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The Religious Affiliation of
Paul Muni
great American actor

From: Marlon Brando (with Robert Lindsey), Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me, New York: Random House (1994), page 79:
Hollywood was always a Jewish community; it was started by Jews and to this day is run largely by Jews. But for a long time it was venomously anti-Semitic in a perverse way, especially before the war, when Jewish performers had to disguise their Jewishness if they wanted a job. These actors were frightened, and understandably so. When I was breaking into acting, I constantly heard about agents submitting an actor or actress for a part, taking them to the theater for a reading and afterward hearing the producer say, "Terrific. Thank you very much. We'll call you."

After the actor was gone, the agent would ask, "Well, Al, what did you think?"

"Great," the producer would say, "He was terrific, but he's too Jewish."

If you "looked Jewish," you didn't get a part and couldn't make a living. You had to look like Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Paul Muni or Paulette Goddard and change your name. They were Jews, but didn't "look Jewish" and employed the camouflage of non-Jewish names. Hence Julius Garfinkle became John Garfield, Marion Levy became Paulette Goddard, Emmanuel Goldenberg became Edward G. Robinson and Muni Weisenfreund became Paul Muni.

From: Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me, pages 107-108:
...I [Marlon Brando] acted in a play directed by Stella's brother Luther, A Flag Is Born. It was a powerful, well-written pageant by Ben Hecht with music by Kurt Weill, although it was essentially a piece of political propaganda advocating the creation of the state of Israel and indirectly condemning the British for stopping the Jewish refugees en route from Europe to colonize Palestine...

Everyone in A Flag Is Born was Jewish except me. Paul Muni, the star, gave an astonishing performance, the best acting I have ever seen. I was onstage with him and he gave me goosebumps. His performance was magical and affected me deeply. He was the only actor who ever moved me to leave my dressing room to watch him from the wings. He never failed to chill me with one particular speech. I played a young Jewish firebrand named David struggling to find his way to Palestine; in a graveyard he meets the wounded and dying Tevya, a prophetlike man, played by Muni, who tries to help him but dies. David covers him with a Jewish flag, then exist, presumably to carry on the fight to make a homeland in Palestine.

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Webpage created 17 August 2005. Last modified 19 August 2005.
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