Jews in the News: William Shatner, Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest

On March 22, WILLIAM SHATNER turned 90. But his star still burns bright and his trek goes on. His latest film, “Senior Moment”, opens in theaters and on-demand on Mar. 26. Shatner stars as Victor, a retired NASA test pilot whose license gets taken away after he's found speeding in his vintage Porsche convertible with his best friend (Christopher Lloyd of “Back to the Future” fame).

Victor’s life changes as he finds himself trying to get around by riding the bus, spurring his meeting with the beautiful free-spirit Caroline (played by Jean Smart, 69, a star of “Designing Women”). Victor and Caroline have very different lifestyles and, Smart says, “they have to negotiate their romance.” But, she added, “they [end up] filling each other’s gaps.”

Shatner postponed a 90-year-blowout celebration until this summer, when things will (we hope) be much better. He’ll celebrate at a museum near Syracuse, New York that houses a hand-built, precise replica of the Enterprise bridge. Festivities include a $1,500-a-ticket gala dinner with Shatner himself.

It’s hard to get a “read” on the Jewish ties of comedian/writer/filmmaker CHRISTOPHER GUEST, 73, and his wife of 36 years, actress JAMIE LEE CURTIS, 62. So, when I stumbled on a Feb. 2021 viral interview that the couple gave to the “JLGB”, I thought I’d learn much more than I did. But there were “nuggets”. The JLGB is the current name of a UK Jewish youth organization. It was founded in 1895 as the Jewish Lads Brigade by (British army) Colonel ALBERT GOLDSMID (1846-1904). It once had a paramilitary cast, but now it is much like a U.K. version of the B’Nai Brith Youth Organization.  

A very charming teen British girl moderated the interview and asked a few questions. Then Jewish teens from England and Scotland (remotely) asked questions. Only one question was about anything Jewish and I suspect that was part of the interview ground-rules. However, it did illuminate a lot of things about the couple’s personal lives and careers.

The moderator’s very first question (the "Jewish" one) was whether Guest knew that the founder of the JLGB was his great-grandfather, Col. Goldsmid. He said he was aware of that. I suspect that Guest gave this interview to a Jewish organization (his only one to date) because of this familial tie. He has only once (so far as I know) talked about being Jewish. In a 2006 interview with a Jewish newspaper, about his “most Jewish” movie, “For Your Consideration”, he said that his parents were both atheists and he was raised without religion.

Yes, despite his first name, Guest is Jewish. His mother, JEAN, was an American Jew. His father was PETER HADEN-GUEST, the 4th Baron of Haden-Guest. Christopher is the 5th Baron. His lineage is fascinating, and I suspect he knows it all, because one JLGB question prompted him to say that he read something (relevant) in a 200-year-old diary entry by an ancestor of his. If he reads diaries that old, he knows the family history.

Goldsmid came from a historically rich Dutch/English/American Jewish family. He was raised Christian, even though his father and maternal grandfather were born Jewish. One of his ancestors was DAVID FRANKS, an important (American) Revolutionary war officer and a synagogue president.

Goldsmid, a war hero, converted to Judaism and became an important early Zionist. His wife, who also had Jewish ancestry, converted to Judaism, too. His daughter, MURIEL, wed Leslie Haden-Guest (1877-1960), a Labour Party big-wig who was made a baron in 1950. Leslie converted to Judaism when he married Muriel, but “renounced” the conversion after they divorced (he was an atheist). Peter, Christopher’s father, was the 4th Baron, because two of his older brothers held the title before him, but died childless. Women and adopted children can’t inherit the title, so Christopher and Jamie’s two adopted children (ANNIE, 33, and THOMAS, 24) are “excluded”. Guest’s one brother, NICHOLAS, 69, “only” has daughters.

Annie, a top dance instructor, wed a guy named Jason Wolf in 2019. But no clue, beyond his name, whether he is Jewish.

Jamie, too, seems to have been raised without religion. Her father, of course, was TONY CURTIS and her mother was actress Janet Leigh. Tony was a bad father and not very religious, but he did support groups related to the Holocaust. Jamie continues that work and, last month, she was one of many actors who provided the “voice” of survivor testimonies in new videos made by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (JLGB and USMM videos on Youtube). 


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