Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Muni Weisenfreund
(Meshilem Meier; Paul Muni)

Muni Weisenfreund (Veyzenfreynd), a.k.a. Paul Muni, was born in September 1897 (according to a verbal declaration by Z. Zylbercweig--1895] -- in Lemberg, Galicia.

His parents were the actors Philip and Saltshe Weisenfreund.

After migrating across Galicia he came with his parents to London, and from here in 1902 he came to America.

Here he studied in public school, studied for a year-and-a-half in high school, played the violin and[gezalt, his two older brothers each became a violin player.

At the age of twelve he debuted in Cleveland's Perry Theatre in a role of "Folk" in Gordin's "Der idisher glkh", afterwards almost continuously until the age of nineteen to twenty years he played "a Jew with a beard" in various plays, especially in the sketches "Bruder prezident" and "Tsvey mtim esn frishtok".

After his father died (1913) he traveled around with a Yiddish troupe across the west- and middle-west of the United States, acting in vaudeville and plays, also often women's roles (e.g. "Beyle" in Gordin's "Di kreutzer sonata").

In New York W. debuted with Lonfeld on the roof garden of the Second Avenue Theatre, where he acted for ten weeks and caught the attention of Kessler and Schwartz.


He hereupon became engaged by Kalich in Boston, but then as the theatre closed due to the flu epidemic, he traveled to Philadelphia and performed in Yiddish vaudeville, and from then he became based (1919-20) in New York's Yiddish Art Theatre, acting in the first season but in episode roles as "Zozuli" in Sholem Aleichem's "Tuviye der milchiger (Tevye the Milkman/Dairyman)", et al, but already in 1920-1 W. made since the Art Theatre a great call with his embodying "Ivanov" in Shalom Aleichem's "Shver tsu zayn a yid (Hard to be a Jew)."

After his marriage to the actress Bela Finkel, he acted in 1921-22 at the Second Avenue theatre in operatic repertory, with St. Claire.

In 1922-23 again he was at the Yiddish Art Theatre where he acted in the middle role of Asch's "Motke the Thief", "Osip" in Gogol's "Revizor", "Dovid Leyzer" in Andreyev's "Anathema", and "Kopl" in Sholem Aleichem's "Groyse gevins (Big Win)."

In 1923-24 he was in the cooperative Irving Place Theatre (in Sackler's "Yusi fun yukrt", Zalatarevsky's "Di shpin un di flig", as "Doktor" in Libin's "Shlecht un gelt" and "Der doktor" in Yevreeynov's "Di hoyptzakh").

In 1924 W. had partly participated with the European tour of the Yiddish Art Theatre.

In 1924-5 again he acted with the Art Theatre in New York where he performed in Berkovitsh's "Moshke khazir" ("Diak piatak"), Rolland's "Velf (Wolves)" ("D'aran"), Gotesfeld's "Ven shtarbt er?" (Publicity Agent) and Gorin's "In yedn hoyz" ("Foter").

In 1925-26, W. acted in Gabel's People's Theatre as "Father" in Gabel's "Vos veln mentshn zogt?".

In 1926-27, as "Zayde" in Sigel's operetta "Der gortn fun libe" at the National Theatre, and from there went over to the English stage, where he acted until 1928 in the main role of the play "Vi amerikans" and "For vols".

In 1928 W. left the stage and became engaged with the Fox Film Studio in Hollywood, where he filmed as Paul Muni.

M. E.

  • B. Gorin -- "Di geshikhte fun idishn teater (The History of the Yiddish Theatre)", Vol. II, p. 249.

  • M. Osherowitz -- Vi der amerikaner boy Muni Weisenfreund iz gevorn a idisher aktyor, "Forward", 3 December 1920.

  • A Bostoner -- A piese vos iz geshpilt gevoren hinter der bihne realistisher vi oyf der bihne..., "Forward", 21 August 1923.

  • Hillel Rogoff -- Tsvey piesen in Irving-Place Theatre, "Forward", 5 October 1923.

  • David Edelsberg -- Muni Weisenfreund in "Motke ganef (Motke the Thief)", "Di idishe velt", Cleveland, 9, March, 1924.

  • Jacob Mestel -- Ver zeynen di kinstler fun dem New-Yorker  idishen kunst-theater?, "Di tsayt", London, 4 April 1924.

  • Dr. Y. Kritikus --A geshprekh mit Satz's un Muni Weizenfreund's oyf Broadway, "Amerikaner", 29 October 1926.

  • M. Osherowitz -- Muni Weisenfreund, "Teater un Kunst", New York, 1, 1926, p.p. 7-11.

  • Anshel Schorr -- Hot muni weisenfreund farlozen di idishe bine?, "Di idishe velt", Philadelphia, 23 September, 1926.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni --"Teater", N. Y., 1927, pp. 141-6.

  • A. Frumkin -- Muni weisenfreund hot ale kind geshpilt alte leyt, "Morning Journal", N. Y., 14 December 1928.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- Muni Weisenfreund  in di movies, "Morning Journal", 14 May, 1929.

  • A Zeytiger -- 0ysvishen literaten un aktyoren, "Forward", 21 July 1929.

  • S. Osherowitz -- "David kessler un muni weisenfreund (David Kessler and Muni Weisenfreund)", New York, 1930.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Osherowitz's monografye vegn tsvey idishe aktyorn, "Der veker", 1 November 1930; "Literarishe bleter" 49, 1930.

  • M. Melamed -- Tsvey idishe shoyshpiler --durch di avigen fun a idhen shiftshteler, "Idishe velt", Philadelphia, 23 November 1930.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 670.

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