Jews in the News: Fred Savage, Herman Wouk and Ali MacGraw

Big Chill or Navel Gazing?

The eight-episode original series, “Friends from College,” begins streaming on Netflix on Friday, July 14. The series follows a small group of Harvard grads now in their ‘40s. As the series starts, Ethan Turner (Keegan-Michael Key) and Lisa Turner (Cobie Smulders from “How I Met Your Mother”) return to New York City and reunite with college friends. Their old pals include Max Adler, played by FRED “The Wonder Years” SAVAGE, 40, and Nick, played by NAT FAXON, 41 (Faxon’s mother is Jewish).

The famously acerbic BILLY EICHNER, 38, appears in a four-episode arc as Felix, a fertility doctor who treats Ethan and Lisa. Meanwhile, he gets romantically involved with Max. After a while, Felix gets tired of the friends reliving their college days and he issues some biting outsider commentary. Also look for SETH ROGEN, 35, and IKE BARINHOLTZ, 40, in one episode guest roles.

The series was co-created by NICHOLAS STOLLER, 41, and his wife, FRANCESCA DELBANCO, 42. It’s appropriate that they should write together, because they met in 2001 at a Harvard writers’ workshop and hit it off immediately.

At the end of the workshop, the NY Times reports, Stoller had the sad duty of putting Delbanco on a plane back to Ann Arbor. Her parents both then taught at the Univ. of Michigan. Francesca’s parents are pretty famous writers NICHOLAS DELBANCO, 75, and ELENA GREENHOUSE DELBANCO, 70ish.

Nicholas Stoller and Francesca wed in a Jewish ceremony in 2006 and now have two children.

Stoller has directed some good flicks, like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” But I am cautioned by the fact a film he wrote and directed, “The Five Year Engagement,” was too long and somewhat uneven. It was not exactly an old friends’ reunion movie, but it was close. Many “reunion” films flop because the writer(s) are too close to their subject. A few, like “The Big Chill,” are incredibly memorable.

Wouk at 102

A nice thing about “CBS Sunday Morning” is that they post their stories on the CBS news website and leave them up there a long time. So, you can easily see or see again the interview with famous author HERMAN WOUK, 102, which first aired on Sunday, July 2. In late 2015, his last book, a memoir, “Sailor and the Fiddler,” was published. Now he says he will write no more new books, but does write in his diary every day.

Frankly, the CBS interview seemed like the last word from Wouk. In 2015, he looked jaunty in New York Times photos that accompanied a “Sailor and Fiddler” review. He wore nice casual clothes, including a cool Panama-type hat, and he sported a long, well groomed white beard.

In the CBS interview, he is in a bathrobe, in a wheelchair, with an oxygen tube up his nose. His beard is a bit ragged and he wears a simple yarmulke on his bald head.

Still, his mind is still sharp--and he knows he doesn’t have time to be charming. He quickly discusses his most famous work, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Caine Mutiny” (based on his WWII naval service). 

He moves on to what he wants to say is his central life work: “To, so far as I could, fix down in literature what happened in World War II and the Holocaust.” Besides “Caine,” he was referencing his two-book WWII novel saga, “Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance.” The latter graphically depicted the Holocaust and that graphic depiction was also in the 1988 mini-series of the same name.

Here the link to the CBS interview:

Wouk Interview

What about Ali MacGraw?

Here’s a footnote on the “Winds of War” which answers a question many ask: Why did once-hot actress ALI MACGRAW, now 78, fade away around the time the mini-series version of “Winds” was released in 1983?

Well, first some bio: MacGraw disclosed in 2011 that her mother was Jewish, but her mother never told her bigoted non-Jewish father that she was Jewish. MacGraw was a top model when she got her first big movie part—playing a spoiled Jewish young woman in “Goodbye Columbus” (1969). Then, in 1970, she co-starred in “Love Story,” a mega-hit.

Looking back, all she had to do in those flicks was be pretty, smirk a lot, and issue some “cheeky” lines. She could do that. A few action movies followed that didn’t require much acting. But she was so bad in “Winds,” which required real acting, that she was replaced by JANE SEYMOUR, now 66, in the “Remembrance” mini-series. The “word” was out on MacGraw and she never got a big, good part again.


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