Oscar's Jewish past: in honor of the Academy Awards, moment looks back at some 'Jewish' best picture winners of yesteryear.

Author:Levin, Sala

* Gentleman's Agreement (1947)

The dashing Gregory Peck built his career around playing men of principle and conviction; To Kill a Mockingbird's Atticus Finch, after all, is a paragon of justice and courage. In Gentleman's Agreement, directed by Elia Kazan, Peck was Phil Green-cum-Greenberg, a gentile journalist who goes undercover as a Jewish man to investigate anti-Semitism in New York and its affluent suburb, Darien, Connecticut--an epicenter of Anglo-Saxonism. The movie, controversial in its time, garnered three Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress and Best Director. Kazan later famously fell out of favor after spilling names--among them Jewish actors--to the House Committee on Un-American Activities.


* Annie Hall (1977)

Woody Allen's Jewish fingerprints are all over this film, from an early scene in which Alvy Singer (Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) squabble over a missed therapy appointment ("Hey," Alvy argues, "I'm comparatively normal for a guy raised in Brooklyn.") to an Easter dinner at the Hall family home in which Alvy, ever the outsider, imagines himself through Grammy Hall's bigoted eyes: a Hasidic Jew, with full beard, black hat and peyot. Neb-bishness reigns throughout the film, which walked away with four Oscars, for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay: Has any cinematic moment ever been more schadenfreude-inducing than Al-vy's cocaine-spewing sneeze?


* Chariots of Fire (1981)

The beach, the music and the white shorts all conspired to make this based-on-fact British film a phenomenon--a phenomenon about running, of all things. Chariots of Fire turned this solitary activity into a source of unlikely camaraderie between Eric Liddell, the son of Christian missionaries, and Harold Abrahams, a young Jewish man and victim of prejudice. The film won four Oscars, including Best Original Score, largely on the strength of its theme song. The composition, with its tinkling piano and lush orchestration, has become synonymous with athletic...

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