From the Shtetl to the Stage: The Odyssey of a Wandering Actor

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Alexander Granach, who died while he was acting on Broadway in 1945, brilliantly relates the remarkable story of his unlikely path from a poverty-stricken, rough-and-tumble childhood to success on the German stage. This is the account of a daring, curiosity-filled, and perceptive Jewish child from poor towns in Galicia who was seized with a passion for the theater when he saw his first show at the age of 14. He overcame great odds to become a leading stage and film actor in Weimar Germany - and he had to have both legs broken to do it! Born in what is now southern Ukraine, Granach began working at the age of six in his father's bakery, where his heavy tasks left him visibly knock-kneed. With very little formal education but open for adventure and willing to work hard, Alexander ran away several times, the last time to Berlin, at the age of 16, where his talent and charm won him a place in Max Reinhardt's theater school. His career was abruptly interrupted by World War I and his time as a prisoner of war in Italy, but after a daring escape and the end of the war he resumed his rise to prominence in German artistic life. A natural storyteller, Granach's autobiography captures equally the charms, adventures, and trials of his shtetl days, the horrors of trench warfare, and the glamour and excitement of the German theater before Hitler came to power.