M. debuted immediately after this in Adler’s
Poole's Theatre as “Samson’s Father” in the historical
operetta “Samson the Hero." But since he was still not
proficient in the Yiddish language, and since he also
couldn’t stand the atmosphere therein, he returned
immediately after the third performance to his old
trade. He started to visit the restaurants and
coffee-houses where actors got together. There he
literally swallowed every word about theatre.
Now he started to renew his connection to Yiddish
theatre and he returned to Adler’s Roumanian Opera House,
where he once again made a debut in Gordin’s “The Jewish
About those days M. tells us in his autobiography:
“The actors performed according to the 'mark' system
(meaning that they received percentages of the ticket
sales). They received no wages, which in those days
wasn’t the accepted thing, and in-as-much as the
Roumanian Opera House was a very small and poorly endowed
theatre, usually my share came out to five or six
dollars a week. Adler would personally bring my money to
me wrapped in a cloth and would count it out for me in
nickels and dimes, so that I would have something to
count and to occupy myself with. I began to look with
practical eyes on my life and specifically at theatre.
It was then that I began to understand that one has to
climb up the ladder of life one step at a time. This
gave me the courage and motivation to endure and to
fight my way up, while I was on the Yiddish stage, in
order one day to become a 'star.' I would learn my roles
enthusiastically and with great pleasure, in order to
excel each time. I also started to fall in love
with those small windfalls that Yiddish theatre periodically
brought to me, because I continued to long for and yearn
to one day be a 'star.' However, the longer I appeared
on the Yiddish stage, the more dismal was the outlook,
for me to one day become such a star. Not because I
wasn’t making progress with my performances, but for a
completely other reason: The Yiddish 'star' in those
days and even the other players were fat, obese, massive
Jews, with round bellies, fat necks, and puffy cheeks. So that when they came onto the stage, there was what to
look at. Very often their appearances had much to do
with the impression they made on the stage, especially
when they played highly respected, honorable roles. I,
on the other hand, was tall and thin like a stick. I was
six feet tall. Despite this I only weighed 125 pounds,
even in my heavy winter clothes. Even if I was playing
the role of a detective or of a criminal, or other such
roles which the audiences, in those days used to boo
instead of applaud, my physical appearance was very
harmful to my popularity."
As Reb Shulman
The first two years that M. played in the Yiddish
theatre he also worked during the day in a
factory. Later he opened a coffee-house. In
those days he played in a wide variety of roles.
In 1896 he starred as Beinish Wasserman” in
Jacob Gordin’s “Shloymke Charlatan” with
Adler-Kessler, in 1898—“Reb Shulman” in Gordin’s
“Mirele Efros” with Lipzin, Kessler, Tornberg,
Dinah Feinman, etc., in 1899—“ Elkanneh” in
Gordin’s “The Slaughter” with Lipzin, Kessler,
Mogulesco et al.
He won his personal popularity on stage, first of
all in the role of “Uriel Mazik” in Gordin’s “
God, Man and Devil” (September 21, 1900) in the
Thalia Theatre with Kessler, Bertha Kalich, Leon
Blank, Tornberg, Dinah Feinman, Mary Wilensky
and Sonia Nadolsky.
In that same year he appeared in the role of
“Aksel” in Gordin’s “The Oath” with Lipzin,
Kessler, Blank, Tornberg, Celia Adler, et al, and “King Stempel” in Gordin’s “Sappho”
with Bertha Kalich, Dinah Feinman, Kessler,
Mogulesco, Elias Rothstein, Bina Abramowitz,
Mary Wilensky et al.
