Vox Tablet

Meyer Levin’s Anne Frank

A controversial radio play of the famous diary—rejected in 1952 as too Jewish—gets a second airing

September 14, 2012
Anne Frank, c. 1941, and Meyer Levin, 1981.(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photos from The Stolen Legacy of Anne Frank: Meyer Levin, Lillian Hellman, and the Staging of the Diary (Yale University Press, 1997) and Frans Dupont/Anne Frank Fonds/Anne Frank House via Getty Images)

Anne Frank, c. 1941, and Meyer Levin, 1981.(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photos from The Stolen Legacy of Anne Frank: Meyer Levin, Lillian Hellman, and the Staging of the Diary (Yale University Press, 1997) and Frans Dupont/Anne Frank Fonds/Anne Frank House via Getty Images)

In 1952, Meyer Levin had every reason to believe he would bring Anne Frank’s diary to the stage. Levin, an American who served as a war correspondent in Europe during World War II, first came across Frank’s diary in a Paris bookshop in 1951. He immediately contacted Frank’s father, Otto, and was instrumental in getting the book published in the United States, and then in attracting the interest of readers, thanks to a glowing review he wrote for the New York Times.

Otto Frank granted Levin the rights to adapt the diary for stage, but Levin would never see that dream realized. The production only got as far as a preliminary radio play. It’s hard to pin down why. Some say the Anne Frank that Levin was so moved by—indeed revered—was too Jewish a character for early 1950s American audiences. Others say Levin’s difficult personality and lack of writing ability scuttled the project. Either way, Levin eventually relinquished the stage rights, shunned by Frank and his cohort. The failure left Levin embittered.

Now, three decades after Levin’s death, L.A. based theater director Jennifer Strome is resurrecting Meyer Levin’s Anne Frank, with a new production of Levin’s 35-minute radio play. Sixty years after its poorly received national broadcast, Levin’s rendering of Anne Frank will meet a new audience, one perhaps better equipped to judge her authenticity. Strome’s production will be available as a podcast from Sept. 15 to 18 here. Producer Eric Molinsky brings us the story of Meyer Levin and his legacy. [Running time: 10:43.]

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Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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