Director Steven Spielberg loosely based his Golden Globe-winning film The Fabelmans on his own childhood, including creating a character, Mitzi, inspired by his late mother, Leah Adler. The movie has become a critical darling. Even if Michelle Williams, who portrayed Mitzi, went home without a trophy on Tuesday, the woman whom her role was based on had a fascinating life in her own right.
She was an accomplished piano player and painter.
Spielberg has gotten his share of accolades over the years, including multiple Oscars. But as The Fabelmans makes clear, he gets his artistic bent from his mother. Adler began playing piano at a young age and studied at the music conservatory in her hometown of Cincinnati. After moving to Phoenix in the 1950s, she operated an art gallery. She was a painter herself: Her work decorated the restaurant she opened in Los Angeles. Speaking of which …
She owned a kosher restaurant in Los Angeles.
Opened by Leah and her second husband Bernie Adler in 1977, the Milky Way restaurant aimed to “offer fine kosher food to the Jewish community.” Although the cuisine was kosher, the menu wasn’t restricted to matzo balls and kugel. The restaurant offered up a variety of cuisines that weren’t easily accessible to observant Jews at the time, including Cajun and Thai. That’s not to say more traditional fare wasn’t on offer, as blintzes could be ordered alongside salmon piccata. The restaurant is still operating and includes a touching tribute to Adler on its website.
She was not related to the famed acting coach Stella Adler.
While her second husband may have shared a surname with the legendary Stella Adler, there was no familial relationship with the instructor whose students included Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Martin Sheen. (Stella Adler was also born into a famous Yiddish theater family.) But in 2008, Spielberg helped launch a scholarship at the acting school in honor of the late Jaws star Roy Scheider.
She apparently had quite the sense of humor.
In a 1994 interview with the Los Angeles Times, she threw out this quip: “I told Steve, if I’d known how famous he was going to be, I’d have had my uterus bronzed.”
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