When America Got Hip To Jews

Jun 11 2011 @ 5:59pm

Lorin Stein nominates a moment: when M.A.S.H director Robert Altman cast Elliott Gould (with Jewfro and handlebar mustache) as Trapper John (a football hero from Dartmouth) :

You read the coverage of Gould at the time—it’s all about how he’s a Brooklynite, how he’s a street kid—but that’s not what the movies are telling you. The movies are telling you that in the better America we are now inhabiting—and in which we get to rewrite the history of the Korean war and redo Raymond Chandler—Elliott Gould is an American. Brooklyn born, but American. That America is, in its coolest and freest and most aristocratic stratum, maybe partly or secretly Jewish.

It all comes together in that first scene where Elliott Gould reaches into his army parka, pulls out an olive jar, and drops two olives into his martini. What’s that line? "A man can’t really savor his martini without an olive.”  Those olives put the mix back in mixology. They’re miscegenating olives. In interviews Altman liked to pretend that he himself was “half-Jewish.” He was a philo-semi-Semite.