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The American Jewish Story through Cinema

By Eric A. Goldman

Publication Year: 2013

By analyzing select mainstream films from the beginning of the sound era until today, this groundbreaking study uses the medium of cinema to provide an understanding of the American Jewish experience over the last century.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Jewish Life, History, and Culture


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface. Film as Haggadah: Toward a Better Understanding of America’s Jews

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pp. ix-xvi

There is growing recognition that feature films can be considered an important primary source for the study of twentieth-century life and our time. Since the birth of cinema, filmmakers have been providing us with films that reflect the world in which they live, and their work often affords great insights into the prevailing attitudes of that universe. ...

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1. Introduction: A Century of American Jewish Life

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pp. 1-16

Throughout the early years of cinema, the first decades of the twentieth century, Jewish moviemakers focused largely on stories of successful assimilation into American society. As Neal Gabler asserted, “The grand theme of Hollywood, both in terms of films and in terms of the lives of its moguls, is idealized assimilation.”1 ...

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2. The Jazz Singer: Out of the Jewish Ghetto (The 1920s)

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pp. 17-49

In 1883, twenty-six-year-old Binyumen kissed his wife Perele Leah and said good-bye to his two children, Anna and Hershele. According to his granddaughter Cass Warner Sperling, he was preparing to leave his shtetl of Krasnashiltz in the Pale of Settlement, hoping to make his way safely to the German border and from there to the port of Hamburg. ...

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3. Gentleman’s Agreement and Crossfire: Films That Took on Anti-Semitism in 1947 (The 1940s)

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pp. 50-96

Two years after World War II, Twentieth Century-Fox released Gentleman’s Agreement, a well-anticipated movie that focused on the question of social anti-Semitism in America. Although the film was championed by Darryl F. Zanuck, its crusader producer, most in Hollywood were fearful about its reception by American audiences. ...

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4. The Young Lions: Guaranteeing Acceptance (The 1950s)

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pp. 97-124

Irwin Shaw’s The Young Lions is considered one of the best novels about World War II of the immediate postwar period. At the time of publication, it joined Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead, a book that also dealt with the war, on the bestseller lists. Shaw, a New York City native and Brooklyn College graduate, ...

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5. The Way We Were and The Prince of Tides: Barbra Streisand and the Evolving American Jewish Woman (The 1970s and 1980s)

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pp. 125-151

The Barbra Streisand phenomenon looms large in the annals of twentiethcentury popular culture. Hers is the story, set in the late 1950s, of an unabashed sixteen-year-old Jewish woman who, after graduating high school, left Brooklyn for Manhattan in search of a dream. ...

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6. Avalon and Liberty Heights: The Spirit of Family—Remembering Better (The 1990s)

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pp. 152-180

In Avalon, a highly acclaimed film released in 1990, audiences and reviewers alike saw a saga of Jewish immigrants who arrived in America as part of the great wave of European newcomers during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Initially, writer-director Barry Levinson emphatically repudiated that Avalon was a film about the immigrant experience. ...

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7. Everything Is Illuminated: A New Direction in Film—Searching for a Usable Past (The 21st Century)

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pp. 181-202

In Everything Is Illuminated, Liev Schreiber’s 2005 narrative film drawn from the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, a young American Jewish adult travels to Ukraine in search of identity and self-understanding. Both the twenty-five-year-old Foer and Schreiber, a dozen years older, had a grandparent that led each to a journey ...


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pp. 203-224

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 225-232

Selected Filmography

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pp. 233-234


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pp. 235-246

E-ISBN-13: 9780292744318
E-ISBN-10: 0292744315
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292744301
Print-ISBN-10: 0292744307

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 76 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Jewish Life, History, and Culture