New on the big screen, Bad news, good news, Passings

New on the big screen

The new Davis Guggenheim documentary “Waiting for Superman” (opens Friday, Oct. 8) is a hard-hitting look at the failures of the inner-city public education system. Like Guggenheim’s Oscar-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” his new film has stirred up much discussion and controversy.

The director is the (secular) son of a Jewish father, the late documentary maker Charles Guggenheim, and a non-Jewish mother. A few years ago, Davis, 47, visited Israel for the first time on a government-sponsored cultural trip and expressed his admiration for Israel’s vibrancy.

In “Secretariat” (Friday, Oct. 8),  Diane Lane plays the woman who took over Meadow Stables from her ailing father (Scott Glenn, 69) and, with the help of a veteran trainer (John Malkovich), bred Secretariat and turned him into a champion.

Glenn’s most famous roles include the FBI agent who supervised Jodie Foster in “The Silence of the Lambs” and the evil, mechanical bull–riding cowboy that Debra Winger hooked-up with in “Urban Cowboy.” Glenn converted to Judaism in 1967, shortly before marrying his wife, artist Carol Schwartz.


Bad news, good news

As you may have heard, “Lone Star,” the critically acclaimed Fox drama starring James Wolk, was canceled after two episodes due to low ratings. It’s a shame the network didn’t give the show a fair chance. Wolk, 25, a gorgeous guy from a religious Michigan home, also co-starred in the recent film release “You Again.” His first cousin is Oakland’s Julie Wolk, co-founder of Wilderness Torah.

On the bright side, I was able to confirm that Ben Rappaport, the handsome young star of the new NBC comedy series “Outsourced” (Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.) is Jewish. Ben’s parents belong to a Reform synagogue in his hometown near Houston. The show is about an American running a call center in India.



The hit AMC show “Mad Men” began its new season with a quirky new secretary, Ida Blankenship, who quickly became a fan favorite. Sadly, Ida unexpectedly died at her desk in the Sept. 19 episode. Blankenship was played by veteran actress Randee Heller, 67, who is best known for playing the mom in the original “Karate Kid” movie. Heller says she crafted Blankenship’s New York Jewish accent from her memory of her Yiddish-speaking grandparents’ accents.

In the course of 11 days in late September, four major Jewish entertainment talents died: screenwriter Irving Ravetch, 89; singer Eddie Fisher, 82; film and stage director Arthur Penn, 88; and actor Tony Curtis, 85.

I thought Carrie Fisher was incredibly generous when she described her father as a “mensch” after his death. He really wasn’t much of a mensch in terms of being a father. But it was very “menschy” of Carrie to say so.

When I heard Curtis died, I thought of a statement he made in one of his memoirs: “I was the best looking Jewish kid, ever.” And he may have been right.

Ravetch, and his now widow, Harriet Frank, penned some of best movies of the last 40 years, including “Hud” and “Norma Rae.” I always loved one particular exchange between Norma Rae (a Southern mill worker) and a Jewish union organizer. Rae, who had never met a Jew before, came to the conclusion that Jews are no different from anyone else and tells the union man so. But he retorts that Jews are different, for one reason: “History.”

Penn had his hits and misses, but two of his films, “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Little Big Man,” were incredibly influential and groundbreaking works.

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes the "Celebrity Jews" column for J.