Hollywood Lights: Maurice Moscovich

Maurice Moscovich (Morris Maaskov) was born in Odessa. He began his career on stage in 1885. In the 1890s Moscovich emigrated to the United States, where he continued to pursue acting and became an active member of the Yiddish theatre in New York.

Cover portrait: Maurice Moscovitch by John Longstaff – Winner 1925 Archibald Prize

Maurice Moscovich acted in five languages. He performed for decades in the Yiddish theatre in New York and appeared in two 1930’s Broadway plays.

Maurice Moscovitch by Bassano Ltd made in England, London (photographer’s studio, 25 Old Bond Street , London).
Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery

With his distinctive accent, he mostly portrayed wise, friendly, often Jewish old men. He acted in London with David Kessler and reached New York with Jacob Adler’s company in 1890.

Forming his own troupe, he toured the Americas and Europe in Jewish classics and Yiddish versions of Tolstoy, Turgenev, and Strindberg. Later he toured South Africa and Australia.

Charlie, Paulette Goddard & Maurice Morcovitch (played Mr. Jaeckel). Photo credit “Chaplin for the ages”
Charlie, Paulette Goddard & Maurice Morcovitch (played Mr. Jaeckel). Photo credit “Chaplin for the ages”
Mr Jaeckel (Maurice Moscovitch) advises the barber (Charlie Chaplin) to diversify and practice beauty treatments on Hannah (Paulette Goddard). “The Great Dictator”, 1940

In 1919 Moscovich was brought to London to star as Shylock in the Royal Court’s production of The Merchant of Venice, a role that helped launch him onto the English stage, where he spent the remainder of his acting career.

In the last four years of his life, Moscovich starred in 14 Hollywood films, most often playing affable Jewish characters. His films included Make Way for Tomorrow (1937), Love Affair (1939) and Charlie Chaplin’s Hitler satire, The Great Dictator (1940), in which he played Chaplin’s friendly Jewish neighbour.

Paulette Goddard and Maurice Moscovitch in “The Great Dictator” (1940)

Maurice Moskovitch died at the age of 68, following surgery. At the time of his death, he was playing the role of a dancing master in Dance, Girl, Dance. 

Moscovitch’s son Noel Madison (1897-1975) was also a character actor.