The Dialectics of Sacred Texts.

Contributors

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Index

Page numbers in italics refer to illustrations. Abbott and Costello, 64 Abie’s Irish Rose, 22 Abraham and Straus (A & S), 33 absolute history, 194, 195 Abu Ghraib prison, 151, 156 acculturation, carried out through institutions of Yiddish language, 4 Acidic Man, 179 ACLU, 114 Adam’s Rib, 92, 100, 105–6, 107, 108 Adorno, Theodor, 45, 153 The Adventures of Robin Hood, 37, 48 advertising, 90 Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud, 154 Aimée, Anouk, 110 Akerman, Malin, 187 Alcott, Louisa May, 100 Alda, Alan, 185 Allen, Woody, 12, 46, 159, 163, 173, 184, 196, 199, 202, 204, 210 All Quiet on the Western Front, 115 All the King’s Men, 116 Along Came Polly, 174, 185, 186 Altman, Robert, 2 Amalgamated Clothing Workers’ Union (ACWA), 3 American Buffalo, 159, 163 American dream, Hollywood version of, 1 American Hebrew, 203 American Jewish Bildungsroman, 12 American Joint Distribution Committee, 128 Anderson, P.T., 181 Andrews, Julie, 109 Angels in America, 117 Anger Management, 180

An Inconvenient Truth, 118 Aniston, Jennifer, 186, 191n10 Annie Hall, 202 anti-assimilationist movement, 209 anti-fascist movement, 36 anti-immigrant legislation and sentiment, 40 anti-Semitism, 2, 8, 36, 40, 156–57, 219; nineteenth-century German, 207; not broached in films until after World War II, 69; postwar waning of, 9; as racism, 79; in 1920s and 1930s, 7 Antonioni, Michelangelo, 70, 118 The Apartment, 46 Apatow, Judd, 174, 181, 182 Arbuckle, Roscoe “Fatty,” 55 Ardmore, Jane, 88 Arendt, Hannah, 114 Ark of the Covenant, 10 Arnold, Matthew, 112, 122 Arnold, Maxine, 76, 77, 81 A-Rod, 177 Around the World in Eighty Days, 83 Arthur, Bea, 7 Arthur, Jean, 107 Arzner, Dorothy, 62 Ashkenazi Jews, 2, 189 Ashton, Dianne, 2 Asquith, Anthony, 109 assimilation, 20, 34, 95–96, 161–62; antiassimilationist movement, 209; defined as being accepted as white, 77; Superman as assimilationist fantasy, 178 Athena projector, 92 At the Circus, 56 Aumont, Jean-Pierre, 7 Auschwitz, 49, 148; views of in Night and Fog, 145

251

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Austrian Jewish exile filmmakers, 46 auteur theory, 119 Automatic Vaudeville, 59, 61 Avisar, Ilan, 9 The Awful Truth, 100 Aylmer, Felix, 7 Azaria, Hank, 186 B. Altman, 33 Baby Face, 66, 99 Bacall, Lauren, 7 Bachlund, Gary, 44 Bad Company, 149 The Bad Seed, 10 Bahr, Ehrhard, 42 Balaban, Barney, 6 Balázs, Béla, 46 Balsam, Martin, 7 Bananas, 10 Baron, Lawrence, 126, 130, 131, 132, 136, 137 Barr, Roseanne, 215 Barrymore, John, 92, 99, 100 Barton, Bruce, 163, 165, 168, 170 Baskind, Samantha, 226 Batman Forever, 179 Baudrillard, Jean, 90 Baum, Vicki, 46 Baumbach, Noah, 191n8 Bazin, André, 147 Bean, Henry, 202 Beatty, Warren, 190n2 Bedtime Stories, 175–76 Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, 117 Behind, 25–26 Behold a Pale Horse, 38 The Believer, 202 Bellow, Saul, 159 Bells Are Ringing, 108 Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, 195 Ben-Hur, 202, 205 Benigni, Roberto, 154 Benjamin, Richard, 200 Bennett, Constance, 99 Benny, Jack, 7 Berg, Gertrude, 7 Bergen, Candice, 110 Bergman, Ingrid, 103, 118, 194 Berle, Milton, 180 Berlin: cultural capital of Europe, 38; decadence of, 45 Berlin, Irving (Israel Baline), 4, 114 Berlin, Jeannie, 186 Bernardi, Daniel, 12; “The Birth of a Nation:

252

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Integrating Race into the Narrator System,” 11 Bernhardt, Sarah, 60 Bernstein, Isadore: “The Jew,” 25 Beta Israel, 189 Bettger, Lyle, 195 Bevan, Donald, 47 Bielski Brigade, 154 Big Daddy, 182 The Big Heat, 37, 50 Bigsby, Christopher, 165, 169 Bikel, Theodore, 108 A Bill of Divorcement, 14, 92, 100–101 Bin Laden, Osama, 144 Biograph, 55 “Biograph Girl,” 63 The Birth of a Nation, 11, 61 Bissett, Jacqueline, 110 Black, Gregory D., 68 Blacklist, 104 Blackstone, Milton, 77, 79 Blazing Saddles, 10, 173 blind bidding, 55 Block, Maxine, 79 block booking, 55 Blondell, Joan, 83 Bloomingdale, Alfred S., 2 Blow-Up, 70 The Bluebird, 110 B’nai Brith, 3 Boetticher, Budd, 62, 63 Bogdanovich, Peter, 63 Bonham Carter, Helena, 7 Bonnie and Clyde, 10 Born Yesterday, 14, 92, 94–95, 95, 106, 108 Borzage, Frank, 9 Boucher, Geoff, 178 Bourdieu, Pierre, 89 Boy Chick, 179 Boyer, Charles, 103 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, 152, 153 “boy-man schlemiel,” 182 Boy on a Dolphin, 195 Boys Don’t Cry, 117 Brandeis, Louis, 114 Brando, Marlon, 80 Brandt, Joe, 62 Brauner, Artur, Schindler project, 136–37 Brecht, Bertolt, 36, 42; on challenges of adaptation faced by Jewish immigrants in Hollywood, 44; “I, the Survivor,” 49; return to Berlin, 49 Breen, Joseph Ignatius, 8, 57, 70; anti-

Index

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Semitism, 58–59, 68–69, 71–72; head of Motion Picture Production Code Administration, 53–54, 56, 68; honorary Academy Award, 71; standards of Code as extension of his racism and prudishness, 71–72 Bresson, Robert, 118 Brett, Regina, 143 Brice, Fanny, 7, 219 The Bride of Frankenstein, 37, 42 Bridges, Lloyd, 62 Bringing Up Baby, 100 Broderick, Matthew, 203 Brodkin, Janet, 181 Bronfman, Edgar, 136 Brook, Vincent: “Boy-Man Schlemiels and Super-Nebishes: Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller,” 16, 173–90; Driven to Darkness: Jewish Émigré Directors and the Rise of Film Noir, 35 Brooks, James L., 181 Brooks, Mel, 12, 13, 159, 210 Brooks, Richard, 87 Brooks, Ronald J., 87 The Brothers Karamazov, 199 The Brothers Warner, 36 Brownlow, Kevin, 23, 25, 26; Behind the Mask of Innocence, 23, 114–15; The Parade’s Gone By, 23 Bruce, Lenny, 180–81 Bruno, Giuliana, 211–12 Buffer, Michael, 176 Buhle, Paul, 5 Bundle of Joy, 80 Burns, George, 7, 196 Burstyn, Joseph, 70 Burton, Richard, 86, 87 Bush, George W., and 9/11, 142, 151 Butterfield 8, 86 Byelorussia, 154 Byers, Michele, 220, 227n3 C. B. C. Films Sales Company, 62 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 38 Cagney, Jimmy, 4, 69, 198 Caine, Michael, 210 Camille, 92 Campbell, Colin, 89, 90 “The Campbell Playhouse,” 25 Camper, Fred, 146 Cantor, Eddie, 16, 79, 196 Cantwell, Bishop, 69 Capra, Frank, 62, 63, 98, 100

