Generally considered the more successful of the “Jew Wave”’s two high-profile Philip Roth adaptations (preceding 1972’s infamous Portnoy’s Complaint), director—and cantor’s son—Larry Peerce’s Goodbye, Columbus nevertheless raised its fair share of eyebrows with its depiction of the summer romance between working-class librarian Neil (Richard Benjamin) and echt Jewish American Princess Brenda (Ali McGraw). Cultures clash as the forthright Brenda pulls Neil deeper into her Westchester high society, capped by a legendary wedding scene that some critics felt crossed the line from affectionate ethnic humor into self-hating caricature.
“The insider material in Goodbye, Columbus goes well beyond kitchen Yiddish. Brenda’s recent nose job occasions a long discussion that serves as the prelude to the first kiss she and Neil exchange. The characters are openly insular and engage in particular stereotypes. Learning that Neil's parents have relocated to Arizona, Brenda remarks, ‘I didn¹t think there were people in Arizona, I mean Jewish people.’”
Image courtesy of the Kobal Collection.