A. de Herz

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A. de Herz
Herz in 1912
Herz in 1912
Born Adolf Edmund George de Herz
(1887-12-15)December 15, 1887
Bucharest, Kingdom of Romania
Died March 9, 1936(1936-03-09) (aged 48)
Pen name Dinu Ramură, Mira Dăianu, Dinu, Puck
Occupation playwright, poet, songwriter, journalist, translator, stage actor, civil servant
Nationality Romanian
Period c. 1904–1936
Genre epic poetry, lyric poetry, verse drama, historical fiction, comedy, farce, revue, libretto, reportage, short story
Literary movement Sămănătorul
Neoclassical literature

Adolf Edmund George de Herz, commonly shortened to A. de Herz, also rendered as Hertz and Herț (December 15, 1887 – March 9, 1936), was a Romanian playwright and literary journalist, also active as a poet, short story author, and stage actor. He was the scion of an upper-class assimilated Jewish family, with its roots in Austria-Hungary. His grandfather, Adolf Sr, was a controversial banker and venture capitalist, while his father, Edgar von Herz, was noted as a translator of Romanian literature. Adolf had a privileged childhood and debuted as a poet while still in high school, producing the lyrics to a hit romance. In his early work for the stage, Herz was a traditionalist inspired by Alexandru Davila and the Sămănătorul school, but later veered toward neoclassical literature and aestheticism. His "salon comedies", staged by the National Theater Bucharest, borrowed from various authors, including Roberto Bracco, Henri Lavedan, and Haralamb Lecca, peaking in popularity in 1913, with Păianjenul ("The Spider"). By the start of World War I, Herz was also a writer of revues.

Controversy followed Herz during the early 1910s, when his writing raised suspicions of plagiarism. A vaster controversy came with Romania's participation in the war, when Herz became noted as a supporter of the Central Powers. He remained in German-occupied territory, putting out the daily paper Scena, which became a leading voice of Romanian "Germanophilia", but was also a pioneering contribution to cultural journalism. He was arrested by returning loyalists during late 1918, and sent to Văcărești prison, but was finally acquitted in March 1919. The controversy nevertheless survived, also leading to authorship disputes with a former friend, Ioan Alexandru Brătescu-Voinești, and provoking the enmity of writers Liviu Rebreanu and George Ranetti.

The financially insecure Herz continued to publish plays and translations, embarking on a lasting collaboration with Constantin Tănase, and writing a revue for Josephine Baker. Starring in his own plays, he also served for a while as editor of a cultural supplement, Adevărul Literar și Artistic, then briefly as head of Dimineața daily and as interviewer for the Radio Company. Eventually, he accepted appointment as chair of the National Theater Craiova in 1930. Toppled by intrigues in 1935, he died the following year, after an illness of the lungs.


Early life[edit]

Born in Bucharest, capital of the Romanian Kingdom, his parents were Edgar von Herz (or Edgard de Hertz) and his wife Maria (née Kereszteyi).[1][2] On his paternal side, he belonged to Austrian nobility, and had links with the Duchy of Bukovina: his grandfather, Baron Adolf von Herz, was president of the imperial railway connecting Lemberg to Iași; he married a Maria Moreau.[3] The Baron, a man of Austrian Jewish extraction,[4][5] was living in Vienna in 1850, when he patented his design for a sugar refinery.[6] Attested as having relocated to the Free City of Frankfurt by 1858, he helped built Lemberg–Iași railway with support from Thomas Brassey, but only after relocating again, to Bucharest.[7] His investment portfolio included, in 1865, a "Bank of Romania", which was the first modern credit institution of the United Principalities.[8] After this was closed following political disputes, the Baron remained active as the representative of North British and Mercantile Insurance, and also involved himself in projects for setting up agricultural banks.[9] He later reestablished the larger bank and became its general manager, investing heavily in the State Tobacco Monopoly, before ultimately resigning in 1876.[10] By then, his alleged bribery of Finance Minister Petre Mavrogheni had become a public scandal.[4][11] He died in August 1881, at Bad Gastein.[12]

