A long time ago, in a universe far far away, in a place called Hollywood, the movie studios and the actors who flourished in those dream factories, celebrated their love of America and enthusiastically indulged in overt displays of patriotism.
L.B. Mayer (b. Lazar Meir) the powerful head of MGM, was a pioneer of the motion-picture industry, and the man who invented the star system. Mayer adopted July 4th as his birthday. Scores of Hollywood historians get all snarky about Mayer’s birthday, claiming that he conveniently changed his birthday in order to cash in on a public identification with America.
What these historians fail to recognize is that Mayer probably did not know the date of his birth.
Mayer was born in Minsk, in the Pale of Settlement, where the exact birth dates of most Jews were rarely recorded. My paternal grandfather, Rabbi Shmuel Avrech, also came from the Pale. When asked his birthdate he would shrug and tell us in Yiddish—he barely spoke English—that it was sometime around Chanukah.
During Hollywood’s golden age, studio photographers shot thousands of publicity stills featuring contract players celebrating America with creative displays of patriotism, and, of course some good old fashioned cheesecake.