Harry Potter’s surprising history

Well, here’s big Jewish celeb news that has made Internet message boards, but hasn’t yet appeared in the press. Daniel Radcliffe, 17, best known for playing Harry Potter in the “Harry Potter” movies, just disclosed for the first time that his mother is Jewish.

The English actor appeared earlier this month on “Today,” an Australian news program that is very similar to the American show of the same name.

The Australian “Today” show interviewer said to Radcliffe, “You spend so much time as Harry Potter wrestling with the dark side. Are you a religious person?”

Daniel replied: “No, um, I’m not at all. I’ve grown up [pauses] my mum was of Jewish blood and my dad was a Protestant, so I grew up in a very [pauses] I am very interested in religion as something to study, but I am not a religious person in the slightest.”

Radcliffe’s parents are very much alive even though he used the past tense while referring to them. His father, Alan Radcliffe, is a literary agent. His mother, Marcia Gresham, is a casting agent. Also, I should explain that, unlike in America, it’s still common in Britain to describe someone as being of English, Welsh or Jewish “blood.”

The five-minute interview can be seen on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp7IIvZuGdU

Better late than never

New York Film Critics’ award for best foreign film of 2006 just went to “Army of Shadows,” the English title of a 1969 French film about the French Resistance that wasn’t released in America until this year. Roger Ebert also called it this year’s best foreign film.

“Army” was directed by Jean-Pierre Melville (1917-1973), a French Jewish film director who is called the “godfather of French New Wave cinema.”

Melville was in the French military when World War II broke out, and he fled to England with France’s surrender in 1940. In 1943, he dropped his given last name — Grumbacher — in favor of the “nom de guerre” Melville, and went back to France and joined several Resistance networks.

“Army” isn’t a romantic view of the Resistance. As Melville once noted, most French did not join the Resistance. As a matter of fact, as we honor fighting Jews on Chanukah, it’s appropriate to note that Jews, some 1 percent of the French population, made up 15-20 percent of the French Resistance fighters.

“Army” is not yet out on an English language DVD, but the N.Y. Film Critics award should hasten its release.

Clooney’s WWII flick

Opening nationwide Friday, Dec. 22 is “The Good German,” starring George Clooney as a CBS journalist who spent time in Berlin before World War II and returns not long after the end of the war.

“The Good German” follows Clooney as he uncovers a trail of intrigue that includes the recruitment of former Nazi scientists to make weapons for the United States. The German responsibility for the Holocaust is a subtext of the film. Cate Blanchett and Tobey Maguire co-star.

Spielberg and Mehta

Do watch the CBS broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors on Wednesday, Dec. 27 at 9 p.m. Film director Steven Spielberg, who needs no biography here, will be honored. Classical music conductor Zubin Mehta, who was born and raised in India and isn’t Jewish, will also be honored. Few persons have been as supportive of the state of Israel as Mehta. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra appointed him music adviser in 1969, music director in 1977 and made Mehta its music director for life in 1981.

Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at [email protected].

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes the "Celebrity Jews" column for J.