Ilan Stavans on Cantinflas

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Amherst scholar Ilan Stavans, known to khaverim everywhere as the author of Resurrecting Hebrew and the editor of The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories, came to town last week to do a presentation on Cantinflas for this year’s Chicago Humanities Festival. While it’s true there’s no overt Jewish content in a lecture on Cantinflas, look a bit deeper and what do you find?

In 2003, when Chicago’s Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum hosted the traveling exhibit “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Twentieth-Century Mexican Art: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection,” Chicago YIVO Board Member Jan Lisa Huttner was compelled to ask the obvious question: “Who were Jacques and Natasha Gelman anyway?”

The answer was published by the Forward, including this fascinating connection:

“The money to fund [the Gelmans’ art collecting passion] came from Jacques’s lucrative collaboration with the Mexican comic Mario Moreno, known popularly as ‘Cantinflas’… Jacques produced 23 Cantinflas films… working together, Jacques and Cantinflas established themselves as part of the Hollywood community, and the Gelmans developed strong relationships with two of Hollywood’s most fervent art collectors, Edward G. Robinson (born Emanuel Goldenberg) and his wife, Gladys. “

Click HERE to read Jan’s article “Frida & Diego & Jacques & Natasha: Two Immigrants from Europe Leave an Extraordinary Legacy of Mexican Art and More.”

Ilan Stavans in Chicago!

Ilan Stavans (left) after his lecture on Cantinflas

with Loyola professors Marcela Brusa & Hector Garcia.

Chgo Humanities Festival (11/14/09).

Photo credit: Jan Lisa Huttner

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