Leo Fuchs (1911-1994) was a master entertainer, known as the “Yiddish Fred Astaire.” He entertained from age five to eighty: acting, singing, dancing, landing punchlines, playing violin, writing sketches and humorous couplets, and touring the world.
Leo Fuchs was born to a theatrical family in Poland and began performing at the age of five. By age nineteen, he was garnering rave reviews for his cabaret performances in Warsaw. Unlike many of his fellow entertainers, Fuchs couldn’t be easily stereotyped: he was equally at comfortable playing the tall, dark leading man as he was the rubber-faced comedian. To fully showcase his talents, he often wrote his own material and gained a reputation as a witty coupletist.
Fuchs came to the United States in 1935. After a season of dramatic roles in Maurice Schwartz’s Yiddish Art Theater, he transitioned to starring in musical comedies that celebrated and skewered American and Jewish culture, such as The Galitzianer Cowboy.
Fuchs also starred in several Yiddish comic films, notably I Want to Be A Boarder and Amerikaner Shadkhen (American Matchmaker).
Fuchs toured around the world both with theater companies and as a solo act. In the second half of his career, he also performed in Hollywood films and television. He is perhaps best known to today's audiences as the Chief Rabbi in The Frisco Kid (1979) and for his role as Hymie Krichinsky in the film Avalon (1990).
The Leo Fuchs Yiddish Theater Archive includes
Accessing These Materials
- The archival materials are all in HOLLIS under “Leo Fuchs Yiddish Theater Archive”
- All photographs from the Fuchs Archive been digitized.
- Physical materials from the Leo Fuchs Yiddish Theater Archive can be consulted in the Judaica Division office in Widener Library by appointment. Request access through HOLLIS Special Request, or email us.