“Shoe-maker, stick to your last.”
Thus did Max Reinhardt dismiss all, or nearly all, questions on matters of European political significance before he left for California last night.
The man who during his quarter of a century as director of the Deutsches Theater in Berlin won world recognition for the artistic superiority of the German drama, only to be stripped of his material possessions and shunted into exile by Hitler’s conquering Philistines, made it clear, however, that he intends to raise his voice, in his own way, in protest against the savageries of Nazism.
“I am, and always have been, an artist,” he pointed out. “All my accomplishments have been in the theater. My plan is to dramatize the Old Testament, to depict it on the stage as the Jewish contribution to the world, and then to allow our non-Jewish neighbors, with the facts thus placed before them, to form their own judgment as to whether a people which has made such a contribution to civilization deserves to survive.”
Reinhardt arrived in New York late Tuesday night aboard the Olympic. He spent yesterday at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, receiving friends and reporters until late in the evening, when he boarded a fast train for California.
He plans to spend two or three months in this country before returning to Europe, he said. In California he will initiate what is intended as the first of an annual series of Festival Season celebrations under the auspices of the State Chamber of Commerce. As his part in the festival he will stage Shakespeare’s “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream,” with a cast yet to be selected.
In Hollywood he will meet his son, Gottfried, who is employed there by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. After putting on the Shakespeare play in the Hollywood Bowl, in San Francisco and at the University of California in Berkeley, he will return to New York for a short time to make preliminary preparations for the Jewish morality play, tentatively entitled “The Burden of the Promise,” which he hopes to direct in New York next Winter.
WOULD WELCOME CHAPLIN AID
Asked whether he would like to enroll Charlie Chaplin in the cast of the California production, he said:
“I would like to get him but I doubt that we can.”
He also expressed admiration for the acting ability of Katharine Hepburn, who is being sought for a role in the festival enterprise, and for the thespian qualities of Paul Muni, who will be asked to play a major role in the morality spectacle.
From New York he expects to go to London, where he has a tentative engagement to do the Shakespeare comedy in His Majesty’s Theater. He will come back to New York next February.
Repeated efforts yesterday on the part of one of his interviewers to get him to make some estimate of the plight of Jews in Germany brought fourth only sparing and generalized comments.
Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg of Austria he regards as a personal friend, “who was most kind to me when he recently attended the Salzburg Festival where I directed Jederman and Die Fledermaus.”
Reputedly anti-Semitic sympathies of the present Austrian Fascist regime he was inclined to discount, although a suppressed anxiety in his bearing came to the surface for a moment when he misunderstood one of his interviewer’s questions. Turning to his secretary, he asked, in German:
“Has something happened in Austria during the past week, while I was on shipboard?”
AIDED BY INTERPRETERS
Reinhardt speaks some English, although he does not handle the language with facility, and most of the interview was carried on with the aid of volunteer interpreters, who frequently showed irrepressible tendencies to hog the limelight.
Thick-set and sturdy of physique, of medium height, with iron-gray hair and a face which frequently is lighted by a half-sardonic but tolerant smile, he does not look his sixty-one years of age. Once, when asked yesterday as to his views on the Germany of today, he grinned wryly and said:
“Why talk about it? Everyone knows the atmosphere there is not comfortable for a Jew.”
Except in London, he said, the European theater has fallen on #vil days.
He insisted he had left the Reich voluntarily, prior to Hitler’s accession, because “after twenty-five years in Berlin I had accomplished most of my aims and everything I was doing there had become more or less in the nature of routine.”
He pointed out, too, that the death of his brother, who was equally as prominent as he and who handled their financial affairs, influenced him to seek new fields of endeavor in other European cities.
The recent Salzburg festival, Professor Reinhardt said, was a great success. There was a short critical period, he admitted, immediately after Dollfuss’ assassination, during which it was impossible to lure residents into the theater, but the feeling of alarm and unrest soon quieted down, he declared.
Anschluss, he feels, is antipathetic to persons of influence and means who now have the Austrian situation fairly well in hand.
“I cannot speak, however,” he explained, “for the younger folks and for those poor people who would turn to anything in their cry for bread.”
As to effect Nazism has had on those German Jews who formerly depended for their sustenance on the Reich stage, he pointed out that the more important persons, such as Elisabeth Bergner, have had no trouble in re-establishing themselves in other countries.
“The smaller fry, though,” he said, “is worse off than ever. Those who played only a minor part in the German theater, and who find themselves exiles today, have nowhere to turn.”
Palestine recently has stirred his interest deeply. A few weeks ago he chatted with Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who aroused in him the hope that the Holy Land will afford a safe haven for harassed Jews of the future.
“But I hope to see for myself,” he said. “I confidently expect to stage the morality play there eventually.”
Talk of establishment in New York of a permanent “Theater in Exile,” of which he is to be the director, is being held in abeyance for the time being Professor Reinhardt asserted.
“That depends,” he said, “on the reception accorded me in my production of the morality play.”