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Richard Dreyfuss and Hurricane Sandy

The Brooklyn-born Jewish actor turns 65

Adam Chandler
October 29, 2012
Richard Dreyfuss as Dr. Leo Marvin(Still from 'What About Bob?')
Richard Dreyfuss as Dr. Leo Marvin(Still from 'What About Bob?')

As I’m sure EVERYBODY KNOWS, Richard Dreyfuss turns 65 today. The Brooklyn-born Jewish actor–raised in Bayside and son of an attorney and a peace activist–has starred in such timeless films as Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind as well as Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl, for which he won the Academy Award for best actor.

Little known fact about Richie D, his first speaking lines were in an uncredited role in The Graduate when he said “Shall I get the cops? I’ll get the cops.” Since then, Dreyfuss has played everyone from Yoni Netanyahu in Victory at Entebbe to other Jewish figures on stage and screen like Meyer Lansky and Abraham Joshua Heschel. He was the consummate teacher in the clunker of a film that was Mr. Holland’s Opus and the embodiment of lost youth as the narrator in Stand By Me. He’s also good as evil politician incarnate between Oliver Stone’s W. and The American President.

If you take a look at his filmography, Dreyfuss has appeared in some of the biggest films of the past 30 years. My personal favorite happens to be his turn as Dr. Leo Marvin in What About Bob? The role of the uptight big city psychiatrist who slowly and hilariously descends into insanity may be one of the best Jewish characters ever put on screen (he names his son after Sigmund Freud!), even if there’s no discernible trace of religion in the script. (Dreyfuss, as it turns out, suffers from bipolar disorder.) Bill Murray as the title role of Bob and Dreyfuss’ charismatic foil is perfect as well.

Here’s a clip from What About Bob?, which, if you’re stuck indoors today, may resonate well.

Happy birthday!

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.