Index

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Captain America, 179 Captain Israel, 179–80 Captain Marvel, 179 career woman comedy, 103–4, 105 Carpenter, Carleton, 76 Carr, Alexander, 26 Carr, Nat, 32 Carr, Steven Alan, 142–43 Carrey, Jim, 200–201 Casablanca, 10, 36, 37, 47, 47–48, 48, 194 Castle, William, 62, 112 Catastrophe, 163 Catch-22, 10 Catholic Church, campaign against Il Miracolo, 70 Catholic Legion of Decency, 8, 58 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 86, 87 Cavell, Stanley, 95, 97, 100, 102, 105 Cayrol, Jean, 145 celebrities, importance of among suburban teenagers, 74–75 censorship, 54, 55–72, 65; at regional level, 57 Cera, Michael, 190n1 Chabon, Michael: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, 179 Charell, Erik, 41 Chomsky, Noam, 114 Chriqui, Emmanuelle, 176 Christina, 26 cigar factories, Jewish immigrants in, 3 cinematographers, 98–99 Cinerama Company, 83 Citizen Kane, 27 civil rights movement, participation of Jews in, 9, 114 Claire, Ina, 99 Clancy’s Kosher Wedding, 22 Clark, Danae, 83 Cleopatra, 86 A Clockwork Orange, 121–22 Clooney, George, 152 CNN, 141 Cobb, Lee J., 199 Coen, Ethan, 12 Coen, Joel, 12 “Coffee Talk with Linda Richmond,” Saturday Night Live, 212, 224, 225, 227n1 Cohen, Benjamin V., 114 Cohen, Lynn, 203 Cohen, Richard, 142 Cohen, Sarah Blacher, 180, 221 Cohen, Sasha Baron, 174 Cohen’s Advertising Scheme, 21

253

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The Cohens and the Kelleys (series), 22 Cohn, Al, 25 Cohn, Harry, 6, 8, 62–63, 66, 88, 106, 162 Cohn, Jack, 62 Cohn, Joan, 88 Cohn brothers, 59 Coke Time (television show), 78 Colbert, Claudette, 62 Cold War, 104 Collateral Damage, 149 Collins, Joan, 7 The Color Purple, 10, 117 Columbia Pictures, 59, 63 comedies of remarriage, 100, 103, 104, 105, 108 comic book superheroes, conceived by Jews, 178–79 comic superstar, Jewish-based insecurity at heart of, 184 commodification, 85; of marriage, 89; of stars, 90 commodity fetishism, 90 Community Relations Council, 66 Confessions of a Nazi Spy, 48, 69 Connolly, Marc, 69 consumption, 14, 32–33, 89, 105; and gossip and rumor, 74; as part of Liz Taylor’s persona, 84, 85 content, devaluation of, 118–19 The Convict King, 23 Cook, David, 73 Corman, James C., 135, 139 The Corn Is Green, 110 Corrente, Michael, 163 Cotten, Joseph, 98 The Country Doctor, 26 Coward, Noel: Private Lives, 109 Crawford, Broderick, 94 Crawford, Joan, 99 Cronenberg, David, 210 Crosland, Alan, 62 Cross, Gary, 75 Crossfire, 9, 69, 198 Crowe, David M., 129, 133, 134, 135, 138 Cruise, Tom, 11 Crystal, Billy, 174 Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly, 75 Cukor, George, 10, 14, 15, 91–110; an assimilated Jew, 95–96; directed first film in 1930, 99; Emersonian worldview, 97, 102–5; at home in Los Angeles, 91; and Judy Holliday, 105–10; perfecting possibilities, 97–102; during wartime

254

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years, 103 cultural migration across borders, 212, 226 Curtis, Adam, 151 Curtis, Tony, 7, 116, 196 Curtiz, Michael (born Manó Kertész Kaminer), 9, 10, 36, 37, 47 Daldry, Stephen, 152 Dalio, Marcel, 47–48 Damon, Matt, 152 Daniel, 116 Daniell, Henry, 92 Danner, Blythe, 181 Dante, Joe, 150 Daredevil, 179 The Dark Mirror, 38 David, Larry, 174, 184 Davis, Andrew, 149 Davis, Sammy, Jr., 25 Day, Dorothy, 81 The Day of the Jackal, 38 Dead End, 15, 115 Dearborn Independent, 65 deep focus, 27, 28–29, 31 Defiance, 154 The Defiant Ones, 116 Delage, Christian, 47 De Leon, Moses, 177–78 Del Ruth, Roy, 4 DeMille, Cecil B., 17, 60, 61, 194, 202 Demme, Jonathan, 118 Denby, David, 116–17 De Niro, Robert, 150, 181 department stores, and ideology of materialism, 33 The Deported, 38 Depp, Johnny, 190n2 De Quetteville, Harry, 125 Der Kongreß tanzt (The Congress Dances), 41 Der Verlorene (The Lost One), 40 Desfontaines, Henri, 60 Desmond, Norma, 46 Desser, David, 12, 13, 30, 32–33, 114, 123n2, 198, 199 Destry Rides Again, 44 Detour, 38 Dewar’s Scotch Whiskey (first filmed advertisement), 54 Dialectic of Enlightenment (Horkheimer and Adorno), 153 Diamond, I.A.L., 46 Diary of a Mad Housewife, 200 The Diary of Anne Frank, 127, 132

Index

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Dickens, Charles: Oliver Twist, 21 Dieterle, William, 66 Dietrich, Marlene, 42, 77, 83 Dillman-Kühn, 136 Diner, Hasia R., 2 Dinner at Eight, 14, 109 Dinnerstein, Leonard, 2, 181 Dinter, Charlotte, 86 disaster-film genre, 152 Ditko, Steve, 178 Dixon, Wheeler Winston: “ ‘A Rotten Bunch of Vile People with No Respect for Anything Beyond the Making of Money’: Joseph Breen, the Hollywood Production Code, and Institutionalized Anti-Semitism in Hollywood,” 14, 53–72; A Short History of Film (with Foster), 55–56, 63, 70 Dmytryk, Edward, 9, 69 Döblin, Alfred, 42 Doctor Zhivago, 134, 136 documentary films: Holocaust, 145, 146; 9/11, 151; treatment of social subjects from liberal perspective, 117–18 Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, 174 Dog Day Afternoon, 10 Doherty, Tom: Hollywood’s Censor, 8, 54, 56, 57–59, 68, 69 Dollinger, Marc, 113 Donen, Stanley, 75, 83 Doneson, Judith, 147 Doniger, Wendy, 152 Don’t Mess with the Zohan, 179, 189, 190; in relation to kabbalah trend, 177–78 Do the Right Thing, 118 Double Indemnity, 37, 45 Dougherty, Terri, 174 Douglas, Kirk, 7, 196 Douglas, Melvyn, 7, 99 Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler, 42 Dreisinger, Baz, 177 Drescher, Fran, 174 Dressler, Marie, 99 Duck Soup, 56 Duetches Theater, Berlin, 26 Dust, 23 Duvivier, Julien, 48 Dyer, Richard, 84 E. J. Korvette, 33 Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 38 Eastern European Jewish immigrants: assimilation, 20; challenge of

Index

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Americanization without loss of Jewish identity, 3; emigration to United States between 1881 and 1924, 20; intellectual worldview, 45 Eastman perforated motion picture film, 63 Edison, Thomas, 63, 194; basic precepts for commercial Hollywood movie production and exhibition, 54 Edison laboratory, 6 Edwards, Ralph, 8, 76, 82 Edward Scissorhands, 190n2 Ehrenreich, Barbara, 114 Eight Crazy Nights, 180 Eisenberg, Howard, 74, 78, 80 Eisenstein, Sergei, 42 Eisler, Hanns, 42, 43 Eisner, Lotte, 10 11’09”01—September 11, 155–56 Elfman, Jenna, 177 Ella Lola, 54 Ellis Island, 20 El Norte, 118 Elsaesser, Thomas, 42 The Embodied Thought, 25 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 97, 100, 102 Emersonian moral outlook, 102–5 Emmerich, Roland, 150 The Emperor Waltz, 46 Empire of the Sun, 117 “enemy aliens,” 41 Enemy of the State, 150 Erens, Patricia, 219, 221, 227n2 ethnic cleansing, 138 Europa Europa, 154 European art cinema, 118 European Film Fund, 42, 47 Exodus, 132, 144, 199, 202 The Exorcist, 10 expressionist cinema, 38, 45 Eyman, Scott, 61, 67–68 A Face in the Crowd, 116 Fahrenheit 9/11, 151, 152 Fail-Safe, 116 Fairbanks, Douglas, 7 Faith of Her Fathers, 25 Famous Players Corporation, 60, 61 Famous Players-Lasky (later Paramount Pictures), 60 Farber, Eli, 2 Farrelly brothers, 186, 187 Father of the Bride, 83 Faulkner, William: Sanctuary, 66

