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Entertaining America: Jews, Movies, and Broadcasting

Overview

Entertaining America is a captivating look at one of the longest-running and most provocative public discussions in America: the relationship between the nation's Jews and its entertainment media. This colorfully written, lavishly illustrated book surveys how Jews have participated in--and been identified with--American movies, radio, and television from the nickelodeon era at the turn of the twentieth century to the present day.

Throughout, the tone is lively, the design is ...

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Overview

Entertaining America is a captivating look at one of the longest-running and most provocative public discussions in America: the relationship between the nation's Jews and its entertainment media. This colorfully written, lavishly illustrated book surveys how Jews have participated in--and been identified with--American movies, radio, and television from the nickelodeon era at the turn of the twentieth century to the present day.

Throughout, the tone is lively, the design is playful, and key points are visually enhanced by stills, publicity photos, and memorabilia. This anthology of original analyses and primary texts covers a wide range of topics, including the multiple versions of The Jazz Singer, the saga of the Hollywood movie moguls, the irrepressible Goldbergs of radio and television fame, the representation of the Holocaust, how Charlie Chaplin and other non-Jewish stars became "virtual Jews," and the dazzling success of the television series Seinfeld. There is also an illustrated gallery of more than twenty Jewish-American stars from Theda Bara to Adam Sandler.

The principal authors, J. Hoberman and Jeffrey Shandler, examine not only the history of Jews in the industry but also the steady stream of richly varied voices that have had something to say about this history--in fan magazines as well as literary fiction, by religious and political leaders as well as journalists, historians, and Jews in the entertainment business themselves.

Entertaining America, which accompanies an exhibition opening at The Jewish Museum, is itself tremendously entertaining while providing the most expansive, authoritative look at this fascinating subject. In its pages, readers will find ample material to help them formulate their own responses to this frank, contentious, multilayered discussion.

EXHIBITION SCHEDULE

The Jewish Museum, New York

February 21 - September 14, 2003

The Jewish Museum of Maryland, Baltimore

October 16, 2003 - January 18, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times - Grace Glueck
A thought-provoking read.
Los Angeles Times - Richard Schickel
Acculturation, driven irresistibly by the mass media, was inevitable in 20th century America. Entertaining America . . . is very good, and subtle, on this subject. It demonstrates that Jewishness was one of the givens of early movies and broadcasting—not exactly flaunted but not entirely avoided either.
Cineaste - Art Simon
What emerges from this book is a persuasively intelligent case that the relationship between Jews, the movies, and broadcasting goes well beyond entertaining America. Without simplifying any of these key terms, the authors have produced a work that should speak simultaneously to a general and specialized reader.... Keenly aware of their place within this century long debate, the authors have produced not just the latest but also the best installment yet. . . . [T]hey do a remarkable job of both synthesizing existing scholarship and breaking new ground.
Jewish Chronicle - Elaine Ives-Cameron
[A] meticulously researched and gorgeously illustrated volume. . . . It's a brilliantly written, superbly informative work.
From the Publisher

"A thought-provoking read."--Grace Glueck, New York Times

"Acculturation, driven irresistibly by the mass media, was inevitable in 20th century America. Entertaining America . . . is very good, and subtle, on this subject. It demonstrates that Jewishness was one of the givens of early movies and broadcasting--not exactly flaunted but not entirely avoided either."--Richard Schickel, Los Angeles Times

"A sumptuous read and a visual treat."--Library Journal

"What emerges from this book is a persuasively intelligent case that the relationship between Jews, the movies, and broadcasting goes well beyond entertaining America. Without simplifying any of these key terms, the authors have produced a work that should speak simultaneously to a general and specialized reader.... Keenly aware of their place within this century long debate, the authors have produced not just the latest but also the best installment yet. . . . [T]hey do a remarkable job of both synthesizing existing scholarship and breaking new ground."--Art Simon, Cineaste

"[A] meticulously researched and gorgeously illustrated volume. . . . It's a brilliantly written, superbly informative work."--Elaine Ives-Cameron, Jewish Chronicle

