Joan Micklin Silver, filmmaker whose first feature, “Hester Street,” expanded the market for American independent film and broke barriers for women under direction, died Thursday at her home in Manhattan. She was 85 years old.
His daughter Claudia Silver said the cause was vascular dementia.
Ms. Silver wrote and directed “Hester street”(1975), the story of a young Jewish immigrant couple from Russia on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1890s. It was a personal effort, a low-budget 34-day location shoot, which became a family project.
The studio said the story was too narrow and historically ethnic. For one thing, most of the film was in black and white, with English subtitles in Yiddish.
“Nobody wanted to release it,” Ms. Silver recalled in a visual history interview for the Directors Guild of America in 2005. “The only proposal was to release it in the Synagogue market on 16,” he said, 16-millimeter film.
Ms. Silver’s husband, Raphael D. Silver, a commercial real estate developer, financed, produced and distributed the film after selling it in some international markets while attending the Cannes Film Festival. “Hester Street” opened in Manhattan’s Plaza Theater in October 1975, then in theaters, and soon grossed $ 5 million (about $ 25 million), nearly 14 times its $ 370,000 budget. (Ms. Silver sometimes cited a lower budget figure: $ 320,000.)
Richard Eider of The New York Times praised the film’s “fine balance between realism and fictitious storytelling” and declared it “an unconditionally happy achievement”. Carole Kane, who was 21 during filming in 1973, was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her role as Gittal, the newcomer’s wife, who’s opinion of her husband (Steven Keats) In, is slow to offend.
“Hester Street” made Ms. Silver’s reputation, but the next time she wanted to portray Jewish characters and culture, the same objections arose.
“Crossing delines“(1988) was a romantic comedy about a sophisticated, single New York bookstore employee (Amy Irving), who is constantly looking over her shoulder to make sure she makes a clean escape from her Lower East Side roots.
With the help of his grandmother (played by Yiddish theater star) Riesel Bozek) And a traditional matchmaker (Sylvia Miles), she meets a neighborhood pickle dealer (Peter rigart) Who possesses enough qualities to be just another good boy (his taste was more in the direction of the bad boy).
The studio also found the film “very ethnic” – “a euphemism,” Ms. Silver told The Times, “for Jewish content that Hollywood officials mistrust.”
Fortunately, at the time, Ms. Irving’s husband, director Steven Spielberg, was himself fond of Jewish history. He suggested that he send the script to a neighbor in East Hampton, NY – a top Warner Entertainment executive. movie More than $ 116 million gross worldwide (approximately $ 255 million today).
It is difficult to say whether Ms. Silver had the most vicious, anti-Semitic or mistaken thinking.
In 1979, in an interview with the American Film Institute, he said, “When I started, studio executives said such erotic things to me. He quoted one man’s memorable comment:” Mounting and distributing feature films is very It’s expensive, and female actors are another problem we don’t need. “
Joan Micklin was born on May 24, 1935 in Omaha. She was the second of three daughters of Maurice David Miklin, who operated a lumber company that he and his father had founded, and Doris (Shosoin) Miklin. Both of her parents were born in Russia – like the protagonists in “Hester Street” – and came to the United States as children.
Joanna grew up in Omaha, then moved east Sarah Lawrence College In Yonkers, NY She married Mr. Silver, known as Ray, in 1956, three weeks after graduation. He was the son of the famous Zioni Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver.
For 11 years, Silver lived in his hometown of Cleveland, where he taught music and wrote for local theater. He moved to New York in 1967, and kept him away from film and theater contacts.
On a chance meeting with Sesame Street co-creator Joan Gange Connie in a political fund-razor, she worked with Learning Gottlieb at Learning Corporation of America. Together they wrote and produced educational and documentary short films, including “The Immigrant Experience” (1972).
Ms. Silver had a love-hate relationship with the film studio. He was one of many writers hired and fired by Paramount to adapt Lois goldNovel of “such good friends” (1971). Her first mainstream screenplay was “Limbo”, written with Ms. Gottlieb, about wives of prisoners of war in Vietnam. Universal Studios purchased the property but rewrote it and hired a director whose vision was polar opposite Ms. Silver’s.
That was not going to happen with “Hester Street”. And he did not.
Ms. Silver’s second film, “Between the lines“(1977), was a kind of assimilation story. Young, politically progressive employees of an alternative newspaper are being taken over by a corporation that has fundamental priorities and values. The film, whose ensemble cast includes Jeff Goldblum , John Hurd and Lindsey Crouse, were also produced by Silver.
For her third film, an adaptation of Ann Beatty’s moody best-seller “Chilli Scenes of Winter”, Ms. Silver worked with United Artist. The studio immediately changed the title to “Headlong“(1979) and the film was promoted as a loose romance. It starred Mr. Herd and Mary Beth Hurt as a loving civil servant and a married colleague he rarely worships.
After its explosion, the film’s young producers insisted on restoring the original title, a new, less dangerous ending and It was reissued. This time it was received more favorably.
Ms. Silver entered the Broadway theater with mixed results. Mel Gusso of the Times did not careMaybe i’m doing it wrong“(1982), she is revealed with the music of Randy Newman. But when Ms. Silver and Julian Boyd conceived and staged a musical review”A … My name is Alice, “It had three runs in 1983 and 1984 and was called” delightful “by Frank Rich of the Times. There were two sequels in the 1990s.
In the end, Ms. Silver directed seven feature films. The other, all comedies with catchy themes, was “Loverboy” (1989), about a beautiful young pizza delivery that provides extra to attractive older women; “Big Girls Don’t Cry… They Get Even” (1992), about divorced-and remarried men once again thrown together by a runaway teenage daughter; And “A fish in the bathtub”(1999), starring Jerry stiller And Anne Mayra As a couple with a pet carp.
Ms. Silver directed more than a dozen television films, beginning with “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” (1976), which is based on the short story by F. Scott FitzGerald. Her last time about a young woman’s eating disorder was “Hunger Point” (2003).
In addition to her daughter Claudia, Ms. Silver’s survivors include two other daughters, Dinah and Marissa Silver; One sister, Renee; And five grandchildren. Mr. Rajat died at the age of 83 After a skiing accident in 2013 in Park City, Utah.
Looking back at the Directors Guild interview, Ms. Silver accepted definite work preferences.
“The more I stay alone, the better I get,” she said. “It’s not that I think I’m smarter than anybody or anything like that. It’s just that whatever my instinct is, it’s better for me to put them into my work.”
In the same interview, he was asked about “crossing delinquency” and confessed to his favorite aspect of the experience: “I had no cuts.”
Alex Traub contributed reporting.