Leah Adler, Steven Spielberg’s Mother, Dies At 97

Tito Ojo-Medubi - Author

Feb. 22 2017, Updated 8:32 a.m. ET

Steven Spielberg’s mother, Leah Adler died at her Los Angeles residence Tuesday surrounded by her children. She was 97. A spokesperson for Spielberg’s production company, Amblin Partners, revealed that the family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to charitable organizations in Leah Adler’s name.

According to PEOPLE, Steven Spielberg enjoyed a closely-knitted relationship with his mother who he has often credited for his creative inclinations. Adler allowed her son to shoot home-made movies all over the house and seemed unperturbed when things he destroyed things in the process.

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In 1982’s Poltergeist, Adler allowed her director-son foreshadow a scene of something hideous oozing from her kitchen cabinets. She did not only agree with him, but went on to buy 30 cans of cherries which she cooked in a pressure cooker until they exploded. Leah recalled that in a bid to get the perfect scene, her routine “every morning was to go downstairs, put the coffee on, and wipe residue off the cabinets.”

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One time when he was living close to his mother in Los Angeles, Spielberg told friends that he was on a “personal crusade to spoil” his mother. During her birthday, he had taken his mother to Beverly Hills Neiman Marcus and asked her to pick anything she wanted. Steven Spielberg had even agreed to pay for a face-lift, to which she replied, “we’re not going to fix my face, we’re going to decorate it.” Spielberg often took over high-brow LA clothing stores so that his mother could privately shop for hours.

Spielberg is one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, directing blockbusters like Jurassic Park, Jaws, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark and War of the Worlds. The 70-year-old has bagged two Oscar awards as best director for the movies, Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List. The hugely talented director during his acceptance speech for winning the Academy Award for Best Director in 1994 for Schindler’s List, referred to his mother as “my lucky charm.”

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His movies have long since exceeded the $9 billon mark at the box office. This makes the 70-year-old director the highest-grossing director in Hollywood history. His personal net worth has been pinpointed at about $3 billion.

According to the Telegraph, Adler’s restaurant, The Milky Way is located in the heart of Los Angeles and famously dotted with posters and memorabilia from all of her son’s films. However, the pint-sized restaurateur fondly called Lee Lee by friends has her favorites.

“I didn’t totally understand Close Encounters. But Jaws I liked better. At one point, I heard somebody in the theater screaming at the top of her lungs—and then I realized it was me.”


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Adler, who learned how to play the piano at age five, added that she was overcome with emotion after watching her son’s distressing World War II epic Schindler’s List. The mother-of-four said she could not stop crying and struggled to fully comprehend how talented her son had become at shooting movies.

“I could not stop sobbing. Nobody can imagine what it feels like. This is my kid, who was eating Popsicles at age 3 with the stick arms and the juice running down his sleeves. It’s almost as if he lost the 6 million himself. I don’t know where he gained the great passion to tell this story.”

Adler, a former concert pianist and painter, was always the first to downplay her parenting skills, adding that she was an unconventional mother to her four children,

“I was a very delinquent parent. I became a member of my kids’ gang. If they wanted to stay home from school, they did. I’d say, ‘Let’s go out in the desert guys,’ and then I’d write lying notes to their teachers about gastrointestinal diseases.”

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In an interview with 60 Minutes, Spielberg confirmed his mother’s claims, adding that she was like an elder sister who refused to grow up.

“My mom didn’t parent us as much as she sort of big-sistered us. She was Peter Pan. She refused to grow up.”

The highly successful director added that his mother rewrote the rules when it came to raising her children. According to him, her approach was unconventional but worked most of the time. Spielberg said when he quarreled with his sisters, his mother would listen to both sides and then tell them to go on arguing which always made them apologize.

“Mom kind of wrote her own book…we’d be stunned that we’d make peace with one another.”

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In an interview, Leah revealed that Steven “ran the family” and recalled when he retaliated against their anti-Semitic neighbors.

“We lived in an all non-Jewish neighborhood. These people used to chant. The Spielberg’s are dirty Jews. And one night Steve climbed out of his bedroom window and peanut buttered their windows, which I thought was marvelous.”

Leah Adler got married to Arnold Spielberg in 1945. They had four children, Steven, Anne, Nancy, and Sue. When the couple divorced, Adler got married again to Bernie Adler. She is survived by her four children, 11 grandchildren, and five great-grand children. Her first husband, Steven’s dad turned 100 this month. Her second husband, Bernie died in 1995 aged 75.

Leah renowned for her sharp wit once said about her famous son, “if I’d known how famous he was going to be. I’d have had my uterus bronzed.”

[Featured Image by Lois Bernstein /AP Images]


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