ACTOR: The Life and Times of Paul Muni by Jerome Lawrence

ACTOR: The Life and Times of Paul Muni

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Scarface and I Am a Fugitive prom a Chain Gang are Still much admired and discussed, but Paul Muni as Pasteur (for which he won an Academy Award in 1936), Zola, etc., is as unnoticed today as all those other forgettable extravaganzas in which he starred. Born Muni Weisenfreund in turn-of-the-century Austro-Hungary (Warner Brothers was later to change his name and present him as a Russian star -- euphemism for Jew), young Munya was already an experienced actor before his family of itinerant troupers made its way to New York and eventually into the illustrious Yiddish Theater (all of which takes up the first half and liveliest portion of the book). Muni's was a life lived sous cloche, no matter whether on stage (he had a spectacular Broadway success in his playwright-biographer's Inherit the Wind in 1955), or screen -- a constant hand-wringer married to Bella who invented worry, himself a perfectionist at his craft spending countless hours in elaborate preparation for each role as he experimented with make-up and rehearsed into his ever-present tape recorder. Muni died in 1967 after years of semi-retirement, estranged and isolated from the film industry, while Bella, his only family, survived for another four lonely years lamenting that ""Nobody knows who I am. . . . I'm the caboose -- but the train's gone."" So is the era -- and it's not likely that Muni can make another comeback. A Yiddish yes-no.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1974
Publisher: Putnam