Retelling Jewish American Story Through History of Cinema

Scholar Examines 12 Films From 'The Jazz Singer' to 'Avalon'

Look Who’s Talking: ‘The Jazz Singer’ marks the beginning of talking pictures and of Eric A. Goldman’s study of Jewish American cinema. This image was taken on the set of the first version of that film in 1927.
Getty Images
Look Who’s Talking: ‘The Jazz Singer’ marks the beginning of talking pictures and of Eric A. Goldman’s study of Jewish American cinema. This image was taken on the set of the first version of that film in 1927.

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

Published April 18, 2013, issue of April 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Like some of the movies he chooses to focus on, Goldman has a habit sometimes of diving straight into pools of kitschy cliché. Consider how he ends his discussion of “The Prince of Tides”: “What insight does this film provide? America was changing. The Jew once sought acceptance, then assimilation and societal entrée. By the 1990s, the American Jew was firmly entrenched. The Jew, the new person on the block, had finally established residence, and would not move.”

It’s hard to know how anyone can tell the truth in language of this kind. And in “Everything Is Illuminated,” the writing gets still worse, grasping after superlatives that express only banality: “[Jonathan Safran] Foer and his wife, Nicole Krauss… are among a group of contemporary young Jewish writers who are enthralling readers with their artistry. Just as impressive are the effects of a cadre of capable screenwriters and actors like [Liev] Schreiber, who have decided to try their hand at producing and directing Jewish-themed films.”

Enthralling or not, such stories become dull when they’re written about so mechanically. This suggests that Goldman is a far better critic, analyst and historian when he goes looking for fresh discoveries and arguments. When he clicks onto automatic pilot, his readers can go only through the motions of being attentive.

Jonathan Rosenbaum is the author of “Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia: Film Culture in Transition” (University of Chicago Press, 2010).


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.