Two weeks ago, a trailer was released for the new Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro. Immediately, controversy surfaced about Bradley Cooper—the director of the film who also stars as Bernstein—wearing a prosthetic nose, intended to resemble Bernstein’s own formidable schnoz. Because Cooper is not Jewish, this also revived a conversation about so-called Jewface, a term that has, over the last several years, become a buzzword in conversations about non-Jews being cast as Jews in dramatic roles. In this episode, Jewish Currents editor-in-chief Arielle Angel talks to contributing writer Rebecca Pierce, author and theater critic Alisa Solomon, and writer and collector of “Jewface” artifacts Jody Rosen about the controversy—exploring the long history of “Jewface” performances and what’s really underneath these repeated dust-ups over Jewish representation.
Thanks to Jesse Brenneman for producing and to Nathan Salsburg for the use of his song “VIII (All That Were Calculated Have Passed).”
Articles, podcasts, and further reading:
Trailer for Maestro, directed by Bradley Cooper
“The Politics of ‘Jewface,’” Rebecca Pierce, Jewish Currents
Jewface: ‘Yiddish’ Dialect Songs of Tin Pan Alley, YIVO exhibition
“A ‘Merchant of Venice’ That Doubles Down on Pain,” Alexis Soloski, The New York Times
“Fables and Lies,” On the Nose podcast about Armageddon Time and The Fabelmans