January 14, 2021
Film-maker best known for the 1988 romantic comedy Crossing DelanceyA sensitivity to cultural differences, a playful looseness with actors, and a nose for the churn and thrust of interpersonal relationships were among the characteristics of the film-maker Joan Micklin Silver, who has died aged 85 of vascular dementia. She was 40 when she made her debut with Hester Street (1975), the story of a young Russian-Jewish woman arriving in late-19th-century New York only to struggle to match her husband’s aplomb in adapting to their adopted culture.
Joan Micklin Silver obituary
Shot in black and white and scripted largely in Yiddish with subtitles, the film was self-distributed by her husband, Raphael D Silver, known as Ray, who worked in real estate. He volunteered to produce it after being appalled by the sexist responses his wife received; one studio executive had told her that “women directors are just one more problem we don’t need”. The picture attracted rapturous reviews, recouped its entire $365,000 production costs in five weeks, went on to make nearly $5m and earned an Oscar nomination for its 23-year-old star, Carol Kane.
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