(22W3) Jewish Roots of Mike Nichols’s The Graduate

March 2nd, 2022, 8:00 pm - 9:15 pm

Recording of this class is at https://youtu.be/PkTgEuwZ2YE.
Beverly’s website:  www.beverlygray.com
Beverly’s blog: www.beverlyinmovieland.com

The names of Beverly’s books (available from your local bookstore or online from Amazon)
           Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers
           Ron Howard: From Mayberry to the Moon . . . and Beyond
           Seduced by Mrs. Robinson: How ‘The Graduate’ Became the Touchstone of a Generation

Movies often tell us a great deal about the minds from which they spring.  In 1967, when Broadway director Mike Nichols agreed to adapt an obscure comic novel into a Hollywood film, he didn’t realize he’d be tapping into his own subconscious memories of being a young refugee from Nazi Germany. Through his bold artistic choices, notably the casting of a very unlikely Dustin Hoffman (instead of the more obvious Robert Redford) to play his “golden boy” hero of The Graduate, Nichols found himself exploring on-screen what it means to be a Jew within a WASP culture. In picking an ethnic outsider to be his Benjamin Braddock, Nichols sparked initial resistance within Hollywood, but the passionate enthusiasm with which the youth of America greeted the film’s leading character went on to transform the movie industry’s attitude toward casting and much else. Since movies have always been such a distinctly American art form, one whose Jewish origins have generally been played down, it seems important to take note of the shift in casting standards that now allow Jewish actors to play leading roles without hiding their ethnic identity.

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Beverly Gray has spent her career fluctuating between the world of the intellect and show biz. As she was completing her doctorate in Contemporary American Fiction at UCLA, she surprised everyone (including herself) by taking a job with B-movie legend Roger Corman. At down-and-dirty New World Pictures, she edited scripts, wrote publicity material, cast voice actors, supervised a looping session, and tried her hand at production. She collaborated with such rising directors as Joe Dante, Jonathan Demme, and Paul Bartel, and thought up the twist ending to a cult classic, Death Race 2000.

Leaving New World for academia, Beverly jumped at the chance to pursue her interest in American Jewish literature and culture. Her first teaching job was at the Los Angeles branch of Hebrew Union College, where she introduced rabbinical students and others enrolled in the School of Jewish Communal Service to the richness of Jewish-American immigrant fiction. Later, after another stint with Roger Corman, she covered the entertainment industry for the Hollywood Reporter, while also serving as education editor for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Now she concentrates on writing books and on leading advanced screenwriting workshops for UCLA Extension’s world-renowned Writers’ Program.

Beverly’s published work includes Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers, a best-selling independent biography of her former boss, now an updated third edition.  Her second showbiz biography is Ron Howard: From Mayberry to the Moon . . . and Beyond.  For the last eleven years, she has maintained a popular twice-weekly blog, “Beverly in Movieland,” ruminating on movies, moviemaking, and growing up Hollywood-adjacent. In celebration of the landmark film’s 50th anniversary, Algonquin recently published Beverly’s latest book, Seduced by Mrs. Robinson: How “The Graduate” Became the Touchstone of a Generation   ,   This investigation of The Graduate’s legacy has attracted national attention, including an interview with Robert Siegel on All Things Considered and numerous rave reviews. For more information about her eclectic career, check out www.beverlygray.com