ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
Joan made Yiddish film a box office hit

A PIONEERING filmmaker who directed two of Hollywood’s most Jewish films has died.

Joan Micklin Silver was best known for directing Crossing Delancey, the Lower East Side romcom involving a pickle maker, and Hester Street, an influential low-budget tale about Yiddish-speaking immigrants.

But she was also recognised as one of the only female directors working in Hollywood during the 1970s and 1980s.

After moving to New York in 1967, Nebraska-raised Silver, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, began making short educational films for children.

One was The Immigrant Experience, about Polish immigrants to America.

After working on some film scripts, Silver conceived of her first feature, which picked up on the same Jewish immigrant theme.

Hester Street, which was released in 1975, was based on a story by Abraham Cahan, a socialist writer who helped found the Forward newspaper.

The script’s dialogue was entirely in Yiddish, something that she said turned off Hollywood producers.

Her estate agent husband Ray helped her finance the project, albeit on a low budget.

The film earned rave reviews and earned $5 million at the box office, a significant haul at the time.

Jewish actress Carol Kane — who would later star as Mindy Markowitz in the Amazon Prime hit series Hunters — was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of the protagonist Gitl.

In 1988, Silver directed Crossing Delancey, which was written by Susan Sandler.

Amy Irving starred as a New Yorker detached from her Jewish heritage.

Peter Riegert played her love interest, a pickle man named Sam who represents a more modern incarnation of the Jewish Lower East Side. It remains of Hollywood’s most quintessentially Jewish romances.

Silver also directed several TV films and wrote multiple musicals that were staged off-Broadway.


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