What does it mean to be the descendant of a pioneer Jewish Hollywood mogul?
A fierce pride in family history; a knack for storytelling; the ability to ferret out pretense, suck-ups and fair-weather friends (aka Hollywood survival skills); and a squandered fortune.
Memories of my lovingly tough-as-nails Wurtzel family elders continue to reverberate through the generations.
For all these reasons when I previewed the elaborate new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in September 2021 and found no meaningful mention of Hollywood’s Jewish founders, I felt betrayed. My ghosts of Hollywood past agitated for action. I heard their call and wrote an essay for The Forward, a legacy Jewish publication based in New York, that went viral and became a cause cèlébre.
The essay made a difference. Movie moguls Haim Saban and David Geffen read it. Comedians Sarah Silverman and David Baddiel tweeted it. Television provocateur Bill Maher referenced the issue in his “Real Time” monologue.
In April 2022, the Museum announced plans to mount its only permanent exhibit featuring Hollywood’s Jewish founders. The exhibit, to be called “Hollywoodland“, is scheduled to open in 2023.
I hear my Hollywood ghosts kvelling (Yiddish for expressing pride) and demanding further action – a full-length treatment of their lives.
As a keeper of the Wurtzel flame, I’ve spent years maintaining the family archives, investigating and parsing the meaning of our Hollywood legacy. I recently finished a narrative nonfiction manuscript “Ghosts of Hollywood Past: A Wurtzel Family Production” based on my research and lived experience.
Now I’m seeking the right agent to represent me and my ghosts on the path to publication.