Jews in the News: Natalie Portman, Jonah Hill and Abe Vigoda

“Tribe” Woman on the Frontier and Caesar

Opening last Friday, Jan. 29, was “Jane Got a Gun”. NATALIE PORTMAN, 34, stars in this Western as a married ranch woman who has to enlist the help of a former lover, whose heart she broke (Joel Edgerton), to help protect her and her young daughter. “Jane” had a lot of backstage mishigosh—the director was replaced, the small studio behind it went bankrupt, and its release was long stalled. All this hurt the movie, and it may not be released in a theater near you until Feb. 4 or later. Bottom line: reviews say the acting is good, but the story is so/so.

Portman does, however, join the select few Jewish actresses who played a tough Western woman: SHELLEY WINTERS in the great 1950 western “Winchester 73”; LAUREN BACALL in “The Shootist” (1976); HAILEE STEINFELD, 19, in “True Grit” (2010); Oscar-nominee JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, 53, in “The Hard 8” (2015); and FRANCES FISHER, 63, in “The Unforgiven” (A 1992 Oscar-winning film directed by Clint Eastwood, the father of her daughter, actress Francesca Eastwood, 22.)

I only recently found out that Fisher’s father was Jewish (her mother was not).  Her father’s family tree was posted on, an ancestry site, by attorney RANDOL SCHOENBERG, 49. Fisher played Schoenberg’s Jewish mother in “The Woman in Gold” (2014).  As you may recall, Schoenberg won (2006) the case (depicted in “Woman in Gold”) that returned the famous painting, “Adele Bauer-Bloch I” to its Jewish family heir. He had to wrest it away from the Austrian State Gallery, whose possession was based on Nazi theft. Schoenberg is also a family history expert and a Geni volunteer curator.

 “Hail Caesar!” is a comedy set in the 1930s that is reminiscent of the screwball comedies of that era. Like many ‘30s screwball comedies, it has some musical numbers.  George Clooney stars as a big star actor who is kidnapped and Josh Brolin co-stars as the guy hired by the studio try to find him. Tribe members with major supporting roles include SCARLETT JOHANSSON, 31, JONAH HILL, 32, and ALDEN EHRENREICH, 26, in what may finally be his breakout role. He co-starred in “Beautiful Creatures” (2013), a big-budget “sure hit” that turned out to be a big flop. (Directed and written by JOEL COEN, 61, and ETHAN COEN, 58; it opens Friday, Feb. 5).

By the way, Jonah Hill’s brother, agent JORDAN FELDSTEIN, now 38, wed Francesca Eastwood, then 19, in Las Vegas in 2013 after the couple, who had only been dating a short time, had too much to drink. The marriage was annulled after a week. (Everybody in showbiz is connected, somehow-- and Feldstein is Hill’s original last name).

Odd, But True Corner

DANIEL “Harry Potter” RADCLIFFE, 26, has been dating actress Erin Darke, 29, since 2013. They met while filming a movie.  A recent reference to their dating lead me to learn that Darke is a Flint, Michigan native and her parents still live in that “in the headlines” city. Michigan papers reported that Radcliffe visited Flint in December 2014. He toured the town, ate at local places, and—oy, vey--- presumably drank the lead-filled water (no comment about the Flint crisis from him, yet).

Who didn’t love ABE VIGODA, who died on Jan, 26, age 94? I certainly did. In the last two decades, I wondered if Vigoda was “genetically lucky” to live so long. After all, while he looked healthy in “The Godfather,” he certainly was haggard looking playing Detective Fish in “Barney Miller”. Turns out his unhealthy “Fish persona” was an act. His co-star, HAL LINDEN (“Barney”), now 84, spoke to the NY Daily News shortly after Vigoda’s death. Linden said that Vigoda exercised regularly and shortly after the “Miller” series began, they played a game of handball “and he handed me my ass.”

An “AP” obit said that Vigoda’s exercise regimen and quick acerbic wit helped him get the Detective Fish role. Here’s what the AP wrote: “An exercise enthusiast, Vigoda had just returned from a five-mile jog when his agent called and told him to report immediately to the office of Danny Arnold [who was Jewish], who was producing a pilot for a police station comedy. Arnold remarked that Vigoda looked tired, and the actor explained about his jog. ‘You know, you look like you might have hemorrhoids,’ Arnold said. ‘What are you — a doctor or a producer?’ Vigoda asked. He was cast on the spot.'”


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