According to "Remembrance of Love," the ghastly NBC movie at 9 tonight on Channel 4, some people went to the World Gathering of Holocaust Survivors in Israel last year in the hope they would Get Lucky. As portrayed in this film the Gathering had a role to fill not unlike that of a computer dating service.
It hardly seems appropriate to exploit such an emotionally wrenching event by using it as the background for a couple of third-rate Harlequin romances.
In the film, Kirk Douglas plays a Holocaust survivor who later married, was widowed, and now travels to the World Gathering thinking he might find a long-lost love he was forced to abandon in the Warsaw Ghetto nearly four decades earlier. He brings along his journalist daughter, played with a fiendishly snippy streak by the formerly attractive Pam Dawber. The daughter has barely deplaned in Israel when sparks are kindled between her and an atypically paunchy Israeli security officer who has a smile like LBJ's.
The father does find his old flame, after a few sloppily filmed flashbacks in which the young Douglas is played by his handsome son Eric. She faints upon seeing him again, but she recovers, to such a degree that she is able to commit adultery with Douglas while her husband is conveniently away on business. During their fling, Douglas takes pride in undraping a torso that at its age would be better left draped.
Director Jack Smight, who seems as disdainful of Harold Jack Bloom's script as any intelligent person would be, intercuts Kirk and his chum, wandering around photogenic Israel, with Pam and her boyfriend, romping in his apartment. As they grapple on the floor, he asks her, "Would you like to take a shower before, after, or during?"
Also along for the trip are Robert Clary, the actor of "Hogan's Heroes" fame, as himself -- he really is a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust -- and Gladys Gewirtz as Rose Becker, a rampaging Jewish stereotype. This sort of character would be at home on a sitcom perhaps, but seems in dubious taste in a story about Holocaust survivors. On the El Al jet that takes the group to Israel, Rose reminisces, loudly, about Grossinger's and the Catskills and says of her late husband, "He was some dancer, my Harry -- oy!"
Even Rose manages, however, to pick up a sexual playmate at the Gathering. Is this supposed to be Jerusalem or Club Med?
Every now and then there is a nod to the actual purpose of the Gathering, but it's hard to be moved by scenes of actors faking tears after having seen the real thing, with real people and real tears, in news footage of the event. Producer Doris Quinlan must have seen that footage, too. How perverse to see in it the makings of a soppy TV movie. Perhaps a Hollywood producer who watched the evening news in recent weeks is now at work on a script about a couple who have an affair after meeting at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. These people should do the world a favor and get out of show business.