Hanukkah in “A Christmas Story”
On Sunday, Dec. 17, at 7PM, Fox will present “A Christmas Story Live!” It’s a three-hour production inspired by the hit 1983 film of (almost) the same name and a hit 2013 Broadway musical version. The musical (music and lyrics) was written by the team of BENJ PASEK and Justin Paul, both 32. They wrote the lyrics for the 2016 best song Oscar winner, “City of Stars.”
“A Christmas Story” is based on short stories by the late Jean Shepherd. It takes place circa 1950 and focuses on Ralphie, who is about ten years old. Funny events involving Ralphie, his friends, and his working class family are sandwiched around the progress of Ralphie’s plan to get a special Christmas present. The story is very secular, and I’d venture to say that most Jews like it as much as non-Jews.
MAYA RUDOLPH, 45, co-stars as Ralphie’s mother. Mrs. Parker. Pasek and Paul wrote several new songs for the special, including a Hanukkah song. The news of the Hanukkah song was broken by Ana Gasteyer, who plays Mrs. Schwartz, the mother of one of Ralphie’s best friends. I’m guessing that the Schwartzes have become Jewish in this re-telling.
MATTHEW BRODERICK, 55, narrates the TV special as the voice of Ralph (Ralphie) as an adult. Broderick’s mother was Jewish and while not religious, he identifies as Jewish. He says the narrator role has special meaning for him because his late father, James Broderick, played Mr. Parker in a 1976 PBS dramatization of some other Shepherd stories.
Getting to Know Timothée Chalamet
Six months ago, he was a virtual unknown. But, in December, “Vanity Fair” called TIMOTHEE CHALAMET, 21, the “breakout” star of the year. In November, he had a big supporting role as a high school student in “Lady Bird,” an acclaimed coming-of-age story. It opened in limited release in November, but great reviews have led to a much wider release this month. Check local theater listings.
In December, Chalamet became a likely Oscar nominee following the limited release of “Call Me by Your Name” (opens wider in January). Set in Italy, Chalamet plays Elio, the 17-year-old son of an American Jewish professor (MICHAEL STUHLBARG, 49) and an Italian Jewish mother. Armie Hammer plays Oliver, an American Jewish college student who comes to the professor’s home to help him with academic paperwork. Oliver and Elio are drawn to each other, partially because they’re both Jewish. A brief romance ensues.
“Lady Bird” won the New York Film Critics association “film of the year” award on December 3, and they gave Chalamet their “best actor of the year” award (for “Call Me”.) The same week, the Los Angeles Film Critics association gave “Call Me” its best film of 2017 award and gave Chalamet their actor of the year award (also for “Call Me”).
Chalamet, who was raised in Manhattan, is the son of a French journalist father and an American Jewish mother. He’s fluent in French. His mother’s brother, RODMAN FLENDER, 55, is a busy producer/TV director. His maternal grandfather, HAROLD FLENDER, was a TV writer.
Chalmet stars in “A Rainy Day in New York,” a WOODY ALLEN film to be released sometime next year, and he recently said that Allen, 82, told him he worked with Harold Flender in the ‘50s. Chalamet also has a big role in “Hostiles,” a Western which will be widely released in January.
In an interview released on December 4, Chalmet described himself as Jewish. His mother has posted photos of the family celebrating Hanukkah and of their about-to-be-used Seder table. His father’s background remains unclear.
By the way, re: background---Chalamet and Hammer played gay or bi-sexual Jewish guys in “Call Me.” Many interviewers quickly noted that Hammer has a (female) wife and elicited from Chalamet that he’s straight. Only one reporter (to date) has asked Chalamet about being Jewish. I guess orientation is a “sexy topic” while religion is not all that exciting.
Correcting the Record
Two weeks ago, I had a rant about SARAH SILVERMAN’s amazingly bleak and wrongheaded description of the current status of Jewish film actresses. I rebutted her with a long list of Jewish (women) Oscar nominees since 1974. I researched and wrote too fast and my list was incomplete. Add these names—Best actress: CAROL KANE, GWYNETH PALTROW, and MARLEE MATLIN (the latter two won); Best supporting: BARBARA BARRIE, LESLEY ANN WARREN, JENNIFER CONNELLY (won), PATRICIA ARQUETTE, LESLIE BROWNE, HAILEE STEINFELD, and KIM STANLEY.