“The Tevye That Never Was” is a work of short fiction that takes us to Hollywood at the dawn of a new age. The year is 1928. Film director King Vidor is riding high on the release of his masterpiece, “The Crowd.” But he’s in a quandary about what toMore“The Tevye That Never Was” is a work of short fiction that takes us to Hollywood at the dawn of a new age.
The year is 1928. Film director King Vidor is riding high on the release of his masterpiece, “The Crowd.” But he’s in a quandary about what to do next—the ever-present dilemma of a director.“The Jazz Singer” has made it clear the silent era is coming to an end- the motion picture as he knows it is dead. Then Vidor stumbles upon Max Davidson—a little Jewish comedian with a salt and pepper beard—and decides to star him in a film version of Sholem Aleichem’s stories about Tevye the milkman.The director has the backing of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer producer Irving Thalberg, but first he has to go to the mat with studio head Louis B.
Mayer. It’s going to be a tough sell.In the bonus story, “The Burns and Allen Chanukah Special,” comedy writer Larry Gelbart pitches George Burns an idea for a TV show. But it’s 1964—Gracie Allen is retired, and no amount of talk or money will change her mind.Besides, Burns doesn’t do Jewish material. That’s the secret of his success. Everyone knows he and many of his fellow entertainers—Jack Benny, Groucho Marx, Milton Berle—are Jewish but they don’t flaunt it.Author Jordan R. Young is a film and show business historian whose “King Vidor’s The Crowd: The Making of a Silent Classic” was acclaimed “one of the best film books of 2014.” Other books include “Spike Jones Off the Record,” “Reel Characters” and “The Laugh Crafters: Comedy Writing in Radio and TVs Golden Age.” His plays have been produced in Hollywood and Off Off Broadway.