Sore Winners? Complaints About Oscar Academy Exhibit On ”Hollywood’s Jewish Roots”
06/11/2024
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From the New York Times news section:

Amid Outcry, Academy Museum to Revise Exhibit on Hollywood’s Jewish Roots

When the museum first opened, it was criticized for omitting Hollywood’s Jewish pioneers. Now it is under fire for what its new exhibit says about them.

By Robin Pogrebin
Reporting from Los Angeles

June 10, 2024

When the popular Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened in 2021 with exhibits celebrating the diversity of the film industry

What racial diversity of the film industry during its golden age? James Wong Howe? Leo Carillo? Dolores del Rio? Hattie McDaniel? Granted, 2021 was during the Racial Reckoning lunacy, but, c’mon, there was virtually no racial diversity in Hollywood during its first couple of generations.

, the museum was criticized for having largely omitted one group: the Jewish founders of Hollywood.

Last month, the museum aimed to correct that oversight by opening a permanent new exhibition highlighting the formative role that Jewish immigrants like Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer played in creating the American film industry.

But the exhibit mentions unwoke stuff the moguls did, like making the first talkie, 1927’s The Jazz Singer, with Al Jolson in blackface.

I wonder whether it lets slip how movies were more feminist in the D. W. Griffith era of the Teens, when Mary Pickford teamed up with Griffith, her husband Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and Charlie Chaplin to found their own studio, United Artists and be their own moguls. But when the Jewish-dominated studio system came to dominate in the 1920s, the moguls didn’t have much patience with pushy dames like Pickford and Gloria Swanson. Billie Wilder’s 1950 movie Sunset Boulevard reflects the mid-century moguls attitudes toward these uppity old dames who used to be their own bosses before we got things organized.

But the new exhibition, which turns a sometimes critical eye on Hollywood’s founders, ignited an uproar. An open letter that a group called United Jewish Writers sent to the museum on Monday objected to the use of words including “tyrant,” “oppressive,” “womanizer” and “predator” in its wall text, called the exhibit “antisemitic” and described it as “the only section of the museum that vilifies those it purports to celebrate.”

The exhibit calls Harry Cohn (1891-1958), the Columbia supremo, a “tyrant and predator,” which is not the worst thing anybody ever said about him. Budd Schulberg wrote in 1958:

Yes, deader than Harry Cohn, who ran Columbia Studios like a concentration camp and whose final rites, conducted on a sound stage and playing to a full house, inspired the classic obituary, “You see, when you give the people what they want …”

Like Cohn’s funeral, they’ll turn out in vast numbers.

Quote Investigator says this joke was first made up by George Jessel in 1941 about an unnamed powerful nogoodnik.

Of course, most of the memorably awful things said about Hollywood Jews were said by other Hollywood Jews.

In response to the growing outcry, the Academy Museum said in a statement Monday that it had “heard the concerns from members of the Jewish community” and that it was “committed to making changes to the exhibition to address them.”

“We will be implementing the first set of changes immediately—they will allow us to tell these important stories without using phrasing that may unintentionally reinforce stereotypes,” the museum said.

The museum announced the changes just before receiving the open letter, which was signed by more than 300 Hollywood professionals. “While we acknowledge the value in confronting Hollywood’s problematic past, the despicable double standard of the Jewish Founders exhibit, blaming only the Jews for that problematic past, is unacceptable and, whether intentional or not, antisemitic,” said the letter. “We call on the Academy Museum to thoroughly redo this exhibit so that it celebrates the Jewish founders of Hollywood with the same respect and enthusiasm granted to those celebrated throughout the rest of the museum.” …

“This is not unconscious bias, this is conscious bias,” one of the signers, Lawrence Bender, who produced Quentin Tarantino’s films, said in an interview. “It feels like a hatchet job on the Jews.”

The exhibition, which opened last month, drew on the work of Neal Gabler, who wrote the well-respected “An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood.”

It’s a good book.

… But negative responses soon emerged amid heightened sensitivity about antisemitism in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the war in Gaza. TheWrap reported on growing criticisms last week, and a piece in Los Angeles Magazine headlined “Hiding in Plain Sight: How the Academy Museum Relegated Hollywood’s Jewish Founders to the Ghetto,” reported that Alma Har’el, an Israeli American film director who had served on the museum’s inclusivity committee, resigned after touring the exhibition.

Some critics took issue with what they saw as the exhibition’s implication that Hollywood’s Jewish pioneers had discriminated against other marginalized groups as a way to assimilate, noting its discussion of blackface in “The Jazz Singer.”

“Nothing is said of D.W. Griffith’s or Walt Disney’s infamously racist depictions or questionable leadership methods,” Keetgi Kogan, a Hollywood writer and producer, wrote to the museum. “It is only the Jewish founders who are accused of oppressive control, of being white washers, tyrants, womanizers, predators, social climbers, and of course, racists.”

Well, the most famous book about the behind the scenes history of Hollywood is entitled An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, so … with great power comes great responsibility, as Stan Lee liked to say.

The controversy over the exhibition came to a head two weeks after the Academy announced that the museum’s director and president, Jacqueline Stewart, would be stepping down. Stewart, a film historian and the recipient of a 2021 MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, will return to the University of Chicago, where she is a professor.

Stewart is one of the countless incompetent black women who got Peter Principled into high-powered jobs during the Racial Reckoning and are now being quietly put out to pasture.

[Comment at Unz.com]

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