"Teddy fuckin' Williams knocks it out of the park! Fenway Park on it's feet for Teddy fuckin' Ballgame! He went yardo on that one, out to fuckin' Lansdowne Street!" ― Donny Donowitz[source]
Donny Donowitz was a major protagonist in Quentin Tarantino's 6th film, Inglourious Basterds. He is a Jewish member of the American commando known as The Basterds who was nicknamed The Bear Jew for his notoriety of using his baseball bat to smash the heads of the German soldiers in The Basterds' numerous assaults on the Army around Nazi-occupied France.
Not much is known of Donny Donowitz's early life other than that he was born in Boston, MA of the United States of America. Under a Jewish family, he was a hairdresser in his father's barber shop. Donowitz soon grew angry with the mass murder of his people in Europe. Originally going to be shipped to Japan as a member of the United States Army, he was transferred, to his excitement, to be shipped out to Europe. Before leaving, Donowitz obtained the heaviest baseball bat he could find, and began collecting Jewish signatures on the bat (including that of Anne Frank). The first Jewish-American person he got a signature from was an elderly woman known only as Mrs. Himmelstein according to early renditions of the script. She refers to him as "a real Bastard."
Chapter Two - INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Donny Donowitz, along with seven other Jewish soldiers, were recruited under the command of Lt. Aldo Raine in a special unit called The Basterds, with the sole purpose to strike terror in the German forces occupying France, a few weeks before the beginning of Operation Overlord. Donny and the Basterds were dropped into the French countryside disguised as civilians, ambushing German troops and looting their weapons and gear. He is soon known by the German soldiers by the nickname "Bear Jew" and gained notoriety for killing prisoners with a baseball bat. Adolf Hitler, outraged by the Basterds' success, ranting that some soldiers call the Bear Jew a golem. When Hitler interrogates private Butz, the survivor of the latest Basterds attack, the soldier tells him his encounter with the Basterds and the Bear Jew. After Sgt. Werner Rachtman refuses to reveal the location of other German squads, Donny is heard hitting his bat against the walls of a tunnel, in an attempt to intimidate Werner, but he does not cave in and defies the Basterds, calling them "Jew dogs". Aldo then calls Donny from his cave to kill Werner. Donny keeps hitting his bat against the wall for a minute before coming out of the cave, as all the Basterds outside begin cheering for him. He nudges Werner's Iron cross medal, asking him if he got that for killing Jews, to which Werner replied "Bravery". Donny then places his bat on Werner's temple and begins beating him to death with the bat, while the Basterds cheer and the other two German soldiers cry in horror. After finishing off Werner, Donny begins shouting Ted "Teddy Ballgame" Williams name and demands Ludwig be next, only for the German soldier to attempt to flee and get shot in the back by Hirschberg as a result. Donny then brings Butz at Aldo's request, and holds his bat the guy's head, to coerce him to reveal the location of more German squads. After Butz tells them everything he knows, Aldo carves a swastika on his forehead, to which Donny compliments him that he's gotten pretty good at this hobby, with Aldo replying it's just like getting to Carnagie Hall: practice.
Chapter Four - OPERATION KINO
Right before D-Day, the Basterds cooperated with the British Lt. Archie Hicox and German actress Bridget von Hammersmark in [Kino|Operation Kino], which aims to assassinate the Nazi high command in the premiere of "Stolz der Nation", which is held in Shosanna's theatre. He expressed his skepticism over Bridget's rendez-vous place, a basement tavern called La Louisiane. After their mission is compromised, he is seen at the vet clinic, holding a Luger pistol at Bridget's thigh, as Aldo interrogates her. When Bridget shows Aldo the movie tickets they were supposed to use to join the film premiere, Donny is seen reading one. After she reveals that Hitler himself will attend the premiere, Donny shouts "Fuck a duck!" in amazement. When Aldo decides they must attend the premiere, Donny tells Bridget that both he and Raine speak some Italian. Aldo decides that he'll pose as the escort, Donny as the cameraman, and Omar as Donny's assistant.
