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The Life of Maurice Schwartz and the Yiddish Art Theatre
by Martin Boris

Chapter Thirty-Two: "Do You Realize What a Catastrophe Has Befallen Me?"
Chapter Thirty-Three: “The Thwarted Angel of Death Hid Himself.”
Chapter Thirty-Four: The Old New Beginning.
Chapter Thirty-Five: "A Very Unspectacular Season."

               Chapter Thirty-Two: “Do You Realize What a Catastrophe Has Befallen Me?”

                        Streaking for home aboard a sturdy Pan American Clipper, Maurice made a slight detour to Santiago, Chile, for a single concert. Two weeks earlier, when applying for a visa, he’d indicated on the application that he was Jewish, and was promptly denied admission, even for the one day. The Chilean official who’d turned him down indicated that Chile was not accepting any more Jews, but if he declared himself a Protestant, the visa would be granted.

                       Burning with indignation, Maurice had contacted the American Embassy and was informed that a report of the incident would be made to Washington. But Maurice refused to sit impatiently while the bureaucratic wheels slowly creaked along, so he’d told his story to Juan Carlos Petran, editor of the powerful Buenos Aires newspaper La Critica. Petran, just as incensed, had exerted pressure on the Chilean Ambassador to Argentina and on its Minister of Justice, threatening to make a first-class scandal of the matter if the visa was not immediately forthcoming. He’d hinted that Chile would be accused, in front-page headlines, of adopting Nazi-like social policies. Seeking to avoid any taint of fascist leanings, the Chilean government had reversed itself and granted Schwartz his visa, but indicated on the document that La Critica had been instrumental in securing it.

                        Ironically, the single concert in Santiago never took place. Bad weather had forced Maurice’s plane down in Mendoza, Argentina, 20 miles to the east, and he hadn’t arrived in Chile until the next day. Maurice was on Chilean soil for no more than ten minutes, the time it had taken to change planes for New York.

                       The visa matter was not permitted to die. On September 5th, Schwartz landed at LaGuardia Airport, and immediately spoke to waiting reporters about the affront to an American, and to Jews everywhere. Perhaps his anger hadn’t cooled as yet. More likely, he used the incident as excellent copy for the Art Theatre, just as in 1924 he’d used his early youth as a Whitechapel beggar to promote the London appearance of the troupe, just as he would shamelessly employ every aspect of his personal life toward the same end. Maurice Schwartz returning from overseas for the usual opening of the Art Theatre rated at most a few lines in the newspapers. Maurice Schwartz coming home the victim of bigotry merited a full column, even an entire front-page article.

                        The basis for the charge was patently groundless. Between 1933 and 1939, over 12,000 Jewish refugees from a Germany gone mad were admitted into Chile, a tiny but democratic-minded land, whose native Jews had been well-accepted into national life for generations. True, there was a pro-Nazi faction active in Santiago, as in every South American capital, but life in general was good for the Chilean Jews. Immigration had been halted only because of its negative effect on the fragile economy, not out of racial prejudice.

                         Maurice made hay of the incident in a two-page story in the Forward, though aware of Chile’s favorable record vis-à-vis the Jews. In the same article, he expressed supreme confidence in the upcoming year: “I believe we’ll have one of the most successful seasons at the Art Theatre. I look at it this way: the Yiddish public must have the Art Theatre and the Art Theatre needs its audience” (Levitan 10 Sept. 1941).

                        Indeed, the 1941-1942 season did promise to be a good one for Yiddish Theatre in general, and an improvement over the year before, with seven houses expected to open—four in Manhattan, two in Brooklyn, and one in the Bronx. Maurice would not be at the Public, its premises now in the possession of Herman Yablokoff,  who was producing and starring in My White Flower, a musical by Joseph Rumshinsky, that also featured the very handsome Edmund Zayenda, and also Miriam Kressyn, who was fast making a name for herself after leaving the Art Theatre. Instead, Maurice again leased the Venice on Seventh and 59th.

                        Broadway Theatre was also looking up, with a cornucopia of sterling productions, among them: Lady in the Dark with Gertrude Lawrence; Pal Joey starring Vivienne Segal; Arsenic and Old Lace with Boris Karloff; My Sister Eileen; and Life With Father. For the more serious playgoer, there was Ethel Barrymore in The Corn is Green, and more immediate to the world’s sorry plight, Lillian Hellman’s Watch on the Rhine, with Paul Lukas and Mady Christians.

                         Maurice’s contribution was Day of Judgment, a plot-ladened melodrama of Czarist Russia, written by John Sorsky, who was born Johanan Twersky, and wrote a large number of historical novels, many with Freudian and Adlerian overtones. An even mix of old and new Art Theatre players made up the cast. Among the old, were Julius Adler, Luba Kadison, Ben-Ami, Gersten, Abarbanell and Lazar Freed. (It would be Freed’s final effort for the Art Theatre. Growing increasingly ill, he would be dead of tuberculosis by 1944, in Hollywood, where he’d gone to make a film.) The play would also mark the second year at the Art Theatre for William Mercur, as Yiddish Press Agent. A former actor and incipient poet, Mercur had performed in Chicago before coming to New York. In varied and multiple capacities, he would remain with Schwartz for the next 20 years.

                       The plot of  Day of Judgment is an amalgamation of many Yiddish Theatre themes: unborn children pledged to one another by their fathers, a cripple who nevertheless rises to prominence, a tragic illness, an attempted suicide, secret revolutionaries, an unselfish girl too good to be true, and a bridegroom’s defection on his wedding night. The piece opened with great expectations on October 6th, and was summarily executed by a firing squad of critics. From the World-Telegram: “It is difficult to believe that a showman of Mr. Schwartz’s caliber could be involved in anything as torturous and empty-sounding as this bolt of fustian”  (7 Oct. 1941). From Variety:  “As has been the fault on several occasions in the recent past, when Schwartz has attempted too large a haul in writing, starring and directing, Judgment suffers mainly in the scripting”  (15 Oct. 1941). Bernstein of the New York Times was mercifully brief, declaring Day of Judgment “a play in 15 lugubrious scenes [that is] very much in debt to its players and to the skill with which it was staged”  (9 Oct. 1941).

                        The play’s death took place on October 19th, with the unceremonious closing of the play, and of the Art Theatre, which was forced to suspend operations for the first time in 23 years. One of the few Schwartz spoke to about the debacle was Yablokoff, the current golden boy of Yiddish musicals, who was not only involved at the Public, but was also producing Live and Laugh at the Second Avenue Theatre, starring Menasha Skulnik. Schwartz phoned Herman at his office in the Public, and asked for an immediate meeting. Not at the Café Royale, where he would surely be recognized and asked to explain the closing, but at a small bakery across from the Public. Maurice was there now, on the public phone.

