Luther Adler

Luther Adler

Luther Adler was born in 1903. His theatre debut began as a 13-year in his father's Yiddish Theatre. His first Broadway play was Humoresque (1923), Monkey Talks (1925), Money Business (1926), We Americans (1926), The Music Makers (1927), Street Scene (1929) and Red Dust (1929).

Adler joined the Group Theatre in New York in 1931. Others involved in the group included Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford, Lee Strasberg Elia Kazan, Stella Adler, John Garfield, Paul Green, Howard Da Silva, Franchot Tone, John Randolph, Joseph Bromberg, Michael Gordon, Luther Adler, Will Geer, Clifford Odets and Lee J. Cobb.

Members of the group tended to hold left-wing political views and wanted to produce plays that dealt with important social issues. Adler appeared in Night Over Taos (1932), Success Story (1933), Alien Corn (1933), Johnny Johnson (1936) and two plays by Clifford Odets: Awake and Sing! (1935) and Golden Boy (1937).

In later years Adler directed Angel Street (1955) and A View from the Bridge (1960) and appeared in Fiddler on the Roof (1965) and Waltz of the Toreadors (1969).

Luther Adler died in 1984.


Everyone in and of the theater will feel a sense of loss at the death of Luther Adler, one of the outstanding actors of our time. On Dec. 8, with the past year drawing to a close, Luther's long journey ended.

It had taken in the era of the Group Theater, the years of his stardom on Broadway and the character portrayals of his later life. It had covered some five theatrical decades.

Born into the Adler dynasty and heir to a great thatrical tradition, Luther brought unusual emotional power to his work together with an extraordinary magnetism and charm. Actors still remember his as Moe Axelrod in 'ɺwake and Sing,'' as Joe Bonparte in ''Golden Boy'' - performances that made history in the American theater. Throughout his long career he gave a glamour, a touch of something larger than life, to every part he played. He was fun to work with, fun to be with - a good comrade in arms, generous, thrilled by every actor who played with talent. He understood that fame and recognition were a throw of the dice, that achievement was everything. He was secure in his own powers, and in the ups and downs of every actor's life his place in his own eyes remained the same.

The American public knew him for what he was - not an idol of the moment, but an acotr of enduring value. He was respected and loved by his colleagues and by the people. He has done his work. He has had his time. He will never be forgotten as long as there are actors to honor his memory.

Alexander Scourby, Marlon Brando, Jack Lord, Joseph Buloff, Joseph Wiseman, Paul Newman.

There’s a long history of Jews playing Nazis on screen

Taika Waititi’s satirical film “Jojo Rabbit” is finally out! Set in Nazi Germany, the Jewish Maori director famously plays Adolf Hitler.

“What better way to insult Hitler than having him played by a Polynesian Jew,” Waititi himself tweeted.

When it comes to the Holocaust and humor, many artists, writers and actors feel they have to tread a thin line: When does satire shine a light on injustices, and when does it become sacrilegious and downright hurtful?

Yet there seems to be a general consensus: Making fun of the slaughtering and suffering of Jews is never OK. But making fun of Nazis? That, my friends, has been a favorite pastime for nationals of so many Allied countries — including, of course, Jews.

For decades, Jews have played Nazis on the small and silver screens, including — startlingly, amazingly — during the height of the Holocaust.

As I started exploring these roles of Jews portraying Nazis, I couldn’t help but get a little verklempt. Many of the earliest portrayals of Nazis were by immigrants and refugees — some even were German Jewish actors who left Germany when Hitler first rose to power — as well as the children of immigrants from countries whose Jews were brutally slaughtered.

Here they were on screen, these vital, successful Jewish actors, often mocking those who wanted their demise. What better revenge against the Nazis is there? This isn’t just that Jews are thriving, creative and successful — they’ve also taken their deepest traumas and turned them into art.

Here’s a look at some of the most famous times Jews played Nazis.

The Three Stooges in “You Nazty Spy!” (1940)

Moe Howard, the Jewish leader of the Three Stooges (they were Jewish) was the first American to satirize Adolf Hitler in film, all the way back in 1940! Howard plays the leader of a fictional country called Moronica in a portrayal that is quite poignant — and pretty hilarious, too.

