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The Celia Adler Story....
her life in the Yiddish theatre.... and more

Celia Adler on the English Stage
in "A Flag is Born," by Ben Hecht

Here are are two excerpts from Celia's autobiography regarding Paul Muni, with whom she starred in the aforementioned English-language play, and regarding rehearsals for the play itself, which ran on Broadway from September 5 to December 14, 1946:

"Right now, speaking of Muni Weisenfreund (Paul Muni), I get to thinking that in my career I've never had the opportunity to play with this brilliant actor during my career on the Yiddish stage. Even though we played many seasons at Schwartz's [Yiddish Art Theatre], fate so decreed that Schwartz was not more of less hostile with me during those seasons when Muni was with Schwartz's theatre; and contrariwise, it was not until twenty-seven years later, during the period I am describing here, that I had the pleasure to play with him, the then already famous Paul Muni. But it was not in Yiddish; it was in the famous Ben Hecht spectacle, 'A Flag is Born,' on Broadway.


right: Celia Adler as Zelda, 1946, "A Flag is Born."

"So I feel flattered to this day that, when they placed before Paul Muni a list of almost twenty recognized actresses, among whom were the very greatest American actresses, famous figures from Broadway and Hollywood, Muni said very cold-heartedly, looking over the list: 'There's missing here just the name of the actress who is as if born for the roleóget me Celia Adler."

Here are some photographs from "The Flag is Born," courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York. Celia played the role of Zelda. Even though Paul Muni was the original Tevye in this play, you will see below that both Jacob Ben-Ami and Luther Adler were replacements for the role of Tevye.

Above: Jacob Ben Ami and Celia Adler. Above: Celia Adler and Luther Adler.
Below: Sidney Lumet and Celia Adler. Below: Celia Adler.

More about the play from Celia's autobiography:

"Ben Hecht couldn't remain still for a moment during the few minutes I was reading. One could definitely see in his looking at Muni that he agreed with his choice.

Rehearsals began under the direction of my brother Luther. The production was planned to run only four weeks. But evidently fate decreed that the last lap of my career of many years' standing should remain one of my most shining chapters. The success of the production spread out over much longer than the four weeks that Paul Muni had time to give it. Then my brother Luther took over Muni's role. His and Marlon Brando's time was also limited, and Jacob Ben Ami and Sidney Lumet took over their roles. We played it for almost thirty weeks here in New York and on, a tour over the great Jewish centers across the country. I had an endless amount of acting joy and songs of praise from the most important theatre critics in America. I'm not going to cite what was written about me. I can only tell you that I surfeited myself with compliments up to my head and over. To receive so much recognition in the English press in New York by playing opposite Paul Muni, Broadway's most beloved figure, was extremely gratifying for me.

I must cite here a few phrases from a little note Ben Hecht sent over to me during those performances:

"Purely as a token of my great gratitude to you for your wonderful creation, I give you the right to use anything you like from among my writings. I shall consider it a privilege if you should find expression for your talents in my creations. Ben Hecht."


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Exhibition Curator: Steven Lasky

Exhibition created with the special permission
of the estate of Celia Adler and Lazar Freed.




Museum URL:  www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/moyt/main.htm.       Museum e-mail address:  yiddishtheatre@museumoffamilyhistory.com.

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