Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson
with daughters Roberta (left) and Katherine
Ponders Price For Wife
LI HERSCHEL WALLACH, who died in New
York on June 24 at age 98, was expected to follow his brother and
two sisters who became school teachers. After he earned a
master’s degree in education from the City
College of New York, he shocked his
Polish Jewish immigrant parents, Abraham and Bertha,
when he announced he’s going to become an actor instead.
Growing up in the Italian Red Hook section
of Brooklyn, Eli Wallach used to cast a prying eye on the shady
characters who would hang out at his father’s confectionary,
Bertha’s Candy Store.
When he made a name for himself as a
tough-guy character on the screen—a Mexican bandit in The
Magnificent Seven, a Mafia don in The Godfather: Part III— he based
those unsavory roles on the crude customers at his father’s store.
He observed the ganbgbanger culture and skillfully managed numerous
vile screen roles in the years ahead.
As a founding member of Lee Strasberg’s
Actors Studio, he learned Method acting—in which you immerse body
and soul into the essence of the person you’re portraying—and became
one of Hollywood’s outstanding character actors. He was the go-to
guy if you were casting villainy.
His first TV role came in 1949 in an
episode of The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse. In 1945 he
triumphed on Broadway in Tennessee Williams’s The Rose
Tattoo, for which he earned a 1951 Tony Award as best supporting
actor. In 1953 he was back on Broadway in another Tennessee Williams
play, Camino Real. For his 1956 screen debut he portrayed a
terrifying seducer in Baby Doll, also written by Tennessee Williams.
Eli did numerous performances with Anne
Jackson, from an Irish family in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They
met in 1946 while performing in a Tennessee Williams play, This
Property Is Condemned.
Two years later, while working in a
Broadway revue, Make Mine Manhattan, they decided to get married.
Eli said, "That day we came to Sardi’s. Everybody kept sending us
manhattans." Anne said, "I was the drunkest bride." They had three
Acting became a family trade in 1978 as
daughters Roberta and Katherine joined their parents
in The Diary of Anne Frank in Toronto. Roberta portrayed Anne;
Katherine played Anne’s older sister. In an interview Roberta told
me that "this was the first time in the history of the play that an
actual family played the Frank family." (Except for her brother
Peter, who was making animated commercials.)
Asked if he encouraged his kids to go into
the business, Eli would say, "Would you push your child off a
bridge? You have to be crazy! You have to love this more than
anything. It is not fair; it is frustrating."
On Eli’s first visit to Israel, with Anne
("a lapsed Catholic") and his agent Peter Witte, a street
vendor in Bethlehem tried to sell him pictures of the holy sites.
"No thanks," Eli said. "I have my own Nikon and I’ll take my own
The vendor looked at Anne and said, "I’ll
give you 10 sheep and 10 camels for her."
As Eli reflected on a proper response, his
agent exclaimed, "Take it! Take it! I get 10 percent."
Danny Kaye came from his Broadway show
Two By Two to congratulate Lauren Bacall on the first
anniversary of her Broadway musical Applause
at a party in 1971, at the Americana Hotel in New York
Makes Hollywood Debut
Amidst Anti-Jewish Slurs
AUREN BACALL, a leading lady of
Hollywood’s golden age died on August 12 at 89 in her home in New
York. Although she lived in a decidedly gentile atmosphere she never
forgot where she came from.
Actually she came from the Bronx where she
was born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924. Her mother was
Natalie Weinstein-Bacal, a Romanian
Jewish immigrant; her father was
William Perske, born in New Jersey to Polish Jewish parents.
Betty is a first cousin of Shimon Peres (nee Szymon
Film director Howard Hawks
discovered the sultry blond siren as a
17-year-old cover girl on Harper’s Bazaar in 1943. He brought
her to Hollywood and changed her name to Lauren. In the following
year she made her screen debut in Hawks’ To Have and Have Not,
opposite Humphrey Bogart. She was hot. They named her
The Look, for her tendency to pose seductively — chin down and eyes
Bacall could seduce with just a look, and
that’s just what happened—the two stars sizzled on and off screen
and married in 1945. She called him Bogie; he called her Baby. They
were paired in four films and spawned two children, son Stephen
Humphrey Bogart and daughter Leslie Howard Bogart.
Bogart had the children christened in his
Episcopalian church. He wanted to spare them the indignity of
growing up in a world not particularly friendly to Jews. Bacall told
a reporter in 1994 that Hawks used to make anti-Semitic remarks "and
I didn’t know what to do. I was so young and scared and I guess I
didn’t have enough character."
As she matured, she became her own person.