His real-life brother Curly (real name Jerry) plays Field Marshal Gallstone, mocking both Hermann Goering and Mussolini, while Larry plays Minister of Propaganda Pebble, making fun of Joseph Goebbels.

The comedy also embraced the Stooges’ Ashkenazi Jewish background by sprinkling in some Hebrew and Yiddish to further spite the Nazis.

Jack Benny in “To Be or Not To Be” (1942)

In this comedy, the beloved comic plays a Polish actor in Nazi-occupied Poland who plays a Nazi in his theater’s production. (So meta!) Jack Benny was born Benjamin Kubelsky in Chicago in 1894, the son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. He went on to become one of the most revered comedians of his time.

Here is a Jew at the height of Hitler’s power starring in a movie — directed by a German Jew, Ernst Lubitsch — that outright mocks the German leader.

The film was not well received. In 1942, the Nazi threat was palpable in the U.S., and Americans did not understand the need to mock such serious danger. (We did not know the full horror of the Holocaust at that point.)

According to Benny’s 1991 unfinished autobiography, his father was so incensed at seeing his son in a Nazi uniform that he left the theater early into the screening. But Benny insisted that his father watch the movie until the end, and his dad ended up liking it so much that he watched it over 40 times.

Conrad Veidt in “Casablanca” (1942)

The German actor was a Lutheran, but here’s the thing: Veidt filled out his race as “Jewish” in all formal paperwork required by the ruling Nazi Party. Why? The star of the renowned 1920 silent film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” married Ilona Prager, a Hungarian Jew, in 1933. It was his third and last marriage.

Despite being successful in his home country, Veidt refused to abandon his wife or adopt Nazi ideology. So he left Germany, first for England and then for the United States, where he continued his acting career — often, ironically, by portraying Nazis.

In the iconic “Casablanca,” Veidt plays Maj. Heinrich Strasser, leading to the famous line,”Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.”

The Academy Award winner for best picture also featured many other German Jews, including actors Peter Lorre and Curt Bois.

Ludwig Donath in “The Strange Death of Hitler” (1943)

Donath plays a Hitler impersonator who is kidnapped and forced to undergo plastic surgery in order to look more like the Fuehrer — to become a decoy for assassination attempts. Though the Jewish actor had played a handful of Nazis previously, he actually played the role of Hitler three times that same year — he was also the voice of Hitler in “Margin of Error” and “The Moon is Down.”

Luther Adler as Hitler in “The Magic” and “The Desert Fox” (1951)

That’s right, Luther Adler — brother of actress and acting coach Stella Adler — played Hitler in two separate movies in 1951. The son of Russian immigrants, Adler got his first acting role in the Yiddish theater at age 5 and went on to play Hitler. Talk about a range! Fascinatingly, he also played Hitler in an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

Otto Preminger in “Stalag 17” (1953)

Billy Wilder directed this critically acclaimed and commercially successful movie, which takes place in a German POW camp run by a Colonel von Scherbach. Preminger, the famed Austro-Hungarian Jewish director — including “Margin of Error” — appears as the colonel in one of his few acting roles.

Basically all the Nazis on “Hogan’s Heroes”

The satirical TV comedy helped make making fun of Nazis great again! The series, which takes place in a German POW camp, ran from 1965 to 1971 and spanned 168 episodes. Jewish actors hilariously play the two incompetent Nazi soldiers who run the camp.

Werner Klemperer won two Emmy Awards for his role as the serious Col. Wilhelm Klink. Klemperer had already played Nazis plenty of times, most notably Adolph Eichmann in “Operation Eichmann” (1951) and Nazi prosecutor Emil Hanh in “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961). But it was his role as the commander of the fictional Stalag 13 for which he will be remembered. Klemperer’s father was Jewish, though he converted to Catholicism for a time before returning to Judaism.

Under Klink served Sergeant Schultz, whose catchphrase was “I see nothing!” Schultz was played by John Banner, an Austria-born Jew who lost much of his family to the Holocaust.

They served under General Burkhalter and Maj. Wolfgang Hochstetter. Burkhalter was played by Leon Askin, born Leon Ashkenazy in Austria, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1940 and fought in the air force during the war. Hochstetter was played by Howard Caine, who was born Howard Cohen in Nashville, Tennessee.