                         Maurice could have gone to the café and not be noticed. “He was unshaven, his hair disheveled, clothes rumpled, and the deep lines around his eyes clearly indicated sleepless nights”  (Yablokoff 405). Herman felt a sharp twinge of pity for the great giant he deeply respected. He knew that Maurice had been forced to shut down the play and the theatre. Money problems: that old bugaboo. It was common knowledge in the trade that Maurice Schwartz had never made a dime on any play in all those 23 years, except for Yoshe Kalb, and that in this latest fiasco, he wasn't able to meet current payroll.

                        In rambling, hesitant tones, Schwartz laid bare his soul, telling Yablokoff: “Do you realize what a catastrophe has fallen me? I’ll have to traipse all over the world again to earn enough money to pay off my debts. And where can one travel in times like these? Europe is at war. There remains only Buenos Aires. And even Buenos Aires has been difficult to contact. I’ll have to find a way somehow”  (Yablokoff 405).

                        Of more immediate concern, was what to do about the benefit tickets the Art Theatre had already sold and couldn’t honor, with the Venice closed. To preserve his good name and keep faith with the public, Maurice asked Herman to assume responsibility for the benefit tickets, to please honor them at the Public and the Second Avenue. Herman readily consented, more than willing to help his fallen idol in an hour of distress. He asked Maurice if there was anything left over from the advanced sales already collected. Maurice shook his head. “Don’t you know that the benefit money has already been eaten up during the summer? The production cost me a fortune, need I tell you”  (Yablokoff 405).

                        Maurice also contacted Reuben Guskin, who certainly deserved an explanation. Too humiliated for a direct meeting, he sent the union leader a letter trying to explain the bind he’d found himself in and his inability to raise sufficient money to keep the Art Theatre alive. At the nadir of his life and his career, he wrote: “I stand alone in my need and no one helps me. I am nervous and broken. I hope that after 23 years of honest work and love for better Yiddish Theatre, the actors union and my troupe will treat me as a friend and comrade—not just as with a manager”  (Schwartz letter 21 Oct 1941).

                        If indeed Maurice was a broken man, he reassembled himself in short order. Less than a month later, he announced, on International Artists stationery, a nationwide tour of America, 64 cities in all, commencing on Sunday, December 28, 1941, in Boston, ending the first week of March, 1942, in Des Moines, Iowa. But before he could begin his ‘Continental Concert Tour’, the greater world intervened as never before. On December 7th, the Japanese bombed the little-known naval  base at Pearl Harbor. The next day, a state of war existed between Japan and America. By the 11th, Germany and Italy joined their Axis partner by declaring war against the United States. Except for South America (many of its nations would later become involved), the entire planet was engaged in the conflict.

                        Nevertheless, Maurice went on a tour that took him to 25 states in 13 weeks. Directly after its conclusion, on March 6th, he flew back to Argentina, to a more favorable climate and a more appreciative audience, to perform the plays of his favorite trio of writers: Sholem Asch, I.J. Singer, and Sholem Aleichem. On the flight across the equator, he stopped off first in Lima, Peru, for two solo concerts. He hadn’t been there in years. Lima was not often visited by Yiddish performers of any persuasion. Isolated from other South American Jewish communities, its theatre-starved populace welcomed Schwartz warmly. Tickets for the two concerts were completely sold out.

                        The first performance, the same evening he arrived, went splendidly, though it ran much longer than planned, because of the six encores demanded by an audience that refused to leave the concert hall. When at last the final note sounded and Maurice was permitted to make his exit, he was taken to Lima’s finest coffeehouse and toasted until 4 AM by avid supporters. In the humid tropical dawn, he returned to his hotel room totally spent.

                        Morning brought not only a feeling of dissipation, but a sore throat and high fever, his standard Achilles heel. With vocal cords badly infected, it appeared as though he wouldn’t be able to give the second concert. As best they could, his two Lima managers dosed him with hot tea, lemon and milk. Then they whisked him off to the city’s finest throat specialist, who immediately forbade Schwartz from speaking for at least a week. The doctor stressed that this evening’s concert was out of the question.

                        Maurice spent the rest of the day (of low comedy and high tragedy) medicating himself with pills, powders and plant extracts. And got some favorable results: by five PM that evening he could utter sounds, even sing a few bars. The concert began well enough but in the middle of the second number his vocal cords swelled, and not a single note would escape his throat. Schwartz talked his way through the balance of his repertoire. Becoming increasingly aware of his problem, and how he’d striven to entertain them, the audience responded graciously, shouting for Maurice to get well and return as soon as possible.

                        Later that evening, lying in bed and unable to sleep, he cursed himself for putting his voice at great risk. He realized that all his life optimism was really another name for foolishness. He spent the long, scourging hours recalling how many moves in the past were made against the advice of Anna, and of wiser heads, who’d warned him about his rashness, his extravagant spending to achieve the best and the finest in his productions, only to doom them to failure and worse because of it. Worse than mere optimism, it was, in actuality, hubris that he should disregard common sense and  come out a winner.

                        By morning, neither his voice nor his spirit had improved. He took the short flight to Buenos Aires, and walked into a buzzing maelstrom of friends, reporters and photographers. Questions flew at him from all directions like flushed birds. He dared not risk answering a single one. Charley Groll and Jenny Goldstein were there too, and watched in horror as Maurice indicated by gestures his inability to speak. The Grolls had slaved for weeks, preparing for his engagement. They’d rented the Soleil, hired the finest crew available, arranged the necessary publicity. Rehearsals were scheduled in ten days, and there, in the center of the storm, stood this helpless mute.

                        And as a mute, Schwartz worked his crew, one of the actors standing in for him. His entire directing was done by facial expressions, gestures and pantomime, the actors cooperating nobly under the trying circumstances. The big question, the only question, tormenting Maurice and Charley, was would that deep, sonorous voice return in time for the advertised premiere date of Who Is Who, under its new name Professor Shelling? “The actors became restless. A few asked me to try whispering. They wanted to hear if I had any sound in my vocal cords. But I heeded my doctor’s instructions not to utter a single word until the opening”  (Schwartz 19 Dec. 1945).