255

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Favreau, Jon, 179 feature films, 59 Fedora, 46 Feiffer, Jules: “The Minsk Theory of Krypton,” 178 Ferro, Mark, 146 Feuchtwanger, Lion, 41 Feuchtwanger, Marta, 41 Fiedler, Leslie, 96 Fields, W. C., 99 Filene’s Basement, 33 film critics and scholars, aversion to moral preaching, 120 filmed interview, 146 “Film-Kurier,” 41 film noir aesthetic, 35, 45 film studies: auteur theory, 119; and Jewish experience, 12–18 Film Subsidy Board, Berlin, 136 Fine, Gary Alan, 74 Finger, Bill, 178 Fingeroth, Danny, 178, 179 First National Pictures, 62 Firth, Colin, 203, 204 Fischer, Lucy, 16–17; “David Mamet’s Homicide: In or Out?”, 159–71 Fisher, Carrie Frances, 80 Fisher, Eddie, 14, 25, 73, 74; and Liz Taylor, 81–82, 85–90; photograph with Taylor and Reynolds, 82; representation as exotic Other, 77–78 Fisher, Todd, 81 Flaming Creatures, 120 The Flamingo Kid, 70 Fleming, Victor, 103 Flirting with Disaster, 174, 184, 185 The Fly, 210 Flying A Studios, 24 Focker series, 174, 181, 185. See also specific films Foley, James, 163 Fonda, Jane, 110 Force of Evil, 116 Ford, Glen, 62 Ford, Henry, 5, 65 Ford, John, 97 A Foreign Affair, 44 Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey, 55–56, 70 Fox, William (born Vilmos Fried), 6, 8, 58, 59, 64 Fox Film Corporation, 6, 64 Foxy Izzy, 21 Frank, Anne, 127, 194

256

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Frank, Leonhard, 42 Frank, Otto, 127 Frankenheimer, John, 119 Frankfurter, Felix, 114 Frankfurt School, 153 Free Sons of Israel, 3 Free Sons of Judah, 3 The French Connection, 10 Freud, Sigmund, 45, 113 Friedan, Betty: The Feminine Mystique, 78, 114 Friedman, Bruce J., 182, 186 Friedman, Lester D., 114, 123n2, 220, 221; “A Forgotten Masterpiece: Edward Sloan’s His People,” 13, 19–34; American Jewish Filmmakers (with Desser), 12, 13, 199; Hollywood’s Image of the Jew, 5, 13, 198; The Jewish Image in American Film, 7 The Frisco Kid, 173 Frisco Sally Levy, 22 Frodon, Jean-Michel, 9 Frohman, Charles, 61 From Here to Eternity, 38 The Front, 199 Funny Girl, 219 Funny People, 181–83, 184, 185, 190n5 Fury, 37 Gable, Clark, 62, 103 Gabler, Neal: An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, 5–6, 7, 8, 13, 25, 53, 59, 60, 61, 65, 66, 130 Gabor, Zsa Zsa, 7 Galbraith, John Kenneth, 85 Garbo, Greta, 42, 99, 103 Gardner, Ava, 110 Garfield, John, 196 Garland, Judy, 110 garment industry, Jewish immigrants in, 3 Garmes, Lee, 98 Gaslight, 103 Gélin, Daniel, 195 Gemünden, Gerd: A Foreign Affair: Billy Wilder’s American Films, 45, 46 Gentleman’s Agreement, 69, 115, 120 Gere, Richard, 204 German avant-garde cinema, 38, 46 Germany: anti-Semitism in 1950s, 130; national cinema studios, 38; persecution and expulsion of Jewish filmmakers, 38, 41–42; Reich Chamber of Film, 42 ghetto melodramas, 21–23, 31; conflicts between traditional and modern values,

Index

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31; east European versus German Jews, 31; gentile-Jewish relations, 31 Ghetto Seamstress, 21 Giant, 83 Gibson, Mel, 150 Gibson, Walker, 201 Giddens, Gary, 11 Gilbert, James, 82 Gillespie, Nick, 217 Gilman, Sander, 220 Gimbel Brothers (Gimbels), 2, 33 Girl of the Ghetto, 21 Glengarry Glen Ross, 163 Glenn, Scott, 7 Glitre, Kathrina, 103 Glovin, Irving, 134 Godard, Jean-Luc, 113, 118; Éloge de l’amour (In Praise of Love), 153; Histoire(s) du cinéma, 153 Goddard, Paulette, 7 Goebbels, Joseph, 10, 41, 42 Goffman, Irving, 200; “Doctrine of Natural Expression,” 201–2 Goldberg, Adam, 173, 174 Goldblum, Jeff, 7, 150, 174, 188, 196, 210 Golden Age of Silent Cinema, 98 Goldfinger, 202 Goldfish, Samuel (later Goldwyn), 60, 61 Goldman, Albert, 180–81, 182 Goldman, Emma, 114, 194 Goldstein, Eric, 3, 5 Goldwyn, Sam (born Schmuel Gelbfisz), 5, 6, 58, 115 Goldwyn Pictures, 6 The Golem, 48 Gomery, Douglas, 5, 12 Gone with the Wind, 48, 103 Goodbye, Columbus, 222 Good Housekeeping, 88 Goodman, Paul, 194 The Good Shepherd, 150 Gordon, Ruth, 105, 107 Gorney, Mark, 220 Gosch, Martin, 134 Gosling, Ryan, 202 gossip, 74 Go West, 56 Gozani, Tal, 43 The Graduate, 10, 198–99, 200 Grahame, Gloria, 195 Grand Hotel, 46 Grand Illusion, 48 Grand Slam, 66

Index

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Grant, Cary, 93, 99, 101, 108; in The Philadelphia Story, 94 Grant, Edmond, 168 Graver, Lawrence, 127 Graves, Janet, 85–86, 88 Great Depression, 56, 99 The Greatest Show on Earth, 194, 195 Green, Alfred E., 66 Greenberg, 20, 183–85, 185 Greengrass, Paul, 143 Greenwald, Robert, 118 Gremlins, 150 Griffith, D. W., 11, 61 Grodin, Charles, 186 Grossman, Kurt, 128, 132–33, 140 Grunberger, Michael W., 2 Guastaferro, Vincent, 165 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 10, 116 Guggenheim, Davis, 118 Gunning, Tom, 179, 207 Gurock, Jeffrey, 2 The Guys, 152 Gyllenhaal, Jake, 7 Gyllenhaal, Maggie, 7 Habsburg Empire, 48 Hagen, Jean, 107 Halberstam, David, 75, 85 Hall, Sheldon, 136 Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 152–53 Hampton, Benjamin B., 24 Hanks, Tom, 204 Hannibal, 163 Happy Gilmore, 175, 180 Harlan County, USA, 118 Harlow, Jean, 99, 109 Harris, Marvin, 205 Harrison, Rex, 109 Hart, Mary, 7 Harvey, James, 101 Haskin, Byron, 196 A Hatful of Rain, 38 Hathaway, Henry, 196 Hawks, Howard, 98, 102 Hays, Will H., 55 The Heartbreak Kid, 186, 187, 188 The Hebrew Hammer, 173 Hecht, Ben, 63 Heflin, Van, 98 Heilbut, Anthony: Exiled in Paradise: German Refugee Artists and Intellectuals in America from the 1930s to the Present, 35 Heist, 163

257

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Hellboy, 9 Hellman, Lillian, 115 Hello, Dolly!, 220 Henley, Arthur, 88 Henreid, Paul (born Paul Georg Julius Hernreid Ritter Von Wassel-Waldingau), 13, 36, 47, 47 Henry & June, 70 Hepburn, Audrey, 109 Hepburn, Katharine, 94, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 106, 108, 110 Heritage: Southwest Jewish Press, 135, 136 Herman, Felicia, 220, 224–25 Herman, Mark, 152 Hertzberg, Arthur, 2, 13 Herzl, Theodore, 194 Heston, Charlton (born John Charles Carter), 200, 202, 203, 204–5, 206, 209, 210 Higashi, Sumiko, 14, 73–90 High Noon, 37, 38, 116 Hill, Jonah, 174, 190n5 Hillcrest Country Club, Hollywood, 6 Hiller, Wendy, 109 Hilton, Nicky, 83 Hinerman, Stephen, 73 Hirsch, Judd, 188 His Girl Friday, 100 His Majesty O’Keefe, 196–98 His People, 4, 13, 25–33 His Woman, 25 Hitchcock, Alfred, 45, 97–98, 103, 195 Hitler, Adolf, 10, 13, 36, 39, 41, 50, 68, 142, 167, 178 Hoberman, J., 12 Hoffa, 163 Hoffman, Dustin, 7, 173, 181, 196, 198 Hoffman, Jim, 86, 88 Holden, William, 95 Holiday, 101 Hollaender, Friedrich, 42, 44 Holland, Agnieszka, 154 Holliday, Judy (born Judith Tuvin), 7, 108; in Adam’s Rib, 106; Born Yesterday, 95; and George Cukor, 93, 105–10; “the grace of dignity,” 97 Hollis, Hylda, 23 Hollywood film industry: anti-Semitism, 65–66; arts and sciences of, 1; avoidance of 9/11 subject matter, 152; box office only measure of success, 44; closely allied to garment industry, 5; as company town, 6; domination by small number of individuals, 5; and the Holocaust, 8–10,

