Between andin his fantastically eventful years as a Chicagoan, Ben Hecht wrote enough for an entire career. And he was just getting started. He married, cheated, remarried.
He had a habit of getting to know a place, romanticizing it, loving it. And then leaving it. The New Yorker magazine published his farewell-and-good-riddance to Chicago ina year after he and his second wife, Rose, moved from Chicago to Manhattan and scarrace to Nyack, on the Hudson River.
Two new books on Hecht shed some fascinating light on this well-chronicled but often misunderstood 20 th century media giant, who argued and wrestled with scarface era Judaism meant to him long before the rise of Hitler. And long after.
His pro-Zionist stance and support of the underground paramilitary Scarface era movement, hugely controversial within mainstream American Jewish communities, put his newly awakened beliefs on the line. The history makes for some painful reading. Thus, oddly, in addition to becoming a Jew in I became also an American — scarfacee remained one.
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I think he was a Jew all along, just less conscious of it. In his writings, improbably enough, Hecht is hard-pressed to recall scarface era anti-Semitic bullying in his childhood. He was born in New York in His younger brother, Peter, came along four years later. InRacine, Wis. The Hechts moved to Racine in He holed up in his attic bedroom, in a boarding house filled with retired circus performers, reading book after book. He and his brother toured with scarface era trapeze act one summer. The house, no longer there, was at Lake Ave.]