Gal Gadot, Sophie Okonedo and Harlen Coben

Nate Bloom blogs about this week's Jews in the News.

A Thriller, A Spooky Mystery, and More “Oppy”

“Heart of Stone” is a thriller film that starts streaming on Netflix on August 11. Basic plot: International intelligence agent Rachel Stone (Israeli actress GAL GADOT, 38) works for a mysterious “good guy” agency called Charter. This agency keeps a secret eye on other spy agencies. Stone, pretending to be a computer tech, infiltrates a British intelligence unit that is being taunted by a master hacker.

“Heart of Stone” is the first film that Gadot has produced.

British Jewish actress SOPHIE OKONEDO, 54, has a big supporting role  as Nomad, another Charter agent. Okonedo, a Tony-winner, was Oscar-nominated for “Hotel Rwanda”.

“Harlen Coben’s Shelter” is an 8-episode series that begins streaming on Amazon Prime on Aug. 18. New episodes stream on successive Fridays. Capsule plot: Mickey Bolitar is a teen who moves to a small New Jersey town following the death of his father. He gets tangled up in the disappearance of a new student. With the help of friends, he realizes that the town has a dark, long history of disappearances and deaths. 

As you might guess, the series is based on a novel by best-selling author HARLEN COBEN , 60. His first novel, "Play Dead" (1990) was the first in a series of big selling mysteries and thrillers. Coben, who had a bar mitzvah ceremony,  grew-up in Livingston, New Jersey. He was a childhood friend of future N.J. Governor Chris Christie.
I finally saw “Oppenheimer” ten days ago and, after watching the film, I revisited some things I wrote before. By now, I figure that many of you have seen the film and you’ll benefit from some more bio details, mixed in with corrections on a previous column.

In my July, 21 column I listed what appeared to be the most prominent (real) characters in the film. I listed 20 characters and 12 of them were physicists. I said that 9 of the 12 were Jewish. I added that all of them, except Einstein, worked on the Manhattan Project (ie,  the A-Bomb project).

Here’s my corrections and some “other stuff”: Danish physicist NIELS BOHR (1885-1962) was one of the “12”. Bohr had more screen-time than most “Oppenheimer”  characters. As depicted in the film, he declined an invitation to work on the Manhattan Project. 

The film does convey that Bohr was a “giant’ and without his work, nuclear power, etc. would have never existed. However, I was annoyed that his Jewish background (his mother was Jewish), was never mentioned. The film did show Bohr being welcomed in America following his escape from Nazi-occupied Denmark.  But it didn't note that he fled (Sept., 1943) when he got the “word” that he was probably going to be arrested because the Nazis viewed the secular Bohr as a Jew.

Bohr was smuggled out of Denmark and taken on a fishing boat to neutral Sweden---and then on to the States. Less than a month later, most Danish Jews (about 3,000) were taken to Sweden in the same way. Bohr fervently lobbied on behalf of Danish Jews and, according to many sources, really helped to get the Swedes to decide to accept a “mass exodus”.

I said that I.I. RABI (1898-1988) worked on the Manhattan Project. As depicted in the film, he had grave misgivings about making “the bomb”. He didn’t work at Los Alamos, but agreed to consult with Oppenheimer when asked. As depicted in the film, he was at Los Alamos for the first A-bomb test.

Rabi also had a lot of screen-time and his, and Oppenheimer’s Jewish background, was made clear in the same early scene. What isn’t mentioned is that Rabi won the Nobel Prize (1944) as WWII raged. His prize was for his discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance. Unlike many scientific discoveries, Rabi’s discovery has led to very ‘practical’ things: the invention of microwave ovens, microwave radar, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI machines).

Rabi lived long enough to have an MRI test. He said that he saw his reflection on the machine’s shiny inside and he said to himself: “I never thought my work would lead to this.”

I think the audience would have benefitted from a “fact” scroll. It would "roll" after the film ended. It would be information about what happened to the main characters. Certainly, a post-script on physicist FRANK OPPENHEIMER (J. ROBERT's brother) would have been very “nice”.  Frank was an important film character.

I erroneously wrote that Frank worked on the “Project”. As depicted in the film, he was a member of the Communist Party (1937-39) and that got him barred from “the Project”.  The film mentions that he was blacklisted after the war. It doesn’t mention that he made a huge career comeback. He couldn’t get a teaching job until 1959, so he bought a cattle ranch and ran it for ten years. In 1967, he moved to San Francisco and created the Exploratorium, a hands-on science, technology, and arts museum. It started with a small-ish grant and became, over time, a major city attraction—and a model for similar museums all over the country. He was the museum’s director until his death in 1985, age 72


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