At the movies
“The Founder,” opening Jan. 20, tells the true story of Ray Kroc, a traveling salesman who met the McDonald brothers in Southern California in the 1950s. He was impressed with the brothers’ speedy system to make hamburgers and convinced them to let him franchise McDonald’s, eventually maneuvering himself to take over the company and create the world-famous fast-food empire. A mostly favorable Hollywood Reporter review praised Michael Keaton’s performance as Kroc. However, it said the film stumbled as it sought to portray Kroc’s transition from an amiable visionary into a much more rapacious capitalist. B.J. Novak, 37 (“The Office”), has a large supporting role as Harry Sonneborn, a critical Kroc financial adviser.
The film’s director, John Lee Hancock, is known for two sunnier biopics (“Saving Mr. Banks” and “The Blind Side”). For this film, he enlisted Robert D. Siegel, 45, to write the screenplay. Siegel’s prior films did capture much grittier subjects than Hancock is known for — Siegel wrote “The Wrestler,” about a washed-up pro wrestler, and wrote and directed “Big Fan,” about an obsessed football fan. Before his film career, from 1993 to 2003, he was chief editor of the Onion, the satirical website and newspaper.
In 2004, Siegel’s Jewish wedding to voiceover actress Jen Cohn, 44, merited a full profile in the New York Times and a follow-up profile in 2010. I smiled as I read Siegel’s explanation of their son’s name. He told the Times that the boy, Mickey Sender Siegel, 8, was not named after “The Wrestler” star Mickey Rourke. Rather, he said, the name has “a kind of swagger … he could become a bank robber, or a comedian in the Catskills. If he’s a bass player, he can be Mick Sender. If he runs a bank, he can be M. Sender Siegel, and if he’s a gossip columnist or sportswriter, he can be Mickey Siegel.”
Over on Netflix
The 2004 film version of “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” starring Jim Carrey, was a box-office flop. But the eight-episode version of the same hit book series, which began streaming on Netflix on Jan. 13, has garnered good reviews. Lemony Snicket is the pen name of San Francisco novelist Daniel Handler, 46.
“One Day at a Time,” the ’70s sitcom starring the late Bonnie Franklin as a single working mom of two teen daughters, has been rebooted with some changes. The family is now Cuban American. The series centers on Penelope, a recently separated former military mom who is raising a teen daughter and a tween son with the aid of her immigrant mom and her building manager (Oscar-winner and Berkeley resident Rita Moreno plays the grandma). Veteran character actor Stephen Tobolowsky, 65, plays Dr. Berkowitz, a widowed doctor whom Penelope works for. She keeps his office in order and sometimes his personal life, too — because, as the media notes say, “Dr. Berkowitz is often a ‘sweet disaster.’ ” It’s also hinted that Berkowitz may become grandma’s love interest. The 13-episode first season began streaming on Jan. 6.
A little about Dr. Maneuver
The inventor of the Heimlich maneuver, Dr. Henry Heimlich, died on Dec. 17 at 96. Here are some details not in most obits. The son of immigrants, Heimlich became a thoracic surgeon and, in 1969, became head of surgery at Cincinnati’s Jewish Hospital. In 1951, he married dancer Jane Murray, the daughter of famous dancers Arthur and Kathryn Murray (their original last names were Teichman and Kohnfelder, respectively). Jane died in 2011 at 86. A Cincinnati friend, who was a longtime friend of one of Heimlich’s two daughters, tells me that the doctor and his wife were not religious and were very nice people. Fun fact: Anson Williams (Potsie on “Happy Days”) is widely reported to be Dr. Heimlich’s nephew. In a 2014 memoir, Williams said they are actually second cousins but are very close, and he called Heimlich “Uncle Henry.” Williams arranged for Heimlich to appear on “The Merv Griffin Show” in 1974 and demonstrate his life-saving maneuver, a huge boost to national awareness of the technique.