Tag Archives: The Great Depression

All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business Book Review

The word “genius” is often thrown around without anything to back it up. One of the few people who can legitimately be given that title is Mel Brooks. He has made audiences laugh for 70+ years, taking comedy in a direction that few have dared to.

His new autobiography, All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business, was released last November. The youngest of four boys, Brooks was born to a Jewish immigrant family in 1926. Raised in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn by his widowed mother, he grew up during the Great Depression and served his country during World War II. After the war, he joined one of the greatest comedy writing teams of all time as a co-writer of Sid Ceasar‘s Your Show of Shows.

Married to actress Anne Bancroft for five decades, Brooks directed (and in some cases starred in) such classics as Young Frankenstein, To Be or Not To Be, The Producers, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, History of the World: Part I, etc. Telling his story as only he can, Brooks reveals his heart, his humor, his work ethic, and his acute ability to use laughter to delve into topics that many would not dare to touch.

In his mid 90’s, he has more energy and gusto many are half his age. It was an incredible insight into a man who has made generations of audiences laugh. What I loved was the revelation of the man behind the jokes. He reminds me of someone’s old uncle who is not quite politically correct. They know that they are crossing the line. But it is not out of spite or to cause trouble. It’s to make the audience laugh and while they are laughing, perhaps think about the message behind the joke.

As I read the book, two things jumped out at me. The first was that there was no mention of his first wife and not a lot of time focused on his older children. The second is that he refers to almost every woman first by her looks and then by her talent. Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s a generational thing. I get that it could be construed as a compliment, but I would rather be known for my abilities first and my looks second.

Other than that, do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business is available wherever books are sold.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Judaism, Movies, New York City, Star Wars, Television

Flashback Friday: Of Mice and Men (1992)

When a book is adapted into a movie, the results can be mixed. The best of these films brings the novel to life while remaining true to the original content.

In 1992, an adaptation of the John Steinbeck novella Of Mice and Men hit theaters. Starring Gary Sinise and John Malkovich, the movie follows two nomadic ranch workers in California looking for work during The Great Depression. George Milton (Sinise) is the brains of the outfit. Lennie Small (Malkovich) has a good heart, but he is not the brightest bulb in the box.

Directed by Sinise, this is one of the best book to film adaptations I have ever seen. It holds up to the source material while entertaining the movie-going audience.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Thoughts On International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day.

Instead of writing about women that we all know about, I want to talk about the women who I have come from.

My mother, coming of age during the second wave of feminism in the 1960’s and 1970’s. As an adult, she balanced work, marriage and motherhood. Granted, it was a not easy at times, but to watch my mother do it all was and still is awe-inspiring.

My grandmothers, first generation Americans and members of the Greatest Generation. Born during WWI, growing up during the Great Depression and coming of age during World War II, they understand perseverance in the face of hardship.

My great-grandmothers, born in the shtetls and towns of Eastern Europe. They faced poverty and discrimination at every turn. They came to America, looking for the freedom and opportunities that did not exist in the lands of their birth. They worked in sweatshops and lived in crowded tenement buildings. They fought for their rights as women and workers. It was not paradise, but their fortitude and courage paved the way for future generations.

I am proud to have these women in my family tree.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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Mary Poppins Returns Movie Review

The 1964 film, Mary Poppins is an unadulterated classic. Starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, the film (based on the books by P.L. Travers) has entertained multiple generations of fans.

The new film, Mary Poppins Returns, opened yesterday.

The sequel takes place in Depression era London. Jane and Michael Banks (Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw) are now grown. Jane is single and works in the labor movement. Michael followed in his late father’s footsteps and works for the same bank that his father did. But life is not all that they hoped it would be. Michael is a recent widower with three young children. After the death of his wife, his financial issues started to become a problem. Then Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returns to their lives. With the help of Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), Mary is more than a nanny to the newest generation of Banks children. Can Mary help them heal as a family and survive their troubles?

All I can say about this film is wow. It is fantastic. Emily Blunt’s performance as Mary Poppins is seamless and absolute perfection. While she pays homage to her predecessor, Blunt makes this character her own. For his part, Lin-Manuel Miranda is the perfect counterpart to Emily Blunt. His accent is also, well, a lot less questionable than Dick Van Dyke’s.

My favorite aspect of this film is that it appealed to both adults and children. It also has a message about resilience in the face of adversity and tragedy. There are also plenty of Easter eggs to please fans of the original film.

I absolutely recommend it.

Mary Poppins Returns is presently in theaters. 

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Filed under History, Movie Review, Movies

The Ordinary Women- Thoughts On The First Day Of Women’s History Month

Today is the first day of Women’s History Month. I could write about women like Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem or even Hillary Clinton.

I’d like to write about something different tonight.

I want to honor the ordinary women who paved the way. The Jane Doe on the street who is just going about her business, who in her own small way, paved the way for the rights and achievements of future generations of women. Specifically, I want to write about the women I come from, my mother and my grandmothers.

My grandmothers were first generation Americans, the daughters of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Coming of age during The Great Depression and World War II, they understood what sacrifice and hardship felt like. My paternal grandmother was a homemaker, my maternal grandmother stayed at home until her youngest child was of an appropriate age, then she went back to work. My grandmothers were intelligent, capable, loving, strong. Both of my grandmothers (and my grandfathers as well), are long since deceased, but the legacy they left will live on.

My mother is a baby boomer. Born in an era when gender lines were clear and not to be crossed, her generation demanded equality and would not stop until they had it. The revolution they started in the 1960’s and 1970’s, my generation is continuing. My mother proved that it was possible to have a husband, raise healthy and happy children, while sustaining a full time career.

I come from amazing stock. Without these women, I would not be the woman I am today. Every woman deserves the chance to succeed and every woman who is successful stands on the shoulders of the women, famous or ordinary, paved the way for her.

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The 9/11 Generation

The last three generations have seen profound and world altering change. My grandparent’s generation watched the world change due to The Great Depression, World War II and the attack at Pearl Harbor. The idyllic world of the 1950’s that my parents grew up in were forever shattered by the assassination of JFK and The Vietnam War.

My generation will be forever defined by one day: September 11th, 2001.

Anyone who knows me (or has read this blog) knows that New York City is in my blood and my bones. My family has been here for over 100 years. My immigrant great-grandparents came to this city and to America to escape the poverty and the oppression of Eastern Europe. Though not without its challenges, this city and her people gave my ancestors the start they needed to provide for future generations.

On September 11th, 2001, New York City was dealt a blow that nearly crippled her and her people. Coming of age in a post 9/11 world has forever changed my generation. We see the consequences of hate and prejudice. We also see the beauty of people coming together and seeing each other not as labels, but simply as human beings.

Where I currently work is very close to the 9/11 Memorial. Most of the time, I don’t pay attention to how close I am. This week, I could not help but think about how close my office is to where the Twin Towers stood.

Tomorrow is 9/11. We will never forget the lives lost and the emotional scar that will never completely heal.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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