258

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131–32 (See also Holocaust-related films); moguls, 5, 6, 7, 59–67, 66–67, 162; and mythology of American Dream, 19; new paradigm shift toward youthoriented special effects, 179; post-WWII, 104–5; self-regulatory apparatus, 8; studio system, 1, 5, 7; and transformation of popular consciousness, 5; violations of Production Code in 1930s, 99; war efforts, 35; as “Weimar on the Pacific” in 1940s, 47. See also Jewish filmmakers; Jewish-themed American films Hollywood realists, 46 Hollywood scandals, 55 Hollywood stars: commodification of, 90; mythmaking in construction of, 74 Holocaust: magnitude of, 147; universalizing of, 154 Holocaust, media representation of: comparison and contrast of 9/11 with, 142–44; images of human bodies, 143; limited footage of before liberation, 143; no publically shown imagery until after liberation of death camps, 143 Holocaust deniers, 150 Holocaust historiography, 153–55; functionalist approach, 153; increasing eclecticism, 154; intentionalist approach, 153–54 Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., 154 Holocaust memory, 154–55 Holocaust-related films, 9, 131–32; documentaries, 145; from Hollywood, 8–10, 15–16, 132–33; increase of production of in 1980s, 137, 144; Lanzmann versus Spielberg dichotomy, 154; “mimetic approximation,” 154; nonAmerican films decreased in 1970s, 136; from other countries, 132; questions facing filmmakers, 150; voice-of-God narration, 146, 147. See also Schindler’s List; specific films Holocaust survivors, 9; “Schindler Jews,” 128, 133, 138, 139 Holocaust—The Story of the Family Weiss, 126–27, 137 Home of the Brave, 116 Homicide, 16, 163–71; blaming of Jews for anti-Semitism, 166; presentation of African Americans, 165; shadow of Holocaust over film, 170; stereotypes of Jewish male effeminacy, 167

Index

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Hoover Administration, 99 Horkheimer, Max, 153 Horse Feathers, 56 Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie, 146–47 Houseman, John, 7 House of Games, 163 House of Sand and Fog, 117 House Un-American Activities Committee, 36, 43, 114 Howard, Leslie, 99, 109 Hubertus zu Lowenstein, Prince, 69 Hughes, Howard, 66 Human Torch, 179 Human Wreckage, 55–56 Hunt, Helen, 17, 202, 203–4, 209, 210 Hunt, Susan, 206 Hurwitz, Leo, 117 Hutton, Betty, 195 Huxley, Aldous, 43 I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, 115 Il Miracolo (The Miracle), 70 Ilse: She Wolf of the SS, 136 Immigration Act of 1924, 77 immigration policies, restrictive, 20 I’m No Angel, 56 Iñárritu, Alejandro González, 155–56 Independence Day, 150, 188 Independent Motion Picture Company of America (IMP), 63 Inherit the Wind, 10, 116 The Inner Struggle, 23 Insdorf, Annette: Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust, 144, 145, 158n3 The Insider, 117 International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU), 3 Internet Movie Database, 23 Iron Curtain, 104 Iron Man, 179 Iron Man 2, 179 Israeli Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars, 219 It Happened One Night, 63, 100 It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 10 It Should Happen to You, 107, 108 Itzkovitz, Daniel, 173–74, 174, 177, 188 I Walked with a Zombie, 38 Jackson, Kenneth T., 76–77 Jackson, Samuel L., 153 James, Caryn, 11 James, Henry, 97

Index

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Jaws, 15, 120 The Jazz Singer, 11, 62, 77 Jessel, George, 25 Jewell, Richard B., 5, 12 “Jewish American princesses,” 221 Jewish bankers and department-store magnates, 2 Jewish characters in Hollywood films, 19–21; almost never played by Jews, 210; in ghetto melodramas, 21–23; in ghetto melodramas about Jews and Irishmen, 22; in heroic films about biblical Jewish figures, 21; in interethnic love stories, 21, 22–23; “Jewish moments,” 220; performative Jewishness, 199–210; in silent films, 21–23; stereotypes, 11, 69. See also Jewish-themed American film Jewish composers, 48; original film scores, 42–43 Jewish feminists, 186 Jewish filmmakers, 1, 5–10, 9, 13–14; ambivalence and conflicted identity, 7, 8; dependence on financial help of compatriots, 42; Eastern European avant-garde filmmakers, 48; film noir aesthetic, 45; impact on Hollywood, 5–6, 10–12, 35–51; Jewish studio moguls, 7, 59–65, 162; liberal moral seriousness, 15, 114–18, 123; one of largest groups of professionals forced into exile after 1933, 50; politics of dislocation and acculturation, 12, 41, 48, 49; in 1940s and 1950s, 198; social commentaries in early film era, 115; sought new ways of bringing Jewish and American outlooks together, 5; and stereotypes of people of color, 11 Jewish humor, 16; anger disguised as, 182; demonic streak in, 182; self-loathing aspect, 180–81; self-preservationist basis for, 181 Jewish identity in America, 16; and compromise, 16; forces shaping, 16; intra-ethnicity and compromise, 16; mask of, 17; outsider/insider syndrome, 180 Jewish immigrants in America: Ashkenazi immigrants, 2; from central Europe between 1820 and 1880, 2; consumers of American novelties, 4; ethnic networks, 3–4; founding of congregations composed of fellow townsmen from Europe, 3; goal of integration into gentile world, 2; historic presence in America,

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Jewish immigrants in America, (cont’d) 1, 2–5; intermarriage with gentiles, 2, 74; new fraternal organizations, 3; not defined as white until after World War II, 77; one-third of eastern European Jewry, 77; postwar population, 9; pursuit of economic and social mobility, 4; social discrimination and exclusion, 2; transformation by immigration from Russia, Poland, and the Ukraine, 3 Jewish intermarriage, in celebrity culture, 74 Jewish masculinity: “boy-man schlemiel,” 182; Muscle Jew, 173; New Super Jew, 173, 174; New Super-Nebish, 174–76; stereotypes of Jewish male effeminacy, 167 Jewish Museum, New York: “Too Jewish?”, 224 Jewishness, and exoticism, 89 “Jewish New Wave,” 219 Jewish-themed American films: new Jewish multiculturalism, 177, 188–90; New Super-Nebish, 174–76 “Jewish” unions, 3 Jewison, Norman, 210 Jew-Tang Clan, 174, 181, 190n1, 190n5 Jezer, Marty, 73, 81, 85 Jim Crow laws, 114 Johnson, Lyndon B., 70 Johnson, Milt, 89 Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, 5 Jolson, Al (born Asa Yoelson), 11, 25, 62, 77, 196 Jong, Erica, 159 Jordan, Gregor, 153 Judgment at Nuremberg, 10, 116, 132, 144 Julia, 38, 46 Jurassic Park, 10, 126 Jury’s Secret, 25 Just Go with It, 191n10 Justine, 110 Kabbalah Centre, 177 kabbalistic pop culture craze, 177 Kael, Pauline, 119, 120, 121–22 Kammen, Michael, 75 Kandel, Aben, 53 Kane, Bob (born Robert Kahn), 178 Kanin, Garson, 105, 106, 107 Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, 58 Karl, Harry, 88–89, 90 Karlson, Phil, 62 Kass, Deborah: “Four Barbras,” 224 Kassner, Tim, 90

260

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Katz, Ephraim, 61, 63, 64 Katzenberg, Jeffrey, 139 Kauffman, Stanley, 219, 227n2 Kaufman, Albert, 60 Kaufman, Philip, 70 Kay, Stan, 179 Kaye, Danny, 196 Kazan, Elia, 69, 115, 116, 120 Kazan, Lainie, 175, 178 Keeping the Faith, 174, 177, 185, 186 Keller, Claudia, 129, 134, 135 Kelley, Kitty, 83–84 Kelly, David Patrick, 184 Kelly, Gene, 75, 76 Keneally, Thomas, 45, 137–38 Keyes, Evelyn, 83 Khan, Kabir, 152 The Kibitzer, 25 The Killers, 38 Kinetoscope parlors, 54 kinetoscope reels, 6 King, Joe, 25 The King of Kings, 26 Kingsley, Sidney, 114 Kinsey, Alfred, 45, 81 Kirby, Jack (born Jacob Kurtzberg), 178 Kirkby, Joan, 227 The Kiss, 54 Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, 119 Kline, Kevin, 174 Knorr, Wolfram, 136–37 Kock, Howard, 134 Koestler, Arthur, 114 Kohn, Morris, 59 Kol Nidre, 77 Kopple, Barbara, 118 Korczak, 144 Korda, Alexander, 40 Korngold, Erich Wolfgang, 13, 36, 48 Kosher Kitty Kelley, 22 Kozloff, Sarah: “Notes on Sontag and ‘Jewish Moral Seriousness’ in American Movies,” 15, 111–23 Kramer, Larry, 114, 119 Krämer, Peter: “The Good German? Oskar Schindler and the Movies, 1951–1993,” 15, 45, 125–40, 144 Kramer, Stanley, 116, 144 Krieger, Rosalin, 220, 227n3 Kristeva, Julia, 223, 227 Krohn, Bill, 47 Kubrick, Stanley, 119, 121–22 Kuhn, Abraham, 2