The playwright's father was a high-level bank clerk, and the son experienced a privileged childhood at Romania's royal court, which granted him its privilege for many years.[13][14] In addition to his business profile, Edgar had musical and literary interests. In 1878, he was a pianist, performing alongside Eduard Hübsch at the Romanian Atheneum.[15] Edgar also translated into German the play Fântâna Blanduziei, by Vasile Alecsandri (1885), and the poem Luceafărul, by Mihai Eminescu (1893).[16] Adolf Sr's other son, Edmond, was a former officer in the Austrian Army; he had married Iza, daughter of Prince Dimitrie Ghica,[17] who reportedly frowned upon his in-laws' Jewishness.[5] Iza (born Maria Ghica) was a published essayist,[18] and some sources credit her as Herz's mother.[19] The couple in fact had a daughter, also named Maria.[20]

The Herzes were Roman Catholics,[3] but, according to historian Lucian Boia, "perfectly assimilated into Romanian culture."[21] Herz's primary schooling consisted of private lessons; he attended Gheorghe Lazăr High School in his native city,[22] and, for two years,[1] was enrolled at the military school in Iași. He disliked the latter and rebelled, writing poetry on the dormitory walls.[2] He was also reportedly a student of Mihai Viteazul National College, during which time he wrote new poetry, as well as drama, using the pen name Dinu Ramură.[13] Around 1904, when he was aged 17, Herz went public with De ziua nunții tale-ți scriu ("I Write This on Your Wedding Day"), which became a highly popular romance.[2] After completing high school in 1907, he entered the literature and philosophy faculty of Bucharest University, where he was a good student and drew favorable notice from professors who included Titu Maiorescu, Mihail Dragomirescu and Pompiliu Eliade.[14]

Herz's verses first appeared in print in 1906, hosted by Luceafărul, followed by similar pieces in Sămănătorul and Vieața Nouă.[3] Critic Nicolae Iorga mentioned a characteristic poem about Iliaș Rareș, signed as Dinu Ramură and composed in "monotonous alexandrines".[23] These and other early experiments in verse drama were heavily inspired by the writings of Alexandru Davila, to the point of imitation.[24] According to Dragomirescu, they provide the only sample of a traditionalist theater in line with Sămănătorul commands, but are lacking in dramatic effect: Herz's "pitiful" contributions had not preserved classical unities.[25] After being accepted at Vieața Nouă, Herz moved into neoclassical literature and aestheticism, but, as Dragomirescu notes, was "merely a beginner" in both.[26]

Herz's debut play was the 1907 Domnița Ruxandra, dramatizing the life of an eponymous 17th-century princess, followed in 1908 by Floare de nalbă ("Marsh Mallow"). According to Eftimiu, Herz's writing moved away from Davila's influence, and came to resemble the work of Haralamb Lecca.[27] Both Dragomirescu and Eugen Lovinescu viewed Floare de nalbă as profoundly indebted to Alexandre Dumas's Camille.[28] By then, he was also published by Dragomirescu's own Convorbiri Critice, notably with the 1908 "dramatic idyll" A fost odată ("Once upon a Time").[3] He still contributed poetry, mainly in Maiorescu's Convorbiri Literare—which also put out another one of his plays, the 1911 Biruința ("Victory").[3][29] Five other plays came in quick succession: Noaptea Învierii ("Resurrection Night", 1909), Când ochii plâng ("When Eyes Shed Tears", 1911), Păianjenul ("The Spider", 1913), Bunicul ("Grandfather", also 1913), and Cuceritorul ("The Conqueror", 1914).[1][2][14][30]


Herz's patron Alexandru Davila (left), with the senior playwright Ion Luca Caragiale, in 1909

Several of these texts were staged by the National Theater Bucharest, which was led by Eliade, then by Davila and Ioan Bacalbașa.[31] In January 1909, it produced Domnița Ruxandra, marking the first-ever performance of a Herz play. Directed by the professional actor Ion Livescu, it was unusual for having an all-amateur cast, comprising only high-school students.[32] At the Romanian Academy, Maiorescu rejected the play, which was competing for the Năsturel Award.[29] In later years, however, he granted occasional sponsorship to Herz. The latter praised Maiorescu as his adviser and moral benchmark, assuring him of his "undying devotion".[29] Biruința was accepted by Davila in May 1911 and registered accolades.[33] It was also taken up for production by Iași's state theater in November, but did not play to a full house. Writing at the time, reviewer Corneliu Carp alleged that the local public preferred sensationalism and melodrama to Herz's "tame, normal, simple" text.[33] Also taken up by the National Theater Bucharest, Noaptea Învierii "failed to catch on",[34] and is described by Lovinescu as very similar to his own earlier play, De peste prag.[35] Când ochii plâng was first shown at a provincial venue, the National Theater Craiova, with Agatha Bârsescu as a lead.[36]

