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Mob Without Malice 

Lunch – Written and Directed by Donna Kanter

By Valerie Milano

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 6/26/20 – Lunch is a brisk 78 minute documentary written and directed by Donna Kanter. Today the film Lunch takes on extra poignancy in the new age of social distancing. The film chronicles the simple pleasures of elbow to elbow fellowship through the eyes of Hollywood’s elite comic writing corps of the 20th century. Elderly comic giants like Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar, Arthur Hiller and Hal Kanter (creator of the historic TV series “Julia”) mix and mingle with middle weight icons Gary Owens (Laugh-In), Monty Hall (Let’s Make a Deal) and a host of others; all of whom are staving off mortality and ageism by meeting for lunch every other Wednesday in the back room at the L.A eatery Factor’s Deli. It’s an exclusive brotherhood that has persisted for 40 years  and allows admission only by personal invitation from a current member.

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Carl Gottlieb
Carl Gottlieb

Most of the men share a similar history. The long march from Radio to TV to Film. After a brisk roll call of medical maladies, dubbed “The Organ Recital”.  Many stories, jokes and gentle insults abound. Names are dropped with casual frequency and hearing aids are cranked to 11.

Sid Caesar sits at the head of the table, clearly the tribal elder and godfather of this mob without malice. Like his namesake, he is the emperor of this secret society and says little, but whose presence dominates room none the less. Carl Reiner presents as the alpha geezer who swings the biggest member courtesy of his blur of achievements as creator and writer of the semi-autobiographical Dick Van Dyke Show, film and TV credits too numerous to name. Moreover the Reiner name maintains contemporary currency via the exploits of his son, Uber-director and political firebrand Rob Reiner. Papa Carl happily plays out his dotage writing children’s books.

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The humor is decidedly Jewish and its roots are deeply planted in their ancestors struggles throughout the ages. Several members served in the armed forces fighting the Nazis in WWII. And the recurring themes are struggle, hard work and luck. They share a legacy of creating their own socio-economic class in the entertainment industry when opportunities were denied to them by provincial white America.

Donna Kanter

Our portal into this gathering of tribal elders is John Rappaport, the youngest and healthiest member. He is the young buck who will ensure the continuity of the tribe in future decades and who chronicles and reveres the accomplishments of these comedy pioneers now virtually forgotten by callow youth culture. He is both acolyte and cheerleader, helping the frailest members of the group from car to table.

Lunch is a sweet and informative time capsule of a film that harkens back to a time long ago and far away when waitresses were still a thing and jokes were clean.

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Valerie Milano is the well-connected Senior Editor and TV Critic at TheHollywoodTimes.today, a website that aggregates showbiz news curated for, and written by, insiders of the entertainment industry. (@HwoodTimes @TheHollywood.Times) Milano, whose extraordinary talents for networking in the famously tight-clad enclave of Hollywood have placed her at the center of the industry’s top red carpets and events since 1984, heads daily operations of a uniquely accessible, yet carefully targeted publication. For years, Milano sat on the board as a chief organizer of the Television Critics Association’s press tours, held twice a year in Beverly Hills and Pasadena. She has written for Communications Daily, Discover Hollywood, Hollywood Today, Television International, and Video Age International, and contributed to countless other magazines and digests. Valerie works closely with the Human Rights Campaign as a distinguished Fed Club Council Member. She also works with GLSEN, GLAAD, Outfest, NCLR, LAMBDA Legal, and the Desert Aids Project, in addition to donating both time and finances to high-profile nonprofits. She has been an active member of the Los Angeles Press Club for a couple of years and looks forward to the possibility of contributing to the future success of its endeavors. Milano’s passion for meeting people extends from Los Feliz to her favorite getaway, Palm Springs. There, she is a member of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and a prominent Old Las Palmas-area patron.