Before Max Reinhardt left for California Wednesday night, he spoke with newspapermen on each of the two days he spent in New York.
During each of those interviewsâ€”as reporters refer to such cross-examinations of celebritiesâ€”this writer could not help but be struck by recognition of a certain indefinable pathos which the word “exile” had never before conveyed to him.
Here was this man to whom students of the theatre as an art refer only in superlatives, doomed to embark on one new project after another, prey to the dubiously tender mercies of a succession of briskly commercial impresarios.
Outwardly Professor Reinhardt is an eager and zestful world wayfarer, impatient to have new dramatic problems placed before him, joyously invading new stage marts with his wares.
Yet in those youthfully experimental eyes there lurks a soft nostalgia for the Berlin and the Germany that once were. The yearning, true enough, is well concealed in word and in action, but it is none the less discernible.
We in America, when we meet a so-called German refugee, speak with crass harshness of the Reich and expect our exiled friend to concur whole-heartedly in our vilification.
Frequently we are surprised and even a little injured when our soaring flights of anathema against Germany evoke no answering enthusiasm.
“Hitler, yes. Damn him all you please. But if you think you’re doing me a favor by saying unpleasant things about my Germany, you’re wrong.”
That, in essence, seems to be the unspoken attitude of most of these unwilling waifs of fortune, who gladly would take Das Vaterland to their bosoms if they could do so while still retaining a shred of self-respect.
They remind one of the father of the late John Dillinger, who said of his bandit son:
“That boy isn’t nearly so bad as they give him credit for being. If they’d given him half a chance, he might have made a useful citizen.”
When asked whether he still thinks of himself as a German, Professor Reinhardt said:
“I am an Austrian.”
This despite the fact that he spent the most important and productive twenty-five years of his life as Berlin’s outstanding director. His best years were given to developing the German theatre, to bringing it, as an artistic entity, to a pinnacle enjoyed by scarcely any other medium of national expressionism in the world.
Born in Austria, where he now makes his home, Professor Reinhardt reached the culmination of his efforts in his chosen field in Berlin. It is difficult to believe that after so many years in the capital of the Teutonic world he has succeeded in retransplanting to his native soil the spirited energies which built the German theatre.
“I am an Austrian,” he said simply, but somehow this unequivocal statement failed to carry conviction.
Hitler, too, is Austrian by birth. Picture him suddenly torn from the throne he now occupies, ordered to leave Germany or die, forced to return to the country of his birth to save his skin. One can easily imagine him saying, under such circumstances, “I am an Austrian.”
One wouldn’t believe it, though.
Not the least pathetic phase of Max Reinhardt’s recent wanderings through the capitals of the world is the thought that this sixty-one-year-old man, who spent a lifetime in successful achievement, suddenly was bereft of the material fruits of his work by the plunderers who constitute the Nazi government.
This fact he apparently accepts with philosophic good humor. One of the reporters asked him, the other day: “Did you sell your theatre in Germany?” The director looked at the newspaperman in surprise. He had supposed everyone was acquainted with the Nazi “liquidation” of his Berlin interests. Then he laughed.
“Yes,” he said with a deep-throated chuckle. “I sold them.”
Now he goes from country to country, received everywhere, it is true, with unbounded friendliness and recognition of his standing in his profession, but deprived of the home base which rightly belongs to him.
Undoubtedly he is sincere in his explanation that he left Germany voluntarily, before Hitler came into power, because he was seeking new fields to conquer. Still, it probably would be pleasanter to have Berlin and the Deutsches Theatre and financial stability to look forward to, in the event that he some day tires of his roamings.
But these people of the theatre have a peculiar attitude toward economics. They never talk about security. If they aren’t engaged in one way or another at the moment, they speak of “tentative contracts,” which are due to materialize any day now, they tell you.
When they go from one city to another, talking to managers and producers and entrepreneurs, they are “negotiating.”
In other lines of business we call it “looking for a job.”
A. J. B.