New York Times
A thought-provoking read.
— Grace Glueck
Los Angeles Times
Acculturation, driven irresistibly by the mass media, was inevitable in 20th century America. Entertaining America . . . is very good, and subtle, on this subject. It demonstrates that Jewishness was one of the givens of early movies and broadcasting—not exactly flaunted but not entirely avoided either.
— Richard Schickel
Cineaste
What emerges from this book is a persuasively intelligent case that the relationship between Jews, the movies, and broadcasting goes well beyond entertaining America. Without simplifying any of these key terms, the authors have produced a work that should speak simultaneously to a general and specialized reader.... Keenly aware of their place within this century long debate, the authors have produced not just the latest but also the best installment yet. . . . [T]hey do a remarkable job of both synthesizing existing scholarship and breaking new ground.
— Art Simon
Jewish Chronicle
[A] meticulously researched and gorgeously illustrated volume. . . . It's a brilliantly written, superbly informative work.
— Elaine Ives-Cameron
Library Journal
Published in conjunction with New York City's Jewish Museum, this lavishly illustrated anthology collects original essays and primary texts about Jews in American entertainment. Since the days of the nickelodeon, the industry has had a strong Jewish presence, and most of the Hollywood moguls were at least cultural, if not religious, Jews. Editors Hoberman (senior film critic, Village Voice) and Shandler (Jewish studies, Rutgers Univ.) introduce each of the book's five sections and contribute essays, along with Maurice Berger, Ben Singer, and Judith Thissen, among others. Discussed are early luminaries like Theda Bara and cowboy hero Bronco Billy Anderson (n Aronson), as well as performers who were not actually Jewish but who were thought to be by many or who had a Jewish "sensibility," foremost among them Charlie Chaplin. In other media, radio's Gertrude Berg ("Molly Goldberg"), Al Jolson, and shock jock Howard Stern are also given their due. Less known are the personalities who toiled in Yiddish-language films and radio. Almost anything of interest is given at least a brief mention, including the Holocaust, anti-Semites like Father Coughlin, and TV's "New York" Jews. A sumptuous read and a visual treat, this is highly recommended for public libraries and university arts collections. [The exhibit "Entertaining America" will be at New York City's Jewish Museum through September 14 and will then move to the Jewish Museum of Maryland in Baltimore, where it will stay until January 18, 2004.-Ed.]-Roy Liebman, California State Univ., Los Angeles Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691113029
  • Publisher: Jewish Museum, New York
  • Publication date: 3/4/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 8.98 (w) x 11.06 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword 8
Acknowledgments 10
Introduction: Entertaining "Entertaining America" 11
Nickelodeon Nation
Introduction 15
The Nickelodeon Boom in Manhattan 23
Charles Steiner and the Houston Hippodrome 28
The First "Jewish" Superstar: Charlie Chaplin 34
Virtually Jewish 40
Moguldom
Introduction 45
Hollywood's Jewish Question 47
On The Jazz Singer 77
The Jazz Singer: A Chronology 84
Putting Blackface in Its Place 93
An American at Home, a Jew on the Air
Introduction 101
The Media That "Speak Your Language": American Yiddish Radio and Film 104
Goldberg Variations: The Achievements of Gertrude Berg 113
The Goldbergs: A Chronology 124
Religion, Democracy, and Radio Waves: The Eternal Light 130
Our Show of Shows 144
Star Gallery
Introduction 151
Theda Bara 152
Bronco Billy Anderson 153
Fanny Brice 154
Eddie Cantor 156
Sylvia Sidney 158
The Marx Brothers 159
Betty Boop 164
Superman 166
Bess Myerson 167
Paul Muni 169
Judy Holliday 171
John Garfield 173
Shelley Winters 176
Danny Kaye 178
Marilyn Monroe 182
Sammy Davis, Jr. 189
Anne Frank 192
Barbra Streisand 196
Dustin Hoffman 198
Roseanne 199
Howard Stern 201
Adam Sandler 203
Stand-Up Jews
Introduction 205
Exodus: Real to Reel to Real 207
Flaunting It: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood's "Nice" Jewish (Bad) Boys 220
At Home on the Small Screen: Television's New York Jews 244
American Media and the Holocaust 258
The Virtual Rebbe 264
Bill Clinton, Hollywood President: A Chronology 268
Not the Last Word: A Conversation 274
Notes and Timeline 280
Selected Bibliography 316
Contributors 320
Index 323
Text and Illustration Credits 332
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