Hollywood 2024: Jewish Exhibit at Academy Museum Heavily Criticized; Jacqueline Stewart Replaced as Museum Director

A Hollywood history exhibition at the Academy Museum has attracted criticism for highlighting the “sins” of the Jewish immigrants who founded the industry rather than praise their achievements.

Uninspired, Joyless Jewish Exhibit

Lawrence Bender, prominent producer, has condemned the exhibition as “uninspired”, “joyless” and full of bias for its derogatory language about the industry’s leading legends.

He said: “You think ‘Oh, we’re back in the shtetl, we’re back in the ghetto,’” speaking after seeing the Hollywoodland show at the museum owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Ampas), the organizsation behind the annual Oscars.

Lawrence Bender has criticized the exhib as ‘uninspired’ and ‘joyless’ – SAYED HASAN/AFP
Harry Cohn: Tyrant and Predator

Harry Cohn, the co-founder of Columbia Pictures, is accused in information placards of being a “tyrant and predator” who modelled his office after Mussolini’s, “built to intimidate anyone who entered”.

Harry Warner: Frugal and Womanizer

Harry Warner of the Warner Brothers is described as “frugal” and  “womanizer”, while Carl Laemmle, the president of Universal, is called out for nepotism.

Double Standard

“Why did they choose these words?” demands Bender, who produced Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting and Reservoir Dogs, telling Los Angeles Magazine: “Nowhere else in the museum do they talk about anyone’s personal life like that. Why don’t they talk about their love and joy of filmmaking like they do in every other part of the museum? It’s a complete double standard.”
Lawrence Bender compared the exhibition to being ‘back in the ghetto’ – FRAZER HARRISON/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA© Provided by The Telegraph

The criticism was echoed by Patrick Moss, the television writer, who said: “The exhibit is a lazy and insidious condemnation of Hollywood’s founders,” writing in an outraged letter to Ampas: “The focus is not on the founders’ achievements, but on their sins.”

He also said the exhibition was “complicit in the hatred of American Jews, by using anti-Semitic tropes and dog-whistles”.

Alma Har’el, the music video director, wrote to Ampas with accusations of anti-Semitism and resigned from the museum’s inclusivity committee after touring Hollywoodland on opening night.

Ironically, the display had been intended to correct the impression that the immigrant founders of the film industry had been completely written out of the story when the Academy Museum opened in 2021.

The language used in descriptions of famous founders–called  ‘complete double standard’ – VALERIE MACON/AFP
Where Are the Jews?

It prompted the chief executive of America’s anti-defamation league to ask “Where are the Jews?” when he visited, while John Goldwyn, the producer whose grandfather Sam founded MGM, called the omission of the founders’ contribution “an egregious oversight”, adding, “If you’re going to have a museum…that celebrates arguably the most significant art form of the 20th century, how is it possible not to acknowledge the Jewish men who started it all?”

Form of Intellectual Discrimination
Leading donors demanded redress of the fact the industry founders had been excluded, while Marvin Hier, the double-Oscar-winning rabbi and founder of the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, called the omission “a form of intellectual discrimination”, adding, “Without the Jewish leadership in Hollywood, there would be no Hollywood.”

In response, the Academy Museum promised that Hollywoodland, which opened in May, would comprehensively tell the story of several seminal studio heads in the first permanent exhibition in the museum.

Jacqueline Stewart, who just lost her job as museum director, and Dara Jaffe, its curator, have borne the brunt of the criticism for the exhibit.

They claimed that the show would get prominent space in the popular area where visitors had previously paid to be filmed picking up their own Oscars Awards in a simulated ceremony.

Small, Dark Place

But its location has been condemned as small, dark and unimpressive, “up on the third floor where nobody is going to see it.”

AMPAS has acknowledged receiving letters of criticism and promised to “move quickly and thoughtfully” in addressing concerns.


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