Jews in the News: Zoe Kravits, Jason Segal and Riselle Babette Bain

Catwoman is Jewish, The ‘80s Lakers, Theranos Mess, More

“The Batman” opens in theaters on March 4. There is a long back-story on the production of this new entry in the Batman odyssey. Suffice it to say that it pretty much a “new start” for the Batman series. So many “new starts” probably would have surprised BOB KANE (1915-1998), who created the Batman comic character.

 The Caped Crusader is played by Robert Pattinson (“Twilight Saga” films). As the film opens, billionaire Bruce Wayne has already “become” Batman, but is not yet a seasoned crime fighter. Here’s the basic plot:   Batman pursues the Riddler, a major “baddie”. The Riddler (Paul Dano) is a serial killer who targets the elites of Gotham City. While hunting the Riddler, Batman uncovers corruption that implicates his own family. He’s forced to make new allies to catch the Riddler and clean up corruption.

ZOE KRAVITZ, 33, plays the Catwoman, a character “with criminal baggage” who, nonetheless, has often helped Batman. Her “real identity” is Selina Kyle, and in this film, Kyle is a nightclub worker who moonlights as a cat burglar. She chances to meet Batman and her desire to help vulnerable people leads her to ally with Batman. This film will emphasize the Selina part of Catwoman’s life---what “real-life” emotions lead her to help Batman.

Kravitz calls herself a “secular Jew”. Her father, musician Lenny Kravitz, had a Jewish father and an African American, not Jewish mother. (He identifies as a Christian). Zoe’s mother, actress LISA BONET, 54, had a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish, African-American father.

 Kravitz is the first Jewish woman to play Catwoman. However, I will note that African American actress/singer Eartha Kitt, who played Catwoman on the ‘60s Batman TV show, was a huge Israel supporter and recorded some Yiddish songs. Her only child, Kit Shapiro, is married to a Jewish man and I think (but haven’t confirmed) that she converted to Judaism.

 The eight-episode HBO series “Winning Time”: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty”, premieres on March 6. It’s about the “wild ride” of the NBA team during the ‘80s. The Lakers had the great Magic Johnson, a very colorful owner, and the first “hot dancing” cheerleaders.

 JASON SEGAL, 42, plays Lakers coach Paul Westhead. He led the Lakers to a championship in 1980 and was fired two years later after clashing with Magic. ADRIEN BRODY, 48, plays Coach Pat Riley, who replaced Westhead. He led the Lakers to three championships in the ‘80s. (Actresses MOLLY GORDON and LOLA KIRKE appear in much smaller roles.)

 Gaby Hoffman (not Jewish) has a big part as Claire Rothman, the manager of the Forum, where the Lakers played during the ‘80s. Rothman, now about 93, made the Forum a very popular venue for music, sports, etc.  I am 99% sure she is Jewish. But I’m still working on confirming that. I’ll update in the near-future.

 “The Dropout” is a six-episode mini-series that will premiere on Hulu on March 3. The first three episodes will air on the 3rd, with the last 3 shown on successive weeks. It tells the story of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, the now infamous head of the medical company Theranos (which falsely claimed it had a way to test for many conditions with a single drop of blood).

Amanda Seyfried stars as Holmes. The large supporting cast includes STEPHEN FRY, 64, HART BOCHNER, 64, and EBON MOSS-BACHRACH, 44. 

 Fry plays Ian Gibbons, a British bio-chemist who worked for Theranos. Gibbons committed suicide (2013) shortly before he was supposed to testify in a lawsuit about the company’s blood-testing technology. Bochner plays LARRY ELLISON, 77, the billionaire founder of Oracle, the famous software company. Ellison was an early investor in Theranos and his backing helped persuade others to invest in the company.

Moss-Bachrach (“Girls”) has the best role of his career. He plays John Carreyou, the dogged “Wall Street Journal” reporter whose stories about Theranos were critical to exposing the company’s rampant fraud.

By the way, while Elizabeth Holmes is not Jewish, she is a remote descendant of CHARLES FLEISCHMANN (1833-1897), the founder of the famous yeast company that bears his last name. His yeast consistently made bread rise. All Holmes did was deflate investors' hopes.

In my Feb. 17 column, I said that JOANNA MERLIN, 90, was the last living credited actor in "The Ten Commandments" (1956). I was wrong. There are three others, including RISELLE BABETTE BAIN, 75. She played "Young Miriam". She has long been a cantor. Bain has a very interesting life story, which I will share just before Pesach.


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