Missing Mrs. Doubtfire

Ben Sales

More than anyone, it was Robin Williams who introduced me to the movies.

“Good Morning Vietnam” and “Dead Poets Society” would always be rentals for me. But I saw “Hook” at age 5, “Aladdin” at 6 and “Mrs. Doubtfire” at 7. I was 11 when “Good Will Hunting” came out, just adolescent enough to appreciate Williams’ Oscar-winning turn.

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And by the time his one and (thankfully) only Holocaust film, “Jakob the Liar,” hit theaters in 1999, I was 13 — old enough to know better and take a pass.

His movies gave me too many memories to count — chanting “Rufio” with my brother in 1991, repeating jokes from Genie with my best friend in 1992, cracking up in the theaters in 1993 while Williams danced on screen, in drag and with a vacuum cleaner, to Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).”

But now, as I remember him fondly and lament the laughs we’ve all lost with his death yesterday, my mind keeps floating back to one scene where Williams shows all of his comedic breadth — the voices, the facial expressions, the reason why he called himself an “honorary” Jew.

It’s near the beginning of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” when his character, a divorced father desperate to see his kids, asks his makeup artist brother to “make me a woman” so he can infiltrate their house disguised as a cleaning lady.

Check out the clip below, and enjoy. Because if there’s one way I want to remember Robin Williams, it’s with him sitting in a wig and babushka, telling me that I “should never buy gribenes from a mohel. It’s so chewy!”

Rest in peace, Robin.

Ben Sales is JTA’s Israel correspondent.