Index

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Ku Klux Klan, 11 Kupsc, Jarek, 152 Kushner, Tony, 127 Ladino Jewish dialect, 189 The Lady Eve, 100 “Lady of Spain” (song), 81 Laemmle, Carl, 6, 25, 58, 62, 63–64, 162 Laemmle, Carl, Jr., 64 Lamarr, Hedy (born Heidi Kiesler), 13, 36 Lamb, Ruth, 88 Lamour, Dorothy, 194 Lancaster, Burt, 196–97 Lang, Fritz, 9, 10, 36, 37, 40, 42, 43–44, 63; accommodations to the Hollywood studio system, 44; financially successful urban thrillers, 50; and Oskar Schindler, 129; on tragedy of emigration, 49–50 Lanzmann, Claude, 144, 145; functionalist approach to Holocaust historiography, 153; and question of exploitation of horrific images, 146; refusal to use film footage, still photos, and other archival material, 148; Shoah, 16, 144, 147, 148, 151; Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 p.m., 147, 154 La politique des auteurs, 119 Larner, Pam, 75 Lasky, Jesse, 5, 6, 60, 61 Lasky Feature Plays, 60 Latina/Jewish link, 188 Latinos, ethnic-racial spectrum, 190 Latte, Lily, 129, 130 Lawrence, Florence, 63 The Law’s Injustice, 23 Lax, Eric: Woody Allen, 13 Lee, Spike, 11, 118 Lee, Stan (born Stanley Lieber), 178 Lehman, Peter, 206, 208 Lehman, Philip, 2 Leisen, Mitchell, 66 Leming, Warren, 49 Leonard, Benny, 29 Lerner and Loewe, 109 Le Roy, Mervyn, 115 Les amours de la reine Élisabeth (The Loves of Queen Elizabeth) (Mercanton and Desfontaines), 60 Lester, Richard, 179 Levene, Sam, 198 Levy, Daniel, 154 Levy, Emanuel, 95 Lewis, George, 27, 32

Index

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Lewis, Jerry (born Jerome Levitch), 7, 17, 198, 202, 203, 205–7, 208, 210 Lewis, Joseph H., 62 Lieberman, Rhonda, 222; “Barbra Bush,” 224 Lifeboat, 103 Life Is Beautiful, 154 Lili, 195, 196 Linder, Cecil, 202 Little Fockers, 181, 190 Little Nicky, 180 Little Women, 100, 101–2 Litvak, Anatole, 69 Loeb, Alexander M., 2 Loew, Marcus, 6, 58, 59 Lola, Ella, 54 Long Day’s Journey into Night, 116 Lord, Daniel A., 57–58, 71 Lorre, Peter (born László Löwenstein), 7, 36, 40, 47, 196 Los Angeles, as major Jewish center in 1910s and 1920s, 5 Love Among the Ruins, 110 Lubin, Arthur, 27, 30 Lubin Manufacturing Company, 24 Lubitsch, Ernst, 9, 10, 37, 42, 98, 102 Lukács, Georg, 90 Lull, James, 73 Lumet, Sidney, 12, 13, 15, 117, 119; liberal moral seriousness, 116–17 M, 40 MacQuarre, Murdock, 25 Macy, William H., 167 Macy’s, 33 Mad About You (television series), 203 Madison, Cleo, 25 Madonna, 177 Magnani, Anna, 7 Magnin, Rabbi Edgar, 65–66, 205 Mahaffey, Blanche, 27 Mailer, Norman, 177 Maimon, Moshe ben, 194 The Main Event, 220 “Making Whoopee” (song), 81 Malamud, Bernard, 159 Maltin, Leonard, 217 Mamet, David, 16–17; Bambi and Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business, 163; Bar Mitzvah, 162; On Directing Film, 163, 170, 171; The Disappearance of the Jews, 160, 162, 164, 166; and filmmaking, 162–63; Glengarry Glen Ross, 159; Goldberg

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Mamet, David, (cont’d) Street, 160; involvement in film industry as screenwriter and director, 162–63; The Luftmensch, 160; Passover, 162; on perils of assimilation, 161–62; Screenplay, 163; on set of Homicide, 160; Speed-the-Plow, 162; theory of filmmaking, 170; Three Jewish Plays, 160–61, 162; Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama, 170; The Wicked Son: AntiSemitism, Self-Hatred, and the Jews, 161–62. See also Homicide A Man for All Seasons, 38 Mankiewicz, Joseph, 116 Mann, Heinrich, 42 Mann, Katja, 43 Mann, Leslie, 182 Mann, Michael, 117 Mann, Thomas, 13, 36, 43, 49 Mantegna, Joe, 163–64; in Homicide, 164, 168 The Man Who Knew Too Much, 195 The Man with the Golden Arm, 70 Marathon Man, 202 March, Fredric, 99 The Marrying Kind, 106–7, 108 Marshall, Garry, 70 Marton, George, 134 Marx, Karl, 113 Marx Brothers, 7, 16, 56, 173 mass consumption, in the 1950s, 87 Mathison, Richard, 86 matrilineal descent, 191n7 Maxwell, Elsa, 83 May, Elaine, 117, 159, 186 Mayer, Louis B., 6, 11, 40, 58, 59, 61–62, 64, 66–67, 76, 162 Maysles, Albert, 117 Maysles, David, 117 Maysles brothers, 15 Mazursky, Paul, 12, 159 MCA, German subsidiary of, 134 McCain, John, 144 McCarey, Leo, 9 McCarthy era, 43, 116 McCracken, Grant, 89 McDonald, Marie, 88 McGilligan, Patrick, 95 McGraw, Ali, 204, 222 McLean, Adrienne L., 73 Meara, Anne, 183 Meet the Fockers, 181, 188, 190, 220, 226 Mehaffey, Blanche, 32 “melting pot” concept, 20

262

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The Member of the Wedding, 38 Mendelsohn, Daniel, 215, 223 Mennschen am Sontag, 38 Mercanton, Louis, 60 Messing, Debra, 174, 186 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), 6, 39, 40, 56, 76, 99; distributed films in Germany until 1940, 44; To the Last Hour, 138; 1960s Schindler biopic, 131–36 Metropolis, 10 “Miami Vice” (television show), 117 Michener, James, 80 Midler, Bette, 7, 196, 203–4 Milestone, Lewis, 115 Milius, John, 70 Milk, Harvey, 114 Miller, Arthur, 114 Miller, Frank, 179 Milner, Victor, 98 Minelli, Liza, 85 Mineo, Sal, 199, 202 Minnelli, Vincente, 97, 108 Minter, Mary Miles, 55 Miracle decision, and establishment of motion pictures as form of free speech, 70 The Mirror Has Two Faces, 215, 220 Mitchell, W. J. T.: What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images, 16, 156–57 Mizrachi Jews, 189 Mo’ Better Blues, 11 modernism, 38 Moeller, Robert, 131 Moller, Sabine, 140 The Molly Maguires, 116 Monaghan, Michelle, 187 Monroe, Marilyn, 110 Moody, Ron, 199, 200 The Moon Is Blue, 70 Moore, Demi, 177 Moore, Mary Tyler, 184 Moore, Michael, 151 Morin, Edgar, 74, 75 Morningstar Commission, 186 Morris, Earl, 150, 151 The Mortal Storm, 9 Most, Andrea, 178 Mostel, Zero, 199 Motion Picture AA (MPAA), 70 Motion Picture Herald, 57 Motion Picture Patents Company (“The Trust”), 63 Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) (“Hays Office”), 55–56

Index

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Motion Picture Production Code, 8, 56, 66, 104; pushed back film as an art form, 69–70; waned in 1950s, 70. See also Dixon, Wheeler Winston Motion Picture Production Code Administration (PCA), 14; Breen as head of, 53–54, 56, 57, 58–59, 68–69, 70, 71–72 Motion Picture Research Council, 58 movie palace, 55 Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., 150–51 Mulligan, Robert, 118 Multicultural Jew, 177, 188–90 Munchausen, Baron von: “The Emigrant,” 50 Muni, Paul, 7 Munich, 10–11 Murder at the Vanities, 66 Murnau, F. W., 98 Murray, Louis, 165 Muscle Jew, 173 music industry, 45 rpm record, 75 Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, 57, 70 Myers, Mike, 212 My Fair Lady (Cukor), 108–9, 110 My Fair Lady (Lerner and Loewe), 109 Mystery Men, 174 My True Story, 85 NAACP, 114 Nava, Gregory, 118 Navasky, Victor, 114 Nazimova, Alla, 7 Nazism, 36, 49, 157; and persecution of Jewish film community in Germany, 41–42 NC-17 rating, 70 Neeson, Liam, 126 Negulesco, Jean, 195, 196 Neiman-Marcus, 33 Network, 116 Neumann, Erich Peter, 130 New Deal, 58, 100 The New Fire Chief, 21 New Hollywood paradigm, shift toward youth-oriented special effects, 179 New Jew, 173 Newman, Paul, 7, 199 “Newsreels,” 54–55 New Super Jew, 173, 174 New Super-Nebish, 174–76 New York, 152

