They Loved Her Husband--and That’s No Act
Christine Voskovec still misses her husband, George Voskovec, the Czech actor and playwright who died more than a decade ago. But she has found comfort knowing that his memory is very much alive in his native homeland.
During a trip to Prague last month, she visited a city street that government officials recently named in honor of the late actor.
“The love that is poured on me is fantastic when I go there,” said Voskovec from her Santa Monica home. “He is considered a tremendous hero, and when I mention my name to taxi drivers, they almost stop the cab and won’t even take my fare.”
In the late 1920s, George Voskovec and partner Jan Werich founded the Liberated Theater, a forum for improvisation, plays and music that became a huge success. Using a zany mix of music and comedy, the pair won Czech hearts, producing more than two dozen plays and 300 songs during a span of 11 years.
"(They) played lowly characters,” said Christine Voskovec, who was born and raised in Pennsylvania and first met Voskovec in Paris. “They never knew what they were going to do, and it got to be very political when Hitler arrived.”
When the Nazis arrived, the Liberated Theater closed. V + W, as they were known, went to New York, where they made 3,000 broadcasts in Czech for the U.S. Office of War Information and played roles in the 1943 Broadway production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
The pair returned to Prague after the war, but Communist rule meant curtains for the theatrical duo. Werich stayed in Prague, and Voskovec accepted a position with the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris, where he headed the film department and established the American Theater. He never returned to his homeland.
Voskovec later returned to the United States, only to be detained by immigration officials in New York for 11 months. He was accused of being an undesirable alien because he had left Prague with the permission of the Communist government. His case caused a furor. No charges were filed, and in 1955 he became a U.S. citizen.
From there, his career again flourished. He starred in films, television programs and Broadway productions, including a portrayal of himself in “I Was Accused,” a play chronicling his struggle to enter the United States, and “Hamlet,” with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. He also acted in the stage productions of “Uncle Vanya” and “Murderous Angles” and films including “Twelve Angry Men” and “Butterfield 8.”
In the late 1950s, Voskovec married his third wife, Christine McKeown, also an actress, whom he had known from the days of the American Theater in Paris.
“We had a wonderful life together,” she recalled of their marriage of 22 years. “Everything was intertwined, and there was always so much going on.”
Since her husband’s death, Voskovec has dedicated herself to managing her late husband’s estate, which includes a collection of his papers that she hopes to organize next year with the help of a Fulbright professor. She also makes biannual trips to Prague, taking time to visit Czech schoolchildren to talk about her husband’s work.
“Fifth or sixth generations are still playing and singing his songs,” she said. “They are such favorites among the Czech people. . . . These two men did more for Czech culture because they wrote about freedom.”
David Munoz has received the William and Charlotte Cadbury Award, an honor bestowed each year by the National Medical Fellowships Inc.
Munoz, a senior at the UCLA School of Medicine, maintained a 4.0 grade-point average for his course work in his second and third years. He also was recognized for showing leadership and volunteering in the community.
He received a $2,000 cash prize at a ceremony held Nov. 9 in Washington.
The Jews for Judaism group gave three Chesed Awards at its seventh annual dinner dance, held Dec. 14 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City.
Award recipients--David and Rae Finegood, the Foundations of the Milken Families and Jack and Harriet Stein--were honored for their contributions to the community.
Jews for Judaism, a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to fighting pseudo-religious cults.
The Metropolitan Water District has named three Westside residents to its board of directors: David Handelman of Brentwood, Kenneth Lombard of Baldwin Hills and Christopher Pak of Playa Del Rey.
The MWD is a regional water agency that imports water from Northern California and the Colorado River.
Dr. Donald Becker has been named W. Eugene Stern Chair in Neurosurgery at UCLA.
Becker, professor and chief of the division of neurosurgery at the UCLA School of Medicine, will use the endowment of $500,000 to support research programs involving neurological disorders such as brain tumors and epilepsy.
He also directs the Brain Injury Clinical Research Center of the National Institutes of Health. He attended Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland and completed his post-graduate training at University Hospitals of Cleveland.