One of the camp’s prisoners, the French corporal LeBeau, was played by Jewish actor Robert Clary, who himself was a prisoner at Buchenwald and survived thanks to his singing and entertainment skills. Clary was the only member of his family to survive the war.

Anton Diffring in, well, everything

Diffring’s German origins — as well as his light hair and piercing blue eyes — got him cast as a Nazi again and again through his decades-long career. He was actually born Anton Pollack, the son of a German-Jewish store owner who managed to avoid the horrors of the war.

Diffring went from playing unnamed and uncredited German soldiers in 1950 to playing some notorious Nazi leaders in the likes of “Where Eagles Dare” (1968) and SS officer Reinhard Heydrich in “Operating Daybreak” (1975). He played Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s foreign minister, in the 1983 miniseries “The Winds of War.” His last Nazi role was in a “Doctor Who” in a three-episode serial called “The Silver Nemesis” in 1988.

Peter Sellers in “Dr. Strangelove” (1964)

Sellers played three characters in the iconic Stanley Kubrick film, including the eponymous Dr. Strangelove, a former Nazi and nuclear warhead expert. The British actor also played Hitler in the British comedy “Soft Beds, Hard Battles” one of seven roles he played in that film.

His Jewish identity was somewhat fraught. Sellers’ mother was Jewish and his father was Protestant, but he grew up attending Catholic school. That’s enough to make anyone’s relationship to their Judaism rather complicated.

Mel Brooks in “To Be or Not to Be” (1983)

That’s right! Brooks reprised a version of the Benny role from 1942, even rapping as Hitler in the remake. The comedian, of course, has a legacy of mocking Hitler, notably in this sketch of Hitler ice skating from “History of the World: Part I” and in “The Producers.”

Steven Berkoff in “War and Remembrance” (1988-89)

Berkoff, a British Jewish actor, played Hitler in a miniseries based on the novel by Jewish writer Herman Wouk.

Joel Grey in “The Empty Mirror” (1997)

Grey plays Joseph Goebbels in this dark, fantastical delve into the mind of Hitler. The Jewish actor is also known for playing the master of ceremonies in the 1972 film adaptation of “Cabaret,” possibly his first Nazi role as his character (spoiler alert!) goes from mocking Nazis to espousing some of their ideology.

Harvey Keitel in “The Grey Zone” (2001)

Keitel plays SS-Oberscharfuehrer Eric Muhsfeldt in this dark film about an insurrection among some of the Sonderkommandos (Jewish prisoners charged with disposing of bodies) at the crematoria in Auschwitz. The son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Romania, Keitel plays a cruel Nazi villain opposite Jewish prisoners played by Steve Buscemi, David Arquette and Natasha Lyonne.

It wasn’t the last time Keitel played a Nazi. In the 2009 film “Inglourious Basterds” by (honorary member of the tribe) Quentin Tarantino, Keitel voices an OSS commander, though he is not credited. Keitel, a big supporter of the film, also made sure to pass the script of “Inglourious Basterds” to the Anti-Defamation League for approval (according to Keitel, the ADL loved it). What a mensch.

David A. Adler

From Publisher's Weekly - Publishers Weekly
As with Adler's previous books in this series, the picture-book format serves as a highly effective, empathetic way to introduce the life and legacy of important Americans to young children. Here the highlights of King's life are presented with an emphasis on his childhood and family. Children will immediately relate to his painful early experiences of racism and understand the genesis of his lifelong struggle for racial equality. The book portrays the hatred King endured, the horror of his assassination and the intense power of his message. A single-page list of important dates closes the book. Its most striking aspect is Casilla's evocative watercolor paintings, which expand the text while celebrating the man. Ages 4-9. (Oct.)

