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September 23, 1988 - Image 94

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I ANN ARBOR)

FALL FASHIONS
HAVE ARRIVED,

Light & Sound

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Continued from preceding page

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 1988

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taro themes. "The early films
stressed assimilation, so you
got things like Kosher Kelly.
What hits me is the way the
old generation was treated in
these films, as if their history
wasn't important."
Even film mavens like
Friedman can only take so
many of these early cinematic
attempts. "I've seen hundreds
of films nobody should be con-
demned to see?'
By the 1930s, the screen im-
age of the Jew began to alter
dramatically. "Jews wanted to
blend in," says Friedman. For
most of the 30s the Jew as a
recognizable cinematic
character practically disap-
peared from the screen. And,
in keeping with the temper of
the times, the actors and
directors themselves sup-
pressed or diminished their
own Jewish backgrounds.
This "de-Semitization," as
film historian Patricia Erens
explains it, was most obvious
in the phenomenon of name
changing. A great stage actor
like Julius Garfinkel was
transformed via Hollywood
into John Garfield. Emanuel
Goldenberg became Edward
G. Robinson.
There's a funny, not-so-
funny story, about Garfield.
Jack Warner was unhappy
with Garfield's new moniker.
"What type of name is Gar-
field?" he asked Garfield
rhetorically. "It doesn't sound
American?'
Garfield responded: "It was
American enough to have
been the name of a presi-
dent."
Warner, still unhappy, sug-
gested that John be changed
to James. "But that was the
president's name!" explained
Garfield. "You wouldn't name
an actor Abraham Lincoln,
would you?"
"No, we wouldn't," Warner
asnwered, "because Abe is a
name most people would say
is Jewish and we don't want
people to get the wrong idea?'
But name changing wasn't
limited to actors. Characters
in plays or novels that made
it to the screen were altered
as well. The boxing promoter
character in Clifford Odet's
play Golden Boy is named
Roxie Gottlieb; in the film
he's called Roxie Lewis.
Sometimes when a movie
was remade it lost its
Jewishness in the process.
"When they made Humores-
que (1920), there was a very
strong Jewish content," says
Brody. "But in the remake 20
years later all Jewish content
was lost:'
The twists and turns of the
image and role of Jews con-
tinued apace. "In the '60s
ethnicity was important and
that trend continued in the

'70s," says Friedman. Besides
films which had characters
who merely happened to be
Jewish, those decades also
produced films like Bye Bye
Braverman, The Producers
and The Pawnbroker where
the Jewishness of the
characters is integral to the
plot and theme of the story.
It was refreshing, too, to see
offbeat Jewish characters like
the Jewish vampires in
Roman Polanski's version of
the Dracula story.
themes that
Some
developed in the past decades
have been less than lovely.
"Private Benjamin drives me
crazy," says Friedman about
the Howard Zieff film which
updated the image of the

By the 1920s,
every major studio
save one was
headed by a Jew.

Jewish-American Princess.
"Jewish mothers and JAP's
have taken a beating,"
something Ms. magazine
editor Letty Cottin Pogrebin
is sure to talk about during
her Oct. 11 lecture, "From
Marjorie Morningstar to Dir-
ty Dancing — Jewish Women
in American Film."
The 1988 Shanik-Fleischer
Forum is sponsored in con-
junction with the Program in
Judaic Studies at the Univer-
sity of Michigan and the Anti-
Defamation League of B'nai
B'rith. With the exception of
the film festival all events are
free and open to the public. ❑

•••••I LOCAL NEWS

OP Planning

Family nips

Two family trips have been
planned during October by
the Oak Park Department of
Recreation.
The first will be Oct. 8 to
the Spicer Orchards farm
market and cider mill. The
fee includes bus transporta-
tion, leaving the Oak Park
Community Center at noon.
The Upland Hills farm will
be the destination Oct. 15,
with the bus leaving the com-
munity center at noon.
There is a charge for both
events. For information, call
the recreation department,
545-6400.

.

Used Book Sale

The Friends of the Hun-
tington Woods Library will
have a used book sale on Oct.
1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the
basement of the Huntington
Woods Library, 26415 Scotia.

Cs,

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