Jews in the News: Herman Mankiewicz, Sarah Silverman and Albert Bourla

Wrong Bed; Mank: a ‘Jewface’ Movie?, Euphoria One-Shot

A bio-pic, “Mank”, about famous screenwriter HERMAN MANKIEWICZ (1897-1953), begins streaming on Netflix on Dec. 5. It focuses on the period during which “Herman M.” co-wrote the script for the great film “Citizen Kane” with Orson Welles. They were the co-winners of the 1941 Oscar for best screenplay for “Kane”.  “Mank”, which opened in limited theater release (to be “Oscar eligible”), has got some great reviews and many mixed ones. Many critics say that the script (by the late Jack Fincher, the father of “Mank” director David Fincher) slavishly followed the opinion of the late film critic PAULINE KAEL. In a 1971 book, she said that Herman M. wrote almost all of “Kane”.  Since then, film scholars have shown that Welles wrote a lot of “Kane” before, and after Herman M.’s contribution. What seems clear is both men always had major problems with finishing a major project and, by some miracle, on “Kane” they compensated for each other and made a great movie.

I should note that a bio-pic about “Herman M.” can’t be dull—he was extremely funny; he improved hundreds of films----usually without screen credit--including a big part of “The Wizard of Oz”; and he just couldn’t stop drinking until it killed him. All the well-known people named Mankiewicz were/are closely related to Herman. ‘Google’ him and you’ll find them all easily. By the way, the next time you see a lot of Jews playing non-Jews—think of this film—13 important characters---no Jewish actors play any of them—although 6 were “all” Jewish in real life and 2 more had Jewish fathers. (The former group includes HERMAN M., his wife, SARA; director JOSEPH MANKIEWICZ, Herman’s brother; film execs IRVING THALBERG and LOUIS B. MAYER, and producer DAVID O. SELZNICK. Producer/actor JOHN HOUSEMAN had a Jewish father, as did writer CHARLES LEDERER.) Fun Footnote: HARPO MARX was a great friend of Herman M. He once turned a Seder at Herman’s home into a Marx Brothers’ routine by “swiping” the shankbone from the Seder plate and running around the house with it.

 The casting of “Mank” seems to fit neatly into a main theme of a recent HOWARD STERN, 66, interview with SARAH SILVERMAN, 50. She said because she’s Jewish she’s offered parts as the “sassy friend” of the lead or as a nasty girlfriend---and when there’s a Jewish character who is “courageous, or she deserves love, or is altruistic in any way, she’s played by a non-Jew.” Silverman’s comments echo an August, 2019 protest letter, signed by prominent members of the British Jewish community, to the producers of a British revival of the American musical “Falsettos”. The musical is about a Jewish guy who leaves his Jewish wife just before his son’s bar mitzvah. However, not a single Jew was in the British revival. The letter said the casting “demonstrates a startling lack of cultural sensitivity.” The letter gave this casting a name: “Jewface”. The letter was referencing recent protests in the Anglo-Asian community about casting white actors as Asians—those protestors called it “Yellowface”.

“Euphoria”, an HBO hit show based on an Israeli series, is set to stream a special episode on Dec. 6. This acclaimed series about high school students was first streamed in June and July, 2019.  The show’s star actress, Zendaya (who won an Emmy for her performance), explained that due to Covid-19, they couldn’t gather the whole cast together to film a second, 8-episode season. They decided to do two “bridge” special episodes to keep fans interested. The (first) special episode finds Rue (Zendaya), a recovering drug addict, coming home for Christmas shortly after she relapsed. Appearing in regular roles are MAUDE APATOW, 22, as Lexi, Rue’s childhood best friend, and ERIC DANE, 47, as Cal, the father of Nat, a (star) high school character. Dane’s mother is Jewish and he was a bar mitzvah.


The Silverman interview has ‘pre-empted’ a planned item on more (promised) information on ALBERT BOURLA, 59, the Greek Jewish Pfizer head.   It will appear next week along with some Jewish or fun nuggets about the Biden cabinet picks. Instead, here’s a short item—it is my first ‘installment’ of three actually amusing Covid-19 “funnies” by sit-com king CHUCK LORRE—“My IPhone learned to recognize me with my N95 mask on. Should I be concerned? What does it know? How fast is it learning? Can it see in the dark?”


Add Comment