The Jewish Experience in American Film

Marc Lapadula – Yale University

Produced shortly after World War II, and extremely controversial for their time, films like Crossfire and Gentleman’s Agreement startled audiences by provocatively portraying the plight of Jewish individuals dealing with the challenges of assimilating into mainstream American life. Tackling social issues like anti-Semitism, accomplished film directors embedded poignant themes of the Jewish American experience into movies that general audiences enthusiastically embraced. Issues of integration, discrimination, social justice, the plight of the underdog and the unique articulation of Jewish humor are explored in a number of dramatic as well as comic clips from films such as The Jazz Singer, Crossfire, The Young Lions, Gentleman’s Agreement, Julia, and The Birdcage.