Herz returned to Bucharest with Păianjenul, which was an "unparalleled"[37] or "great success"[38] on its premiere. According to Livescu and critic Ioan Massoff, it became an absolute triumph for both the author and the lead actors, Maria Giurgea and Tony Bulandra.[39] In Păianjenul, a widow pretends to be "debauched" so as to seem more fashionable. According to Călinescu, the theme and layout prefigure Luigi Pirandello, but also reinstate old favorites of the public.[40] Likewise, Lovinescu suggests that Păianjenul is largely a copy of Roberto Bracco's Perfetto amore, but mutated into the realm of comedy. The result, however, is superior, and itself a "model for salon comedies".[35]

Lovinescu's hypothesis about Bracco and Herz was at the center of a plagiarism scandal.[41] Other writers maintained favorable opinions of Păianjenul: Livescu finds in it both of Herz's faces, "the poet and the humorist", joined with "clear precision in creating scenarios and a technique that is anything but banal";[42] while Massoff sees it as "the first and perhaps the best of Romania's salon comedies".[43] The same is argued by theatrologist Vera Molea, who proposes that Păianjenul remains "the most accomplished writing by the prolific A. de Herz."[44]

As noted by scholar Mircea Popa, Herz was a renowned journalist in his time, but also had significant contributions to the development of Romanian theatrical life, through both his magazines and the plays he wrote.[14] This verdict is contrasted by another historian, George Călinescu, who views Herz as mainly a "theatrical industrialist" and "frank sentimentalist", with only Păianjenul and Bunicul emerging as more lasting contributions.[45] In writing Bunicul, Herz was apparently inspired by Henri Lavedan's Marquis de Priola, similarly depicting an aging seducer, Manole Corbea, trying and failing to win the favors of a much younger woman. The scenario is seen by Călinescu as a collection "of trifles, sometimes tedious", but nonetheless "trifles assembled with skill."[46] Contrarily, Lovinescu describes Bunicul as "weak" and "incoherent", with jocular phrases that "do nothing to disperse its banality."[47] Shortly after the premiere, Luceafărul reported that the "much-touted play" was a flop, noting that its "talented author" had "chiseled away a piece of glass, [rather than] a diamond."[48] Reviewers for both Flacăra and Opinia saw Bunicul as a lifeless text, arguing that Herz had taken "two steps back".[49] "The Baron" was still not validated by critics with Cuceritorul: a reviewer at Universul Literar called the play "incoherent", and alleged that Herz had only written it because Bulandra wanted him to.[50]

Herz was a founding member of the Romanian Writers' Society (SSR), a literary secretary at the National Theater Bucharest, and an editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Făt-Frumos.[1] In 1910–1911, he visited the Romanian communities of Austria-Hungary, including Bukovina, as part of a literary tour that also hosted Iorga, Victor Eftimiu, Emil Gârleanu, Octavian Goga, Al. T. Stamatiad, and Caton Theodorian.[51] He cultivated a friendship with Eftimiu, and together with him met the senior poet George Coșbuc, whom they both admired. As recalled by Eftimiu, the meeting proved to them that, in everyday life, Coșbuc was a bore.[52] In April 1911, the Romanian Theatrical Society elected Herz on its first Steering Committee, alongside George Diamandy, Paul Gusty, George Ranetti, and Radu D. Rosetti.[53] The following year, Herz, Gârleanu and Rosetti appeared at Comoedia Theater during a recital which honored the senior playwright Ion Luca Caragiale; honored guests included Marie of Romania and Prince Carol.[54] Herz had a stint as chief of staff for Dimitrie S. Nenițescu, the Conservative Minister of Commerce, together with whom he traveled to Galați for the unveiling of Costache Negri's statue (July 1912).[55] He was sacked in October, upon the arrival of a National Liberal, Nicolae Xenopol. In his review of the issue, Herz's colleague Ranetti joked that Herz's might have been disliked for his aristocratic airs, or that Xenopol "wanted to return him to his real vocation".[56]

