Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre



Emil Frides

Born on 28 December 1903 in Lemberg, Eastern Galicia. His father was a merchant. His grandfather was a rabbi in Dubno. He learned in a cheder and attended three classes in school. As a member in "Young Judah" in Lemberg, he participated in the one-acters that were being performed, on various "evenings," where he also made friends with Yiddish actors.

After a pogrom in Lemberg he fled to his brother, a soldier, in Przemysl. Escaped Yiddish actors from Gimpel's troupe also came therein, and not having any enough of an ensemble to play, they invited him, that he should help them out. He debuted on 1 May 1929 in Moshe Richter's "Tsu shpet." After playing for several months in Przemysl, the troupe divided, and F. went over to the part under the leadership of Ber Hart, with whom he toured across the province until 1921. For several weeks he played with Jacob in Krakow, and a season with Ebel. Then he joined Gimpel in Lemberg, where he had an opportunity to play with the guest-starring Misha Fiszon. In 1923 he returned to Hart, where he played for a short time with the guest-starring Vera Kanievska, and was taken into military service, where he remained for half a year.

In 1926 F. was engaged to a troupe for the province, then he was engaged to Frantsop to play in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. In 1927 he arrived in Vienna, where he guest-starred for six weeks in the "Reklam," then he went over for several months to Shtreng and played again for several months


in Yugoslavia. In 1928 he was director of the "Astor" Theatre in Vienna (artistic director -- Leopold Yungvirt), and also played there as an actor, together with the guest-starring Yiddish actors from America.

In June 1930 he managed a European tour for Boris Thomashefsky, Ola Lilith and Willy Godik across Czechoslovakia, and then he arrived in America, together with his wife Berta Rosenberg.

On 6 April 1931 he performed in Williamsburg's "Lyric" Theatre [in Brooklyn, N.Y.], as "Jason" in Grillparzer-Gordin's "Medea" (played through his wife.)

After the tragic death of his wife and father, he traveled back to Europe, where he began to manage and organized Yiddish theatre productions and guest-stars of American actors, especially of Pesach'ke Burstein.

He was caught in Poland during the Second World War, where the Nazis had killed him.

The showman Wolf Mecur, who played with him in his youth, recalls:

"Friedes began his theatrical career as a young man, who sold drinks in Gimpel's theatre in Lemberg. And in the same time he helped out the stage master Grinberg with sets and furniture for the stage. Gradually, a slander was put on him, and so he started playing. Just as a man cannot become a prophet in his own city, he went over to Bernard Hart's troupe in the Galician province, where there were found other young talents, such as Hersh Hart, Wolf Mercur and Berta Rosenberg. Between him and Berta Rosenberg love developed, and they got married. Together with her and his mother-in-law and father-in-law, known actors, and others, he began to play in other towns of Galicia, stage directing and putting on a number of plays.

He and his wife were in the beginning of the thirties coming to New York. They were engaged to play in Moshe Richter's theatre ("Odeon"), which consisted of pure Galicianers, but a tragedy did not allow for the premiere, because only two days before their performance, Berta Rosenberg suddenly died (the production continued with the actress Henrietta Schnitzer, instead of Berta Rosenberg). A short time later, his father, who already was in America for many years, burned in a fire in his apartment, which was located over the famous 'Cafe Royale' on Second Avenue (New York). With a broken heart, due to two tragedies, he traveled back to Lemberg and took up his newly-established relationships with the local theatre."

Zalmen Zylbercweig writes:

"Soon after his arrival with his wife, there became an intimate friendship between us, because F. was a lovely human being, a prudent person, a naturally intelligent Jewish young man. He very much love for the Yiddish arts. His bondage to his wife was not to be described. He was her greatest admirer, and was sure that she will only have the opportunity to prove herself before a Jewish audience, and the Yiddish press in America, she will soon be crowned an all-star. He therefore made every effort to make her appearances, and did not stop to sell tickets between the Galician colony and her appearances in a play, 'Der froyn-tayvl (The Women's Devil?),' by Boris Thomashefsky, and there is nothing to portray his joy when the playwright Moshe Richter finally joined in to arrange his Galician theatre and engage F.'s wife as the first actress. However, her sudden illness, which had her, in the span of a scant week led to her death, had so affected her husband, that he wanted to commit suicide, and after a miracle happened, which I had seen at the last glance was to catch him from throwing himself out of the window. The tragedy had not yet materialized, when a second disaster struck him over the head. His father, many years old when F. was still very young, went away from home to America, and became, due to various circumstances, was torn from the family, which had lost contact with him. Coming to America, F. began to look for his father, and finally found him: a lonely, solitary, overworked waiter living in a room by himself over the 'Cafe Royal.' The father-son relationship had just begun to warm again, when a fire broke out in the house, and his father burned to death. A broken sleepy man was F., who returned to Europe."

Sh.E. and M.E.
Sh.E. from Wolf Mercur and Zalmen Zylbercweig.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 5, page 4057.

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