You Can Now Get Your Yiddish Song Fix In ‘A Star Is Born’
This week only fans of “A Star is Born” can see a new, extended cut of the film featuring an additional song: In Yiddish.
“Was it a slow song or a fast song?” Tony-winning actor Ron Rifkin, who sings the ditty in the film as Carl, the therapist of drug addicted musician Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), asks me from a Lyft Share. He was unaware the extended rerelease – marketed as the “Encore” edition — was happening. “I think we shot the fast one ’Sheyn Vi di Levone,’” Rifkin said.
Rifkin, who did a concert of ghetto period Yiddish music at Joe’s Pub in New York in 2015, said director Bradley Cooper had been supportive of his “Alias” co-star and longtime friend’s efforts to usher Yiddish music back into the spotlight. Cooper invited Rifkin to sample some of his songbook in a scene where Lady Gaga’s character, Ally, visits Maine in rehab.
“[Cooper] said ‘let’s sing together’ and he didn’t know quite what to do and then in the scene with Gaga he just improvised,” Rifkin recalled, and then paraphrased the dialogue: “‘Why don’t you sing that song for her?’ And I said ‘which one, the fast or the slow one.’ My favorite would have been the slow one, but I think it was the fast one, and I sang it.”
After our phone conversation (which was kept brief because Rifkin, a courteous ride-sharer, didn’t want to be on a call when another passenger entered the Lyft) I looked up the song, a jazzy number which translates to “Beautiful as the Moon,” to make sure.
It was in fact the “slow song” that Cooper preserved. Alas, I went to see this screening as a civilian without a notebook not expecting a Jewish sequence in the added 12 minutes of the film. As a considerate movie-goer, I resisted pulling out my phone to take better notes on the song when it emerged without little preamble from the goyische romance. In short I was kicking myself.
I rang Rifkin back and asked him what the slow number was. I remembered the word “Kleine.”
“I’m going to need more than that,” Rifkin replied, noting his surprise that Cooper went with the slower song.
While neither subject nor interviewer could recall the tune in question, this wrinkle speaks to the need for Yiddish music’s preservation. Put another way, as Jackson Maine says, following Carl’s Yiddish aria:
“That’s forgotten music. He’s bringing it back.”
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture intern. He can be reached at [email protected].