Jewish Stars 10/16

Spike Jonze, left, and Maurice Sendak collaborate on the film version of “Where the Wild Things Are.” Photo by Lance Bangs

Catching up with Members of the Tribe in the public eye. Names of Jewish stars are in boldface.

Wild things

The film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic 1963 children’s book Where the Wild Things Are hits movie theaters on Fri., Oct. 16. Sendak, 81, the Brooklyn-raised son of Jewish immigrants, is one of the most acclaimed children’s authors of our time. He has frequently stated that his Jewish background and the Holocaust have greatly influenced his work.

The director is Spike Jonze, 39, who deftly managed to turn Charlie Kaufman’s almost surrealistic screenplays for “Adaptation” (2002) and “Being John Malkovich” (1999) into hit films. Sendak was so impressed with “Malkovich” that in 2000, he asked Jonze to turn Wild Things into a film. Various problems bedeviled their efforts, and it took a decade to bring the movie to theaters. For the last five years, Jonze has worked almost full-time on “Wild Things.”

Born Adam Spiegel, the director’s friends nicknamed him Spike Jonze when he was a teenager because of his unkempt, spiky hair. He has some Jewish background, but he’s never discussed it. His father, a medical company consultant, is a great-grandson of the Jewish founder of the famous Spiegel catalogue company. It’s unclear, however, whether either (or both) of Jonze’s parents is Jewish.

By the way, the founder of the Spiegel company, Chicagoan Joseph Spiegel, was the son of a German Jewish rabbi who came to the U.S. in 1848. Joseph and his brother Marcus fought for the Union during the Civil War. They served together, and Joseph was present when his brother was killed on the battlefield. The Spiegel family sold its catalogue business to a German conglomerate in 1972, and no members of the family still work for the company.

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