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Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman

Variety reports that Natalie Portman, 37, has closed a deal to star in and direct a yet-unnamed film about the most famous advice columnists of the 20th century: Dear Abby and Ann Landers. The two were identical twins, born (1908) Pauline Esther Friedman and Esther Pauline Friedman. It’s often been noted that it’s “odd” that two Jewish ladies from Sioux City, Iowa, would become the advice mavens to America (from the heartland to the coasts). But that’s what happened.

An Anniversary

Ann Landers

Ann Landers

The Big Lebowski has attracted quite a bit of attention recently because 2018 is the 20th anniversary of a Coen Brothers’ film that has become a cult classic. It is ultimately a buddy film, featuring Jeff Lebowski (“The Dude”) and his “Sancho Panza,” Walter Sobchak (played by John Goodman). Walter, a salty combat veteran, is improbably a devout convert to Orthodox Judaism. There’s one “Walter/Jewish” scene that always made me laugh. When told a bowling tournament is set for Saturday, Walter replies: “I told that kraut a f-g thousand times that I don’t roll on Shabbos!”

Sobchak was only referring to rolling a bowling ball. But the quote could have a much larger meaning today. Yes, the word “roll” has long been used to go along with something. However, in the last five years or so, it has become much more expansive and widespread in meaning and use (as in “rolling with my friends” or “that’s not the way I roll”).

A cool High Holidays gift could be a T-shirt or mug that says: “I don’t roll on Shabbos.”

An Odd Connection

Pauline Phillips - Dear Abby

Pauline Phillips – Dear Abby

Few remember William Fox (1979-1952), a major figure in the creation of the American film industry. But his name lives on via the Fox media outlets (Fox broadcast network, Fox Films and Fox News Network). Fox lost control of his company in 1930, five years before it merged with the 20th Century film company. However, when Rupert Murdoch purchased 20th Century Fox in 1985, only the “Fox” part of its name was retained for most uses.

Fox, the son of poor Hungarian immigrants, is the subject of his first full-scale biography, The Man Who Made the Movies (2017) by Vanda Krefft. I learned from Krefft that Fox produced great silent and early talkie movies (most haven’t survived), built great movie palaces and turned Theda Bara (yes, Jewish) into a great silent star.

1918: American actor Theda Bara (1885-1955) looks up, holding one hand to her chest in a still from director J. Gordon Edwards' silent film 'Salome'. She wears a garland headband with pearls hanging from her hair and shoulders.

1918: American actor Theda Bara (1885-1955) looks up, holding one hand to her chest in a still from director J. Gordon Edwards’ silent film ‘Salome’. She wears a garland headband with pearls hanging from her hair and shoulders.

I was also startled to learn that Fox spent a year in jail (1942-43) for bribing a federal judge. This (non-Jewish) judge was a broke gambling addict. He had a Jewish bagman lawyer solicit a payment from Fox to rule in his favor. Fox was arrested and agreed to plead guilty and testify against the judge and the lawyer. It’s likely that the jury was tampered with and the pair was acquitted. Only Fox went to jail. Government lawyers were upset at this turn of events and supported Fox when he applied for and got a pardon from President Truman in 1947. (By the way, Fox, who died wealthy, became a practicing Jew again after his jailing.)

I thought it ironic that the news network named after Fox has, by any objective measure, been the most favorable cable news network toward President Trump’s past pardons and those he hints might come. The presence of a Jewish lawyer “fixer” in Fox’s troubles also makes one think of current events.

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