Also in 1912, Herz's adaptation of Henri Murger's Kind Old Man premiered at the National Theater.[57] This was repeated in 1914, when the same troupe staged Herz's version of L'Apôtre, by Paul Hyacinthe Loyson.[58] During those years, Herz also contributed to Flacăra, Viața Românească, Dimineața, Adevărul, Epoca and Rampa.[1] For a while in 1914, Herz and painter Jean Alexandru Steriadi published their a popular magazine, Ilustrațiunea Română.[59] In 1915, together with Ioan Alexandru Brătescu-Voinești, he co-wrote another play, Sorana.[2][60][61][62] His other work included theater criticism; he still used the pseudonym Dinu Ramură, alongside Mira Dăianu and Dinu.[14]

Becoming a "Germanophile"[edit]

German-language advertisement for a charity show benefiting the blind, published in Bukarester Tagblatt in September 1917. Herz's revue as a second attraction, after a screening of Wenn Tote sprechen, starring Maria Carmi

Herz's career was mired in controversy during Romania's involvement in World War I. The first two years were of cautious neutrality, during which Romanian public opinion divided itself between supporting the Entente or the Central Powers. Initially, Herz was friendly toward the former, producing in July 1915 a montage of patriotic verse by Eftimiu and Goga. Called Cântarea României ("Romania's Song"), and starring Édouard de Max, it hinted to the annexation of Bukovina and Transylvania.[21] Over the following months, Herz drifted toward Germanophilia, writing theatrical columns in Steagul newspaper and having friendly encounters with a "Germanophile" agent, Alexandru Bogdan-Pitești.[63] Before December 1915, he had written the scenario for a café-chantant, Melcul ("The Snail").[41] Noticed for his contribution to the revue genre, Herz was also working with Nicolae Niculescu-Buzău, the star of anti-war plays, at the Alhambra.[64] According to Niculescu's recollection, Herz proved "rather good" at creating "dialogue, humorous prose and misunderstandings".[65]

From August 1916, the Treaty of Bucharest formalized Romania's alliance with the Entente. This interrupted Herz's work for the musical theater. By October, "a major newspaper from the Capital" employed him to write a reportage on the planned execution of draft evaders at Craiova.[19] While there, he befriended Radu Demetrescu-Gyr, an eleven-years-old aspiring poet, teaching him about meter and encouraging him to write more.[19] Herz returned to his activities in Bucharest, even after its occupation by the Central Powers. In June 1917, he met Lilly Tănăsescu, and married her in July.[2] An operetta performer based in Craiova, she was the daughter of noted actor Ion Tănăsescu.[66] She continued to act in shows at Gabrielescu's theater until the birth of their first child, daughter Alexandra Maria.[2] Eftimiu reports that Herz felt grateful toward Lilly, who had stood by him "in times of need", and fell for her instead of prospecting "the rich bourgeoisie of Bucharest".[27] As reported by Massoff, Herz radically changed his philandering ways and "turned bourgeois", spending much time with his family and especially his two "adored" boys, Nonu and Kuki.[67]

After May 1917, Herz became a contributor to Săptămâna Ilustrată magazine, which was a main component of the German propaganda apparatus in Romania.[68] Under the caretaker, Germanophile administration set up by Lupu Kostaki, Nenițescu made his return as a Finance Minister. As early as April 1917, he nominated Herz for the chairmanship of the National Theater. This proposal was opposed by the actors, prompting Nenițescu to terminate their state subsidies; the German managers showed solidarity with their employees, and split their own salaries with the troupe.[69] Herz was still involved in the shows at Ambasadori Garden, joining Davila and Gabrielescu's summer troupes. One performance of September 5–6 raised money for blinded soldiers. It included productions of Herz's revues, Dă-i drumul odată și mor ("Just You Turn It On and I'll Die") and Treci la rând ("Get in Line"), starring Lilly, and with Herz himself appearing on stage to recite a couplet.[70] He was also commissioned by singer Alexandru Bărcănescu to write a one-act musical comedy, Boerul Buflea ("Buflea the Boyar"), which was performed as a live act at Cinema-Variété Regal in October.[71] In November, he staged another musical comedy, Rândunica ("The Swallow"), with its proceeds going to the Romanian Red Cross.[72]

