What’s a Jewish film? My definition is quite simple. It is a film that deals with Jewish subject matter. Thus, Woody Allen does not make Jewish films. In truth, Hollywood movies that do deal with Judaism are quite rare. Take a look at the subject headings in Netflix. There is no category for Jewish films.
However, there are now quite a few interesting indie films on Amazon Prime and Netflix that deal seriously or humorously with Jewish subject matter. But those movies will be the subject of a future blog post. I’m also planning a blog post about Yiddish films, a fascinating genre.
For now, I’d like to bring your attention to a few obscure Jewish Hollywood films that can usually be found on TCM. And if you’re lucky, some may show up on You Tube.
In the beginning of his legendary career, Kirk Douglas (1916 – ) b. Issur Danielovitch, was almost typecast as a well-meaning but ineffectual husband in two fine films, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, 1946, and A Letter to Three Wives, 1949. But his career ascended into mega-stardom when he played cynical heroes motivated by rage: Champion, 1949, Ace in the Hole, 1951, The Bad and the Beautiful, 1952, Paths of Glory, 1957, Spartacus, 1960, and his favorite picture, Lonely Are the Brave, 1962,
Douglas was never a conventional leading man. Though handsome as a fairy tale prince, he wielded his masculine beauty like a weapon. There was none of the gruff, working class charm that made Gable the King. Douglas was not an urbane gentleman like William Powell, nor a witty charmer like Cary Grant.
Kirk Douglas excelled at playing, in his own words, “sons of bitches.”
In Pierke Avot (Ethic of the Fathers) Hillel teaches: “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.”
Bibi Netanyahu won a resounding victory over the Israeli left and Barack Obama by paying heed to the great sage Hillel’s teaching. Bibi is a man in a world that is awash in eunuchs.