Jews in the News: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Albert Einstein and Henry Heimlich

At the Movies

I am not a great fan of the “Amityville” movies and wasn’t going to write about the 17th (!) film in the series until I saw that JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, 54, has a starring role. The new film is entitled “Amityville: The Awakening” and it’s a pretty familiar “Amityville” plot line. A teenage girl, Bella, and her mother (Leigh) move into a new house, but when strange stuff happens, Bella suspects that her mother has moved the family into the infamous Amityville house.

This isn’t a prestigious role for Leigh and she’s probably doing it for the gelt. However, she’s a real pro and she proved in her Oscar-nominated role in “The Hateful Eight” (2015) that she could play anything, including a very evil woman. If the “Amityville” script gives her half a chance, she’ll make the movie worth a look. (This film opens Jan. 6th. I am writing about it early because my next column is about the Golden Globe awards).

It’s been a long time since I noted that Leigh’s father was VIC MORROW, best known for starring in the ‘60s TV show, “Combat!.” He died in 1982, age 53, in a helicopter accident while filming “Twilight Zone: the Movie”. Her mother, BARBRA TURNER, died this past April, age 79. She guest starred on a lot of TV shows in the ‘50s and ‘60s and made an occasional acting appearance thereafter. But, Turner is best known as a successful screenwriter. Among her critical hits were “Company” (2003) and “Georgia Rules” (1995), which co-starred Leigh and MARE WINNINGHAM, now 57.

New to Me; Maybe New to You

I thought I knew a lot about ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879-1955), having read a couple of biographies and having seen a lot of documentaries. But an anecdote I never heard before made me smile and I think a smile is a good thing to start the New Year with.

I just stumbled on a 1991 “American Masters” Einstein documentary. It began by showing that Einstein was “human” and had a sense of humor. Almost the first scene was newsreel footage of Einstein joking with reporters. This was followed by an interview with Dutch-born physicist ABRAHAM PAIS (1918-2000). Pais knew Einstein very well and related this:  “He [Einstein] loved Jewish jokes. I told him many [Jewish jokes] and the thing I wish most is that I had a record in which I captured Einstein’s laughter when he heard a good Jewish joke. His laugh sounded like the sound of a contented seal: A very strange sound.”

I just love the image of the greatest intellect of the 20th century laughing uproariously at the same jokes I’ve loved and laughing at the same jokes that amused the “ordinary” Jews who flocked to the Borscht Belt during Einstein’s lifetime. We all may not get “relativity”, but the whole tribe gets a good Jewish joke.

“The Mick”

“The Mick”, a new comedy series, premieres on Fox on Jan.1 (8PM). The second episode will air Jan. 3 at its normal time (Tuesdays, 8PM).  “Mick” stars Katlin Olsson as Mickey, a middle-aged hustler always looking for an easy life. Her dreams are answered when she is named guardian of her sister’s three children and gets to live in their palatial home (her sister and her billionaire brother-in-law have fled the country to escape fraud charges). Mickey’s dream has one catch: She’s required to turn these three spoiled brats into responsible people.

SOFIA BLACK D’ELIA, 24, plays Sabrina, the oldest child. Sabrina is described as “an ambitious, 18-going-on-30-year-old who is a worthy adversary to Mickey.” D’Elia, who has called herself Jewish, is the daughter of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father.

A Little about Dr. Maneuver

The inventor of the Heimlich maneuver, Dr. HENRY HEIMLICH, died on Dec. 17, age 96. Here are some details not in most obits. The son of immigrants, Heimlich became a thoracic surgeon and, in 1969, became head of surgery at Cincinnati’s Jewish Hospital. In 1951, he married JANE MURRAY, a dancer who was the daughter of famous dancers ARTHUR and KATHRYN MURRAY (their original last names were Teichman and Kornfelder, respectively). The Heimlichs had two sons and two daughters. Jane died in 2011, age 86. A Cincinnati friend, who was long friends with one of the Heimlich daughters, tells me that the doctor and his wife were very nice people—quite nice to him (religious they weren’t). Fun fact: ANSON WILLIAMS ("Potsie" on "Happy Days") is widely reported to be Dr. Heimlich's nephew. In a 2014 memoir, Willliams said that they are actually 2nd cousins, but are very close, and he called Dr. Heimlich "Uncle Henry." Williams got Dr. Heimlich on the "Merv Griffin Show" in 1974. The doctor demonstrated his maneuver and that was a huge boost to national awareness of the technique.


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