Monday, September 25, 2017

Molly Picon: Abi Gezunt (1938)

Yiddish Performance of the Week

Molly Picon, in the midst of Shabbes (Shabbos) preparationssings “Abi Gezunt” (So Long as You’re Healthy) in the pre-war Yiddish film, Mamele (1938). 
ViaYoutube & NCJF

Mamele stars Molly Picon (as Khavtshi Samet) & Edmund Zayenda (as Schlesinger) and directed by Joseph Green & Konrad Tom. The 97-minute film was shot in inter-war Poland, and is set in Lodz. This became Picon's trademark song and a staple of Yiddish theatre. The Jewish Daily Forward wrote (January 20, 2014) about this restored film, as cited on the site of The National Center for Jewish Film:
The setting is urban, the young men and women are 1930s fashionably dressed. There is nightclubbing, drinking, double-dealing, and– a handsome sweet musician across the courtyard. As tireless as the Energizer bunny, Picon is so delicious and quirky, you want to give her a knip in bekl (pinch her cheek).
In a dreamlike montage, she morphs — in stages — from a dancing little girl to a frail 78-year old dancing with her fingers and bobbing her head. Picon also launches the hit song “Abi Gezunt” (as long as you are healthy) which has become a standard for Yiddish performers down the decades. As for the romantic finale — it involves a scene-stealing ketzele (kitten) which will have cat lovers purring.” 
Yes, as long as you are healthy has been a trademark expression of Yidn everywhere. The lyrics were written by Molly Picon and the music composed by Abraham Ellstein [1907–1963], who was born in New York City’s Lower East Side. The lyrics are courtesy of the Milken Archive of Jewish Music.

Mamele Playbill (1938)

Abi Gezunt
by Molly Picon & Abraham Ellstein

a bisl zun, a bisl regn,
a ruik ort dem kop tsu legn,
abi gezunt, ken men gliklekh zayn.

a shukh a zok, a kleyd on lates,
in keshene a dray, fir zlotes,
abi gezunt, ken men gliklekh zayn.

di luft iz fray far yedn glaykh,
di zun zi shaynt far yedn eynem,
orem oder raykh.

a bisl freyd, a bisl lakhn,
a mol mit fraynd a shnepsl makhn,
abi gezunt ken men gliklekh zayn.

eyner zukht ashires,
eyner zukht gevures,
aynnemen di gantse velt.
eyner meynt dos ganse glik
hengt nor op in gelt.

zoln ale zukhn,
zoln ale krikhn,
nor ikh trakht bay mir,
ikh darf dos af kapores,
vayl dos glik shteyt bay mayn tir.

So Long As You’re Healthy

A bit of sun, a bit of rain,
a peaceful place to lay your head …
so long as you’re healthy, you can be happy.

A shoe, a sock, an outfit without patches,
three or four measly coins in your pocket …
so long as you’re healthy, you can be happy.

The air is free, equal for all;
the sun shines for everyone,
whether rich or poor.

A little rejoicing, a little laughter,
some schnapps with a friend once in a while …
so long as you’re healthy, you can be happy.

Some look for riches,
some look for power,
to conquer the whole world.
Some think that all happiness
depends only on money.

Let them all search,
let them all scrounge.
But I think to myself that
I have no use for such things,
since happiness is waiting at my doorstep.

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