On September 27, Herz, together with Liviu Rebreanu, had inaugurated a cultural daily, Scena ("The Stage"), which had contributions from a diverse selection of writers: Davila, Felix Aderca, Victor Anestin, Sarina Cassvan, Vasile Demetrius, Gala Galaction, Lucrezzia Karnabatt, Adrian Maniu, Barbu Nemțeanu, I. Peltz, Camil Petrescu, Tudor Teodorescu-Braniște, and I. C. Vissarion.[73] The editorial staff included, among others, Scarlat Froda, Barbu Lăzăreanu, Ilie Moscovici, and Alexandru Terziman.[74] As noted by Boia, Herz's publication of a theatrical daily "would have been a true feat even under normal circumstances"; "leaving aside his excessive language, which can be explained in context, the fact remains that [Herz] was a greatly capable chief for a cultural gazette and animator of cultural life under stressful conditions."[75] According to Peltz, he displayed an "extraordinary power of conviction, he was instantly likeable." "Never infected with the microbe of envy", he was enthusiastic about the work of others, promoting in particular the writer and "son of peasants" Alexandru Bucur.[76] However, Herz could also be sarcastic, entertaining his employees with impressions of themselves and of writers he viewed as mediocre, in particular Maica Smara.[76] According to Livescu, Herz was as much interesting to "reading intellectuals" as he was an avid gossiper, though his blather remained "spiritual and urbane".[77] As noted by Massoff, "the Baron [knew] how to pull on people's tiny strings, and also how to make himself a strain of gratuitous enemies—though his was not a wicked soul." "Herz's tiny intrigues" existed to keep him entertained and, "truth be told, he received more kicks than he gave."[78]

Scandals and trial[edit]

Scena had a "Germanophile" line; Herz's own articles reinforced this orientation. They include an April 1918 praise for Ludwig von Gebsattel, who led Germany's censorship office in occupied Romania. Therein, Herz argued that Gebsattel had presided upon the survival of Bucharest's theaters.[79] Other such pieces attacked Ententist writers and theater professionals who had resettled in Iași, singling out Diamandy, Ranetti, Sadoveanu, Nicolae N. Beldiceanu, Petre Locusteanu, and Corneliu Moldovanu.[80] In February 1918, Scena also hosted Coșbuc's last-ever poem, "The Eagle", which probably alludes to Romania's wartime disasters.[81] Rebreanu quit Scena after only three weeks,[82] and, moving on to become staff critic for Constantin Stere's Lumina, panned Boerul Buflea and Rândunica.[72] He soon ran afoul of the occupying authorities, and suspected that Herz was denouncing him.[83]

In March, Comoedia Theater produced Herz's new play, Vălul de pe ochi ("A Veil over One's Eyes"), with all proceeds going to the orphans of war.[84] Herz was still in Bucharest following the Romanian surrender, and expected there the return of professionals from their exile in Iași.[85] A coalition of Conservative Germanophiles took over, with Alexandru Marghiloman as Prime Minister. Following this move, Scena began receiving contributions from decommissioned soldiers, including George Topîrceanu, Avram Steuerman-Rodion,[86] and H. Bonciu.[87] During that summer, several other of Herz's revues were produced at Ambasadori, including: Fata cu trei case din dafin ("Three-housed Girl of the Laurel Tree"), Țațo nu te supăra ("Frump Be Not Mad"), and Bac (from "Baccarat").[70] According to his wife, he wrote a new revue each night, including De-aia n'are ursul coadă ("That's Why Bears Don't Have Their Tails"), and also contributed the libretto for an operetta, Dragostea Corinei ("Corina's Love"); his composer was Ionel G. Brătianu.[2] Seara reported on the Germanized theatrical milieu of Bucharest. Its film chronicles praised German propaganda films, including one produced in Bucharest, with live footage of Marshal Mackensen, and gave ample coverage to German or Austrian film stars, including Leda Gys, Mia May, Hella Moja and Alwin Neuß.[88] Seara also reported on tours by Theater an der Wien and Darmstadt Court Opera, as well as German plays staged by Romanian managers such as Velimir Maximilian and Marioara Voiculescu.[89] Nevertheless, Herz and Maximilian had a running dispute, which peaked in October, when Maximilian slapped Herz in public, on Calea Victoriei.[90]