Chapter Five - REVENGE OF THE GIANT FACE
The trio pose as von Hammersmark's Italian friends, carrying suicide bombs. It should be noted that while Donny's Italian is supposedly not as good as Aldo's, he actually tried to disguise his native accent, unlike Aldo who said his lines in a very thick Appalachian accent. Bridget von Hammersmark is later killed by Landa, and Aldo and Utivich are transported to a closed bar, where Landa negotiates his surrender in exchange for allowing Operation Kino to continue. During the screening of the film, Donny leaves his place to see if Hitler has arrived. As he looks at his opera box door entrance, guarded by two soldiers, he suddenly sees the Führer himself exiting the door and asking one of the guards for some gum. Thrilled, Donny returns to the auditorium and calls Omar to come with him. The duo enter the bathroom, where they plan to kill the guards, take their guns and kill Hitler. He tells Omar after he kills one of the guards, he has 30 ft to kill the other one. Donny disguises himself as a waiter, concealing his OSS Glove pistol under a towel he cut with a concealed knife. Just as he shoots one of the guards in the head with the concealed gun, Omar jumps in and kills the other. After Marcel ignites the nitrate film pile, Donny and Omar burst into Hitler's box, Donny emptying two MP40 magazines on Hitler and Goebbels, with Omar doing the same to Francesca. They then proceed to shoot at the audience below, not knowing that the doors were locked by Marcel. Donny empties his last magazine in Hitler's face, just in time before the bombs go off killing everybody in the cinema.
Behind the scenes
Eli Roth put on 35 pounds of muscle to play Donny Donowitz, "The Bear Jew". Roth also learned to cut hair for the role from producer Pilar Savone's father Umberto at his salon in Beverly Hills.
Eli Roth's character, Sgt. Donny Donowitz, is part of the Tarantino-verse, sharing the last name of the film producer character, Lee Donowitz, in the Tarantino-written "True Romance", where Lee Donowitz produced a war film "Comin' Home in a Body Bag". According to an interview Tarantino conducted with Ron Bennington, Donny is Lee's father.
When asked how he got into the violent, baseball bat-wielding mindset of "The Bear Jew", Eli Roth partially attributed his performance to the historically accurate costumes: "Being in wool underwear will make you want to kill anything." He also stated (in a separate interview) that his girlfriend had secretly added some Hannah Montana music onto his iPod; when he listened to it, it inexplicably made him able to tap into the violent nature of The Bear Jew.
Eli Roth and Omar Doom were nearly incinerated filming the fire sequence in the theater. During tests the flame temperatures reached 400 degrees Celsius, and during the take the set burned out of control and the temperature of the ceiling above them reached 1,200 degrees Celsius (2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.) Quentin Tarantino was seated on a crane operating the camera in a fireproof suit, and none of them wanted to back down and ruin the shot. Fire marshals said that another fifteen seconds of filming and the steel structure would have collapsed, incinerating the actors. Roth and Doom were treated for minor burns.
- Donowitz talks about "Teddy Ballgame" in Chapter 2. This is one of the many nicknames for Ted Williams, who in addition (arguably) to being the greatest hitter who ever lived, was also a war hero who interrupted his baseball career twice to serve in WWII and the Korean War.
- Donny takes Butz to Aldo, yelling to him "Two hits, I hit you, you hit the ground". A phrase very similar to this one, "Just you and me. Two hits. Me hitting you, you hitting the floor" was pronounced by Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) in the 1985 movie "The Breakfast Club".
- In a scene in the movie theater, Sgt. Donny Donowitz uses the alias "Antonio Margheriti". This alias is named after cult Italian director Antonio Margheriti (director of such films as Cannibal Apocalypse), one of Roth's and Quentin Tarantino's favorite directors.
- When Donny and Omar fire their machine guns on the crowd in the auditorium, the scene is similar to the memorable final scene of "Scarface" (1983) directed by Brian De Palma and starring Al Pacino.
- A deleted scene reveals the origins of The Bear Jew's bat. This scene was still in the film during the screening at the Cannes Film Festival.
- In the original script is revealed more about the past of Sergeant Donny Donowitz. Shortly before leaving for the front, Donny who works as a barber in the living room of his father in Boston, went to a store in his neighborhood to buy a baseball bat, heavier than they have, and goes to his neighbors and friends, asking them to write on the bat the name of a loved one who lives in Europe and is in danger. The first person whom he visits is Mrs Himmelstein, who writes the name Madeleine. The flashback about Donny was to appear shortly before the killing of Sergeant Rachtman. The scenes appear for a few moments in the extra "room angel" on the DVD.
- One of the Jewish names carved on The Bear Jew's bat is Anne Frank.
- In the bathroom, Donny tells Omar that he has "30 feet [9 meters] to get to the that guard", however the distance Omar is seen sprinting from the bathroom to the opera box door is about half that (about 5 meters).