Joan Micklin Silver, the great, trailblazing writer and director, has died at age 85.
Those three names, said fast, were part of an incredible legacy of New York writers, actors, and directors of the 1970s who had incredible cache. Joan’s name was part of a list that if you said their names, or heard them, you knew they were ‘in.’
This was because Silver had made a trio of indie movies that were hip, successful and popular: “Hester Street” was the first, “Between the Lines,” came next, and then “Crossing Delancey.” They were New York movies about Jews, but different than Woody Allen’s. For one, they were made by a woman. And their points of view were more serious, less glib, more historic.
“Hester Street” was so small and came out of nowhere. Carol Kane was discovered over night and got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. No one knew a thing about the Triangle Factory Fire before that. Silver put them all on the map and in the history books.
“Between the Lines” was different It set in Boston, based on the creation of the alternative weekly The Boston Phoenix. It was a launching pad for a dozen famous actors starting with John Heard, Jeff Goldblum, Lindsay Crouse (mother of Zosia Mamet, wife then of David Mamet), Jill Eikenberry, Joe Morton, the great Bruno Kirby, Marilu Henner before “Taxi” — it was a Who’s Who of the Best Actors of the 70s.
At the same time, Silver directed an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” for PBS with Shelley Duvall– who was so hot at that moment, she was on fire from all her Robert Altman movies. The whole combo of Joan, PBS, Fitzgerald– it was a swoon of chic. When Silver returned with “Crossing Delancey” in 1988 — Amy Irving aka Mrs. Spielberg, Peter Riegert, star of “Local Hero,” two time Oscar nominee Sylvia Miles– that was it. Joan Micklin Silver was cemented in New York film folklore. And the movie was great. Everyone loved it. It was a bona fide hit.
Her husband and producer Rafael died a few years ago. Joan leaves three daughters and an enormous legacy for women filmmakers for eons to come.