Scena's politics became the subject of debates and scrutiny with the November Armistice: the paper ended publication on the very day of its signing,[21] by which time the Marghiloman government had already fallen. Herz was arrested at Galați in early December 1918, during a general clampdown on "Germanophiles". According to Marghiloman, the new government did not necessarily want him tried, but an Ententist journalist, Gheorghe Matei Corbescu, pulled the strings.[91] Herz was formally deemed by the Government Commissioner as "posing a denager to the Allied troops", he was kept under guard at Hotel Modern, and interrogated alongside Dumitru Karnabatt, Dem. Theodorescu, and Saniel Grossman.[92] "The Baron" was then sent to Văcărești prison, awaiting trial. While there, he witnessed the death in custody of I. C. Frimu, an activist of the Socialist Party. His testimonial on the subject argues that Frimu was "mercilessly beaten", which compromised his immunity and aggravated his typhus.[93] At Văcărești, the playwright was also reunited with Bogdan-Pitești and met Ioan Slavici, who described "baron de Herz" as a "lively, spirited, sweet youth".[94] Herz would later inspire the aged Slavici to write his memoirs, including details of his encounters with Mihai Eminescu.[95] Herz claimed that Slavici had privately revealed himself as the real author of Făt-Frumos din lacrimă, which is generally attributed to Eminescu.[96]

In February–March 1919, Herz was court-martialled, with 22 other "collaborationist" journalists, by the Second Army.[97] He was among the acquitted, while his colleague Rebreanu was only called upon as a witness.[98] Nonetheless, the label of "traitor" was long applied to Herz, especially at delicate moments.[14] At this stage, Brătescu-Voinești struck out Herz's name from all new editions of Sorana.[60][61][99] As noted by literary historian Dan Mănucă, Brătescu had a simmering conflict with another collaborationist, Tudor Arghezi, and viewed by the latter as a leading denunciation of Germanophile colleagues. Mănucă argues that this view was exaggerated, but also that it pushed Brătescu into a conflict with Herz.[60] According to Călinescu, "the paternity of the play is disputed", with the overall intrigue redolent of Herz's plays, and some "stylistic turns" being characteristic for Brătescu's prose.[99] Herz, who was backed by Arghezi and Pamfil Șeicaru, accused his former friend publicly, and eventually took him to court, where he won reparations.[60]

Also in 1919, Rebreanu completed the biographical novel Calvarul ("Ordeal"), which portrays Herz as "Henric Adler", the antagonist.[100] During that period, Herz was also being publicly exposed as Jewish. As noted by the newspaper Afirmarea, Herz viewed himself as a "God-fearing Christian", and the allegation caused him "much suffering".[101] In late 1923, Ranetti's review Furnica noted Herz's association with a rival paper, Masca. Ranetti derided Herz as a "Semitic aristocrat", calling attention to his "disgusting behavior under the occupation"; he demanded that Masca be censored.[102] In 1924, Herz's name was included on a black list of Jewish journalists, which was circulated by the Transylvanian press. An official organ of the Vad Orthodox Diocese published it with a note that "these Jews are hoping to influence Romanian public opinion";[103] Clujul weekly identified Herz as an agent of Jewish "subversion", demanding that he leave the Romanian press.[104]


Cover art for the first edition of Mărgeluș, by Victor Ion Popa

Herz resumed his other activity in the interwar's Greater Romania, first with translations of composer biographies by Romain Rolland and Houston Stewart Chamberlain. From 1920 to 1924, he put out Adevărul Literar și Artistic, while also penning contributions to Gândirea.[1] According to his friend Gyr, as an editor he was superior to the "vulgar" Mihail Sevastos: under Herz's tenure, Adevărul Literar și Artistic remained "the meeting spot of all literary talent", with contributions that were "lively and varied".[19] In 1923, Herz joined Caton Theodorian's Society of Romanian Dramatic Authors, serving as its censor, alongside Eftimiu.[105] He returned to the stage with various new plays, including Caricatura sub ocupație ("Caricature during the Occupation", 1918), Mărgeluș ("Tiny Bead", 1921), Șeful Gării ("The Station-Master", 1924), Aripi frânte ("Broken Wings", 1925) and Seară pierdută ("Wasted Evening", same year). He also returned to Flacăra, publishing therein fragments from a new historical play Colivia de aur ("A Golden Cage", 1923).[3] In 1922, fragments from his Păianjenul, translated into German, appeared in the Bukovina magazine Die Brücke.[106]