                        That day arrived, and it was the longest of his life. Panic set in early, and as the minutes slowly lumbered by, he wished that should he be unable to speak on stage, he might die there of a heart attack, as Sigmund Feinman had. His first few minutes on stage were tentative and shaky, as Maurice started up his voice. As the play progressed, so did his voice, and by the third act, it was as if he’d never been ill. He felt “like a person who’d used crutches for years and was now trying to walk without them. At first he feels like he’s about to fall, but slowly regains his balance and walks with confidence”  (Schwartz 19 Dec. 1945).

                        Instantly, the crowd understood the harrowing conditions Schwartz had lived under for weeks. At the final curtain, they were generous with applause, but the play wasn’t an overwhelming success, just as it wasn’t in New York. Maurice suspected the reason was the large number of German refugees in both audiences, who’d misinterpreted the Professor’s denial of his Judaism until the work’s end. Almost an apostate like Sabbatai Zvi, the doctor recants, but not soon enough for the playgoers.

                        The next offering Gogol’s Inspector General, was not a hit either, because a mainstream Argentinean company had recently concluded a year’s run of the piece. It wasn’t until Salvation that Schwartz scored well. Groll was content at last, and left for America to be with Jenny, who’d gone ahead earlier to restart her own career after being away for so long.

                         Surprisingly, nothing is mentioned in Schwartz’s account of his 1942 visit to Argentina about the proposition by Buenos Aires Jewish leaders to build a Yiddish Art Theatre branch there, where Maurice might be engaged for six months of the year. Perhaps the war had changed their minds, having increased the uncertainty Jews must have felt in a country with more than its share of native and foreign Nazis.

                       The contract at the Soleil satisfied, Maurice flew to Montevideo for a six-week engagement, after which he returned to Buenos Aires, lured there by an offer to direct an Argentinean musical revue in Spanish at the Casino Theatre, which was comparable to the Zeigfeld Follies in New York. The city’s greatest talents would participate. The show ran well for three months, Maurice gaining new friends and admirers from among all classes and religions in Buenos Aires.

                        Next, he was handed a Spanish translation of The Dybbuk, and captivated by the script, Maurice consented to direct the work. “It was late in the season and very hot, and I’d decided to return to New York, but the idea of The Dybbuk in Spanish greatly intrigued me. I wanted the Spanish people to see what a fine art work we Jews had”  (Schwartz 26 Dec. 1945).

                         One evening, coming back to his hotel after a performance of the piece, he found two letters waiting, each containing the same tragic news. The first, from Anna, told of his father’s death. The other, from one of Isaac’s friends in Jerusalem, gave the same terrible information. Isaac Schwartz had died peacefully and quietly, the way he’d lived. “He wasn’t sick, nor troubled; he fell asleep like a bird. [. . .] The blow was so severe that I couldn’t cry for the first half- hour. I was unable to imagine that such a beautiful, dear man was already in the true world”  (Schwartz 29 Dec. 1945).

                        The letter from Jerusalem also informed Maurice that his father had arranged for his own grave on the Mount of Olives, for the funeral, and even the telegram to America, notifying his children.

                        The next day, Maurice left Argentina for home.

Chapter Thirty-Three: “The Thwarted Angel of Death Hid Himself.”

                       The Yiddish Art theatre had no fixed location for the 1942-1943 season. Perhaps the reason was lack of space—cheap or dear—on Second Avenue or Uptown, with the war raging and money flowing freely, and an invasion of servicemen on leave, hungry to sample the 77 comedies, dramas and musicals on the Great White Way, (which was blacked out during the war to conserve energy, and to hide the City, should an air raid take place). There was no theatre available anywhere, especially to a maverick like Maurice Schwartz, who’d suddenly quit the Venice and his troupe the season before, to go on the hustings.

                        Back in town by summer, and deeply mourning his beloved father, Maurice nonetheless found it impossible to sit still, time lying heavy, as in the Noel Coward song. “Not performing is worse for me that for a card player unable to play cards”  (Schwartz 3 Jan. 1946). The America he’d come home to was a singularly galvanized nation, its entire efforts devoted to winning the war. Factories were going full blast, around the clock, turning out the wherewithal to defeat the Axis. The Depression was definitely over, and with prosperity came shortages-- supply unable to keep up with demand-- in everything including playhouses. Maurice was forced to gather a company of Art Theatre veterans and take to the road. In that group, were such outstanding performers as Samuel Goldenburg, Ben Zvi Baratov and Muni Serebrov. Together they would become a modern version of the itinerant European troupe, immortalized in Sholem Aleichem’s Wandering Stars.

                        They would stop for a few engagements or a few days in a favorite, receptive city, before moving on, making their way westerly to California. There, Maurice looked up a trio of former employees and friends who’d found work in Hollywood as bit players and character actors. Leonid Snegoff was the most successful at it (except for Paul Muni), beginning with Broken Hearts in 1926, leading up to his finest film work as the guerrilla Ignacio in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Kurt Katch from The Brothers Ashkenazi, and Egon Brecher, the actor/director first associated with Unzer Theatre in 1924 and the Yiddish Ensemble Theatre in 1931, were the two other Schwartz cronies. All three were hired for the film version of former Ambassador Joseph E. Davies’s memoir of his two-year assignment in the Russian capital. Mission to Moscow had a large cast, highlighting such current world figures as Stalin, Molotov, Churchill, and Von Ribbentrop, the unctuous Nazi Foreign Minister.

                         Maurice, who hadn’t made a film since Tevye the Milkman, and avid to do so, was hired to play a defendant in the infamous Moscow show trials of the late 1930’s. It was the tiniest of cameo roles, for which he received no cast credit. Chagrined on both accounts, Schwartz put the best possible face on it: “I did it not to refuse any part. Sometimes a small role can be used to demonstrate an actor’s abilities”  (Schwartz letter 12 Mar.1943).

                         By January, 1943, the Schwartz company was at the Mayan Theatre on South Hall Street in Los Angeles, preparing for a heavy schedule that would include The Brothers Ashkenazi, Sender Blank, Riverside Drive, and conclude with Maurice’s own adaptation of God, Man and Devil. All the while, he was planning his return to New York, the way an exiled king plots to regain the throne. Like very few men in public life, who have suffered humiliating defeats, he was able remarkably, to put behind him past disasters, glaring blunders, and enormous losses. He could handily throw off the past and concentrate on the future, scarred, of course, yet as eager as an ingenue. With vigor, he kept up a steady exchange of letters with William Mercur, his eyes and ears in Manhattan, to make certain that the Art Theatre’s out-of-town reviews would find their way into the Forward, the  Day, and other Jewish publications. To keep the flame alive, the interest high. Preparing the way for a triumphant return. “Do all you can and be healthy,” commanded Maurice, from his Elba at the Montecito Hotel in Hollywood  (Schwartz letter 5 Feb. 1943).

