Remembering Israeli Movie Mogul Menahem Golan
Menahem Golan, the flamboyant Israeli film producer who died at age 85 on August 8 in Jaffa, had more than 200 films to his credit. Along with his cousin Yoram Globus, the Golan-Globus partnership out-Hollywooded Hollywood with such international blockbusters as “Death Wish II” and “Delta Force“ starring Chuck Norris, Lee Marvin, Lanie Kazan and Shelly Winters, with Golan as co-writer and director. When I met Golan at a November 19, 1986 private reception at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel following the kick-off gala dinner of the fourth annual Israel Film Festival, Golan-Globus owned 600 movie screens in Europe, including 40% of the market in Britain. Their next ambitious and expensive project at that time was the $24 million “Superman IV.”
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Photo: Getty Images
After keeping the press waiting, the 6-foot-plus Golan breezed in with an entourage. The room was packed with Jewish and Israeli press and included Festival founder and producer Meir Fenigstein and Israel’s then consul general in New York, Moshe Yegar. Promised arrivals were Chuck Norris, Shelly Winters and Lou Gossett.
Reporters peppered Golan with questions about the still hot issue of the October 11-12 1986 Reykjavik Summit between Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. president Ronald Reagan. Cornered in an upholstered chair and struggling to control his irritation, Golan diplomatically evaded the issue and instead homed in on his own arena. Yes, he said, Jerusalem is now the center for filmmaking in the Middle East. Yes, the films reflect the realistic and political system in Israel…. integration with Arabs and Arabs living with Jews. Yes, he felt his films were as good if not better than those produced in Hollywood.
“Have you done anything about a script for Reykjavik?” a reporter persisted. Golan replied he had nothing planned but there was always “a possibility.” The reporter — with over-the-top chutzpah — pulled out a sheaf of papers from his inside jacket pocket and thrust it in his face. “Why not look over my script I have here about Reykjavik,” he said to a dumfounded Golan who curtly replied: “I’ll look at it.” Nearby someone whispered in Yiddish “dos past nisht” (it’s unseemly).
During my chat with Golan I told him how much I enjoyed his 1979 I.B. Singer-inspired film “The Magician of Lublin,” starring Alan Arkin in the title role and his 1968 “Tevye and His Seven Daughters.” Our conversation was cut short as Chuck Norris and his wife Dianne entered the suite. Abandoning Golan, the reporters, like a school of sardines, turned en masse and rushed at the celebrity pair. Shelly and Gossett were no-shows. As soon as Norris left the room, the press headed for the elevators leaving Golan alone.
As I was putting on my coat I overheard Golan say to another man in the corner of the room: “I want to buy your CNN New for Israel and Europe… Israel has a second channel…” A deal Golan style: No phone call, no conference, no memos. You got — I want. Spotting me in the doorway, Golan cocked his head to the side with a look that implied “mum’s the word.” I nodded and headed for the elevator.