Lives in the Yiddish Theatre
SHORT BIOGRAPHIES OF THOSE INVOLVED IN THE Yiddish THEATRE
aS DESCRIBED IN zALMEN zYLBERCWEIG'S "lEKSIKON FUN YIDISHN TEATER"

1931-1969
 

Fannie Reinhart
(Zlate-Feige Brown)
 

 

Born in 1874 in Brest-Litovsk, Polish Russia, into a rabbinic family. Her father was R' Aaron, a rav, who died when she was still a child. Her mother again married a rabbi, R' Yehoshue Rabinowitz, and the family settled in Nevish, Minsk Gubernia. As  a child R. sang and copied cantors. Not being able to deal with the mood of her mother, she in her early youth went away to Brisk, where she lived for learning adult reading and writing.

In 1888 she wandered off to America where she tried many trades: ladies- and men's tailoring, bookbinding, guard, and [she worked] in a bakery. Her hands glued up, but not to any trade, and about her coming to theatre, she recalls:

"I am lying so on a pile of rags in the cellar and singing, and a man came in and asked of me that I sing for him the song about the orphan. I sang, then he asked me to come to a rehearsal for a group of dilettantes, who had studied a play with the name, "Alexander." Until then I had never seen the theatre, but I had understood after the first rehearsal that it was a Purim play. I acted and sang, and further I was with the dilettantes, when the idea became clearer that one should play the character, not as a Purim play, but one must portray the character as MEN SHTELT-FAR."

As for her husband, Dr. Morris Reinhart, according to her biography, soon thereafter she traveled around with Jacob P. and Sarah Adler across the province under the name of Fannie Brown and played the "mother" in "Uriel Acosta" and "Zulaikha" in "Joseph and his Brothers." Then she went over to Nathan Frank in Boston, where she played with Louis Mitnick, Mr. and Mrs. Simon and Ike Zilberman. Later she became the first actress with Moshe Zilberman, where she played the main roles in "Chana and her Seven Sons," "Dovid Ben Yishai," "Spanish Inquisition," "Giber hakhayel," and other operettas. Here she became engaged to Feinman to play in 1896 in the Liberty Theatre under the direction of Shomer in his play, "Shoshana, the Flower of Jericho," for which the author wrote a role for her of "a slave" on the stage. But as she tells it: "We (me) were not allowed to sleep, and I had to be awake and sing the song at least six or seven times."

From here she went over to Jacob P. Adler in the Windsor Theatre, where she played major roles. Later she acted in the Thalia Theatre with Mr. and Mrs. Karp, Finkel, Prager and Shramek, a few seasons with Finkel's troupes in Philadelphia, and from there she went to Chicago to Ellis Glickman, where she played singing men's roles (among them "Avigdor" and "Yeshiva bokher," and in dramatic women's roles. Later, by herself, she was the manager and regisseur of a troupe, and together with Edwin Relkin as her organizer, she opened new territories across the American and Canadian provinces for Yiddish theatre.

In her repertoire one often finds Gordin's, "Mirele efros," and about her acting in this role in Denver, Dr. Chaim Spivak wrote in a letter about her:

"I have many memories of the last time, since Jacob Gordin's death. You know that I had seen "Mirele efros" for the first time it was staged in Denver, and when I thought of Gordin, it entered into my thoughts the "Mirele efros" that Reinhart had embodied."

In Chicago in 1889 R. married Dr. Morris Reinhart, the editor then of the "Jewish Courier," who later threw away his journalistic career and practiced as a medical man.

About her success during that time, Leiser Meltzer writes:

"Madame Reinhart was then one of the popular actresses and singers, and when one is more successful, no jealousy or intrigues from colleagues are needed. A series of intrigues had begun, which made Fannie ill. She decided to leave the regal stage and became a variety actress. She was the popular star in the very widespread music halls. Her talent had not only been renowned in New York. She had with all her might tried to raise the music hall to a high standard. In the Forward [newspaper], Ab. Cahan wrote about her in her time: "Fannie Reinhart sings in music halls cantorials with such ability and refinement that many people may have studied her. She receives such heart-filled applause, and it showed that it wasn't truth that people claim that the audience had loved filthy songs and couplets. When you provide the audience with good, fine songs, fine cantorial singing, fine workers and folksongs, shatst er dos op. There came to Fannie Reinhart an idea to make her entrance." In that time, thanks to the new singing that Fannie Reinhart had brought into the music halls under the leadership of Dr. Sh. Peskin, there began a struggle to purify the music halls of gibul-ph, of dirty words, filthy jokes and songs. With each opportunity, Fannie had supported the struggle, and as the "Forward" of that time writes, Fannie had with a banquet of actors from music halls taken an oath with all the actors, that they will sing only pure, beautiful things."

The actor Mendel Teplitsky, who had often acted with her, writes:

"When I think about Fannie, I see her through my eyes as an artist in women's roles, as well as in men's roles. I see her as the proud Mirele Efros, and also as Vigder [Avigdor] of "Yeshiva bokher." I hear her sweet voice singing the Kaddish, and also Eli Eli lmh ezvsni in the play "Gavriel," and if someone at times heard the Reinhart sing Gm chi alkh bgia tslmus la  aira re, shvmkh umshenskh hmh inkhmni, one was not able to say that Jacob Gordin's masterwork "God, Man and Devil" was staged by David Kessler or by Fannie Reinhart."

R. returned to legitimate theatre and demonstrated at the same time issued a special gefil-oyftsutretn and called for charitable institutions for the helpless and the sick and was conducted for a Denver sanitarium. In 1912 R. settled in Los Angeles with her husband, where she led a Yiddish radio program in which she continued to seek assistance, especially for the local charitable institutions.

On 18 May 1941 in Los Angeles there was celebrated the ten-year anniversary of her Yiddish radio programs, and with the opportunity provided by a committee, there was issued a book in Yiddish and English: "Madame Fannie Reinhart as an artist--as a human being" {forty-five pages in Yiddish, and thirty-one in English] with greetings and articles from the jubilee committee (Louis Silverberg, Julius Levitt, Julius Nathanson, and Max Lichter), Leiser Meltzer, Shlomo Shmuelewitz, I.Sh. Naaumov, L. Blank, Kh. Goldovsky, Sh. Zamd, Rose Gevadovska, Mendel Teplitsky, Julius Nathanson, Rabbi Benjamin Marcus, Rabbi I.T. Loeb, Rabbi Neches, Jack Greenberg et al, as well as a scene from R. with her husband, and R. in the role of "Yeshiva bokher," "Moshele soldat" and "Mirele efros."

The folks-poet Shlomo Shmuelewitz had in the jubilee book, dedicated a song to her, which begins with a Rashi tbus in her name:

Feige singer, sing for us, sing,
May your voice long ring;
Take away the suffering easily,
Every pain true to your singing.

Rich is your talent and great--
Yiddish zingstu, one must cry,
Yiddish zingstu, geyt men oys,
Only then did it a thousand khnen,
Feelings have been born,
In your heart a divine fire.
Reinhart, sing for us, sing and act--
Precious it is, very precious.

R. also recorded several of her songs, and in our collection one fins the record with "Likht bentshen" and "Mkhusnste."

R.'s brothers were rabbis: Rabbi Yekhiel Mikhl Tikochinsky in Jerusalem, and Rabbi I./Y.T. Loeb in America.

For the last years of her life, R. was very sick and tsugeshmidt to her bed. Her humor had not left her until the last minute. She passed away on 22 January 1952 in Los Angeles and was brought to her eternal rest in Hollywood Cemetery. Rabbi Rakovsky had given the eulogy for her, spoke about her societal and philanthropic activities, but no words were mentioned about her many years of farbreycher stage activity.


Sh. E. from her husband Dr. Morris Reinhart.

  • Fannie Reinhart-- Lozt men tsu naye aktoren?, "Forverts," N. Y., 22 May 1905.

  • Lead Pencil-- Zi iz areyngekumen koyfn a glaz sode-vaser bay a shvester, vemen hot git gezen 45 yor, dort, 10 July 1931.

  • "Madame Fannie Reinhart als kinstlerin-- als mensh," Los Angeles, 1941.

  • [--]-- Iber finf hundert gest nemen anteyl in feni reinhart's yubilee, "Forverts," Los Angeles, 28 May 1941.


 

 

 

 


 

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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 2471.
 

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