Academy Museum Deletes ‘Predator,’ ‘Tyrant’ and ‘Frugal Approach’ From Jewish Founders Exhibit | Exclusive

The organization promised to address concerns “immediately” on Monday

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles (Credit: Getty Images)

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on Wednesday enacted changes to its exhibit about the Jewish founders of Hollywood, removing words like “predator” and “tyrant” to describe industry pioneers just two days after vowing to “immediately” address outcry from many who deemed the exhibit antisemitic.

Panels in the exhibit were swapped out with new text.

A description of Hollywood’s Golden Age as a period of “oppressive control” has been removed on the Studio Origins panel, while a bio for Universal’s Carl Laemmle has removed a reference to “nepotism” as earning him his moniker “Uncle Carl.”

On the Warner Bros. panel, a “frugal approach” has been replaced by “smaller budgets” and the description of Jack Warner as a “womanizer” has been removed.

For Columbia’s Harry Cohn, the reference to the exec’s reputation as a “tyrant and a predator” has been replaced with “earning a reputation as an authoritarian.”

And on a panel about “The Jazz Singer,” a comparison between “assimilationist” ambitions of Jewish founders and the film’s Jewish lead character has been removed.

TheWrap exclusively reported earlier this month that a series of explosive letters had been sent to the Academy by prominent Jewish members criticizing the exhibit for taking pains to point out Jewish founders’ flaws with antisemitic terms. On Monday, a new letter signed by 300 prominent Hollywood Jews surfaced calling on the Academy to “redo” the exhibit, and the Academy promised “immediate” changes.

“We have heard the concerns from members of the Jewish community regarding some components of our exhibition ‘Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital,’” the Academy Museum said on Monday in a statement obtained by TheWrap. “We take these concerns seriously and are committed to making changes to the exhibition to address them. We will be implementing the first set of changes immediately — they will allow us to tell these important stories without using phrasing that may unintentionally reinforce stereotypes. This will also help to eliminate any ambiguities.”

The Academy Museum is also convening an advisory group of experts from leading museums focused on the Jewish community, civil rights and the history of other marginalized groups “to advise us on complex questions about context and any necessary additions to the exhibition’s narrative.” The statement concluded that they are “deeply committed to telling these important stories in an honest, respectful and impactful way.”

The permanent exhibit “Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital” focuses on studio founders like Jack and Harry Warner, Harry Cohn at Columbia, Marcus Loew and Louis B. Mayer at MGM and Jesse Lasky and Adolph Zukor at Paramount, among others. The exhibit was created in response to criticism that the museum omitted the Jews who founded the industry.


One response to “Academy Museum Deletes ‘Predator,’ ‘Tyrant’ and ‘Frugal Approach’ From Jewish Founders Exhibit | Exclusive”

  1. Debra Levine Avatar

    The swapping-out of adjectives gives new meaning to the expression, “ethnic cleansing.” It also hearkens writing by committee, viz, the Comintern. It is pathetic to see the parsing of adjectives. Why can’t Museum people just back off? I feel more oppressed by the Museum’s insistence on conveying value judgments about the morality or sex life or frugality (er … “smaller budgets”) of the Hollywood founders than did anyone who worked for the “tyrant and predator” (er … the “reputed” “authoritarian”) Harry Cohn. The founders of Hollywood basically worked miracles, devoting their lives to forging an industry with new technologies, creating wealth in our city, giving people JOBS, appealing to audiences of ALL COLORS, dear people, ALL colors, and leaving behind something of VALUE. No one cares how some anonymous “curator” judges the people they are tasked with celebrating, now, obviously with a gun to their heads. If those behind the “Founders” fiasco do not understand how to “celebrate” the pioneers of motion pictures, just refer to the prior shows on Spike Lee and John Waters.

    And by the way, how do Spike Lee and John Waters feel about this? I would truly like to know, having traipsed through the sycophancy on view in their shows.

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