Index

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New York State Board of Regents, 70 New York Times, 11 Nichols, Mike, 15, 70, 117 Nicholson, Jack, 180, 204 nickelodeons, 54, 59–60 Night After Night, 56 Night and Fog, 144–45 A Night at the Opera, 56 Night Falls on Manhattan, 116 Nimoy, Leonard, 25 9/11, 16, 141–58; comparison and contrast with Holocaust, 142–44; and conspiracy theorists, 149, 150; contrast in media representation of with Holocaust, 143– 44; documentaries, 151; Hollywood’s nervousness about appearance of exploitation, 149; human bodies almost invisible in media coverage, 143; and imperatives of American media, 141; instant access media coverage, 143; media responses to, 148–51; new wave of anti-Semitism in wake of, 154, 157; offending images, 155–57; popular representations of, 143–44; and shock and awe, 141–42; “Truther” movement, 149 9/11 films: influence on Holocaust films from 2001–2011, 153; scarcity of worthwhile films, 152–53 Ninotchka, 10, 37 Niven, William J., 131, 140 Nixon, Marni, 109 Noelle, Elisabeth, 130 Nogulich, Natalija, 167, 168 Nolte, Nick, 225 Normand, Mabel, 55 Norma Rae, 116 Norton, Edward, 177 Novak, Kim, 62 Novick, Peter, 9 No Way Out, 15, 116 Nuit et brouillard, 16 Nussbaum, Martha, 114 Nussbaum, Max, 66 Nuts, 220 The Nutty Professor, 17, 202, 203, 205–7, 208 O’Brien, Charles, 118 O’Brien, Pat, 69 O’Brien, Robert, 135–36 O’Connor, Donald, 76 Odets, Clifford, 114 “Oh! My Pa-Pa” (song), 79, 81

263

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Oklahoma!, 38, 83 Old Isaacs, the Pawnbroker, 21 The Old Man and the Sea, 38 Oleanna, 163 Oliver!, 199 Olivier, Lawrence, 110, 210 Olson, Tillie, 159 Omer, Ranen, 165 Once Upon a Honeymoon, 9 On the Beach, 116, 119–20, 123n5 Opatoshu, David, 199 Ophul, Max, 97 Ophuls, Marcel, 151; avoidance of atrocity footage, 148; Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie, 146–47; The Memory of Justice, 146; projection of his own personality and opinions into films, 146; The Sorrow and the Pity, 144, 145–46 Oppenheimer, Mark, 121 Order of Brith Abraham, 3 Orthodox Jews, 96 Our Hitler, a Film from Germany, 158n3 Outfoxed, 118 Oz, Frank, 7 Paddock, Lisa, 113 Page, Leopold, 133, 134, 138, 139 Paglia, Camille, 215, 222, 227 Palestinians, 189 Paltrow, Gwyneth, 7 Panizza, Oskar: “The Operated Jew,” 207, 209 Paramount Pictures, 59, 60–61; aggressive policy of theater ownership, 55; distributed films in Germany until 1940, 44; vertical integration, 61 Paramount Publix Corporation, 61 Parker, Dorothy, 219 Parker, Eva Longoria, 187 Parker, Trey, 217, 223 Parson, Wilfrid, 68 Parsons, Luella, 76, 77, 81 “passing,” 161 patrilineal descent as Jewish determinant, 184 The Patriot, 150 The Pawnbroker, 116, 132, 199 Peck, Gregory, 115 peep show arcades, 59 Peirce, Kimberly, 117 P.E.N., 120 Penn, Sean, 7 Pépé le Moko, 48 Perelman, Vadim, 117 “performed Judaism,” 199–210

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Permanent Midnight, 184 Persoff, Nehemiah, 199 personal memory, 194 Pfefferberg, Leopold “Poldek,” 129, 182 Pfefferman, Naomi, 182, 184, 191n6 PG-13 rating, 70 Phantom Lady, 37 Philadelphia, 118 The Philadelphia Story, 10, 14, 91–92, 93, 94, 98, 100, 102, 103, 104, 108 “philistine,” 122–23 Phoenix, River, 7 Photoplay, 14, 73, 74, 79, 80, 81, 83, 88 The Pianist, 46, 154 Pickford, Mary, 63 Picon, Molly, 199 Pidgeon, Rebecca, 166 Pinky, 120 Poe, Edgar Allan, 207 Poe, G. Tom, 120 “poetry of the ordinary,” 97 Pogrebin, Letty, 224 pogroms, 20 Poitier, Sidney, 116 Polanski, Roman, 46, 154 police procedural, and Jewish identity, 163–71 Pollack, Sydney, 13 Pollock, Louis, 76, 80 Polo, Teri, 188, 189 Polonsky, Abraham, 116 Pomerance, Ariel, 210 Pomerance, Murray, 12, 17, 123n5; The Horse Who Drank the Sky: Film Experience Beyond Narrative and Theory, 123n5; “Introduction.” In Enfant Terrible! Jerry Lewis in American Film, 208–9; “Who Was Buddy Love? Screen Performance and Jewish Experience,” 193–210 Pommer, Erich, 38, 41, 44 Porter, John, 205 Portuges, Catherine, 13, 35–51 Posh Spice, 177 postmodern self-invention, 177 post-World War II America, massive ideological shift, 104 Potash and Perlmutter series, 26 Power, 116 The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (BBC series), 151 Powers, Stephen, 130 pre-Code films, 99, 101 Preminger, Otto, 9, 36, 40, 70, 134, 144 Presley, Elvis, 80–81

Index

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Prime Time Live, 11 Prince of the City, 116, 117 The Prince of Tides, 219, 222, 225–26 Prince Valiant, 196 Private Izzy Murphy, 22 The Producers, 10 Punch-Drunk Love, 180, 181 Puttin’ on the Ritz, 25 Queen Elizabeth, 60 Quigley, Martin J., 57, 58, 71 Radio City Music Hall, New York, 55 Radok, Alfréd, 144 Raiders of the Lost Ark, 9, 10, 117 Raimi, Sam, 149, 179 Rainer, Louise, 7 Rakoff, Joanna Smith, 173 Rappe, Virginia, 55 ratings system, 70 Ratner, Brett, 179 The Reader, 152 Rebhorn, James, 188 Red Dawn, 70 Redford, Robert, 225 Red Scare, 77 The Reflecting Pool, 152 Reform Judaism, 3 Reich, Irene, 81, 85 Reich Chamber of Film, 42 Reid, Dorothy Davenport, 55–56 Reid, Wallace, 55 Reinhardt, Max, 26 Reitman, Ivan, 12 relative history, 193–94, 195 Renoir, Jean, 48 Resnais, Alain, 16, 118, 144–45 Reuben, Eric, 179 Reynolds, Debbie (born Mary Frances Reynolds), 14, 73, 75, 79, 84; and Eddie Fisher, 74–82; marriage to Harry Karl, 88–89; photograph with Fisher and Taylor, 82; stardom conflicted with postwar domestic ideology, 78–79; symbol of Protestant suburban America, 75–77 Rhames, Ving, 164 Rice, Elmer, 114, 115, 128 Rich and Famous, 91, 110 Riefenstahl, Leni, 121, 158n3 Rio Bravo, 208 Ritt, Martin, 15, 116 Roberts, Stephen, 66

Index

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Roberts, Tony, 202 Robinet, Marta, 86 Robinson, Edward G., 7 Robinson, Jerry, 178 Robinson, Jill, 19 Robinson, Phil Alden, 149 Rochberg-Halton, Eugene, 75 Rock, Chris, 149 rock ’n’ roll, 75, 80 Rodriguez, Robert, 15, 120 Rogen, Seth, 174, 181, 185, 190n5 Rogin, Michael: Black Face, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot, 6, 11 Roland, Gilbert, 196 Rollyson, Carl, 113 Roosevelt, Franklin D., 99–100, 104 Rosanova, Rosa, 27, 32 Rose, Helen, 79, 83 Rosemary’s Baby, 46 Rosen, Peter, 42, 43, 44, 50 Rosenberg, Emily, 77, 83 Rosenberg, Norman, 77 Rosnow, Richard L., 74 Rossellini, Roberto, 70 Rossen, Robert, 116, 119 Roth, Philip, 159, 182 Rothafel, Samuel “Roxy,” 55 Rothman, David J., 130 Rothman, Stanley, 130 Rothman, William, 14–15, 130; Cavell, 95, 97; “Hats Off for George Cukor!”, 91–110; Hitchcock—The Murderous Gaze, 92 Rouch, Jean, 93 Roxy, Los Angeles, 55 Rózsa, Miklós, 45 Rudd, Paul, 190n1 The Rules of the Game, 48 rumor, 74 Running on Empty, 116 Russell, James, 138 Russell, Rosalind, 99 Russia, pogroms and anti-Jewish decrees, 20 Rutenberg, Jim: “The Gossip Machine, Churning Out Cash,” 74 Ryan, Meg, 110 Sabra Israelis, 189 The Sacco-Vanzetti Story, 116 Sagan, Alex, 127 Salon Kitty, 136 Sandler, Adam: anger as defining character trait in films, 180; experience of anti-

