The filmmaker worked in both indie and studio spaces, and most recently shot a trio of television films in the late 1990s and early 1980s.
Joan Micklin Silver, the director of such films as Crossing Delancy, Hester Street and Between the Lines, died Thursday at the age of 85, reports the New York Times. Her daughter Claudia Silver told the newspaper that the cause of death was vascular dementia. Silver's survivors include Claudia and two other daughters, Dina and Marisa Silver; a sister, Renee; and five grandchildren. Her longtime husband, Raphael D. Silver, died in 2013 at the age of 83 after a skiing accident in Park City, Utah.
As an indie pioneer who led her to write a number of educational films for companies like Encyclopedia Britannica and the Learning Corporation of America in the 1970s, Silver was long aware of the barriers that would likely prevent her from getting into that of Men dominated the film environment to enter. (A powerful interview quote that appears on their Wikipedia page: “I had absolutely no chance to work as a director”; The Times adds another heartbreaker from an AFI interview in 1979. Silver noted, “I was so obviously sexist Said things to me by studio managers when I started, "added a high-profile man once told her that" feature films are very expensive to assemble and distribute and female directors are another problem we don't need. ")
Yet the Omaha native soon made her own opportunities, including writing and directing her first film, the 1975 low-budget drama "Hester Street." Starring a young Carol Kane and earning the actress an Oscar nomination, the film followed a young Jewish-Russian immigrant couple who set off for America in the 1890s. This story reflects the lives of her own parents, who both immigrated to the States as children.
The final product, shot over 34 days, was in black and white and consisted mainly of Yiddish with English subtitles. It wasn't a slam dunk effort, and the Times quoted Silver in a 2005 interview as bluntly reflecting, “Nobody wanted to publish it. The only offer was to release it to 16 (mm) for the synagogue market. "
After all, it was Silver's husband who helped the film find a home. The Times notes that the "commercial real estate developer finances, produces and even distributes the film after selling it in some international markets while attending the Cannes Film Festival". The film opened at the Plaza Theater in Manhattan in October 1975, then in cinemas nationwide, and soon grossed $ 5 million (about $ 25 million today), nearly 14 times its budget of $ 370,000. (Ms. Silver sometimes cited an even lower budget: $ 320,000.) "
Occasionally, Silver worked in the studio system, including being hired and fired by Paramount to adapt Lois Gould's novel "Such Good Friends" (she wasn't the only writer the studio treated that way about the project) and later Universal Pictures To see based on a script, she co-wrote with her early creative partner Linda Gottlieb to rewrite it and give it to a director who shared the women's vision. Her best hits, however, were the ones she had made for herself.
It followed "Hester Street" with a variety of indie features, including the newspaper dramedy "Between the Lines" starring a young Jeff Goldblum, followed by the Ann Beattie adaptation, first known as "Head Over Heels". That particular project was a source of pain as well, and United Artists tried to sell the film, starring John Heard and Mary Beth Hurt, as a brisk romp just because it failed at the box office. As The Times notes, "After the bombing, the film's young producers insisted on restoring the original title (" Chilly Scenes of Winter "), giving it a new, less cheeky ending and having it republished." This time it was received much cheaper. "
Her varied careers have also included off-Broadway work, a number of television films (her last three films were all shot for the small screen) and two light comedies in the form of Patrick Dempsey star "Loverboy," in which he plays a pizza -Boy-Escort and the coming-of-age comedy "Big Girls don't cry … they'll be the same". She made a total of seven feature films in a career spanning four decades. For most viewers, however, she was best known for her 1988 romantic comedy "Crossing Delancey," which combined her eye for comedy and her affection for the experience of Jewish immigrants, which she previously played on "Hester Street" for a more dramatic effect. The film played Amy Irving, who received a Golden Globe nomination for her work.
Silver hadn't worked since 2003 when she directed Hunger Point, a TV movie based on a family dealing with their daughter's eating disorders. However, her work has recently attracted renewed interest: in 2016 a stage adaptation of “Hester Street” was announced and “Between the Lines” has recently been restored. At this year's Cannes virtual market, Cohen Media Group offered this film along with three other restorations (including “Hester Street”) to buyers worldwide.