James Freedman’s homage to the pioneering film maker, Carl Laemmle, is a heartfelt tribute to one of the great Jews of early Hollywood. Laemmle, who was only 5-foot-2 and a humble immigrant from Germany, became a world class brawler early in the 20th century.
He took on Thomas Edison and Edison’s early partners in the movie industry and ran them out of business. In doing so, he became among the first of a long line of Jewish entrepreneurs who made Hollywood, as it’s been described, an empire of their own.
Later in the 1930s, he plunged into the much bigger job of taking down Hitler in Nazi Germany, or at least trying to save as many of Germany’s Jews as he could.
As it was, he worked tirelessly to rescue more than 300 families from the jaws of the Nazi death machine. He was able to do all that because of his great success as the founder and head of Universal Studios.
But that all pales in comparison to the real-life drama that Laemmle created for himself as an oversized Jewish hero saving his people from Nazi Germany. Unlike many of his contemporaries in Tinsel Town, he did it all without changing his name, changing his nose or changing his religion.
Bob Bahr is with the Center for Media and the Moving Image and frequently lectures on film and modern society and regularly contributes to the AJT.