Hollywood Celebrity Jews


Opening on Friday, June 15, are The Seagull and Tag.

Corey Stoll
Corey Stoll

The former is an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s classic 1896 play. A few critics liked the film without reservations but more said the acting was great, but the film didn’t quite work. The setting is the estate of Sorin (Brian Dennehy), a retired Russian civil servant. Visiting the estate are the other four main characters: Irina, an aging actress who is Sorin’s sister (Annette Bening); Boris (Corey Stoll, 42), a successful middlebrow novelist who is Irina’s lover; Konstantin (Billy Howle), Irina’s 20-ish son; and Nina (Saorise Ronan), a girl from a nearby estate who is involved with Konstantin. The action takes off when Nina falls in love with Boris.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Actress Mare Winningham attends The Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences Performer Nominees' 64th Primetime Emmy Awards Reception at Spectra by Wolfgang Puck at the Pacific Design Center on September 21, 2012 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)
Mare Winningham

A hallmark of Chekov’s writing is well-developed supporting characters. Many are played by Jewish actors: Jon Tenney (Dr. Dorn), 56; Mare Winningham (Polina), 59; Michael Zegen (Mikhail), 39; and Glenn Fleshler (Shamrayev), 49. The film was directed by Michael Mayer, 57, a two-time Tony winner.

Rashida JonesTag is based on a true story about five friends who have been playing the schoolyard game since they were children. As adults, they drop everything to meet up once a year and play the game again. As the film opens, the wedding of Jerry, the only player (Jeremy Renner) never to lose at tag, coincides with the annual tag game. The other four players figure he’ll be so distracted that they can finally beat him. The cast includes Rashida Jones, 42, as Cheryl, the only female player, and Isla Fisher, 42, as a close friend of Cheryl’s.


Now streaming on Netflix is Bombshell, a documentary about the life of actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000). The film had a limited theatrical opening last year. Few persons under 50 have even heard of Lamarr, but in her heyday, circa 1940, she was a big Hollywood star and was widely considered the most beautiful actress alive. In the last 25 years, another side of the actress has become known — her talent for invention.

Hedy Lamarr - Glamorous portrait of movie actress Hedy Lamarr wearing white fox fur short jacket.1938 - ©Diltz/RDA/Everett Collection (00523921)
Hedy Lamarr

The film is well worth watching — Lamarr led an extraordinary life. But, be warned, it isn’t a happy story. Lamarr was the child of assimilated and affluent Viennese Jews. Early on, she was interested in science, but that wasn’t, then, a viable career path for women. Her beauty led her into an acting career in European films and, later in Hollywood pics.

Via interviews with her three children, and many others (including Mel Brooks), a full portrait of Lamarr emerges. She sometimes had great courage. On the other hand, she cast off things that were “inconvenient,” like her Jewish background, her one adopted child and her five husbands. Much time is spent on her most famous invention: a way to make radio-controlled torpedoes invulnerable to “jamming” by Nazi subs. The Navy didn’t use the invention during WWII, but later her “frequency hopping” idea became the basis for the way cell-phone calls, WI-FI and GPS is transmitted. No more spoilers! Watch the film. It’s worth your time.

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