In January 1902 he created the role of “Gregory”
in Gordin’s “The Kreutzer Sonata” with Kessler, Kalich,
Tornberg, Nadolsky and Wilensky. October 12, 1903—in the
Thalia Theatre as “Joel Trachtenberg” in Gordin’s “Di yesoyme (The Orphan
Girl) with Bertha Kalich, Kessler, Katzman, Mary Epstein, et
al. In the same year he
played—Herr Stegton” in Gordin’s “The Truth” with
Kalich, Kessler, Sigmund Feinman, Katzman, Nettie Tobias
et al. In 1905 he played the title role of Jacob Gordin’s
“The Unknown One” with Lipzin, Blank, Mogulesco, Mary
Epstein, etc. In 1907 he was “Philip Weiss” in Gordin’s
“Without a Home” with Sara and Jacob Adler, Samuel
Rosenstein, Mary Wilensky et al. On December
32,1907 he played “Rabbi Wolf” in Gordin’s “Galicia Diaspora’
with Jacob P. and Sara Adler, Samuel Rosenstein, Gershon
Rubin et al.
For the 1905-06 season M. became a partner in the New
York Thalia Theatre (with Kenny Lipzin, Jacob Gordin and
Mogulesco). In 1907-08 he undertook a tour of America
along with Kenny Lipzin and explored the different
regions of the land.
M. had an enormous success in 1908-09 in the
Lipzin Theatre playing “Eliyahu Zeitlin” in I.
Solotorefsky’s play “White Slaves." In that same season
he played the leading male role in Solotorefsky’s play
‘The Sinner." He also went on a pleasure trip to
Europe. He appeared in Warsaw in several plays, and
after that in some cities in Russia. As a result he
became the first American Jewish actor to represent
American art theatre in Europe. His trip, which was a
tremendous success, was well written up and reviewed in
the New York journal “The Yiddish Stage."
In the 1909-10 season M. appeared once again in
New York in Lipzin’s theatre where he was able to play
all the leading male roles in Solotorefsky’s play
“Cards," “Children, or, On Account of the Parents' Sins”
and “The Anchored Wife." On September 16, 1910 he
appeared in that same theatre in “The Master Builder” by
In 1911 M. traveled again to Europe and visited
Warsaw, Lodz and Odessa playing in “Uriel Mazik (Demon),"
“The Father” by Strindberg, and in Lodz he played
“Eliyahu Zeitlin” and in Solotorefsky’s “White Slaves."
About his travels, Noah Prilutzki wrote at that
time: “In the role of 'Uriel Mazik' this traveling actor
(M.) is helped enormously by his diction, which has no
comparison in our theatres. He speaks in a simple,
beautiful Yiddish. It is not a Litvak dialect and not a
Polish one either. It is not Voliner accent. His is a
unique, cultural expression. With a voice that he
inherited, which was healthy and pure and which can be
manipulated just as its possessor wishes, and just as the
moment demands. …M. maneuvers with movements and voice
so that one can say, he is a virtuoso.” And concerning
“The Riding Master” in Strindberg’s “Father", Prilutzki
wrote: “On the stage he creates a complete, living
person, his own spiritual world, a unique, original
nature, which is in complete harmony with its clear,
pure, expression of the idea that the author wanted to
embody. …Goodness and importance are altogether, as they
shine forth, features of M.’s character. He establishes
endless waves of deep quiet, transparent, truth; with
remarkable speed, through his innermost being which, in
M. is the passage of one emotion to another."
Dr. Mukdoni—in his memoirs—writes about M.’s
travels: “This actor was for us a surprise. We saw
before us an actor with a great ability that he carries
with pride in his calling; an actor with theatre
culture; an actor and a human being too, one who wants
to make an impact and leave the impression that he has
successfully done it. He is it. For example, he was,
like all the other Yiddish actors a disciple of Jacob
Gordin. But he knew Gordin. He knew how to bring out
Gordin’s positive talents, and to make them so clear
that they covered up his shortcomings. He spoke to us
about theatrical questions thoughtfully and with truth,
with authority but with understanding and with good,
positive, facts to back him up. In short, he is a
personality such as we have never before among the
entire field of our home grown actors. On the stage his
personality seemed to grow larger. He was tall and thin
yet his figure filled up the stage. He appeared
majestic among the small grown, downtrodden, and
impoverished fellow actors. His first appearance was in
Gordin’s “God, Man and Devil." He played Uriel Mazik.