From School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-- This beautifully illustrated , easy-to-read biography takes a look at the life, leadership, and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Adler examines King's family background, leadership of the Montgomery bus boycott, and the 1963 march on Washington, D.C. By focusing primarily on these events, Adler provides young readers with enough basic information to form a well-rounded picture of King and his ideals. However, the outstanding feature of this book is the vivid watercolor illustrations, which are sure to capture readers' attention. Casilla dramatically reveals the mood and feelings of the era. An error appears in the chronology section, where it states that King was married in Marion, Georgia instead of Marion, Alabama (some sources list Heiberger, Alabama, which is nearby). A fine introduction to King and the freedom movement, and one that would be equally useful for storyhour and discussion groups. --Jeanette Lambert, LaVega School, Waco, TX

From Publisher's Weekly - Publishers Weekly
The prolific Adler ( Cam Jansen ) and the Wallners have collaborated on two highly accessible and involving picture-book biographies. Each book begins with the childhood of the leader and firmly places its subject within the continuum of American history. The texts are brief yet succinctly include the major contributions of each man within the constraints of the picture-book format. A single page outline of ``Important Dates'' closes each book. The Wallners' colorful illustrations are sometimes a bit cartoony for the no-nonsense text, but many readers may find these perfect introductions to the lives of two important presidents. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)


From Publisher's Weekly - Publishers Weekly
This most recent addition to the Picture Book Biography series balances candor with discretion in its presentation of heroine Anne Frank. Adler traces the intersection of Anne's brief life with the forces of Nazism, chronicling the girl's earliest years in Germany as well as her time spent in the now-famous Amsterdam attic and the months following arrest and deportation. He refuses to apply the standard encomiums about his subject's courage and genius, with the result that Anne Frank emerges all the more poignantly. Like Adler, Ritz conveys more than familiar icons: she has executed black-and-white drawings closely based on the well-known extant photographs of Anne and her family and friends, and set these into watercolors of, for example, 1930s Germany or Anne packing her diary. Even her picture of shaven-headed, hollow-eyed Anne and Margot huddled together at Bergen-Belsen avoids cliche and condescension. ``Some people find it difficult to understand the Holocaust,'' Adler concludes with grace. ``But when they read Anne's diary, it all becomes real. Then they know one of the victims. They know Anne Frank.'' Ages 4-8 . (Apr.)

From School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-- The life of Anne Frank serves as a microcosm of the experiences of millions of Jews who met tragedy, torture, and death during the Holocaust. Adler provides an excellent entry-level introduction to this historical figure, her family, and the climate of the times. He focuses on and explains in concise language the underlying reasons for the family going into hiding, their lifestyle in the annex, the people who shared their hideout, their ultimate capture, and demise (with the exception of Mr. Frank). He conveys the liveliness and spirited personality of the young girl through the text and the watercolor paintings. Dissections are provided to show the living quarters and pencil sketches depict scenes of concentration camp life. Emotions are well expressed in this sensitive and age-appropriate portrait. --Cheryl Cufari, N. A. Walbran Elementary School, Oriskany, NY

From Betsy Hearne - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
As Holocaust history enters elementary school curricula for younger age groups, teachers and librarians are faced with the formidable task of finding titles that present a complex, horrifying subject for primary graders' listening or independent reading. Adler's picture book biography presents one excellent solution. . . . The challenge seems to have brought out the best in both writer and illustrator: Adler's text is less choppy and more cohesive than in some of his other volumes in this series, and Ritz' watercolors, though obviously based on photographs, avoid the stiff effect that often results from artists' copying photos. The story itself is, of course, inherently dramatic, with suspense and tragedy that cannot fail to touch children and broaden their empathy.


David A. Adler -- John Wallner & Alexandra Wallner illustrators
From School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-- As he did in his other picture-book biographies, Adler concentrates here on the childhood of his subject. There is enough information given for readers to understand Keller's frustration and to see the enormous help that Sullivan gave her. Details of the mean things she did to her mother and friends before meeting Sullivan clarify this even further. The way in which Keller learned that objects had names is included the book then shifts to her college years and touches on highlights of her life including visiting soldiers, writing, and lecturing. Although coverage is too brief for any kind of report, it is interesting enough to awaken children's interest in learning more about Keller. The Wallners' line and watercolor cartoons match the simple text and are appropriate to the book's tone. --Margaret C. Howell, West Springfield Elementary School, VA

The Miami Story (1954) Barry Sullivan, Luther Adler, John Baer - Film Noir

The Miami Story is a 1954 American film noir crime film directed by Fred F. Sears and starring Barry Sullivan, Luther Adler, John Baer, Adele Jergens.