265

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Sandler, Adam, (cont’d) Semitism, 181; postponement of explicitly Jewish characters or themes until later in career, 185; as super hero, 174–75; as sympathetic underachiever, 175–76; What the Hell Happened to Me?, 183. See also specific films Santiago, Ray, 188 Sarna, Jonathan, 2, 3 Sarris, Andrew: The American Cinema, Directors and Directions, 25, 93, 119 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 113 Saturday Night Live, 212 Saval, Malina Sarah, 177, 185 Sayles, John, 118 Sayonara, 80 Sayre, Nora, 120 Schatz, Thomas, 6, 12 Scheider, Roy, 202 Schenck, Joseph, 6 Schenck, Nicholas, 76 Schiff, Jacob, 2 Schiff, Stephen, 139 Schildkraut, Joseph, 7, 27, 30 Schindler, Oskar, 15, 45, 125, 194; death in 1974, 136; early and later vision of his biopic, 131, 134–35; emphasis on Sudeten German dimension of his story, 131; and Fritz Lang, 128–31; honored with tree-planting ceremony at Avenue of the Righteous in Jerusalem, 133; Ich, Oskar Schindler. Die persönlichen Aufzeichnungen, Briefe und Dokumente, 129, 130, 131, 134, 135; involvement with American writers and filmmakers interested in telling his story, 127; Jewish organizations behind attempts to publish his story, 127; negotiation with Hollywood studios and producers from 1962 onward, 133–34; public recognition of wartime deeds by 1960s, 132, 133 “Schindler Jews,” 128, 133, 138, 139 Schindler’s List, 16, 117, 125–26, 132, 139, 154; critical reception, 11, 15, 120, 144, 153; disproportionate share of foreign revenues from Germany, 126; implication of film’s viewers as guilty bystanders, 138; lengthy pre-history, 15, 127–40; reception in German press, 140 Schlöndorff, Volker, 50 Schnitzler, Arthur, 46 Schoenberg, Arnold, 36 Schrank, Bernice, 219

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Schrock, Raymond, 25 Schroeder, Carl, 88 Schulberg, B. P., 69 Schulberg, Budd, 116 Schumacher, Joel, 149, 179 Schwartzman, Jason, 190n1, 190n5 Schwarzenegger, Arnold, 149 science fiction films, of 1950s and 1960s, 121 Scott, Diane, 80 Scott, Tony, 150 screenplay, 163 Searching for Bobby Fischer, 202 Seaton, James, 122, 123n1 Segal, George, 184 Segal, Jason, 174 Seinfeld, 191n9 Seinfeld, Jerry, 174 Seligman, Craig, 112 Seligman, Joseph, 2 Sellers, Peter, 7 Selznick, David, 6, 69, 103 Senesh, Hannah, 194 Sephardic Jews, 188–89 A Serious Man, 20 Serpico, 10, 116 Seven Beauties, 154 The Seventh Cross, 46 The Severed Hand, 24 Shadow of a Doubt, 103 Shakespeare, William: The Merchant of Venice, 11, 21 Shampoo, 190n2 Shandler, Jeffrey, 12 Sharkey, Thomas—Jim Jeffries fight of 1899, 54–55 Shaw, George Bernard, 184; Pygmalion, 108–9 Shearer, Norma, 99 She Done Him Wrong, 56 Sheehan, Winifred, 69 Sheinberg, Sid, 137–40 Sheiner, Marcy, 224 Shenkman, Ben, 203 Shepherd, Cybill, 186 She Wouldn’t Say Yes, 103 “shiks-appeal” syndrome, 185–88, 189, 191n9 Ship of Fools, 132 Shoah, 16, 144, 148 Shofar (journal), 219 shopping, as freedom, 90 Shurlock, Geoffrey, 70 Shuster, Joe, 178 Sidney, Sylvia, 43

Index

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Siegal, Jerry, 178 Silberberg, Mendel, 65 Silentera.com, 23 silent films: Golden Age of Silent Cinema, 98; and Jewish acculturation experiences, 4; Jewish characters in, 21–23; and social issues, 115 Silkwood, 117 Silverman, Sarah, 174 Simon, Joe, 178 Simon, Neil, 186 Simpson, Jim, 152 Sinatra, Frank, 78 Singer, Bryan, 9, 179 Singer, Peter, 114 The Singing Fool, 77 Singin’ In the Rain, 75, 76, 104, 107 Siodmak, Curt, 37, 38, 40 Siodmak, Robert, 37, 38, 39–40 Sirk, Douglas, 105 Skolsky, Sidney, 219, 221, 227 Slater, Don, 90 Sleeper, 10 Slide, Anthony, 23, 24 Sloman, Edward: director of 100 films, 24–25; His People, 4, 13, 25–33; life, 23–25; onstage for The Wolf, 24; seven screenplays, 24; thirty-four acting roles, 24 Smith, Jack, 120 Smith, Maggie, 110 Smith, Maxine, 73, 84 Smith, Will, 188 Sobchack, Vivian, 17, 201, 210; “Assimilating Streisand: When Too Much Is Not Enough,” 211–28 Sochen, June, 224 social Darwinism, 46 Sofaer, Abraham, 197–98 Solondz, Todd, 15, 120 Some Like It Hot, 37, 46, 188 Something’s Got to Give, 110 Sontag, Susan, 15, 158n3; “Fascinating Fascism,” 121; “The Imagination of Disaster,” 121; Against Interpretation, 111–12, 113, 118, 120, 121; on Jewish moral seriousness as liberalism, 111–13; label of “philistines,” 122; modernist aesthetics, 118; “Notes on Camp,” 15, 111–14, 114, 118, 119; “On Style,” 118, 121; On Photography, 147; scorn for pretentiousness, 119; Styles of Radical Will, 113; Where the Stress Falls, 113 Sophie’s Choice, 137

Index

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The Sorrow and the Pity, 144, 145–46 Sounder, 116 soundtracks, 48 South Park, 216–17, 220, 223 Spacey, Kevin, 204 Spanglish, 181 Spanish Inquisition, 20 The Spanish Prisoner, 163 Spartan, 163 Spears, Britney, 177 Sperling, Cass Warner, 48 Spider-Man, 149, 179 Spider-Man 2, 179 Spider-Man 3, 179 Spielberg, Steven, 9, 12, 117, 120, 125, 137– 40, 144, 153, 194. See also Schindler’s List The Spiral Staircase, 38 Spock, Benjamin: Baby and Child Care, 80 The Squaw Man, 61 St. John, Howard, 95 Stacey, Jackie, 75 Stahl, Jerry, 184 Stalag 17, 46–47 Standard Operating Procedure, 151 Stanwyck, Barbara, 62, 99, 194 A Star Is Born, 220 Stark, Philip, 217 star system, 1, 11 Star Wars, 10 State and Main, 163 Steiger, Rod, 199 Steinem, Gloria, 114 Steiner, Max, 48 Steiner, Ralph, 117 Steinhouse, Herbert: “The Man Who Saved a Thousand Lives,” 128–29, 140 Stella Dallas, 194 Stern, Dave, 181 Sterritt, David, 16, 146, 152, 158n2; “Representing Atrocity: September 11 through the Holocaust Lens,” 141–58, 158n2 Steuermann, Eduard, 42 Stevenson, Peter, 194 Stevenson, Robert Lewis: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 207 Stewart, James, 94, 98, 99, 195; in The Philadelphia Story, 94 Stiller, Ben, 7, 189; flirtation with Jewishness, 183–85; “shiks-appeal” syndrome, 185–88; super-nebish role, 174. See also specific films Stiller, Jerry, 187

