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May 17 2023

Part 3—New World Negotiations of Old World Jewish Identities: A 3-Session Lecture Series

May 3, 10, and 17 at 11:00 a.m. PT / 2:00 p.m. ET

Session 3 (May 17):  Ross Melnick, “American Showman: Samuel ‘Roxy’ Rothafel, the Birth of the Entertainment Industry, and His Formative Place in American (Jewish) Cultural History”

German-Jewish immigrant Samuel ‘Roxy’ Rothafel was one of the most famous figures of the 1920s and 1930s. The world’s most influential film exhibitor, he was also a prolific stage producer, radio broadcaster, musical arranger, theater manager, and war propagandist. Roxy scored some of the earliest sound films for Fox, produced elaborate stage shows, opened most of New York's most important movie houses, directed or edited propaganda films for the American war effort, produced short and feature-length films, and expanded our conception of commercial cinema. He was also one of the chief creators of the radio variety program, pioneering radio broadcasting, promotions, and tours for both AT&T and NBC.

The first Jewish radio star and former Marine, Roxy was also a secular proponent of the sacred, exhibiting cinematic Passion Plays, producing stage shows for the High Holidays (featuring Jan Peerce), and, like other Jews and their involvement in Christmas, created the most well-known public display for that holiday: the Radio City Christmas Spectacular which continues on today.

Ross Melnick is the author of Hollywood’s Embassies: How Movie Theaters Projected American Power Around the World(Columbia University Press, 2022) and American Showman: Samuel ‘Roxy’ Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry (CUP, 2012); co-editor of Rediscovering U.S. Newsfilm: Cinema, Television, and the Archive (2018); co-author of Cinema Treasures (MBI, 2004) and co-founder of the eponymous website. He was named an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Scholar and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow for his work on global film exhibition.

This program is presented by the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music

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