Avalon (1990), filmmaker Barry Levinson’s loving tribute to his family roots was the nucleus of his “Baltimore Films.” The others include Diner (1982), Tin Men (1987) and Liberty Heights (1999). However, although Diner is a personal favorite, Avalon, for my money is really the best of the series. Long before I began work on Lee Marvin: Point Blank, I saw Avalon in the theater with my parents, a rare occurrence and boy, am I glad I did as I learned a fascinating anecdote about my family history.
Flashback several decades when the majority of my family still lived in New York, mostly Brooklyn to be exact. My father was a truck driver and had two older brothers, Hank and Dave. My uncle Dave was involved with the ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union) and would jokingly tell people he was a CPA, Cleaning, Pressing and Alterations. My uncle Hank started his own successful jewelry company and left Brooklyn for the the ‘burbs of Oceanside, Long Island. I mention this as one Thanksgiving my uncle Dave and his family took longer to get to my uncle Hank’s house who had decided not to wait, and had us all eating before his older brother Dave arrived. When Dave did arrive, he was livid: YOU CUT A TURKEY WITHOUT A BROTHER?!?” he apparently shouted in anger.
Okay, now flash forward to a darkened movie theater in 1990 as I sit watching the film with my parents. If you’ve seen Avalon, then you know where this is going. Lou Jacobi arrives late to his brother’s house for Thanksgiving as his brother had moved to the ‘burbs. When Jacobi shouts, “YOU CUT A TURKEY WITHOUT A BROTHER!?” My mother howled with laughter and, being the queen of tact, elbowed my father while shouting so everyone in the theatre could hear, “Oy! is that your brother Dave!”
A happier connection to the film was the fact that when I move back to California from New Jersey, Jewish Federation News editor Harriette Ellis allowed me to review the film when it was released, turning a freelance gig into a permanent position as her editorial assistant. The review is below and as a cautionary tale, remember: Never cut a turkey without a brother! Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.