Home Celebrity Oscar Winner Meryl Streep Has Been Giving Away Millions For Years

Yesterday’s big news: Meryl Streep and artist husband Don Gummer donated $20,000 to two schools, and fellow actor Viola Davis has been involved. It sounded very nice, and it was done before the Oscars. But a closer look reveals that the Gummers have quietly been giving away millions for the last several years without any fanfare. Their Silver Mountain Arts Foundation has donated close to $2 million to Vassar College alone in the last three years.

According to the foundation’s tax filing, Silver Mountain pays no salaries. It just gives and gives- t0 arts projects, health organizations, etc. The donations are in a range from $1000 to $1 million. It’s quite extraordinary and it’s been going on for years.  The Gummers are annual donors to the Opus School in Harlem, the setting of Meryl’s Oscar nominated performance in “Music of the Heart.”

In 2010 alone, they gave away $2.13 million–about half of it to Vassar, but $100,000 to Oxfam America, and another $5,000 apiece to things like New York’s City Meals on Wheels and Coalition for the Homeless. They’re very giving to local charities in their Connecticut neighborhoods, and support museums in Boston and Illinois. Last year they even gave $200,000 to the National Women’s Museum in Alexandria, Virginia.

Charity and largesse are not the reasons you get awards, however. I’ve read some weird stories in the last 48 hour about how “shocking” it was that Streep won the Best Actress Oscar on Sunday night for “The Iron Lady.” The fact is that Viola Davis gave a beautiful performance in “The Help.” She is now one of our top actresses. But nowhere in “The Help” are there the quantifying moments like Streep has over and over again in “The Iron Lady.” Even if you don’t like the conceit of the film–using Margaret Thatcher’s senility to frame her recollections–nothing can be taken away from Streep’s superior performance. She doesn’t do impersonations. The reason she’s called our finest actress is because she creates a character from scratch. In “The Devil Wears Prada” she wasn’t Anna Wintour; she was her own sensational act of will. The same thing can be said in her landmark work like “Doubt” and “Sophie’s Choice.” She subsumes. It’s remarkable.

Americans don’t have much investment in Margaret Thatcher. We don’t have an emotional attachment to her. Many people loathe her for her politics. The trick was to make Thatcher sympathetic enough to follow her through her key moments as Prime Minister and understand her as a human. When I first saw the movie I wrote on Showbiz411 that it was impossible to evaluate the actress. She was acting at an incandescent level. I felt bad that Jim Broadbent was overlooked; he was so fine. But Streep is a tour de force. This is no put down of Viola Davis, or Michelle Williams, Glenn Close, Berenice Bejo, Rooney Mara, or any of the other nominated actresses. Remember when an actress was needed for one scene in “Doubt” to go up against Streep, John Patrick Shanley sent in Viola Davis. We’re playing in the major leagues here. But there was no trickery in getting Streep the Oscar. When the full Academy voted, they were sending a referendum–how lucky we are to have Meryl Streep for her passion and consistency. And then on top of that, the quiet charitable work. Amazing.

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
8 replies to this post
  1. i admire meryl streep for her hard work, determination, her best work, and everything else. meryl is a great actress. meryl is a supportive woman. meryl does great work, for her roles in many movies. meryl is a good person. she’s a talented actress. meryl is my special best friend. she is a great actress. i admire meryl for her hard work she puts into her movies. she is a good actress. i’m happy for meryl, as she devotes her time into making good movies. i admire meryl for her success. i thank meryl for being a talented actress. she works hard for her success. i thank meryl for devoting her time into making good movies. she’s a lovely, beautiful person, who is admired by her family.

  2. In an area when celebrities, tout any minor charitable contributions to the press like the town crier, here you have the modest/unassuming Meryl doing her bit to help society. She’s in it to actually help people, instead of self-publicity. A class act.

  3. Because Vassar needs such large donations ???? But I agree with your comments about Meryl’s talent. Her Oscar was well deserved. And good on her for being a philanthropist, too.

  4. what a great actor and had to get two for lead actress,i feel miss viola davis was wonderful but the two other supporting actress’s from the help stole the film from miss davis!

  5. I feel exactly the same way about Meryl Streep. If there was a “Living National Treasure” designation, she would be the first in line to get it. The only explanation for her remarkable career is a)sublime judgement and b)deep intelligence. My daughter had the good fortune to be an extra in the film Doubt and was able to see Meryl ‘in action.’ As expected, she found her to be super-professional and dedicated to her amazing craft.

  6. Who Are these people who find the Oscar for Streep ‘shocking’?????? The woman should be placed on our Cultural Heritage list. What I find shocking is the response of certain people who will always find a ‘political’ reason if not outright racism for any of the disappointments they experience. I remember when Monique? won the Oscar she said something like’I would like to thank the … for choosing talent over politics…whaaaaaat???????
    Who would take on Margaret Thatcher? Who would have the nerve and the fortitude and the balls to take her on?????? Only Meryl Streep. May she be around forever and cut the crap abour never winning again-why not, dear dear Meryl Streep-we have loved you forever!

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