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

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.

Read more at Screen Splits

More about: American Jewry, Film, Theater


Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security