                        His California commitments completed, Schwartz flew to South America, his home away from home, for the third consecutive year. While he was busily engaged in Buenos Aires, Montevideo and other less populated places, Edwin Relkin was busy in New York, scouting a playhouse for the 1943-1944 season. The Art Theatre founder couldn't afford to risk another season's absence from the New York action, audience of all stripes being as fickle as they are. The high strung and hyperbolic Eddie Relkin managed to snare the Adelphi Theatre on W.54th Street, off Seventh Avenue, a neat little playhouse seating about 1400,

                        In this his 25th year as heart, soul and guiding spirit of the Yiddish Art Theatre—his Silver Jubilee—Schwartz must have felt particularly redeemed, returning to New York with a contract signed by I.J. Singer to produce his latest novel, The Family Carnovsky. By Maurice’s count, it would be his 125th play at the Art Theatre, in all its many locations, a feat unheard of  anywhere on the globe. Singer had already prepared an adaptation, the writer a quick study in the essentials of playwriting. Schwartz was pleased with the results, and on them, hired  Joseph Rumshinsky to compose the incidental music. The Family Carnovsky was no musical, much too serious a work for songs, but Schwartz had been long convinced of music’s importance, incorporated within his dramas, in the same enhancing way that filmmakers use background scores.

                        The plot of The Family Carnovsky (the novel not published in English until 1969, translated by the author’s son Joseph) was extracted and shaped into two parts and seven scenes. It delves into the life and times of three generations of Jews—beginning in Hitler’s Germany and concluding in America. From the grandfather (a businessman and devout Jew), to his son Georg (who becomes a doctor, serves in the Kaiser’s army, then later marries his non-Jewish nurse), to grandson Jegor, a sensitive youth.

                         Though Dr. Carnovsky  ascends to wealth and prestige during the tempestuous 1930’s in Germany, the Nazis whittle away at him, eventually isolating him and his family from the rest of society. But the one absorbing the most punishment is Jegor, physically and psychologically abused by fellow students, teachers and friends. The Carnovskys escape to America, but not long after, they self-destruct because of the damage done to Jegor in Germany.

                        The Nazi menace had been the subject for mainstream theatre before: Watch on the Rhine, in 1941, Candle in the Wind, in the same year, by Maxwell Anderson and starring Helen Hayes, and Tomorrow the World, by Gow and D’Usseau, a well-meaning story of trying to inculcate democracy in a former Hitler Youth, now living in a small American college town. The Family Carnovsky is the first truly powerful Yiddish play about Nazism’s pernicious effect on the Jews. But more than a dramatization this mass crime, the Singer work “is peopled with living characters, throbbing with conflict, convulsed with tragedy, small in periods of complacency, astute and virile in the hours of trial. Here, the Nazi atrocities and the whole of Hitlerism are only incidental to the Jewish scene”  (Schwartz 14 Feb. 1943).

                        In other words, it’s not the Nazis who are the central element of the work, but the Jews and their eternal struggle to remain a people.

                        The play opened on October 18th, with a cast of 60, headed by Schwartz as director and lead. Behind him was his usual superb cast, including Charlotte Goldstein, who had left the Art Theatre over a professional dispute with Maurice, but was back for good, until its end. The Yiddish press went to great lengths to compliment Schwartz on every aspect of the play, finding absolutely nothing negative in the production. Broadway critics were no less laudatory. All ten New York publications fell over themselves to find the proper superlatives. Perhaps the New York Sun described it best: “The overflowing house which attended the opening [. . .]  showed its appreciation as only a Yiddish Theatre audience can show it. For a full quarter hour after the final curtain, the spectators stood and applauded and would not stop until Mr. Schwartz, with I.J.Singer, the author, at his side, made them a speech”  (19 Oct. 1943).

                       Things were moving at a fine clip until the last week in November, when Schwartz was knocked flat by an attack of double pneumonia. He’d come to the Adelphi, burning with fever, then couldn’t get into costume because the room started to swirl like a merry-go-round. He was rushed to the hospital where (according to the perhaps overly dramatic actor) he lingered between life and death. After being put on the new wonder drug sulfa, his fever dropped to acceptable bounds, and “the thwarted angel of death hid himself somewhere in the mountains of darkness”  (Schwartz 3 Jan. 1946).

                        For two weeks during his hospital stay and recuperation at the Hotel Grossman in Lakewood, New Jersey, he rested his body, but not his mind. While Anatol Vinogradoff  played his role, Maurice wrote to William Mercur about converting his latest brush with eternity into Art Theatre capital: “You’ve got to get big publicity—first in the headlines—that I’m healthy again, after such a difficult infection as double pneumonia, with 105.5 fever, when they’d already given up on me. But I fought bitterly and won. On Friday, you must get top publicity in all the papers. With a picture, with the whole story”  (Schwartz letter 5 Dec. 1943).

                        Maurice reveled in the get-well cards, the letters of encouragement and the anxious phone calls that flooded the hospital and the hotel as a result of Mercur’s success with the press. When he returned to the Adelphi, a hero’s welcome awaited him from those who bought tickets just to see him alive and at work. Everyone commented on how gaunt he seemed from his bout with the Grim Reaper. With the blessed routine of theatre once more under his belt, Schwartz ran The Family for another four months, until the end of January. It could have continued until May, if the play had been confined to weekends, and not performed continuously. Midweek benefits (at greatly reduced prices) had shortened its life. After 136 performances the piece was forced to close. Once again, Schwartz profoundly regretted what the benefit performance had done to his theatre, how self-destructive it had become. “In this, we were also guilty, of course, because in the last years since Yoshe Kalb we relied on the bad way of presenting one play for an entire season. In order to be able to perform a season of 30 weeks, one has to do several new plays [. . .]”  (Schwartz 5 Jan. 1946).

                        But the benefit genie was out of thew bottle, and the Art Theatre couldn’t realistically go back to the repertory days of the past, when half a dozen new works would be introduced in tandem with the old favorites. When an audience would visit a theatre many times a season. When a troupe was constantly enlivened by new lines from new authors, and by the juggling of many fresh roles.

                       On February 10th, after the New York run, while the company was doing The Family Carnovsky in Boston, Maurice was stunned by word of I.J. Singer’s death in Manhattan, at the age of 50, from a heart attack. It was so sudden, and Maurice felt as if the ground had opened up beneath him: “This wonderful talent had just begun to bloom. Everything that he created up until that point was only a prologue to his great life’s work. He was still a source which surged forth and satisfied our cultural thirst”  (Schwartz 5 Jan. 1946).

                       The same evening, during a snowstorm, Maurice took a plane to New York to attend the funeral. The next day, he sat depressed in the chapel, observing the look of injured disbelief on the faces of his widow, his son Joseph, and his younger brother Isaac Bashevis, whose star as yet hadn’t risen.

                         Schwartz returned later that day to Boston, where the same evening he performed The Family Carnovsky. He could sense the writer’s presence hovering over the stage, infusing the actors with his spirit, convincing them that the magnificent body of work he’d left behind would never die. From Boston, in winter’s last gasp, the Art Theatre undertook its usual westward journey, beginning in Newark on March 1st, making its regular stops, arriving in late spring in Los Angeles. They'd be performing at the Biltmore, one of the finest playhouses in the city.

                        After such a trying season in New York, Maurice craved the warmth and guaranteed sunshine of California.

Chapter Thirty-Four: The Old New Beginning

                        “There comes a time when a person becomes a philosopher of his own accord and evaluates his life. Why am I tearing into the world?”  Schwartz asked himself at the close of his California engagement, still mourning the sudden death a few months earlier of Israel Joshua Singer  (Schwartz 5 Jan. 1946). With nothing on the horizon, no plans to return to Manhattan for the 1944-1945 season, he had the time to reflect, to hold himself out at an objective distance and take stock.

                        Lulled by the exotic climate and indolent lifestyle of Southern California, Maurice thought in terms of a complete year’s hiatus, “one long Sabbath to take in the rays of sunshine, shake off the past hard year a bit, and actually catch up with reading everything I hadn’t read, see a few things I hadn’t seen”  (Schwartz  5  Jan.1946). With well-deserved self-indulgence in mind, he began earnestly enough by moving into Peretz and Esther Hirshbein’s secluded cabin in the Hollywood hills. The Hirshbeins were away for the summer, on vacation in Calgary, Canada.

                        The home was an artist’s hideaway in the mountains, amply stocked with everything, including the finest in sound equipment and recordings. He and Anna were engulfed by tall trees, by profusions of wild flowers, and a cultivated garden of every hue and fragrance. And birds, thousands of birds, congregating close to the cabin during the day, at the many feeding stations the Hirshbeins had constructed. At night, the same birds would sing and chirp so loudly that it nearly drove Maurice insane. Nerves that were supposed to unjangle, became tied in knots. Restful sleep proved to be an impossibility, until he finally became inured to the jarring night- songs, and could slumber without the aid of chemical crutches.

                       And so, an accommodation with the environment reached, Schwartz opened himself as never before to the slow-paced ethos of the Far West. He unhurriedly ate his breakfast then went outdoors to soak up the omnipresent sunshine, or trek for hours up and down the verdant hills. But mostly he engaged in long, somber looks at his quarter century with the Art Theatre, weighing the successes against the failures. He basked in the triumphs but second-guessed himself on the flops: how he could have done better, or differently, or less splashily. He profoundly regretted the money squandered, the energy misguided, the unworthiness of some of the plays. He rued his own shortcomings—the petty jealousies, the unwarranted battles with actors, critics, playwrights. It all seemed so foolish now.

                        While Maurice’s batteries were recharging that nostalgic summer, the Allies were racing through France, after having landed in Normandy on June 6th, liberating Paris 11 weeks later. Schwartz may have been completely cut off from the world at large, but not from the world of Theatre. He kept up a steady correspondence with William Mercur, absorbing at his end everything of interest happening on Second Avenue.

                        Rest and relaxation had also stirred in Maurice the everlasting dream of being subsidized in the Art Theatre. As never before, he speculated over how much the lack of money had hampered him. In an exchange of letters, he and Harold Debrest, Special Representative of the combined Jewish press in America, worked out the formation of a Sponsoring Committee to serve as a funding device. The Committee organized by Debrest included some of the most recognizable names in America: Leonard Bernstein, Oscar Hammerstein 11, attorney Louis Nizer, Senator Robert F. Wagner and Dr. Stephen S. Wise. Wrote Debrest: “I’m sure that my plan will establish the Yiddish Art Theatre on a permanent basis financially and leave you the responsibility of carrying on artistically”  (3 July 1945).

                        Nothing of any consequence came of the well-meaning idea. The Sponsoring Committee was mentioned only once in print, in the elaborate playbill for Three Gifts, the opener for the Art Theatre’s 1945-1946 season. But never again. Like every effort so far to provide a solid economic foundation under his theatre, this latest attempt faded into oblivion.

                       The days of inactivity soon became interminable for Maurice, and in less than two months, he’d had his fill of sunshine, and scenery that wasn’t painted on canvas or plywood. Bored nearly to desperation, he chided himself for wasting an entire season on Second Avenue. But there was always Chicago, Yiddish Theatre’s next best city. Arrangements were quickly made with Oscar Ostroff, who produced Yiddish plays at the Douglas Park Theatre. A deal was consummated for an eight-week engagement. During September and October, Schwartz would be guest director at the Douglas Park. For this, he brought with him only one member of his troupe, Charlotte Goldstein. She too was summering in California and anxious to get back to work.

                        Directing the Ostroff ensemble was an experience never to be forgotten. The company specialized in operettas and melodramas, the very antithesis of what Schwartz had devoted his life and Art Theatre to. Jacob Siegel, editor of the Chicago Forward, warned him in advance about his undertaking: “If you can discipline the troupe to come to rehearsals on time and to perform seriously [. . .] your visit to Chicago will be worthwhile. If not, it would be better if you didn’t begin”  (Schwartz 12 Jan. 1946).

                       At their first meeting, Schwartz’s exalted reputation filled the troupe with awe and respect. He told the assembled crew exactly what he expected of them, what his standards were, and that if the enterprise sunk, it would be their fault, not his. The pep talk worked, as the players fell at once into line. “A holiday mood descended on the troupe. The rehearsals were the finest that a director could wish for. Everyone was punctual, sat in the corner, and watched the others, observing the positive and negative aspects of each performance”  (Schwartz 12 Jan. 1946).

                       The mixed marriage of Art Theatre director and shund  company worked out well during the two months, and Charlotte Goldstein got to know Maurice as never before, as few people ever had. “The reality is, like Alice in Wonderland, his life took shape in reverse. Its substance was all fantasy and illusion. The man did not have the capacity to feel deeply about anything except what pertained to the Art Theatre. There was nothing left to call upon. It was all consumed in that other world”  (Chafran 29 Nov. 1999).

                       After the eight weeks in Chicago were over, Schwartz hopscotched the East Coast for the next four months, from Montreal to Philadelphia, honoring the dates set up by Eddie Relkin, using past members of the Art Theatre, whoever was available, or whoever would rather perform his brand of theatre over anyone else’s. During a month’s engagement at the Parkway Theatre in Brooklyn, he met often and long with Reuben Guskin about getting properly re-established in New York. To a great extent, he considered the upcoming season to be a watershed period in his career, initiated by his two months of introspection and regeneration in the Hollywood hills. He may have also been influenced by what was happening in Europe. The war was whirling to its conclusion. Warsaw had been liberated on January 9th and Budapest on February 13th. By early March, the American First Army would cross the Rhine at Remagen into Germany. It promised to be a season of fresh starts—for the world and for the Art Theatre, though the full abomination of what came to be known as the Holocaust had been accumulating after the Russian s had taken Auschwitz during the last week of January.

                      No more, Maurice told the union head, would be roam the country, from playhouse to playhouse, season after season like some nomad. He must have a fixed location for at least five years. “The theatre audience and the Yiddish organizations that buy benefits must know the steady address of the Art Theatre, and I want to perform a season of more than 16 weeks. To do not one new play, but five, every season, besides the repertory pieces”  (Schwartz 12 Jan. 1946).

                       Charles Groll, lawyer extraordinaire and friend supreme, entered the discussions by negotiating with Jules Raines, the current landlord of the Public Theatre, where Maurice had briefly spent the 1940-1941 season. Because of its convenient location, on Second Avenue and 4th Street, the Public was ideal. It contained 1750 seats and a balcony. Charley worked out the greatly-desired five-year deal.

                        The lease inked, Schwartz at once engaged Rumshinsky to write the scores for five plays: Three Gifts by I.L. Peretz, Dr. Herzl by Lentz and Giliof (German playwrights Maurice had met in Buenos Aires), Wandering StarsKing Lear (the Gordin version) and David Pinski’s The Ba’al Shem. He also melded a company of the most seasoned Art Theatre players on hand, none better existing anywhere: Bertha Gersten, Luba Kadison, Yudel Dubinsky, Charlotte Goldstein, Abraham Teitelbaum, Irving Cashier and Morris Strassberg.

                       Buoyed by a wave of optimism, and on the strength of the new lease at the Public, the Schwartzes rented a three-room apartment at 26 E. 10th Street (in Anna’s name) for $118.25, with modest increases every two years. The apartment on the sixth floor was in a lovely Tudor-style building close to New York University and Greenwich Village, and only blocks from the theatre. The Schwartzes would retain the place for the next 15 years.

                       ‘The Old New Beginning’ was how Maurice described his eagerly awaited and wildly hopeful return to Second Avenue. “Toward a period in our theatre as happy as  [from 1922 to 1930], we aspire to return to it with an interest greater than ever before. For we are more mature now, better equipped to meet the challenges of the modern theatre in a liberated world confronting every sincere artist”  (Schwartz Programme Oct. 1945). In the same message to his audience, Maurice acknowledged that he was at a crossroad, and despite the many unsolved and perhaps unsolvable problems remaining at the Art Theatre, he pledged himself to return to those felicitous days of putting up several new plays a season, with steady infusions of repertory.

                        For this fresh start, Schwartz marshaled an extremely able force behind the footlights as well as in front: Max Kreshover, a tested pro, was taken on as Business Manager; Mitchell Kantor as General Manager; good, sturdy William Mercur, in charge of publicity in the Jewish press; and Anne Woll, beginning her career as English-language Publicity Manager, a position of growing importance, with the coming of age of third-generation American Jews, As an indication of this group’s importance to the Art Theatre, an ad for Three Gifts was placed by Miss Woll in the regular list of Broadway plays in the New York Times, bewteen Eva Le Gallienne’s Therese and Sigmund Romberg’s Up in Central Park.

                        “Three Gifts is one of the most beautiful pearls that Peretz created. In order to bring it out onstage, I engaged the renowned poet Melech Ravitch, for whom every word of Peretz is a diamond. For months, we worked on the dramatization, until we were both satisfied”  (Schwartz 12 Jan. 1946). Knowing Maurice’s tendency to tinker, it can be reasonably assumed that the finished product was more Schwartz than Ravitch, even if the latter was Canada’s foremost Yiddish poet,

                        The story of Three Gifts is a truly poetic one, a folktale. The place is Poland, the time unknown. Joel, an elderly and superior violinist, is content to remain in a small town and perform with his sons. He dies suddenly and is reincarnated as his long-lost brother Jechiel, and must wander the earth in search of three special gifts in order to be admitted into Paradise. He gathers the three gifts from Jews martyred during his peregrinations, and finally does gain entrance.

                        The English-language press mainly delighted in the fantasy that opened on October 1st, 1945. But to Maurice’s great consternation, the New York Times did not review the piece. A day after its premiere, he dashed off a note to Lewis Nichols, the current Times theatre critic: “This is the first time in 25 years that the New York Times has not reviewed one of our productions. Our press representative, Miss Anne Woll, relayed to us that it is the policy of the New York Times not to review a Yiddish performance in the downtown section of New York”  (Schwartz letter 3 Oct. 1945). This of course was not the strict truth, but close enough to it for Maurice to kick up a fuss. He personally invited Nichols to come see Three Gifts and to meet him afterward. There is no record of either offer being accepted.

                       Not to be outdone, the Yiddish critics also found lots to enjoy in the Peretz work. Private citizens were duly impressed as well, among them the illustrious Professor of Dramatic Arts at NYU: “Not only is your own performance in Three Gifts a work of artistry in acting, but also the production is on the same level of accomplishment”  (Sommerville 2 Nov. 1945).

                        As an example of Schwartz’s skewed sense of humor, which flourished no matter how much pressure he was under, there happened an unexpected incident at one performance, during Joel’s death scene. His last earthly request is to have his sons play for him, one more time. “They all take their instruments and start playing a sad tune. One of the sons plays off-key, and Schwartz remarks: ‘How do you expect me to die with a sound like that?’ The audience roared with laughter and the curtain fell on the tragic scene”  (Mercur 225). Three Gifts ran      well for over two months, then was replaced on December 20th by Dr. Herzl. The new play, in two parts and 12 scenes, stocked a full contingent of characters borrowed from Yiddish and world history. The plot covers Theodore Herzl’s uphill battle to convince the world, both Jewish and Christian, of the need for a modern Zion in Palestine. But not too convincingly in the drama presented by the Art Theatre, as far as the English-speaking press was concerned, their consensus being that the piece was chock full of long discourses and empty of theatrical value. For the Yiddish audience and critics, a different attitude prevailed, shaped by increasing reports out of Europe, of the wholesale extermination of entire Jewish communities in every nation the Nazis overran. Herzl’s dream of a Jewish homeland was a dream that had to be realized. In the Art Theatre’s attempt at recreating the circumstances that converted Theodore Herzl from a standoffish, assimilated newspaperman, to a devoted partisan for Israel, often scenes would be interrupted by thunderous applause. At each and every final curtain, Schwartz received a standing ovation.

                        The season ended however with many of Maurice’s promises unfulfilled, with but two plays actually presented. The expected windfall from the Sponsoring Committee never came to pass, and there was never enough money left at the end of the week to pay the bills. The Art Theatre was forced to do what it had been doing for many years: to pack up its equipment and leave New York in the dead and drear of winter to visit the provinces.

                          Maybe next season will be a better one. It was all Maurice could cling to and hope for.

Chapter Thirty-Five: “A Very Unspectacular Season”

                        Twice before, Maurice had met Zalman Zalkind Schneour—during the Art Theatre’s first swing through Europe in 1924, in Paris, and again in 1937, in Palestine, where Schwartz had induced the noble-looking, ebony-bearded literary giant to translate Yoshe Kalb into Hebrew for the Ohel. The year before the second visit, Joseph Leftwich had translated the writer’s most famous novel Noah Pandre into English, after it had been serialized in The Forward. In 1945, an expanded version was produced under the title Song of the Dneiper, with 14 new chapters added and some original chapters excised. This is the version that gained Maurice’s attention.

                        Before leaving for the summer season in Buenos Aires, Schwartz contacted the newly immigrated David Licht, the Argentine Yiddish Folk Theatre director, about doing the dramatization and directing of the Schneour work. Though Maurice was in Argentina during the spring and early summer of 1946, he kept tabs on Licht’s progress in New York through William Mercur, attempting to micromanage though thousands of miles away. “I want you to know that I place the entire success or, God forbid, failure on you and Kreshover, and if the Publicity Department and the organizations aren’t hot for it—things won’t be good”  (Schwartz letter 26 May 1946).

                        Despite his faith in Mercur, he couldn’t help trying to control the advertising campaign for Song of the Dneiper from afar. He designated the placing of posters in the many Jewish enclaves in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, wherever the Americanized Jews resided, wherever the influx of refugees from the concentration camps had settled. “Also, you should give Anne Woll enough material so that she can place news items in the English- language press. Aside from that, the ads should appear in the Times and the Post every two weeks—one week in the Times, one week in the Post. Write often and see to it that the work proceeds ferociously” (Schwartz letter 26 May 1946).

                       The ad Anne Woll, the Art Theatre’s English-language Publicity Manager, placed in the New York Times, was eye-catching and double sized. On opening night, it towered above a like notice for Laurence Olivier’s production of Henry V at the Golden, which in turn rested on an astounding two-column directory of arguably the finest Broadway presentations every assembled in any single season: Anna Lucasta, Annie Get Your Gun, Born Yesterday, Call Me Mister, Cyrano de Bergerac, Oklahoma, Show Boat, State of the Union, and 17 other top flight attractions.

                       For the sole new offering of the 1946-1947 season, Schwartz gathered the best troupe available, mostly second-stringers, as many of his hearty perennials were growing much too ancient for the roles available. And the very capable ones still performing, like Bertha Gerstein, had transferred their loyalties to Broadway and to the films. Rumshinsky, by this late  date was the Art Theatre’s regular composer, wrote the score. With Licht doing yeoman service as adapter and director, Maurice confined himself to playing the lusty lead role and overall supervision of the project.

                        For such an important offering, the one and only for the season, and absent a large budget, Maurice desperately wanted Sam Leve to do the settings, Sam a designer known for doing much with very little. Leve had last worked for the Art Theatre eight years before, in Who Is Who, then went on to greater fame and more lucrative assignments on Broadway, involved in 20 productions since 1938. The two men met for lunch at the Café Royale, and Schwartz made his offer. Which Sam declined. “What’s the matter, Levenu? You’ve become a big shot now that you’re on Broadway? You don’t want to work for me anymore?”

                       “No, no,” shot back the diminutive set designer. “It’s just that I can’t afford to work for you.” Sam rose from the table and did a half turn. “See this suit I’m wearing, Mr. Schwartz? It cost $200.”

                         Schwartz, who cared little for sartorial splendor, got up, and with a weighty silence, examined the suit carefully, as if perusing a Van Gogh. He palped the fine cloth of the jacket between his thumb and forefinger, nodding his approval. “Nice, very nice, Levenu. Take my word, you’ll never have to buy another one. “

                         At once, Sam broke into laughter, and despite a backlog of mainstream projects, he accepted the assignment. “I could never refuse Maurice Schwartz anything”  (Leve 28 May 1998).

                        The theatre program, beginning with Yoshe Kalb, had become an important advertising tool for Schwartz. The first half of its extra large pages was in English, the second part in Yiddish, and it served not only for the essential of listing the players and their roles, but as a platform for Maurice to do a bit of crowing, by reviewing the Art Theatre’s extraordinary past, and to herald an even brighter future (tentative though it surely was). A synopsis in English was also de rigueur, for those third-generation Jews who might miss the narrative flow of the spoken play, their Yiddish having grown rusty or obsolete. Also, more and more non-Jews were coming to the Art Theatre as a result of the fabulous English-language reviews, wherever Schwartz happened to be that particular season.

                        Starting with Salvation in 1939, Maurice introduced something quite innovative to the playbill: a group photo of the entire Art Theatre staff, much like that of a pennant-winning baseball team. Heretofore, there’d been shots of the lead players only, separate and isolated. For Song of the Dneiper, the program features three rows of actors and non-actors in no discernible pecking order. The bottom tier contains in its center Schwartz (appearing quite paterfamilias), then to his left sits a most uncomfortable Zalman Schneour, on the edge of his seat, as if poised for flight after being grouped with performers and box office personnel. To the author’s left, Buddha-like and self-composed, is Joseph Rumshinsky, the most veteran of veterans. To Maurice’s right, is David Licht, slim, dapper and bow-tied, his back soldier-straight as if ordered that way by the photographer.

                        Fanning out right and left of the four, are Isidore Cashier (stuck with the face and figure of a Russian commissar); a self-conscious but minor player, Celia Pearson; a grandmotherly Anna Appel (after 28 years of service with the Art Theatre); cool and serene Luba Kadison; a slightly disheveled-appearing Frances Adler; a distracted Jenny Casher (Mrs. Isadore Cashier; and, with his arms folded and expression ironic, Menachem Rubin, in his second year with Schwartz.

                       The second level holds an assortment of the new and the old. Among the former are white-haired, beetle-browed Leib Kadison (Luba’s distinguished and versatile father); an arrogant-seeming Yudel Dubinsky; multitalented Morris Strassberg; black-suited Mark Schweid (who handled Yiddish and English-language parts with distinction, and who’d worked during the war for the Office of War Information in Berlin). To Schweid’s left, in a high upsweep hairdo, is a radiant Charlotte Goldstein, and beside her is tiny Sam Leve, looking bright-eyed but underage. To Sam’s left, is long-faced Ola Shlifko, a first-timer with the Art Theatre. Beside her, stands Jacob Rechtzeit, another newcomer, whowas Ola’s husband and brother of operetta idol Seymour Rexsite. Alongside Jacob is Abe Teitlebaum, a long-termer and respected author on art and drama. Then comes Gustave Berger, recently out of the army. Followed by supporting actors Misha Fishohn and Morris Krohner.

                       The top row is more or less the front office and the backstage crew, as well as a few more bit players. Willisam Mercur stands anchored at the right end, angled to face the entire ensemble, as if watching over them. It was Mercur who took this group portrait one step further by including two pages of thumbnail profiles of all 24 players, which not only individualized each, but gave them a history to go with their faces.

                        Briefly, Song of the Dneiper encompasses the life, times and travails of Noah Pandre, a teamster who attracts not only a Jewish sweetheart, but also a high born Christian lady, as in the much earlier Yiskor. In fact, both works have the same background of an earthy Jewish peasantry posed against a militantly antisemitic Slavic township. In Noah’s case, an accidental slight to the town’s police chief results in an 18-month jail sentence for Pandre. Upon his eventual release, he arrives back home just as a pogrom is brewing, organized by the same police chief. A fight takes place, and Noah, defending himself, kills the murderous official. The pogrom is averted, if only for now.

                       The play opened on October 25, 1946 to less than wonderful reviews. Atkinson (replacing Lewis Nichols) noted quite rightly that Maurice “is getting a trifle too mature and portly to emulate Valentino. He needs more spring in his knees to raise himself to full manly height after scenes of polite rapture with his sweetheart”  (Times 26 Oct. 1946). Nonetheless, the critic did recommend the piece for its “abundance of narrative, many characters and many scenes,” noting that “the Yiddish Art Theatre has always been one of the most interesting stage organizations in this city, and it always produces plays with good taste”  (Times 26 Oct. 1946).

                         Song of the Dneiper was not the resounding hit Schwartz had devoutly hoped for back in May. It ran decently well however, until the first week in December, while Frank Sinatra was thrilling the bobbysoxers at the Wedgewood Room and Ted Lewis was doing the same for their parents and grandparents at Lou Walter’s Latin Quarter. With essentially the same crew, except for David Licht (who’d left) and Sam Leve (who’d gone back to Broadway), the Art Theatre resurrected Wandering Stars on December 13th. It was tolerated but not wildly received by both presses.

                       Thus ended the 1946-1947 year for the Art Theatre. “It was a very unspectacular season,” commented Charlotte Goldstein.  (Chafran 30 Nov. 1999). Schwartz’s high expectations were dashed, but this didn’t send him into a state of depression, at least on the surface, as it might well have, for someone less strongly constructed, with so much exquisite Yiddish Theatre history behind him, and seeing all he’d striven and suffered for reduced to a single but poorly received play, over a greatly reduced season.

                       Did he wallow in past glories? Did he rage against the loss of what used to be? “Hardly,” said Charlotte. “When business was terrible, that’s when he was the sweetest, the most humorous, the most fun, the most mischievous. His everyday working attitude was strong and positive. He came to the theatre each morning prepared to do the best job possible”  (Chafran 30 Nov. 1999).

                        Perhaps the grand honor he received over the disheartening winter sustained him, even if in his soul he nursed legitimate fears about the Art Theatre’s future, regardless of a five-year lease. On February 18th, the Jewish Forum Magazine, a well-respected monthly dealing with serious topics of interest to Jews everywhere, from music and drama in Manhattan to the Black Jews of Abyssinia, celebrated its 30th anniversary by presenting Maurice with its Louis D. Brandeis medal. The editorial that month began with Schwartz’s contributions to Jewish life as an artist, and how the Talmud lauds the spreading of culture among its followers by strengthening the resolve of Jews everywhere to strive under unfavorable conditions. “Maurice Schwartz however does more. He not only makes people laugh, he also makes them cry. He not only stirs the sympathies, but he also ignites the emotions to action”  (Rosengarten Feb. 1947).

                        For this singular honor, held at the Public Theatre, Maurice scheduled a complete act from three of his favorite productions—Yoshe Kalb, Tevye the Milkman, and Wandering Stars, with full casts for each. The Citizens Committee of the Forum, credited with arranging the gala evening, included, as Honorary Chairmen, former Governor Herbert Lehman, and current US Senator Robert F. Wagner.

                        Schwartz accepted his medal during intermission, clad in his Tevye costume, with Wandering Stars yet to be performed. “Mr. Chairman and dear friends,” he began. “This evening I feel happier than one who has gained or found a million dollars; for of what significance is a material treasure in comparison with a spiritual one?”  (Schwartz  Jewish Forum)

                        The recognition of so many, from different walks of life, was yet another form of applause for Maurice, and may have gone a long way in relieving his dejection over the miserable season. It may have been what had kept him seemingly so charming, so upbeat, such good company (according to Charlotte Goldstein). Using the dais however as a bully pulpit, he revealed his truer self by directing the audience’s attention to “the importance of subsidizing the better type of theatre in America, without distinction as to the language of expression [. . .]. The artist must not be obsessed by worrying over a livelihood; he must have in mind only his artistry”  (Schwartz Jewish Forum).

                       That old chimera again. Schwartz may have shown a happy face to Charlotte and the rest of his crew, but his acceptance speech more accurately reflected the bitterness over the killing pressure he was constantly under to cover expenses, and the constant anguish of knowing how much more he could have accomplished, if only…


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