Călinescu reserves some praise for Mărgeluș, a "more literary" play, in which the unborn child of a typist holds together her relationship with an upper-class youth.[46] In Sburătorul, Felix Aderca also gave Mărgeluș a positive review, describing it as a "modern drama, classical in its simplicity", but also a discreet and gifted comedy. Aderca remarked in particular Herz's wordplay, which, he argued, made the writer a companion of Caragiale and Molière.[107] As argued by the Transylvanian review Cele Trei Crișuri, Mărgeluș restated Herz's "rare qualities", provoking "thunderous applause".[108] The play was first produced by Regina Maria Theater, under the twin direction of Niculescu-Buzău and M. Antonescu. The latter also appeared in the title role, to positive reviews.[107][108] Before 1922, the play had 78 reprisals, the biggest hit on Romania's theater circuit for that season.[109] Manager Ludovic Dauș also bought the play for Chișinău National Theater, which went on a regional tour of Bessarabia in 1924.[110]

After 1920, Herz reaffirmed his traditionalism as a theater critic, being vocal as a critic of Expressionist tendencies, and specifically of director Karlheinz Martin.[111] Martin was his direct competitor: during his stay in Bucharest, he ran three Expressionist plays with at least 74 stagings between them.[109] Writing in 1925, theorist Ion Sân-Giorgiu argued that Eftimiu and Herz's overall output could restore Romanian drama, chasing away the "mood of superficiality".[112] Such appraisals were contrasted by other observers. Among the traditionalists, Iorga remained critical of Herz's works, viewing them as "well-made plays" with "indifferent characters", marked by a "strain of cynicism". As seen by Iorga, Herz remained indebted to Adrien Bernheim and Georges de Porto-Riche.[113] Criticism also came from the avant-garde: in 1924 Scarlat Callimachi singled out Herz and Camil Petrescu as dramatists who could only "garner applause from lunch ladies" and who therefore "must disappear".[114]

These years also marked new contributions to the revue genre, for which he found a new patron, the actor-producer Constantin Tănase. During 1923, Tănase appeared as Acarul Păun in Herz's Care dă mai mult? ("Who Pays More?"), a satirical take on the railway catastrophe at Vintileasca.[115] The 1924 hits Ce-are a face? ("What's It to You?") and Pân'aici ("Up to Here") were co-authored with a certain Durstoy, and again showcased by Tănase.[116] His "heavyweight" role in the interwar revue was recorded in theatrical verse by a colleague, Ion Pribeagu.[117]

In 1925, alongside Dragomirescu, Brătescu-Voinești, Rebreanu and V. Al. Jean, Herz was an executive of Filmul Românesc society, dedicated to the promotion and moral review of Romanian cinema productions.[118] Around that time, he was also editor-in-chief of Dimineața daily.[44] This allowed him to publish a lavish praise of his own Păianjenul, which was being produced by Aurel Ion Maican at Brăila City Theater.[119] Also that year, Maican directed a new production of Mărgeluș.[120] Moving on from Dimineața, Herz worked as a broadcaster for the newly inaugurated Radio Company, with a series of interviews with actors.[2] One of Herz's later contributions to the revue genre was Din toată inima ("With a Full Heart"), performed by Tănase and his troupe in 1928.[121] Alongside Nicolae Kirițescu and Nicolae Vlădoianu, Herz, using the pen name "Puck", also wrote the show Negru pe alb ("Black on White"), made famous for starring an African American dancer, Josephine Baker.[122]

His final works for the stage included the more conventional comedy Omul de zăpadă ("Snowman", 1927). Taken up by the National Theater Bucharest,[123] it was also performed at provincial theaters. The main production featured Nicolae Soreanu and Ion Finteșteanu; Herz himself appeared in his own play in the touring version.[124] Omul de zăpadă was followed by another play, Încurcă lume ("The Fumbler"), published alongside volumes of short prose: Nopte bună ("Good Night", 1929) and Om discret ("A Discreet Man", year unknown).[1] He was involved in the 1929 production of Încurcă lume at Teatrul Mic, appearing in the lead role.[125][126] Herz's final contributions as a translator include a Romanian rendition of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, also staged by the National Theater in 1928–1929.[127]

Final years[edit]

