Herman Mankiewicz, the Great Scriptwriter of Hollywood’s (Jewish) Golden Age

The recent film Mank tells the story Herman Mankiewicz, known in Hollywood circles by his eponymous nickname, whose work as a screenwriter includes The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Citizen Kane (1941). But it remains a matter of dispute how much of the latter script is Mankiewicz’s work, and how much is that of the film’s director and lead actor Orson Welles, whose name is much better remembered. As Jesse Tish writes, Mankiewicz’s frustration with this particular situation summed up his general dissatisfaction with his career:

“Millions are to be grabbed out here,” [in Hollywood, wrote Mank to the playwright Ben Hecht], “and your only competition is idiots.” [Such] invitations to “Eretz DeMille”—the land of Jewish-owned studios—hooked serious authors and playwrights. He was of their kind: success, for Mankiewicz, meant Broadway, not half credit on some blockbuster.

For Mank, everything was material, and not just for his future plays. In the 1930s, Mank haunted [William Randolph] Hearst’s lavish estate, gathering intel for future scripts (he would pour it all into Citizen Kane in 1940). He was also peddling a book, Twenty Years Among the Gentiles, chronicling his pith-helmeted adventures in Christian America. And he was drinking.

Being ignored and rebuffed, [as scriptwriters often were], had an upside: it fostered camaraderie among writers and inspired one thousand blistering jokes about studio heads. This class warfare—the mockers vs. the makhers—provides [Mank’s] best material.

Its mise-en-scène, that bustling 30s Hollywood, is beautifully rendered. It’s a Jewish Hollywood, familiar from Neal Gabler’s An Empire of Their Own. (Virtually all the writers and producers are Jewish. The two Charlies, Lederer and MacArthur, are the token goyim, straining to get a word in.)

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewish History, Film, Hollywood

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount