Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Moritz Morrison
(Moshe Kohn)

translation in progress....


Born circa 1885 in Galatz [Galaţi], Romania. His father was a Russian Jew, his mother was born in Romania. In his early years he wandered off to Germany and Austria, where he learned in Mitele and in more veteran institutions, not completing any one of them since he was drawn to the stage.

One of his teachers was the Jewish historian Professor Graetz. M. heard several languages, such as German, French, later Spanish, Italian and eventually English. Although in his early youth Yiddish was spoken at home, he later became completely estranged from the Yiddish language.

Debuting as an actor in 1878 in Westphalen, Germany, where he called[?] but not feeling any great enthusiasm, he did not remain for long in the local troupe.

Without a means to make a living, M. barely (killed any opinions?), where he entered into a theatre house. Here he caught the attention of Mbinim, took to study the classical repertoire that then was in style, and in the span of a short time he already was shown in responsible roles.

M. acted for three years in the Meininger troupe, then he toured with troupes and often as a guest-star across various large cities in Germany, Austria, guest-starring in Romania and acting in the imperial theatre in Peterburg, where he had great success. Later he also visited other large cities in Russia, though he became especially popular with the German theatre public in Berlin and Vienna.


At the end of the eightieth year of the twentieth century(?), M. arrived in America and acted for four seasons in the German Irving Place Theatre in New York. Boris Thomashefsky, who then was acting in Philadelphia, noticing in the press releases that M. was a Jew, endeavored to be introduced to him and to take him away from New York, but he wasn't successful. In 1891, according to Thomashefsky, when he had acted in Phladelphia, M. came to him behind the curtains. "An entirely ordinary, poor tramp with torn clothing, brodiage, a vagabond, sorrowful, lame, twisted, farmers' boots of the cheap sort. His pants were torn, were a little too short, from the shoes he looked like an old man. His coat was torn. Through his sleeves could be seen his naked hand and a plain farmer's shirt of the cheap short. The buttons were torn off, but there appeared to be expensive silk underwear. His face was burnt by the sun, like a true farmer with a large, blackened face, and a fine tsekampter beard..."

According to Thomashefsky, M. declared to him that the Christian stage performers had driven him from New York. The stage director has said to him during a rehearsal: "Herr Morrison, the Jews speak." M. left the theatre and no longer send for him, and in several days he read that he was rejected from the German theatre because the German attendees wanted to have a German, not any Yiddish theatre. He was too ashamed to return, and he returned back from Europe. And out of shame he cashed in [his] acting card and drank [?] And without any means of earning money he went away to Chicago. Here he had, through an ad in the newspaper, zikh fardungen not far from the city, in a form as a day worker for twelve dollars a month, which he however did not receive payment.

M. spent three months with Thomashefsky. Within this time he made up the actors, and they helped them dress. Many times he helped the stage workers put together the scenery, and sometimes he even swept the stage.

Once when M. had complained to Thomashefsky that it is very boring. Thomashefsky made a proposal to him that he should begin to act for him in Yiddish. However -- as Thomashefsky tells it --- "Morrison became pale, his hands and feet were trembling, his eyes had shed tears. He made with the lips like it was torture for him to speak. All of a sudden he was exhausted and went off to the kitchen [cook], and we soon hard a horrible roar like a wounded bear. He was hit in the heart and cried: "I am a Yiddish actor! I, Moritz Morison! Who should I play? "Dovid Velvel" as the "Khlutsh," Papus or Tsingetan? Boris, you have grieved me! Boris, you want my entire career to break; Moritz Morrison a Yiddish actor! -- and he burst into tears."

Several days later M. apologized, and he declared that he is ready to act in Yiddish, but shortly thereafter he again withdrew sufficiently[?] for its strange characters that were presented in the Yiddish theatre. Through the initiative of Thomashefsky, M. received the opportunity to perform once in the German play, "The Two Partners," for theatre director Halis in Chicago, and both the press and public took to him warmly.

Soon after the production M. -- according to Thomashefsky -- again disappeared, and around 1903 happened again in New York at the Thalia Theatre: "The beard was not no large as before, the clothing no longer like a farmer, only a bit torn up, tsekneytshte, the shoes worn out. It already was cold and his clothes were summerlike, in a straw hat, and under his arm he bore a small paper box..."

In the box there were M.'s used wigs from "Othello," "Hamlet," "Kean" and "Shylock," and he [then] asked to borrow ten dollars, which he received on a pawn. Soon thereafter he went off to a wine cellar, [and] two days later he again received and stuttered that he wanted to act in Yiddish theatre if.... more to translate....

[bottom, p. 1250]

On 12 December 1903 M. performed in the People's Theatre as "Othello" ("Iago" -- Boris Thomashefsky, "Desdemona" -- Malvina Lobel); on 1 January 1904 as "Hamlet" ("Ophelia" -- Malvina Lobel). On 29 January 1904 as "Kean"; on 30 January 1904 as "Uriel Acosta"; on 11 March 1904 at the Grand Theatre as "Franz" in Schiller's "Der roybers (The Robbers)" ("Karl" -- Jacob P. Adler, "Amalia" -- Sara Adler), and on 31 March 1905 in the Grand Theatre (together with Sara Adler) in "Narciss and Madame De Pompadour" by Brachfogel.)

Soon thereafter M. again went off to Europe where he guest-starred in various cities. Thomashefsky writes as such about M.'s production in Karlsbad: "He acted in 'Kean." I was.... more to translate....