It was the last of a number of classic-period noir crime dramas – the first being The House on 92nd Street (1945) – which now are known as ‘semi-documentaries’. These were characterised by a voice-over describing what we were seeing as we went along. It was a device meant to impart special impact to stories in praise of the forces of authority in their fearless struggle against enemies of society and the state, from communists to mobsters. Others include Call Northside 777 (1948), Walk a Crooked Mile (1948) and Walk East on Beacon (1952).

The Internet Archive is an excellent choice for entire full length Netflix & YouTube style uploads of drama, mystery, thriller & crime noir movies from the UK & USA for free. Download complete online British & American classic black & white films from the 1940s & 1950s.

Years in the Group Theatre

In 1931 Adler became one of the original members of the Group Theatre (New York), a New York City theatre collective formed by Cheryl Crawford, Harold Clurman, and Lee Strasberg. The founders, as well as the actors in the group, "tended to hold left-wing political views and wanted to produce plays that dealt with important social issues." [4] The collective lasted for ten years, had twenty productions, and served as an inspiration for many actors, directors, and playwrights who came after it. [5] During those years, the Group's members included Luther, Luther's sister and brother, Stella Adler and Jay Adler, Elia Kazan, John Garfield, Paul Green (playwright), Howard Da Silva, Harry Morgan (billed as Harry Bratsburg), Franchot Tone, John Randolph, Joseph Bromberg, Michael Gordon, Will Geer, Clifford Odets and Lee J. Cobb. [4] Elia Kazan considered Adler to be the best actor working in the company. [6]

In 1932 Adler starred in John Howard Lawson's, Success Story and garnered rave reviews for his performance. [7] In 1933 Adler briefly joined the Katherine Cornell Company, playing opposite Cornell in Alien Corn, [8] but in 1934 he returned to the Group and played alongside his sister Stella in the Gold Eagle Guy. Unfortunately Gold Eagle Guy was not popular with audiences and had a short run. Adler had suspected the play would not succeed, remarking, shortly before it opened, "Boys, I think we're working on a stiff." [9] Adler went on to appear in Group Theatre (New York) productions: Awake and Sing! and Paradise Lost (both 1935), [2] and he performed with Frances Farmer in Golden Boy (1937). [10] He also appeared in Kurt Weill's anti-war musical Johnny Johnson (1936) [11] and originated the role of Captain Joshua in the 1939 Group Theater production of Thunder Rock. "By the late 1930s. the cohesiveness of the group began to crumble. The chronic financial problems and long-simmering disputes about 'the method' began to chip away at their solidarity. and in 1941 the group dissolved." [5]

The Miami Story

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Gandhi Is Deeply Revered, But His Attitudes On Race And Sex Are Under Scrutiny

Indian spiritual and political leader Mohandas Gandhi circa 1935.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When Martin Luther King Jr. visited the villa in Mumbai, India, where Mohandas Gandhi stayed in the 1920s, he had a special request: He wanted to spend the night in Gandhi's bedroom.

It was 1959, 11 years after Gandhi's death. The house, called

"[King] was booked in a very good hotel. But he said, 'I am not going anywhere else. I am going to stay here, because I am getting vibrations of Gandhi,' " recalls curator told All India Radio that he'd decided to adopt Gandhi's method of civil disobedience as his own.

Gandhi's room in Mani Bhavan, the residence in Mumbai, India, where the leader planned political activities between 1917 and 1934. Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

Gandhi's room in Mani Bhavan, the residence in Mumbai, India, where the leader planned political activities between 1917 and 1934.

Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

Now, six decades later, many black Africans are calling Gandhi a racist. #MeToo activists are questioning his sexual practices. Hindu nationalists are rejecting Gandhi's vision of a pluralistic India that is strengthened by diversity.

Gandhi is still revered. He helped win India freedom from British colonial rule in 1947. But as the world marks what would be his 150th birthday on Wednesday, some of his habits and teachings are facing fresh scrutiny.

Gandhi was a racist

Last year, a Gandhi statue was #GandhiMustFall. They're angry about his early writings.

In 1903, when Gandhi was in South Africa, he wrote that white people there should be "the predominating race." He also said black people "are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals."

There's no way around it: Gandhi was a racist early in his life, says his biographer Ramachandra Guha.


Gandhi Is 'An Object Of Intense Debate': A Biographer Reflects On The Indian Leader

"Gandhi as a young man went with the ideas of his culture and his time. He thought in his 20s that Europeans are the most civilized. Indians were almost as civilized, and Africans were uncivilized," Guha, 61, told NPR in an interview in May at his home in Bengaluru, India.

