Foster Hirsch loves movies with passion and enthusiasm. A professor of film, commentator, interviewer, historian, author and critic, Hirsch is at heart a lover of movies who translated that passion into a 40-year teaching career in the film department at Brooklyn College.
He also gives illustrated lectures on cinema to the general public. On January 6, Hirsch will visit the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island for the third time for its Jewish Touch lecture series. He will share research for his latest book (forthcoming, Knopf), which examines Jewish comedy in ’50s in Hollywood.
Hirsch has 16 books on theater, film personalities, impresarios and genres under his belt, and has a solid academic pedigree and 45 years of teaching experience to support that, with “no plans to retire.”
Speaking with JTNews from his home in New York, Hirsch recalled in his resonant voice, “I always loved going to movies, since I was a kid.”
He is a fan of drama and comedy, but comedy, he says, “was not good in the ’50s. In the ’30s there were great screwball comedies. Nothing like this in the ’50s. Danny Kaye, Judy Holliday and Jerry Lewis were all Jewish, [but] they weren’t allowed to play ethnic types. They ‘read’ Jewish but their characters are not Jewish.”
Hirsch’s lecture material is original, says program chair Joyce Rivkin, who originally booked Hirsch back in 2010. “He tailor-makes it [for our audience].”
Rivkin says she “discovered Foster while I was researching who could lecture on Woody Allen for our 2010 series. I knew he had written a book on Allen so I had a feeling he could deliver a comprehensive lecture — and I was right.”
At that lecture, Hirsch gave a full perspective of both Allen’s comedies and more serious films.
When he returned last year, he gave “a fascinating lecture on Hollywood and the movies of the Holocaust,” Rivkin said. “This will be his third season with us and I have no doubt he will be as entertaining and informative as before.”
The program has proved itself with JCC members. “The Jewish Touch series has become very popular and our audience base is growing,” Rivkin says. “I think it’s important for the world to know the fabulous contribution Jews have made to the arts and I like to think this series somehow enriches the soul.”
Later in January, after his appearance at the SJCC, Hirsch will head down the coast to Los Angeles where he’ll host the American Cinematheque tribute to actor Martin Landau, with a screening of “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”