So M. yearlong used to come to America during the winter to guest-star on the Yiddish stage, and at the beginning of the summer he returned to Germany.

In 1910 M. guest-starred with Malvina Lobel across the American province, and on 5 March 1911 he again was with Thomashefsky in the People's Theatre in "The Robbers" again, traveled across the province and acted in March-May 1912 in Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre in his prior repertoire, and on 1 May 1912 as "King Richard III" by Shakespeare. In October 191e he again acted in his repertoire in the Lipzin Theatre, then for a long time in other New York theatres, and across the province, but it did poor business.

On 23 January 1915 M. performed in Thomashefsky's National Theatre in George Ahnet's (sp) drama, "Libe un shtoltz (Love and Pride?) (transaltion by Moshe Schorr), and acted often at the start of the 1915-6 season in Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre.

On 23 January 1916 M. acted in Yiddish in Henryk Ibsen's "Di gayster (The Ghost)" for Maurice Schwartz's testimonial, and on 3 March 1916 he acted in Lateiner's "A korbon fun libe (A Victim of Love?)." In November 1916 he again acted in his repertoire in Bessie Thomashefsky's People's Theatre.

About M.'s last days in Yiddish theatre, Boris Thomashefsky writes: "He became sick from grief and had begun to use measures to sustain himself.... when he became melancholy, and the bitter sorrow and the elderly had deeply criticized him, the legs were breaking and the bust had ..... Morrison quickly caught the fleshl with piln, which he had built....aruntershlungen one or two, and ten minutes later Morrison had again been redeemed[?], his eyes had acquired a brilliant fire. He had aroused himself in his entire being, and again for several hours became the former Morrison... On 5 June 1917 he acted in his last production, "Othello," for me in the theatre. I was then in Chicago, but they told us that it was a terrible production. After the third act, Morrison became broken... He fell, rolling one foot after the other, but it did not help him. A well-known doctor stuck him with needles and gave various measures. With his last effort he ended the last act."

On 28 Agust 1917 M. passed away in New York and according to his will -- was brought to his gravesite next to Sigmund Mogulesko at Washington Cemetery in New York [Brooklyn.]

Lead Pencil [B. Botwinik] portrayed M.'s last years on the Yiddish stage: "The last two to three years of his life he had the former [stage-] king of Europe acting Dora Benefislech [?] in the Yiddish theatres. The last time his friend from the European princess ...

.more to translate....[third paragraph, pg. 1252]

B. Gorin characterized M. as an actor and his role on the Yiddish stage: "Moritz Morrison was a well-known figure and not only in the theatre circles, where he always.... more to translate....

Ab. Cahan characterized him this way: "He was a German actor, not a Yiddish one, and as a German he acted for us. ... when Morrison wanted to learn how to act in plain [simple[ Yiddish, he wanted to.... more to translate....

Boris Thomashefsky writes about M.'s career: "He struggled with the world arts, he.... more to translate....

2nd paragraph, p. 1254

In the necrology in "Morning Journal" there was remarked: "To the Jewish audience he had strongly oysgenumen as "Kean" and was his greatest call in Yiddish theatre... more to translate....

Reuben Breinin.... more to translate....

Joel Entin writes: "... more to translate....

pg. 1255

Jacob Kalich recalls: "He [M.] had.... more to translate.....

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre Vol. II, p. 169.

  • Y. Kritikus [Kirschenbaum] -- Morison un malvina lobel, "Der kanader adler", Montreal, 3 Maarch 1910.

  • Z. Kornblith -- "Shylock" un vi moris morison ferteytsht ihm "Di yidishe bihne", N. Y., 8 April 1910.

  • M. D. [Dantsis] -- Morits morison als "kenig lier", "Di yidishe bihne", N. Y., 15 April 1910.

  • Jacob Kirschenbaum -- Kunst un kinstler, "Di yidishe velt", Cleveland, 27 June 1915.

  • Bessie Thomashefsky -- "Mayn lebens geshikhte", N. Y., 1916, pp. 166-170, 244, 260-61.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Morits morison's role oyf der yidisher bihne, "Forverts", N. Y., 29 August 1917.

  • Y. Entin -- Morits morison, "Di varhayt", N. Y., 29 August 1917.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- A yidisher kinstler geshtorben, "Morning Journal," N. Y., 29 August 1917.

  • Boris Thomashefsky  -- Thomashevsky beshreybt vi azoy er hot zikh bekent mit morisonen, "Forverts," N. Y., 30 August 1917.

  • Y. Z. Shubin -- A fershtoytener, "Der tog," N. Y., 30 August 1917.

  • Lead Pencil [B. Botwinick] -- Morris morrison, "Forverts," N. Y., 31 August 1917.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- Morrison hot amol gemuzt ferlozen di bihne un veren a farmer, dort.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- Thomashefsky als morison's menedzsher, "Forverts," N. Y., 1 September 1917.

  • Reuben Breinin -- Moris morison, "Yidishe togblat", N. Y., 4 September 1917.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- Vi azoy morison iz gevorn a hushv oyf der yidisher bihne, "Forverts," N. Y., 5 September 1917.

  • B. Gorin -- Morits morison, "Morning Journal," N. Y., 5 September 1917.

  • Jacob Kalich -- Moris morison, keniglikher shoyshpiler, geshtorben a betler, "Der teater shtern," N. Y., 1 Decemner 1926.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 1248.

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