"However, he outgrew his racism quite decisively, and for most of his life as a public figure, he was an anti-racist, talking for an end to discrimination of all kinds," he said.

That included gender discrimination. Gandhi championed women in politics. But he was also obsessed with his own celibacy. In his late 70s, before he died at 78, he his 1982 Gandhi film, he asked Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, how he should portray his late colleague. Nehru famously replied that Gandhi was "a great man, but he had his weaknesses, his moods and his failings." He begged Attenborough not to turn Gandhi into a saint. He was "much too human," Nehru said.

Father of the nation

In India, Gandhi is nevertheless treated as a saint — the father of the nation. His birthday, Oct. 2, is a national holiday. Gandhi's face is on India's currency. His portrait hangs in government offices.

Practically every major city in the country has at least one Gandhi memorial. At the garden in New Delhi where he was assassinated in 1948, just months after India's independence from Britain, tourists can stroll the stone walkway where Gandhi took his final steps.

"When people come here, they get highly emotional. Some of them have tears in their eyes and go back with a heavy heart," says researcher Sailaja Gullapalli, giving NPR a tour. The garden and the house on its premises, now another Gandhi museum, get about 200,000 visitors a year.

The garden in New Delhi where Gandhi was assassinated on Jan. 30, 1948. It's now a memorial open to tourists. Lauren Frayer/NPR hide caption

The garden in New Delhi where Gandhi was assassinated on Jan. 30, 1948. It's now a memorial open to tourists.

On Gandhi's 150th birthday, events are planned across the globe: a vegetarian food festival in London and a walkathon for peace and tolerance in Dubai. Across India, schools are holding special assemblies and singing the freedom leader's favorite prayer songs. There are trash collection drives and a mass fabric-spinning session at the Mahatma's old Mumbai villa.

But India is also where the Mahatma may have fallen furthest from the pedestal.

A worker cleans a statue of Gandhi in Mumbai on Tuesday, the day before the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Indian philosopher and anti-colonial activist. Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

A worker cleans a statue of Gandhi in Mumbai on Tuesday, the day before the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Indian philosopher and anti-colonial activist.

Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

Hindu nationalists in power

The man who assassinated Gandhi, Nathuram Godse, was a follower of Hindutva — Hindu nationalism. Godse wanted India to be a Hindu country and objected to Gandhi's vision of India as a secular, pluralistic democracy. (India is about 80% Hindu but also has one of the world's largest Muslim populations, making up about 14% of the country, or around 180 million people.)

"The Hindutva type of ideology considered [Gandhi] to be an enemy because he was talking of secularism and not of Hinduism," says Yogesh Kamdar, honorary secretary of the Mani Bhavan museum and the son of Indian freedom fighters.

Gandhi's vision won. When colonial India was partitioned in 1947, Hindu-majority India became a secular democracy, alongside the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

But Hindu nationalists are now in power in India. Some of them still don't accept Gandhi's vision. Like Godse, they want India to be a Hindu country. Some extremists among them even celebrate Gandhi's murder.

Members of a far-right Hindu group, the burned Gandhi's effigy on his death anniversary this year. In May, a parliamentary candidate from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's mainstream Bharatiya Janata Party called Gandhi's assassin, Godse, a "patriot."

That shocked the country. The candidate, Pragya Thakur, was forced to apologize — but nevertheless won her election. She is now a member of Parliament representing the central Indian city of Bhopal.

Thakur is an outlier though. Most Indian politicians admire Gandhi, and even those who don't have to tread very carefully.

"Very grudgingly, and maybe as a part of strategy, they have also adopted Gandhi as an icon. They had to!" says Kamdar. "Otherwise it is very difficult to survive politically."

Modi is headlining events for the 150th anniversary. The Mahatma's signature round spectacles are the logo for Modi's Clean India campaign — a national sanitation effort inspired by Gandhi.

Gandhi's philosophy

On weekends, crowds throng a park in New Delhi to pay their respects at the spot where Gandhi was cremated, called Raj Ghat. There's a long black marble slab covered in marigolds and topped with an eternal flame. The memorial inspires reverence, and also a few whispered debates about the Mahatma's legacy.

