This article was first published in The Jewish Daily Forward.
Marlon Brando “reading” the Forverts on the set of ‘Guys & Dolls’ in 1955. (Photo credit: Phil Stern)
It all started as a gag. In the early 1950s, a Hollywood publicist named Dave Golding hired photographer Phil Stern to take still photos on the movie set of “Guys and Dolls.” Knowing that Stern read the Forverts, Golding asked him to take a picture of Marlon Brando, one of the film’s stars, for his father, Max Golding, a big movie fan who worked as the foreman of the Yiddish newspaper’s composing room. Stern took it one step further and asked the actor to pose “reading” the Forverts.
Thus began a project that would continue over the course of much of Stern’s long career in Tinseltown. The photographer captured images of many different stars holding the Forverts. Only one of Stern’s subjects was Jewish, and none could read Yiddish. But since they were all actors, they could make it look as though they could.
Unlike Stern’s many other Hollywood portraits, these black-and-white photographs have rarely been exhibited. Initially they were just sent to Max Golding, who tacked them up on the wall of the Forverts’s composing room. In 1983 the Forverts published the photos. That same year, they appeared in a show organized by the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring and held at the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, in Philadelphia. Now, at the Katz Snyder Gallery at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, they are being exhibited for the first time in almost 30 years.
Click here to read more and view a slide show of some of Stern’s Forverts photos.
© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.