Stefan Kanfer, who died in 2018, was a longtime contributing editor of City Journal who wrote extensively on a wide range of political, social, and cultural topics. He authored more than a dozen books, among them cultural histories (The Last Empire, the story of the De Beers diamond company) and Stardust Lost, about the triumph and tragedy of the Yiddish Theater in America. Several of his biographies became bestsellers. Groucho focused on the most famous Marx brother, an aspiring doctor who got pushed into show business by his mother; Ball of Fire concerned the TV superstar Lucille Ball; Somebody charted the complicated life and influential career of Marlon Brando; and Tough Without a Gun chronicled the enduring appeal of Humphrey Bogart more than 50 years after his final film. Kanfer’s novels include Fear Itself, a story of a Holocaust survivor and would-be assassin; a sendup of the United Nations entitled The International Garage Sale; and The Eighth Sin, about gypsies during World War II. A Book of the Month Clubselection, The Eighth Sin led to an appointment on the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. Kanfer was the only journalist ever to serve on that governmental body.
Kanfer wrote and edited at Time for more than 20 years, during which he was a cinema and theater reviewer and essayist, and, for a decade, senior editor of the magazine’s book review section. He was the main interviewer in The Line King, a documentary about theatrical caricaturist Al Hirshfield that received an Academy Award nomination. Before becoming a journalist, Kanfer wrote for the theater and television, contributing material for Victor Borge, Gwen Verdon, and Alan Funt, among others. The recipient of numerous awards, Kanfer was installed as a Literary Lion at the New York Public Library and was a writer in residence at CUNY and a visiting professor at SUNY-Purchase and Wesleyan University. He was the only Time writer to win the Penney-Missouri School of Journalism Prize and the Westchester Writers Prize.