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stock market crash of 1929, 64 Stone, Matt, 217, 223 Stone, Oliver, 152 The Story of Temple Drake, 66 The Stranger, 144 Stratton, Jon, 220; Coming Out Jewish, 227n3 Strauss, Isidor and Nathan ?, 2 Streep, Meryl, 137 Street Scene, 15, 115 Streisand, Barbra, 7, 17, 173, 181; alleged insecurity born of self-hatred, 226–27; animosity toward in media, 214–19; celebrated for overt representation of Jews in film, 219–20; criticism of her feminism, 225; criticism of her passion for decorating, 221, 227n4; emphasis on her “different” look, 219; and “goyisher guys,” 225, 226; negative signifiers used to describe, 221; personification of all negative Jewish female stereotypes, 219, 221–23; in The Prince of Tides, 222; relation of women to, 223–24; romantic emplotment in her work, 225; in The Way We Were, 214; in Yentl, 218. See also specific films Stroheim, Erich von, 7 Struss, Karl, 98 Studio Relations Committee (later Motion Picture Production Code Administration [PCA]), 8 studio system, 1, 7; birth of (1885–1929), 5; classical period (1930–1960), 5 studio typecasting system, 73 Stupp, Kate, 86 style, hyper-appreciation of, 118–19 Sub-Mariner, 179 suburbia, 105 Suddenly Last Summer, 86 Sudeten Germans, 134 Sugihara, Chiune, 125 The Sum of All Fears, 149 Sunrise, 98 Sunset Blvd., 37, 46 superhero: east European roots of, 178–79; opposite of Jewish stereotypes, 178; outed Jewish superheroes, 179; in post1980s films, 179; as secular messiah defending against Nazis and other antiSemitic forces, 179 Superman, as assimilationist fantasy, 178 Superman II, 179 Superman III, 179 Superman Returns, 179

268

13348-HollywoodsChosenPeople.indd 268

Surrender, 25 Swardson, Nick, 176 Syberberg, Hans-Jürgen, 158n3 Sznaider, Natan, 154 Take a Letter, Darling, 103 “talkie,” 98 Tammy and the Bachelor, 81 “Tammy” (song), 81 Tanguay, Eva, 23 Tarantino, Quentin, 15, 120 Tarzan the Ape Man, 195 Taxi!, 4, 198 Taylor, Christine, 186 Taylor, Elizabeth, 14, 73, 110; in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 87; compulsive shopping in stores and marriage market, 89; consumption as part of persona, 84, 85; conversion to Judaism, 86; marriage and divorce as consumption, 82–90; numeous illnesses, 87–88; photograph with Fisher and Reynolds, 82 Taylor, John Russell: Strangers in Paradise: The Hollywood Emigres, 1933–1950, 35 Taylor, William Desmond, 55 Taylor Chicken Ranch, 25 television programming, early, 75 Temple Israel, Hollywood, 25, 66, 205 The Tenant, 46 The Ten Commandments, 17, 202, 204–5, 206, 209, 210 The Tender Trap, 78, 79 Terkel, Studs, 114 The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, 10, 42 Thalberg, Irving, 6, 56, 64, 69 Then She Found Me, 17, 202, 203–4, 209, 210 Things Change, 163 Thomas, Karen, 48, 50 Thompson, Ellin, 81 Thoreau, Henry, 100 Timeout New York, 173, 174 Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava, 12 To Be or Not to Be, 9, 37 Tobias, George, 196 Todd, Mike, Jr., 85 Todd, Mike (born Avrom Hirsch Goldbogen), 14, 73, 78, 81, 87, 90; and Elizabeth Taylor, 83–85 Todd-AO widescreen, 83 To Kill a Mockingbird, 118 Toland, Greggf, 27 Toll, William, 5 Tomlin, Lily, 185

Index

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Toot Braunstein, 179 Topol, 199, 210 Toro, Guillermo del, 9 To the Last Hour, 134–35, 138 Tracy, Spencer, 43–44, 83, 99, 105 Traffic in Souls, 63 Transcendentalists, 100 transcultural displacement, 48 Travels with My Aunt, 110 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 190 Tropic Thunder, 11, 174 Trump, Donald, 190n3 Trump, Ivana, 190n3 “Truther” movement, 149 Trzcinski, Edmund, 47 Tschuggnall, Karoline, 140 Tucker, George Loane, 63 Turkish Dance, 54 Turturro, John, 176 12 Angry Men, 116 Twentieth Century-Fox, 6 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, 196 Two-Faced Woman, 103 Two Weeks with Love, 76 Tyson, Cicely, 110 Ubach, Allanna, 188 UFA (Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft), 9–10, 26, 38, 41 Ulmer, Edgar G., 38 United 93, 143, 152 The Unit (television series), 163 Universal City, 25, 63–64 Universal Pictures, 24 Universal Studios, 40, 64 Unthinkable, 153 The Untouchables, 163 Valenti, Jack, 70 Valentini, John: “Hollywood 9/11: 9/11 Synchronicities in Film,” 150 Valkyrie, 9 Van Dyke, W. S., 195 Veblen, Thorstein, 89 Veidt, Conrad, 47, 92 vertical integration, 61 video technologies, 146–47 Vidor, King, 98, 115 Viertel, Salka (born Salomea Steuermann), 36, 42, 43, 49; The Kindness of Strangers, 43 Villa Aurora, 41, 49 Village Voice, 11 violence, 50

Index

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Vitagraph Corporation, 62 Vitaphone, 62 voice-of-God narration, 146, 147 Von Sternberg, Josef, 98, 102 Wagner, Robert, 195 Wag the Dog, 163 Waiting for Godot, 120 Wajda, Andrzej, 144 Walken, Christopher, 194 Walker, Jesse, 217 Walker, Joseph, 98 Wallace, Lew, 205 Wallenberg, Raoul, 137 Walt Disney Company, 134 Walters, Charles, 195 Ward, Janet, 153–55, 154 Warhol, Andy, 224 Warner, Albert (born Wonskolaser), 37, 62 Warner, Harry (born Wonskolaser), 37, 62 Warner, Jack (born Wonskolaser), 5, 6, 8, 36, 37, 62, 69 Warner, Sam (born Wonskolaser), 5, 37, 62 Warner Bros. Studio, 62, 69, 99; anti-fascist stance, 36; and Collateral Damage, 149; first studio to make anti-Nazi film, 47, 48; stopped distribution of films in Germany in 1935, 44; studio, Sunset Blvd., 1920s, 37 Warner brothers (born Wonskolaser), 36, 58, 59, 162 “war on terror,” 144, 157 Watanabe, Teresa, 125 The Waterboy, 175, 180 Waxman, Franz, 37, 39, 42, 49 The Way We Were, 211, 213, 214, 219, 225 We Americans, 25 Webb, Robert D., 195, 196 Weber, Lois, 115, 182 Weimar modernism, 45 Weimar Republic, 9 Weinberger, Stephen, 71, 72 Welles, Orson, 27, 144 Wellman, William, 98 Wells, Jeffrey, 215–16, 223 Welzer, Harald, 140 Werfel, Franz, 36 Wertmüller, Lina, 154 West, Mae, 56, 66 West Bank Story, 176 Westerners, 25 Whale, James, 42 What’s Up Doc?, 219, 221

269

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Whittaker, Charlie, 25 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 70 Wiene, Robert, 38 Wilde, Cornel, 195 Wilder, Billy (born Samuel Wilder), 9, 36, 37, 38, 44–47, 188; destabilized Hollywood conventions of liberalism, 45; footage of concentration camps, 46; interrogations of gender and sexual ambiguity, 45; loss of three-fourths of family in Holocaust, 49; persona as a filmmaker, 44–45; on set, 39; and Stalag 17, 46–47; vision of American dystopia and utopia, 46 Wilder, Gene, 173 Wilding, Michael, 83, 84, 87 Williams, Treat, 117 Wilson, Owen, 190 Winged Victory, 105 Winters, Shelley, 196, 204 Winton, Nicholas, 125 Wiseman, Frederick, 117 Without Reservations, 103 The Wolf Man, 37, 38 Wolk, Robert, 88 Wollen, Peter, 119 Woman of the Year, 103 A Woman’s Face, 92 women’s rights, 114 Wordsworth, William, 194 World Jewish Congress, 128 World Trade Center, 141, 143, 147, 148, 154. See also 9/11 World Trade Center, 152, 153 World War II, 56

270

13348-HollywoodsChosenPeople.indd 270

Wundheiler, Luitgard N., 137, 138 Wyler, William, 98, 115, 202 Wynn, Ed, 7 X2, 179 X-Men, 179 X-Men: The Last Stand, 179 Yentl, 225 Yiddish, Americanization of, 4 Yiddish Art Theater, New York, 26 Yiddish boulevard comedies, 46 The Yiddisher Cowboy, 21 Yiddish newspapers, books, and pamphlets, 4 Yiddish theater, 4 Yom Kippur, 77 You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, 16, 175, 176, 185 “You Gotta Have Heart,” 77 Youngkin, Steven D., 40 Youngstein, Max, 59 youth market, 75 Yugoslavia (former), ethnic cleansing, 138 Zangwill, Israel: The Melting Pot (play), 20 Zanuck, Darryl F., 64, 69, 116 Zeitlin, Ida, 83, 87 Zenman, Tony Silverman, 163 Ziegfeld, Florenz, 61 Zinnemann, Fred, 9, 36, 37, 38, 39, 46, 49 Zoolander, 174 Zukor, Adolph, 5, 6, 58, 59–60, 60, 61, 162 Zwick, Edward, 154

Index

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