"It's gone nowadays. It's really gone," tourist Ira Parikh, 44, says of Gandhi's swadeshi movement — the idea that Indians should spin their own cloth and work in simple local industries. "Few [people] are following these things anymore. I don't think it's practical."

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays homage at Raj Ghat, the memorial for Gandhi in New Delhi, on Martyr's Day on Jan. 30, 2018, to mark the 70th anniversary of Gandhi's assassination. Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays homage at Raj Ghat, the memorial for Gandhi in New Delhi, on Martyr's Day on Jan. 30, 2018, to mark the 70th anniversary of Gandhi's assassination.

Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images

Parikh says the historical figure's ideas can seem a bit quaint in booming, globalized India. Her two sons learn about him in school, but one of them says he struggles to see how those lessons apply to his own life.

"When someone says, 'Oh, he was great,' there's always some criticism," says Harsh Parikh, 17, recounting debates with friends about Gandhi's tactics. "Like, 'No, he could have got us freedom way before' [if he had been willing to use violence]."

What these teenagers are weighing is at the very heart of Gandhian philosophy: "His absolute insistence on nonviolence, which young men see as pussyfooted and weak-kneed and — dare I say — feminine and hence not macho enough," says Guha, the biographer.

Gandhi's restraint can look naive in today's India, confronted with terrorism. Modi has sought to portray himself as a strong pair of hands who isn't afraid to strike at neighboring Pakistan if provoked. (Both countries have nuclear weapons.)

"Palace of cards"

At the other memorial across New Delhi, in the garden where Gandhi was shot dead, a 76-year-old man sits with a spinning wheel. He comes every Friday, he says, because Gandhi was assassinated on a Friday.

For an hour a week, Musaddilal Gupta, 76, visits the garden where Gandhi died and spins his own thread on a spinning wheel, as Gandhi taught. NPR hide caption

For an hour a week, Musaddilal Gupta, 76, visits the garden where Gandhi died and spins his own thread on a spinning wheel, as Gandhi taught.

A retired civil servant, Musaddilal Gupta escapes modern India for about an hour a week "as a tribute to him," he says. A few steps from where Gandhi died, Gupta spins his own thread — as the Mahatma taught.

"When this becomes cloth and when I wear it, it's a feeling of joy, to produce something yourself," Gupta says. "His principles are so strong! You may or may not accept it."

"But the day will come when this palace of cards will fall," he says, "and Gandhian principles will remain."

Social strains and a world’s fair: the city comes of age

That same year two young women, Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr, arrived to take up residence in one of the congested slums that had sprung up in the tumbledown West Side of the city. Their Hull House programs in recreation, job training, day care, health care, thrift, workplace safety, and culture combated but did not eradicate rampant unemployment, crime, and other social problems that were endemic in urban tenements. Discontent with living conditions, in turn, helped to fuel outbursts against the low wages, unemployment, monotonous work, and steep production quotas that came with the city’s rapid industrialization. Outbreaks of labour violence became common, and the Chicago experience made the rest of the country fearful that the future would be filled with proletarian strife. Local workers battled police during the nationwide railway strike of 1877. But the Haymarket Riot of 1886 captured the world’s attention when police efforts to break up a protest meeting in the Randolph Street produce market were met with a bomb explosion that killed seven policemen and an unknown number of workers. The prolonged trial and the execution of those who were accused of plotting the blast deeply divided the community and the world. Eight years after that, violence once more erupted as workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company on the South Side walked off the job to protest wage cuts that were not matched by rent reductions at George Pullman’s model town where most were forced to live.

In 1890 Chicago’s population pushed past the one million mark. That year the U.S. Congress granted the city the right to host the World’s Columbian Exposition, honouring the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s 1492 arrival in the New World. Delays pushed the opening into 1893. Set in Jackson Park, some 8 miles (13 km) south of downtown along the lakeshore, the event was a spectacular extravaganza that assembled more than a million artifacts representing the world’s industrial and cultural progress. Besides enlightening exhibits, performances, and off-site intellectual conferences, the fair offered the Midway Plaisance, a collection of ersatz travel experiences, bazaars, eateries, and rides, the most famous of which was the 255-foot (78-metre) Ferris wheel. The event attracted some 25.8 million visitors during its six-month run.

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