ITS QUITE A STORY: HERE’S WHAT I KNOW
I’ve previously reported that Timothée Chalamet, 24, who was nominated for the leading actor Oscar for playing a young Jewish man in Call Me by Your Name, is the son of an American Jewish mother and a French Protestant father. In an interview exchange, he seemed to call himself Jewish. I don’t usually report much on the non-Jewish side of a celeb’s family, but there’s a good, and maybe great “Jewish story” on that side of Chalamet’s family. His father, Marc, and late paternal grandfather, Roger, came from a small French village called Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon (“Chambon”). Growing up, Timothée spent his summers there.
In 1990, Chambon was one of two municipalities collectively honored as the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Israel for saving Jews during the Holocaust. These two towns remain the only to be so honored. French Protestants, usually called Huguenots, were viciously persecuted by the Catholic kings of France during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and many fled to England and America. However, Chambon is in an isolated location, and this isolation allowed the town to remain overwhelmingly Protestant.
In 1940, the Germans occupied France. Led by two Protestant ministers (André Trocmé and deputy pastor Edouard Theis), the villagers of Chambon did everything imaginable to help Jews, including hiding them in local homes and public buildings. Estimates vary on how many Jews they saved (800-3,000). Whatever the number, it was heroism with considerable risk to themselves. One of Trocmé’s cousins, Daniel, was sent to a concentration camp and murdered.
A friend discovered that Roger Chalamet, who died in 1985, was a Protestant minister, born in either 1926 or 1928. In any event, he was clearly old enough to have witnessed the occupation and the heroism of his fellow villagers and perhaps he participated in this heroism himself. One can reasonably speculate that his decision to be a minister was inspired by the heroism of his hometown pastors. So far, only one French publication has noted the actor’s ties to this town. There was little in the way of details — just that Chambon is proud of the young actor. As I learn more, I will report it because, as I told my friend, “What are the odds that an Oscar-nominated American actor with a Jewish mother would have such strong ties to a French town of less than 3,000 people with such a wonderful Jewish story?”
Zach Braff, 42, the former star of Scrubs, returned to series TV with the ABC show Alex, Inc. He plays Alex Schuman, a radio journalist, husband and father of two, who decides to quit his job and start his own company (debuted Wednesady, March 28, at 8:30 p.m.). Over on HBO is the two-part documentary The Zen of Garry Shandling. The biographical tribute to the late comedian Garry Shandling premiered on March 26 and 27. The director is Judd Apatow, 50. Early in his career, Apatow wrote for Shandling and discovered in Shandling’s journals that Shandling made a conscious decision to mentor him and others. Apatow told Variety, “He wanted to help people and he thought that was the win in life, to help people.” There are tons of clips and home movies. The more than 40 interviewees include Sacha Baron Cohen, Jon Favreau, Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman.