the voice of "King Lear," the sound of
historical operettas. But, entirely different was Sara Adler; she,
with her natural voice, is far away from them all.
After the production I asked by
brother, Itsik, whom he felt was the best in the company, and he
answered: "The best of them always is Adler's wife." Her name,
"Adler's wife," has followed her entire life. But, remarkably, the
greatest patriotte (fan) of Jacob Adler's acting was Sara Adler. She
idolized him so much that she used to forget about her own self.
Abraham Goldfaden once told me that he
reckoned that Sara Adler was the best "Shulamis." Although she
hadn't played "Shulamis" for a long time, I once asked her, when she
had played with Rudolph Schildkraut in the "Novelty" Theatre, that
she should once play "Shulamis." I was very curious to see her
in the role, mainly with that natural tone of hers, but when I saw
her in "Shulamis," I heard an entirely other tenor, which drew far
and wide in the East: oriental love, oriental suffering and passion.
I imagined that this is what our mothers should have done, Sarah,
Rebecca and Leah. Explaining that in love, this is how their
encounters with our ancestors sounded. And I heard that a woman, who
was sitting in the first row, said to someone else: "This is
nevertheless Jacob Adler's wife! ..." Yes, at that moment it felt
unjustified. The ascendant, with the name of "Jacob Adler's wife"
referring to Sara Adler.
The naturalness of Sara Adler's
playing is reflected in her private life ... She has always
possessed the breadth and sincerity of a popular person. Rarely does
one find such sincerity in theatre people. When she loved someone,
she said it and pointed it out, and also vice versa. She has always
been responsible for her fathers. The kingdom with King "Adler"
hovered before her eyes, and she lived once again over her former
youth, her former stormy life, her loves, her triumphs.
She plays now very often with Jacob
Adler. She holds him in her hands, kisses him, presses him to her
heart -- but only in the form of her grandson. This young son of
Luther Adler and Silvia Sidney, whom they have named after the great
actor, this wondrous eagle, Jacob Adler.
MOLLY PICON'S FIRST PERFORMANCE IN NEW YORK
Two seasons have passed since
I saw Molly Picon play theatre in Europe. In that time I used to
correspond with Jacob Kalich about coming to America.
Once in a midweek performance,
when we had played an operetta by William Siegel, "Di amerikaner
rebbetzin" (there was a role, indeed, for the young rebbetzin),
I told Molly Picon why I was bringing the operetta to her,
because the main women's role is for an up-and-coming
comedienne. And I decided that morning that I would write a letter to
Jacob Kalich, that he should come to America, because now is the
best time to play light operettas, and indeed with Molly Picon.
There was a benefit. This house
was packed, even the boxes -- I gave a look in one of the boxes
at a girl with a red coat, just like Molly Picon was wearing when I saw
here in Lodz, and in Warsaw, and behind her a Hasidic young man,
with the same caracole collar like Jacob Kalich, and I decided
that this is only a fantasy; that this works only in my mind,
but I looked more at the boxes and became more and more
convinced that this is Molly Picon and Jacob Kalich, and we had
been greeted from afar. And I said to myself that this Jacob
Kalich is a wise Galitzianer; he came at the right time ....
We decided that her first
performance should be in "Yankele," indeed the play, which I saw
her play in Lodz and in Vienna. I had to create new music for
America, because the music, which she played in Europe was put
together from my already-performed plays. Jacob Kalich and I sat
down diligently and worked on the play and music, we worked
a lot on the prose, music and effects.
We personally wanted very much
that Molly Picon should be a great success, because theatre
people did not strongly believe in this. Others went so far and
expressed that Edelstein the manager, was made unhappy,
and that this will be my fault, one of Rumshinsky's crazy
notions and ideas.
At each rehearsal for "Yankele," I
used to ask: "Tell me, Molly, who knows anything else? She used
to tell me she wanted this and that musical number or a dance,
and we used to put it into the play, and this is how it went at
every rehearsal: some new chatchke, number, dance, and one time,
almost at the last rehearsal, Molly said to us if she can do
something, maybe someone can put it in the new offering of
"Yankele." I became curious, and I asked her: "Molly, what is it?"
She told me about her little Molly Picon dance and said: "I can
make a good borscht" ...
There are actors who never play
theatre badly, but never well. They do their piece of work
perfectly, just like a worker in a shop or factory. There is no
first idea and no last for this kind of actor. Such a person is
not nervous at the premiere, and does not complain or longs for
the play (perhaps after the wages) when its last night is
Molly Picon had a very good
understanding of what it meant to be a success, and she remains
a star of the American-Yiddish theatre, and if not, she must
return to play in the province, and perhaps even return to
Europe. This all had an effect on her first performance in
America. She did not find any place, nor the right tenor ...
That night she did not act but uttered the words. She did not
dance, but danced over the top; she did not sing but under-sang. The first performance felt as if that she wanted it to go down.
The success of that night was Jacob Kalich, who played the
heymishe soldier. They joked with me after the performance
that I did not advertise the right star. Instead of Molly Picon,
Jacob Kalich should have been advertised as the star. This
happiness was, that there was not one just one performance, but
five performances, one after the other, and indeed immediately
the next morning, Saturday afternoon, to an oversold house,
Molly became Molly Picon. She caught on with the public, and the
public with her, like an old acquaintance.
When her popularity grew with each
performance of "Yankele," the constant complainers used to argue
in that language: "Yankele" is a child, a youth, a runner, who
fits in very well with her figure ... Let's see that she should
play a girl who they already need to have a girlish charm, a
woman's grace ... They even made the distinction that yearlong
she play children's roles, she now plays Yankele, also a child.
But a girl, a woman? This already was a question, and as theatre
people express themselves, this must be convincing.
Once we said to Yosl Edelstein,
the manager, I think, that Molly should play this season in a
play where she plays a girl: I said: What? Have you ever been
told that Molly cannot be a girl? It's impossible for a
native-born girl not to be able to play a boy, it can happen and
does happen, but a girl should not be able to play a girl,
Yosl Edelstein answered, follow
me, that before the season will end, Molly will play for a few
weeks in which she plays a girl. Around the theatre and at the
theatre they often began to speak about Molly's playing a girl,
until Jacob Kalich and I decided to stage a play, which she had
played in Europe with great success; this was "Tsipke feyer" by
As with "Yankele," we went off to
work on the play, "Tsipke feyer," with new music and new scenes.
First, we got rid of the "feyer," and just called it "Tsipke."
Molly Picon felt that in "Tsipke,"
earlier than in Yankele, it was already with this alone, that she had
played an American girl, where she could be free with her good
English. She used to play her "Tsipke," and was mentioned along
with the American female stars, such as Clara Bow, Janet Gaynor
and Fanny Brice.
With her playing "Tsipke," Molly
Picon also showed that she could be sentimental, be loved, and
also suffer from love, with her singing of "Abisl libe un a bisl
glik (A Bit of Love, and a Bit of Luck)." This was the first love
song that I had written for Molly Picon, indeed to her own
When we ended the season with
"Tsipke," Yosl Edelstein, the manager, said to me: "To
convince you that 'Tsipke" is a great success, we can begin the next season
with it, and when they did so, it played for seventeen weeks to