Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Untitled #17

So, Rokhl wrote about a showing of the movie "Jewish Luck" this week. The movie is significant in many ways. To me it symbolizes the hope of the Soviet Jews to finally be accepted as part of a new society, to be able to tell their own stories, and the ironic betrayal of that hope by the Stalinist/Communist regime.

The screenplay, based on the Sholom Aleichem stories, was written by Isaac Babel, and the main character, Menachem Mendl, was played by the famous Solomon Mikhoels.

Here is an interesting anecdote of how the screenplay was written. I found the article in Russian, and translated for posterity :)
Babel disappeared and was not heard from for more than a month. The film crew began to worry, talks began about inviting another screenwriter, but Mikhoels said: "Give me three days, and one of three things will happen: either I will bring back Babel with a screenplay, or will bring a screenplay without Babel, or finally, if there is no screenplay, there will be no Babel."

For three days nobody saw Mikhoels. On the fourth day he called the theater and said: "Get the crew together, Babel will come and read us something". Later it was discovered that Babel wandered a long time in the backstreets of the Dorogomilovsky Turnpike. He found an old Jew who spent 30 years as a matchmaker before the Revolution. This person never read Sholom-Aleichem, but he spoke the language of his characters. Babel passed himself off as an old bachelor.

Menachem-Mendl from the Dorogomilovsky Turnpike took Babel along with him to Malachovka, then to Cherkizovo, then to Perlovka, in hopes of marrying off the "old bachelor". At the same time, the old man sold black pepper in Malachovka, which he bought in Cherkizov. In Perlovka, he sold matches which he obtained in Malachovka. The old man was amazed by Babel's behavior: " How can you get married if you can't even remember the bride's name. As soon as I introduce you to her, you are already writing something down... I can make a list of brides without your help. Your business is to make yourself a future!"

Poor old man - he did not know he was becoming the star of the screenplay...


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