Here we could see a real actor with talent, and with a
God-given unique ability for the stage: a seldom heard
clear diction, at times even a bit too clear, without
the customary voice, a wonderful mimic and using very
thoughtful mobility. In short—he is an actor deserving
to be seen on the best world’s stages. Well grounded,
apparently, also in stage direction—according to the
concepts of those times—he presented his play
successfully. However, he tormented his actors but he
managed to put together, in a very short time, a very
good acting ensemble. M. appeared in Strindberg’s
“Father” as the riding instructor and was no less
successful as Uriel Mazik. With M.’s guest
appearances we had to alter our contemptuous attitude
towards American theatre. …In him we found our
consolation: meaning in America there are still sincere
actors, who have the remnants of the “pintele Yid” (the
tiniest drop of Jewishness) that had not been crippled by the
En route from Russia M. stopped over in Lemberg (Lviv)
to perform and later on in London, where he appeared in
in the “Pavilion Theatre” along with M.D. Waxman. There
he was unknowingly dragged into a competitive battle,
which took place between his and a second theatre. The
other theatre starred Dinah Feinman and Joseph Kessler.
In March 1913, M. traveled to Argentina. On April
6, 1913 he began in a guest appearance in Buenos Aires,
in Strindberg’s “Father." After that he appeared in
Tolstoy’s “The Living Corpse."
Regarding M.’s acting in Argentina, B. Gorin wrote:
“Neiman (M.’s director whom the press had strongly
attacked in the past causing the confused theatre
audiences to boycott his theatre), surrendered his
position in the theatre allowing M. to take over.
However, through time there arose a conflict between the
guest actors and Goldberg who went over to the
Garibaldi Theatre, which was arranged through
“political pressure." This resulted in a major dispute
between the two theatres lasting for three months. In
the end, M. left together with his ensemble for a tour
of the Argentinean provinces. Almost immediately
afterwards he returned to London.
In the 1913-1914 season, M. signed on as an actor
in Malvina Lobel’s Royal Theatre in New York. There he
appeared in Tolstoy’s “The Living Dead," in “Cain” and
in Moshe Richter’s “Too Late."
January 1, 1914, M. played the role of “Aaron” in
Leon Kobrin’s play “The Magician," on January 16, he
played the “Rabbi” in Mark Orenstein’s “A Jewish
Daughter." On February 6, 1914 he played Pinye in Morris
Gisnetz’s play “Money” and on the 27th of
February 1914 he appeared in Artsibashev’s “Jealousy."
In My 1914 M. traveled to London, once again,
where he performed for a short while, and then traveled
almost immediately with his own ensemble back to
Argentina. When he arrived, which was right after the
outbreak of World War I, it became difficult for him to
perform in Buenos Aires, so he once more ventured out to
perform for the audiences in the Argentinean provinces.
From Argentina, M. returned to London
where he played for two seasons in the Yiddish theatre.
In the 1916-1917 season, M. came back to America, where
he had only a few guest appearances in Kessler’s Second
Avenue Theatre. In December 1917 he appeared as a guest
performer in the Liberty Theatre in Solotorefsky’s play
“Sweet Dreams," and in Moshe Richter’s “The Two Weddings,"
and in the one-act play “The German Culture” by Davis
(translated from Dr. Melamed’s original). Later on he
once more acted in the Second Avenue Theatre. On
January 11, 1918, he performed in Sheine Ruchel Simkoff's play “A Name for Mother." However, almost
immediately after this he returned to London, where he
performed in Yiddish at the “Pavilion Theatre." Later,
M. said to a reporter from “The Morning Journal”: “At
that time there was an agreement made which I could not
sanction: The artist was no longer important because
most important was the lease on the theatre, and the
lead could take
any role he wanted.
In his autobiography M. tell us: “In
the London Yiddish theatre we had to perform in no less
than four different plays each week, otherwise there
would not have been an audience. The London literary
critics could not forgive me whenever I appeared in a
non-literary play. I decided to open that season with
three literary plays in one week in order to have good
press coverage. I presented Strindberg’s “Father,"
Tolstoy’s “The Living Dead” and Gutzkow’s “Uriel
Acosta." On a certain evening after the last act of
“Uriel Acosta” two English critics, one was
Huston-Harrison and the second one was Y. B. Fagin,
manager of the Royal Court Theatre.
They approached me on the stage and without
either ceremony or too much talk; Fagin asked me
if I would agree to sign a contract in his
theatre to play “Shylock” in English. When I
explained to him that my English was not good enough to play
“Shylock” on the British stage and in
Shakespearean English to boot, he laughingly
responded: “If I’m not afraid of you and your
Yiddish, you must, certainly, not be afraid of
Shakespeare and his English." I agreed to the
invitation and began to prepare for my English
stage debut after 25 years of appearing in the
M.’s first appearance on the English
stage was in Manchester (England) where the play
lasted for a month. Afterwards the play went on
to be performed for nine month continuously in
London. M.’s name became extremely popular in
England. He then played in other dramas
throughout England. After that he had guest
appearances in Africa and Australia till 1929.
In December 1929 M. came to America
and here he appeared in English in Feuchtwanger’s “Jew
Suss." After that (November 1930) in “Shylock’ and later
he moved to Hollywood to be near his son, who was a
violinist found work in sound movies. M. spent time in
Hollywood and from time to time he appeared in charity
performances in a variety of Yiddish theatre
December 21-28 1929, M.’s biography
was published in the “Yiddish Forverts." It was titled
“The Life Story of the Yiddish-British Actor Morris
Moshkovitch, as told by himself to our correspondent in
London, Y. L. Fine." The same biography was printed in
a London newspapers “The Post” (April 21-May 25 1930)
and in Argentina in Di Presse” (May 20-June 1 1930).
Leon Kobrin wrote about M.’s
involvement with Yiddish theatre: “We may say he stood
at the cradle of very best, early, Yiddish stage. He
fought for it and went hungry for it. He came to the
Yiddish theatre at the same time when Jacob Gordin first
appeared. His only desire was to be an actor in one of
the plays managed by Adler. M. literally starved in
order to appear in the theatre in one of its better
plays. …He always gave the impression of an intelligent
and a bit of a flirt both through his physical
appearance and his manner. As he appeared in real life
so was he on the stage. He was a tall, thin figure with
a long and intelligent face. He had a come-hither smile,
thin lips and smart, bright eyes. His black forelock,
bounced around in a sort of goodhearted youthful manner
on one side of his forehead. Even his voice which, came
forth like a kitten covered in velvet fur, at times fell
into soft, capricious lyrical tones. These flirtations,
which by any other actor would have been repulsive,
fitted him perfectly. His voice added a specific charm.
It, so to speak, gave him an “artful aura."
It was the vogue to see and to hear
him. After Adler M. was perhaps the most likeable
phenomenon on the stage. Apart from that he was the most
intelligent among all the Yiddish actors. He spoke
Russian using the Odessa accent; he was steeped in
Russian literature; when he read in Russian he employed
a rare style of diction. In gatherings, concerts and
dramatic renditions of the best Yiddish writers and even
with the famous literary giants of Russian literature,
he was an actor of great depth. There was no one else
on the Yiddish stage like him. Perhaps this was due to
his not possessing the blazing wings of a Kessler or of
an Adler. Which at times carried them off too far… in
is acting a smart brain was more important than the
immediate feeling, a good interpretation of the text
rather than the the blazing fire itself. For that reason
he was always liked, always made a pleasant impression;
and he never burst into flames, and never shook up the
spirit as did our “great ones," because M. was certain
of his own portrayals as did those actors in the past of
his caliber, which our stage once possessed. …Despite
his intelligence and artistic appearance and despite
style with that black forelock on his brow, his eyes and
his smile and his lyrical voice, he seldom played the
lover on the stage. If he once in a while did manage to
play such a role he seldom over did it, seldom did we
not believe in the sincerity of his emotions, because
some fire did not appear in his tone. Mainly, he used
his arsenal from time to time; his throatiness, he
possessed an almost female-cry, and often he gave the
impression of one who was mocking a love scene.
Nevertheless, he surpassed in these roles where any
other temperament would dare to go, in that same role.
Most of all, in a character role, he was the unique
interpreter, the smart artist, who had calmly in
measured steps and tact formed characters like a true
B. Gorin – Written in Yiddish Theatre,
II, sides 199-201, 161.” M. Moshkovitch – How I became
an actor," “The Theatre World," N.Y. 3. 1909.
Kroyze – “A Letter from Russia, The
Yiddish Theatre," N.Y. Jan. 21.1910.
Benny Gilman – “Take Down the Mask” “The
Yiddish Stage” N.Y. Feb. 11, 1910.
Ruben Friedman – “A Letter to the
Director," N.Y. March 5, 1910.
A. Frumkiin – “A Yiddish Theatre War in
London," “Forverts," N.Y. Nov. 12, 1912.
A. Frumkin – “Moshkovitch Travels to
Buenos Aire”s, “Forverts," N.Y. March 27, 1913.
Y. Mestel – “Moshkovitch in Lemberg
(Lvov)," “Togblatt," Lemberg, July 1913.
M. Moshkovitch – “Yiddish Theatre in
Buenos Aires," “Argentinian," N.Y. Nov. 22, 1913.
S. Dingol – “New York Yiddish, “Stars”
in London," “Forverts” N.Y. May 6, 1914.
Uriel Mazik – “Picture Gallery of our
Yiddish Actors," “Der Tog," N.Y, 10th and 17th
“A Permanent Guest” – “Morris
Moshkovitch in the role of Shylock on the English
Stage," “Forverts” N.Y. Nov. 4, 1919.
J.P.-“Herr Moshkovitch’s Interpretation
of Shylock’, “Renaissance," London, Jan 1920 p. 76.
Noah Prilutzki – “Yiddish Theatre”
Bialystok," 1921, sides 54-55, 29-37.
Leon Kobrin – “The Inner Being of a
Yiddish Dramatist," New York, (1925) Second Edition,
William Zuckerman – “Morris Moshkovitcvh
Brings Regards from Jews in Far Off Lands," “Morning
Journal," N.Y. April 17, 1929.
H. Ehrenburg – “Morris Moshkovitch,
Famous Yiddish-English Actor, Who Came to America, to
play Jew Suss,"” Forverts” N.Y. Dec. 17, 1929
Alef-Alef (A. Auerbuch) – “Morris
Moshkovitch," “Morning Journal," N.Y. Dec. 20, 1929.
Shulamith Ish-Kishor – “The Yiddish
Favorite who became an English Star," “The Day," N.Y.,
Dec. 29, 1929.
Ab. Kahan – “Morris Moshkovitch,"
“Forverts," N.Y. Jan. 24, 1930.
N. Buckwald – “Jew Suss” in English,
“Morgen Freiheit," N.Y. Jan. 24, 1930.
William Edlin – “Morris Moshkovitch on
Broadway, In the English Presentation of Joseph Zuss,"
“Der Tog” N.Y. Jan. 24, 1939.
Aaron Kanyevsky – “A Jewish and a
Non-Jewish ‘Jew Suss’ – Played by Morris Schwartz and
Morris Moshkovitch," “Der Tog” Philadelphia, March 28,
Y.L. Fine, - “The Biography of the
Yiddish-English Actor Morris Moshkovitch," “Forverts”
N.Y. Dec. 21-28, 1929, “The Post” London, April 21 and
May 25, 1930, De Presse, B.A., May 20-June 10, 1930.
Y. Shayak – “A Bright Ray in Yiddish
Theatre History," “The Post” London, April 25, 1930.
A. “Disner – Morris Moshkovitch, Now in
Hollywood," “Forverts” N.Y. May 28, 1930.
Ab. Kahan – “Morrish Moshkovitch in his
Famous Shakespeare Role," “Forverts” N.Y. , Dec. 4,
Dr. A. Mukdoni –“ Moshkovitch-Shylock,"
Morning Journal," N.Y. December 4, 1930.
William Edlin – “How Morris Moshkovitch
Plays Shylock," “Der Tog," N.Y. Dec. 7, 1930.
Dr. A. Mukdoni – “Memoirs of a Yiddish
Theatre Critic--Archive” Vilna, 1930, side 396.