"Plain Vanilla" Entertainers

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Posted ByGerry O. on June 30, 2002 at 22:58:54:

In Reply to: Re: Was Jack a practicing Jew posted bykurt on June 29, 2002 at 22:25:01:

This is a very interesting discussion!

During the 1930's and 40's, while racial and ethnic stereotypes were rampant in various forms of entertainment, most of the big-name superstars DID seem to be "neutered" when it came to their national and/or religious origins.
Even Frank Sinatra...an entertainer who really played up his Italian heritage during the 1960's, 70's and 80's...displayed almost NO signs of it during his "crooner" years of the 1940's.
During the 40's, the skinny Frank's public image was about as Italian as Kenny Baker!

: It was the custom, especially in the 1930s, to "deracinate" a star whenever possible. Ethnicity and religion were subjects to be lowercased, lest an entertainer get pigeonholed as ethnic, and therefore narrow his/her appeal and subsequent bankability.

: This is what the movie studios tried with Eddie Cantor, and there were even several memos on that topic. His roots were to be portrayed as Russian, not Jewish.

: Why do you think Samuel Goldwyn decided to give Danny Kaye blond hair for the movies? He seemed less Jewish that way.

: Entertainers who broke out of their ethnicity to reach the widest possible audience received special adulation in those days. Benny was Kaye's idol for that reason.

: Benny's image was so far removed from religion that, writer Milt Josefsberg recalled, when the show staged the "I Can't Stand Jack Benny Because..." write-in contest in 1945, they braced for a slew of anti-Semitic letters, they actually received very few.

: Jack also stressed his Midwest roots. Were he from the Lower East Side of New York, he probably would have said little about that.

: It was a different time, folks.


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