How Much Do You Know About…Jews In Pop Culture

January 23, 2020

Barbra_Streisand_My_Name_is_Barbra_television_special_19651. Carole King, Neil Diamond, Burt Bacharach, and many other successful Jewish song-writers churning out hit after hit in the 50′s and 60′s, all spent time writing songs in this iconic NYC location.

Answer: A. The Brill Building. The Brill Building’s name has been widely adopted as a shorthand term for a broad and influential stream of American mainstream popular song (strongly influenced by Latin music, traditional black gospel, and rhythm and blues) which enjoyed great commercial success in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s. Many significant American and international publishing companies, music agencies, and recording labels were based in New York, and although these ventures were naturally spread across many locations, the Brill Building was regarded as probably the most prestigious address in New York for music business professionals during this period.

2. Director Steven Spielberg is the top-grossing box office director of all time. True or False?

Answer: True. Grossing over $10 trillion over his career, Speilberg is the only person who has been thanked in more Oscar acceptance speeches than God. The director of 33 movies and the producer behind countless more, Speilberg has been thanked 43 times at the Oscars, while God has received 42 mentions since 1966, according to a 2017 report by Quartz.

3. Which of these films had Jewish writers, Jewish producers, a Jewish music score writer, and a Jewish director?

Answer: B. Casablanca. Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic film directed by Michael Curtiz based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison’s unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick’s. The film stars Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid. Set during World War II, it focuses on an American expatriate who must choose between his love for a woman and helping her and her husband, a Czech resistance leader, escape from the Vichy-controlled city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Germans.

Warner Bros. story editor Irene Diamond convinced producer Hal B. Wallis to purchase the film rights to the play in January 1942. Brothers Julius and Philip G. Epstein were initially assigned to write the script. However, despite studio resistance, they left to work on Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series early in 1942. Howard Koch was assigned to the screenplay until the Epsteins returned a month later. The music was written by Max Steiner, who was best known for the score for Gone with the Wind.

4. Which of these female Hollywood superstars is not of Jewish descent?

Answer: B. Audrey Hepburn

5. Who wrote the most popular Christmas song “White Christmas” and the most popular Easter song “Easter Parade”?

Answer: Irving Berlin. Irving Berlin was an American composer and lyricist, widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history. His music forms a great part of the Great American Songbook. Born in Imperial Russia, Berlin arrived in the United States at the age of five.

6. When West Side Story was first conceived in 1949 Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, and Arthur Laurents set their story on the east side of Manhattan and gave it the working title East Side Story. They planned to stage the conflict between rival Catholic and Jewish groups. True or False?

Answer: True. West Side Story began life as East Side Story. It was Jews and Catholics fighting it out over Passover. One researcher was how did show go from East Side Story to West Side Story? Original correspondence between Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins has statements like “What if Tony were Polish instead of Italian?” emphasizing the fact that it would make him lighter. It is possible the show changed from East Side to West Side because there wasn’t enough of a color difference between Jews and Catholics. Racial conflict depicted more of the tension they wanted.

From the Lower East Side to Hollywood: Jews and American Popular Culture with Dr. David Brenner begins on Tuesday, February 11 at 1:00.