Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Chaplin and Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, 1927


Rosenblatt came to Hollywood in 1927 to appear as himself in the first talking picture, The Jazz Singer. According to his son, one of the celebrities he most wanted to meet during this visit was Chaplin:
Most of all, however, did he wish to make the acquaintance of the solemn-faced comedian Charlie Chaplin. He had often laughed at his antics and been amused by his clowning, and he was curious to learn what sort of a personality there lurked behind that clumsy, uncouth hobo exterior. So he had Leo call Mr. Chaplin's home to find out whether the funny man of the movies would be able to receive him. Not only did he get an answer in the affirmative, but he was told that Mr. Chaplin was sending his own chauffeur with a car to fetch the the cantor and his party. As the automobile was approaching the Chaplin mansion1 in Beverly Hills, my father wondered at the reception he would be given and how he would find the real Charlie Chaplin, without the disguises. When he entered the gateway, there ran out to meet him instead of a sad-faced, woebegone, melancholy looking tramp with the Hitler mustache, a dapper, smiling, smooth-shaven gentleman, who, in a cultured voice and a beautiful Oxford English accent and with hands outstretched, greeted him: "Welcome to my abode, Cantor Rosenblatt. I am delighted to see you. I have heard so much about you and I was wondering whether I would ever have the opportunity to meet you in person." 
Oddly, Rosenblatt's right arm is missing from the photo.
 Perhaps it's a composite, I'm not sure.
My father returned the compliment. He, too, had seen and heard about the great actor and had wanted to make his personal acquaintance.  Mr. Chaplin ushered him into the lawn, and tea was served. The actor was a charming host and a most interesting conversationalist and gave the impression of being a person of very high intelligence, everything that he was not supposed to be on the screen. He and my father had photographs taken together on the grounds. And then came the surprise of the afternoon. The host had a phonograph brought out and put on a record. "Mr. Rosenblatt," he asked his guest, "do you recognize the voice?" My father laughed. It was his "Omar Rabbi Elozor" that was being played. "I have all the records you have ever produced," said his host. "I cherish them as among my most treasured possessions. Whenever I feel a little blue, I take them out and play them. They do something to me. They unite me—oh so closely—with my Jewish ancestors.2 Now you know why I am so happy to have the original, the master of the voice recorded on these disks, in my homestead." My father never forgot that meeting. (Samuel Rosenblatt, Yossele Rosenblatt: The Story Of His Life As Told By His Son, 1954)

1The photos of Chaplin and Rosenblatt were taken at the Chaplin Studios, so this is most likely where the meeting took place.
2Although there is no evidence that Chaplin had Jewish ancestry, he sometimes claimed to be Jewish and would neither confirm nor deny it in public.

5 comments:

  1. I think, in the second photo, that Cantor Rosenblatt was painted out of the picture so that the portrait of Chaplin could be used on its own.

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    1. It appears that way, doesn't it? I feel like I've seen that photo of Charlie on its own somewhere.

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  2. I swear, in that second photo, it looks like Chaplin was in the middle of slicking down his hair when the doorbell rang.

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    1. HA! It's like a sideways mullet: business on one side, party on the other.

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