The (Implicitly) Jewish Character Who Serves as the Moral Anchor in “The Women”

Sept. 22 2022

A sensation when it was first staged in 1936, Clare Boothe Luce’s play The Women was made into a highly successful film of the same name three years later. Its portrayal of a well-to-do-woman facing an unfaithful husband on the one hand and a circle of ungenerous and backstabbing friends on the other provides a fairly dim view of the female condition. In his analysis, Michael Weingrad points to a character who stands out from the rest:

The film offers somewhat more possibility for constructive female cooperation than does the play, and the one character who seems to support other women as women and without much in the way of ulterior motive is Miriam [Aarons]. This is interesting since the character’s name indicates that she is the one Jewish character in the film.

Luce had a long history of close and complicated relationships with Jews. Her mother Ann’s longest and most serious romance with any man was with Joel Jacobs, a wealthy Keystone Tires executive. . . . Luce herself was for many years the mistress of the world-famous Jewish financier Bernard (or “Barney”) Baruch; she always hoped he would leave his wife for her. And one of Luce’s closest female friends was the Jewish writer Laura Z. Hobson, whose bestselling novel about anti-Semitism was made into the Academy Award-winning film Gentleman’s Agreement.

Miriam in both play and film may be the closest thing we have to a good character who is not naïve. She is not one of the upper-class characters; she comes from the world of the theater, introduced in the play as “the musical-comedy star.” She is not a servant, like the maid and cook through whose commentary we learn of Mary’s split with her husband, or a worker like Lucy at the Reno ranch who offers homespun counterpoint to the refined neuroses of her wealthy guests. Yet like these lower-class characters, Miriam is able to offer wisdom that can only come from outside the world of the idle and status-obsessed rich.

Miriam is tough, telling Mary in the film: “I come from a world where a woman’s just gotta come out on top or it’s just too darn bad.” But this other “world” that Miriam comes from—signaling Jewish outsider-ness, theatrical hustle, working-class and immigrant roots—seems to spur her towards a compassion and effectiveness combined in no other character. Miriam gets along with the other society women without becoming one of them, and she is the closest thing to a real friend that Mary, or anyone, has by the end of the film.

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Read more at Screen Splits

More about: American Jewry, Film, Theater

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy