Jewish Blood

Michael Church

  • Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince by Budd Schulberg
    Penguin, 500 pp, £4.95, September 1984, ISBN 0 14 006769 8
  • Baku to Baker Street: The Memoirs of Flora Solomon by Barnet Litvinoff
    Collins, 230 pp, £11.95, June 1984, ISBN 0 00 217094 9
  • Wilfrid Israel: German Jewry’s Secret Ambassador by Naomi Shepherd
    Weidenfeld, 286 pp, £12.95, March 1984, ISBN 0 297 78308 4
  • The Smiths of Moscow: A Story of Britons Abroad by Harvey Pitcher
    Swallow House Books, 176 pp, £5.95, September 1984, ISBN 0 905265 01 7
  • Family Secrets by David Leitch
    Heinemann, 242 pp, £8.95, October 1984, ISBN 0 434 41345 3

‘Between me and my childhood,’ says Budd Schulberg, ‘is a wall.’ Half-remembered incidents are the loose stones which he must tear away to make a hole big enough to crawl through. There is a Greta Garbo stone (he once pelted her with ripe figs), and stones called Gary Cooper, Freddie March and Sylvia Sidney, but one of the biggest and loosest goes by the name of Clara Bow. Vulgar, gum-chewing, and with a comically nasal Brooklyn accent, the It Girl flashed through his world leaving him dazed with pity and affection. He describes her shooting a scene in which she was required to weep, listening intently to the mood-orchestra (silents were made with the aid of music), and then melting into a grief which was obviously real. She had been brought up in brutalised poverty, and the tune the violins were playing had painful associations. Her downfall after ten dizzy years was only in part because of the coming of sound: she was neither clever nor calculating enough to survive in Hollywood, and in five-year-old Budd, whom she called her secret boyfriend, she recognised a kindred soul.

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