Admirers of the 79-year-old filmstar Piper Laurie, especially her three Oscar-nominated performances in “The Hustler” (1961), “Carrie” (1976) and “Children of a Lesser God” (1986), may not know about the abiding importance of Yiddishkeit to her achievements.
Laurie, born Rosetta Jacobs in Detroit in 1932, makes this aspect of her life and art evident in an intelligent, emotionally perceptive book published by Crown in November, “Learning to Live Out Loud: A Memoir”. Her parents, Charlotte Sadie Alperin and Alfred Jacobs were of Russian and Polish Jewish descent respectively, and early on Laurie marveled at her mother’s penchant for standing in the street and howling if one of her children was misbehaving.
East European emotional exhibitionism helped Laurie in later roles from TV’s cult series “Twin Peaks” — where she played Catherine Martell — to the 2010 indie film “Hesher” co-starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman.
Israeli Hanna Maron has become the world’s longest performing actress after 83 years on stage.
William Deresiewicz explains why Harold Bloom is much like Conrad’s Mr. Kurtz.
A new collection by Shel Silverstein is coming out this month, 12 years after the author’s death.
Can Mel Gibson actually be good for the Maccabees?
Mel Gibson just can’t seem to stop himself from taking on two things: ancient epics and Jews.
In a bit of a shocker, Deadline.com reports that the actor and filmmaker is teaming up with screenwriter Joe Eszterhas to make a movie about Judah Maccabee for Warner Bros. Yes, that Judah Maccabee — the Hasmonean military leader who fought the tyranny and religious oppression of the Asyrian-Greeks against the Jews in Judea in the 2nd century B.C.E.
Forward readers will recall the filmmaker’s alcohol-fuelled diatribe against Jews in 2006. But “having put some painful personal issues behind him, Gibson is determined to get back to making movies. He has long wanted to make this film about heroic Jews, and it was discussed even when he was under fire after his drunken anti-Semitic rant during a 2006 Malibu arrest,” Deadline.com explained.
Randy Cohen didn’t set out to lampoon Mel Gibson. But the concept behind his one man play “The Punishing Blow,” which opens August 13 starring Seth Duerr, might lead one to believe that he did. It’s the story of a bile-filled college professor, prone to incendiary Jew-baiting remarks who, arrested for drunk driving, is forced to take anger management classes and give a lecture on a figure from a list of The 100 Most Influential Jews of All Time.
A number of years ago, Cohen ran across the story of Daniel Mendoza, the legendary 18th century boxer. This is the story he wanted to write.
Mendoza was an English Heavyweight Champion. He transformed the game, inventing what was at the time called scientific boxing, which, Cohen explained to me, means, “He figured out how a little man could beat a big man.” The dodge and the weave. The intellectual game. He captured the imagination of the public and became one of the most famous men of his era — the Muhammad Ali of the 18th century. After his career ended, he went on to have a secondary career touring the country in musical variety acts, drawing people in with his celebrity and demonstrating scientific boxing.
Crucially, Mendoza was also a Jew, and at that time, though England had a flourishing Jewish community, they were despised, cursed at, sometimes beaten in the street. Mendoza’s celebrity helped begin to change that. “He was such a riveting figure,” Cohen said, “that he humanized Jews in some ways. It was an extraordinary story and I was eager to write it.”
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