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"Adam Baum and the Jew Movie"

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Upstairs in the same playhouse, we have Adam Baum and the Jew Movie by Daniel Goldfarb, who may well be a lesser Jonathan Tolins, who is a lesser . . . and so forth. We have here yet another Hollywood satire whose butt is Samuel Goldwyn, caricatured as Sam Baum. Baum's ambition is to produce a movie about anti-Semitism before his rival Darryl F. Zanuck, a gentile, gets out Gentleman's Agreement. But Sam, a good Jew and even better American, wants his anti-anti-Semitic movie written by a gentile to satisfy both goyim and assimilated Jews. To this end, he hires Garfield Hampson Jr. (Joke: "I've hired you because you're the best goyishe writer in Hollywood." "I'm the only goyishe writer in Hollywood.") Hampson is forbidden -- in June 1946 -- to mention World War II, and must not make the movie too Jewish, which drives a fellow who had boned up on Judaism nuts, especially since Sam hasn't even read his entire screenplay. (Joke: "I just finished reading half your script all the way through.")

The third character in this undernourished play is the bar mitzvah boy, Adam Baum, gentle son of Sam, obliged to play straight man to both Sam and Hampson, which young Adam Lamberg valiantly executes. With Christopher Evan Welch's Hampson, he is not up against much, but what a Herculean labor faces him in the Sam of Ron Leibman. Leibman is the kind of actor (if, indeed, there exists more than one) who can overact even when he has nothing to say or do. But give him the tiniest scrap of dialogue or business and he will chew, worry, hector, wheedle, claw, rant, and, above all, shred whatever is around faster than the latest-model shredder. In a 108-seat theater, this is like letting not a mere bull but a rogue elephant loose in a china shop. Whatever is not reduced to smithereens by flying body and limbs is decimated by sheer decibels.


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