Jews in the News: Aaron Sorkin, Linda Lavin and Willie Garson

I Don't Love Aaaron Sorkin and More

In 1951, “I Love Lucy” was the highest rated show on TV. It co-starred Lucille Ball and her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz, as her TV-husband. On Dec. 22, Amazon Prime began streaming a bio-pic about the couple, entitled “Being the Ricardos” (the couple’s characters’ last name). It was written and directed by AARON SORKIN, 60.

The film has “crammed” three major crises the real Lucy and Desi faced into one dramatic week in 1951 (Desi’s infidelity; allegations that Lucy was a Communist; and how they would handle Lucy’s real-life pregnancy on TV.)  The latter two crises actually happened over three years and Desi’s infidelity only ended when the couple split in 1960.  

Yes, this time frame takes liberties. But it ‘ain’t nothing’ compared with the way Sorkin depicts JESS OPPENHEIMER (1913-88), the only real-life Jewish character who is a big character in the film. You would think, from the film, that Oppenheimer was “only” the producer of “I Love Lucy”. You would never know that he was a top comedy writer before he (1948) was hired by a radio show starring Lucille Ball. Oppenheimer’s funny scripts and character development turned the show into a hit. That radio show led CBS to offer Ball a TV show.

Again, you’d never know, from the film, that Oppenheimer created the premise of “I Love Lucy” (band leader married to a funny housewife) and he gave the show its name. Oppenheimer never says anything funny in the film, so you never really “get-it” that he was not ‘just’ the show’s head producer—he was the show’s head comedy writer and he co-wrote all the scripts for years (with Bob Carroll, Jr. and Madelyn Pugh. These two writers are in the film, but they never say anything funny, either).

Years ago, I talked to Oppenheimer’s son, GREGG, now 70, after reading a detailed and funny autobiography started by Jess and finished, after his death, by Gregg. The father Gregg loved and admired was not the dour Jess Oppenheimer that Sorkin created to fit his dramatic purposes.

Also made-up is Ball’s dislike of JUDY HOLLIDAY (1921-65) based, supposedly, on jealousy. There’s a flashback scene in which Ball says that Holliday can only play only one role (a dumb blonde). Ball says this as she is being fired (1942) by the RKO movie studio. However, Holliday’s first dumb blonde roles were in two back-to-back hit movies made MUCH later (“Adam’s Rib”,1949, and “Born Yesterday”. The latter earned Holliday the 1950 best actress Oscar).

Holliday and Ball were probably secretly sympathetic towards each other. Ball saved her career by playing a “ditz”. She lied about why she briefly joined the Communist party--said it was a clerical accident.  (Ball knew what she was doing. See the film. Its accurate about why Ball really joined.) Holliday, who had strong leftist ties, played the “ditzy dumb blonde” in front of Congress (1951) and they “cleared” her. She wasn’t blacklisted. Holliday’s tested IQ was genius level--172.

The Ricardos” cast includes LINDA LAVIN, 84, as the “older” Madelyn Pugh and JOHN RUBENSTEIN, 75, the son of the great pianist ARTUR RUBENSTEIN, as the older Oppenheimer.

I just caught up with the (still-streaming) Amazon Prime series “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” Its first, 8-episode season concluded on Nov. 12. It’s based on the horror movie series of the same name. One of the co-stars is EZEKIEL GOODMAN, 25. His mother, SARA NEMETH GOODMAN, 54, is the series’ head producer and she wrote three of the show’s episodes.

I previously noted that WILLIE GARSON died last September, age 57. He was best known for playing Sanford Blatch, the best friend of star character Carrie, on “Sex and the City”. I wrote that it wasn’t clear whether Garson had a chance to film episodes of the “Sex and the City” re-boot, “And Just Like That”, before his death from cancer.  Well, he has appeared in the first 3 episodes. It’s still unclear how many more episodes he will appear in.

Here’s some personal details. Garson wasn’t gay in “real life”, but he didn’t want to talk about that. He thought that telling the media that you’re straight, while playing a gay character, could be taken by some that there is something wrong with being gay. He was long-involved with a woman who didn’t want children, but he did, and after they broke-up, he adopted a 7-year-old boy. His son, NATHAN, now 20, posted a moving statement about how much he loved his father on Instagram. 


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