Herz (on the right) with Constantin Tănase, in 1925

In June 1930,[2] Herz became manager of the National Theater Craiova. According to Massoff, he took this job out of sheer necessity, and it proved a "great misfortune", impending his writing.[128] While there, "the Baron" undertook efforts to secure a new building, worked to improve relations between management and actors, hired new actors and established a choir.[22] Funding for the theater was cut due to the ongoing economic crisis; Herz responded by paying actors' wages from his own pocket.[2] Nevertheless, the approach of bankruptcy and political intrigue eventually led to his sacking in 1935.[22] From 1932, journalist Eugen Constant had been highly critical of Herz's management, alleging that he was "entirely adverse to the Oltenian psyche", a "character with a Germanic coat of arms and the reputation of a streetwise authors of revues." Constant claimed that the institution was excessively promoting German plays, with "nudist displays and libidinous gestures", and also implied that Herz was guilty of financial irregularities.[129] As noted by Gyr, "the Baron" could prove himself coarse and abusive in dealing with his staff.[19] Herz himself suspected that his activity had been reported on by two fellow dramatists, Ion Marin Sadoveanu and Victor Ion Popa, though the latter rejected such rumors.[130]

One of Herz's stories was adapted into a 1934 talking picture, Insula Șerpilor—set in, and named after, Snake Island, it fictionalized the adventures a famous brigand, Terente. Insula Șerpilor, now a lost film, is only known through its generally positive reviews, though it was also panned by Ghiță Ionescu in Cuvântul Liber.[131] In summer 1935, Izbânda Garden hosted performances of Domnul de la ora 5 ("Mr. Five o'Clock"), adapted by Herz from a revue by Pierre Weber, and with Velimir Maximilian as a lead.[132] His Încurcă lume was taken up by the National Theater Cluj, generating "an evening's worth of hearty laughter" on its premiere there.[133] According to writer Traian T. Lalescu, it was "merely a farce", but characters appeared as "more viable than the protagonists of foreign farces".[134]

This stage of his life came to an abrupt end when Herz's diabetes, which had been diagnosed in Craiova, was made worse by his return to writing and financial distress, both of which consumed him.[2] He died on the evening of March 9, 1936, after helping his daughter with homework.[2] His reported cause of death was an episode of hemoptysis.[101] He was buried on March 12,[135] sharing a tomb with his mother on Plot 26 of Bellu cemetery, Bucharest.[136]

According to Massoff, his death was "unexpected and premature", just as "the Baron" seemed to be making a recovery.[137] In 1940, Eftimiu wrote that Herz "passed on at an age when people shouldn't die. [...] People should die before forty—or after sixty." This meant that "the universe has deprived A. de Herz of his revenge [...] at a moment when he was just resuming his efforts".[138] As noted by his widow, he had left four plays unfinished, including Oul lui Columb ("Egg of Columbus"), which was already reserved by Bulandra Theater.[2] In 1937, Marconi Garden of Bucharest continued to run works by Herz, including Fustele de la minister ("Ministry Skirts"), an adaptation from Weber and Maurice Hennequin. It starred Grigore Vasiliu Birlic, Jules Cazaban, Beate Fredanov, and Mișu Fotino, Sr.[139]

In January 1939, reporter Radu A. Sterescu noted that Herz had been inexplicably forgotten by managers and producers, even though "his plays were admirable 'recipes'." He argued that this indifference was owed to his "German origin", as well as to the "saddening posthumous revenge" of his influential enemies.[2] Also according to Sterescu, Herz's death had left his family homeless and destitute, his townhouse and books having been repossessed by creditors.[2] By then, controversy had erupted in Ținutul Timiș, where the local branch of ASTRA had agreed to sponsor productions of Herz's plays. A staff chronicler at Înnoirea newspaper viewed the decision as morally incompatible with ASTRA's mission.[140]

Later in 1939, during Romania's antisemitic turn, Gyr insisted that Herz did not "carry in his blood the despicable imprint of the Semitic race", being "the son of a German baron"; Herz's "aggressive dialectics" and "cynical mood", he argued, "covered up his warm and vibrant soul".[19] Herz's original plays were again performed during World War II: in November 1939, the municipal theater of Focșani produced Păianjenul, specifically as a tribute to its deceased author.[141] In the 1940s, Sică Alexandrescu produced a new version of Mărgeluș for Comoedia Theater[126][142] and Omul de zăpadă was taken up by the National Theater Cluj, on location in Timișoara.[143] Romeo Lăzărescu's company, Teatrul Măscărici, also took up Încurcă lume in 1942. This version marked the stage debut of actress Olly Eftimiu.[134]


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