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Film

Filmmakers, Independent European

One can perceive the body of work created by women filmmakers in Europe as a testament to the efforts of Jews to re-calibrate community and family in the years following the traumas of World War II. One can confidently look forward to new works by women film artists that reflect the reality of the lives of Jews in Europe today.

Sylvia Fine

Contemporary commentators often ascribed much of entertainer Danny Kaye’s success to his having a “Fine” head on his shoulders. Publicly, his wife Sylvia Fine’s coruscating lyrics supported Danny’s zaniness in such films as Up in Arms (1944), Wonder Man (1945), The Kid from Brooklyn (1946), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), The Inspector General (1949), and On the Riviera (1951).

Filmmakers, Israeli

Women filmmakers who have made a significant contribution to Israeli film, in both the narrative and documentary film genres, have added a particularly feminist perspective to Israeli filmmaking.

Filmmakers, Independent North American

Since the start of the independent movement, American Jews have contributed their share of self-reflective and identity-based work in film and video, and in genres that have ranged from traditional narrative to the most experimental of documentaries. Female Jewish directors have made significant contributions.

Film Industry in the United States

The history of Jewish women’s contribution to the Hollywood film industry has been one of gradual progression toward ever higher levels of participation. For most of Hollywood’s history, the dominant tendency was to achieve a universal image that revealed no traces of ethnic heritage. This trend held until the 1960s and affected all ethnic groups. Only a few dozen Jewish actors were able to make their way into stardom under these constraints. Since the 1960s, however, Hollywood films have reflected a higher degree of ethnic diversity. The result of this change is that increasing numbers of Jewish actors have been able to establish careers in Hollywood.

Dorothy Fields

A lyricist and librettist whose work embraces the bouncy optimism of “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” the brassy seductiveness of “Hey, Big Spender,” and the tender musings of “The Way You Look Tonight,” Dorothy Fields wrote the words to more than four hundred songs in a career that spanned half a century.

Phoebe Ephron

Phoebe (Wolkind) Ephron was born in the Bronx on January 26, 1914, to Louis Wolkind, a manufacturer, and Kate (Lautkin) Wolkind. She had one brother, Harold Wolkind. A graduate of James Monroe High School and Hunter College, she met Henry Ephron in 1933, while both were summer camp counselors. Shortly after, Henry Ephron proposed to her. “I expect to be a good playwright soon and I have no time for courtship,” he declared. “Let me read one of your plays,” replied his future wife. For nearly forty years, Phoebe and Henry Ephron were literary collaborators, cowriting successful Broadway plays and Hollywood films, and had four daughters, Nora, Delia, Amy, and Hallie. Their first play, Three’s a Family (1943), was based on the experiences raising their firstborn, Nora Ephron. Soon after, they moved to Los Angeles and cowrote the scripts for many major motion pictures, including There’s No Business Like Show Business, Carousel, and Captain Newman, M.D., which was nominated for an Academy Award. Desk Set, the 1957 movie starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, secured their screenwriting success.

Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron has used her refreshing wit, biting sarcasm, and ability to make the mundane entertaining to write her way into the lives of millions. Heeding her mother’s advice that “everything is copy,” Ephron draws upon her own experiences—childhood dreams, anxieties about her flat chest, and her two divorces—in her articles, books, and screenplays.

Louise Dresser

Louise Dresser was a celebrated singer in vaudeville and musical comedy, as well as a star in early motion pictures. She adopted the stage name of Louise Dresser after the songwriter Paul Dresser, an acquaintance of her father, encouraged her to use his name as a strategy for her to gain greater recognition on stage. This ruse, along with several of Paul Dresser’s famous songs, indeed improved Dresser’s drawing power in vaudeville, and she was often believed to be the sister both of Paul Dresser and novelist Theodore Dreiser (Paul Dresser’s brother). Known largely for her rendition of Paul Dresser’s song “My Gal Sal,” she also sang his “On the Banks of the Wabash.”

Maya Deren

For a woman who was to transform film, it is fitting that Maya Deren was born in Russia in 1917, during the birth of the Revolution.

Born Eleanora Derenkowsky in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 29, 1917, the only child of Marie (Fiedler) and Solomon David Derenkowsky, she was named after Eleanora Duse, the eminent Italian actor.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Film." (Viewed on December 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/film>.

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