She was independent, determined to make a success of her life, and
proud of her heritage. In an appearance on the Phil
Donohue television talk show in 1980, she was asked her
religious preference. "I have lots of faith and conviction," she
answered. "I’m Jewish…I don’t practice the religion…I believe in it,
though. I mean I believe in Israel…Now, at last, I’m very glad that
I’m Jewish. I wasn’t always, but I am now."
The 12-year mixed marriage with Bogie came
to an anguished end in 1957 when he succumbed to throat cancer. She
was devastated, but not for long. Along came Frank Sinatra,
captivated by Lauren’s husky voice and sensual looks. But Ol’ Blue
Eyes broke off their brief engagement in a huff when the press got
wind of it. Lauren fled into the arms of Jason Robards Jr. in
1961, gave birth to a son, actor Sam Robards, and divorced in
1969 after eight years of marriage.
Bacall concludes her 2006 memoir, By
Myself and Then Some, with these
heart-felt words: "Going back through my life until now, the Jewish
family feeling stands strong and proud, and at last I can say I am
glad I sprang from that. I would not trade those roots – that
Announced She’s The Only
Baptist In The Country
HE actress and singer, born Nellie
Paulina Burgin in 1930 in Knoxville, Tenn., died at age 84 on
Sept. 20, 2014. She appeared in many films, memorably in the
thriller Cape Fear (1962) opposite Gregory Peck and
Robert Mitchum. She earned her only Emmy award in 1957 for her
portrayal of singer Helen Morgan in Playhouse 90. She
received an Emmy nomination twice for her role as Rhoda Henry, the
wife of Capt. "Pug" Henry (played by Mitchum) in the ABC miniseries
The Winds of War (1983), and its sequel War and
At an L.A. press conference in 1988 she
told critics how her role as Rhoda felt so unnatural.
"Rhoda serves something in every scene.
She is the typical woman of her time, always serving something to
somebody, her husband, her children, her lover."
That’s not me, she insisted.
"No, I am not a servant. I cook only two
meals a year, Thanksgiving dinner and at Christmas time—for 30 to 40
people. Two meals I absolutely cook myself."
Polly married and divorced three times.
First there was Jerome Courtland, 1950-55. Then came talent
agent Freddie Fields, 1956-73. Last was Jeffrey Endervelt,
During her devotion to Fields she
converted to Judaism. Rabbi Hershel Lavin officiated at
Temple Beth Shalom in Flushing, Queens, N.Y., after which she
exclaimed, "I’m the only Jewish Southern Baptist in the country."
Her grandfather was a Baptist minister in Knoxville.
ROBIN WILLIAMS Nina and I were
thrilled to meet the acclaimed actor/comedian at a Weizmann
Institute of Science dinner in 1996 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New
York. You can tell how eager he was to see my new book, Jewish
Celebrity Anecdotes. (We all were.)
JOAN RIVERS Born1933 in
Brooklyn as Joan Molinsky; died Sept. 4, 2014, at age 81, the
funniest female comedian of our time. I snapped her quite a few
times, this one at the Friars testimonial for Larry King in 2011 in
New York. I remember many of her lines over the years, such as "I’m
Jewish. If God had wanted us to exercise he would have put diamonds
on the floor for us to pick up," and "I gave my husband a heart
attack. We were making love and I took the paper bag off my face."
ON VACATION EL AL Israel
Airlines was excited to welcome Vanessa Williams on a recent flight
to Israel with her daughter, Sasha. Williams has been recognized for
her roles in Soul Food, Dance with Me, and Johnson
Family Vacation. From 2006 to 2010, she played a former
supermodel in the ABC comedy series Ugly Betty, for which she
received three Emmy award nominations. In 2009 she released her
eighth studio album, The Real Thing, and from 2010 to 2012
she starred in Desperate Housewives.
NOW HE’S A MAN Michael Douglas
and wife Catherine Zeta Jones and11-year-old daughter Carys Zeta
came to Jerusalem in July to continue the celebration of son Dylan
Michael’s bar mitzvah. Haim Shkedi, general manager of the King
David Hotel, welcomed Hollywood’s royal family and escorted them to
the Presidential Suite. On their to-do list was a tour of the
tunnels under the Western Wall.
NO INTERVIEWS PLEASE In what
was termed a "private visit" (translate: I wanna be left alone),
Jesse Eisenberg checked into the high-end Dan Tel Aviv for a spell.
Deputy guest relations manager Marina Chernai whisked the Hollywood
star to the luxury suite overlooking the placid Mediterranean. As we
all know, Jesse earned a Golden Globe award and an Academy Award
nomination for his portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in
The Social Network (2010).
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