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Friday, July 20, 2012

Tale from the Crypt

ONE OF HOLLYWOOD's most reliable and unique character actors was Mischa Auer, whom I wrote about here. You’ll note the kicker at the close of the piece: “When Auer died ... his body was cremated and the ashes interred in the Souls family plot in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Gloversville, NY, about a dozen miles from my house.”

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
There’s little reason for me to travel to Gloversville, which is a broken-down remnant of a once-thriving industry that gave the city its name. The most famous native son wasn’t even born there: Shmuel Gelbfitz was a native of Poland, who took the name Sam Goldfish when he worked in Gloversville’s garment business at the dawn of the 20th century – soon to end up in Hollywood with still another surname: Goldwyn.

Now the city sports a sad downtown perforated with so many empty shops that it has the look of a desperate, toothless grin. The Glove Theater struggles to give the city a worthy entertainment center, and it, too resonates with a Hollywood-related past: Junius Myer Schine took over a nickelodeon in the city in 1916, parlaying his success with it into a chain of theaters of which the Glove was the centerpiece.

A friend tipped me off to a food co-op that recently opened a few doors down from the Glove, and that’s what took me to the city yesterday, to enjoy a good lunch and buy some fresh berries. And then drive to a nearby cemetery to search for a stone. 

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
I found it thanks to Findagrave.com, clearly one of the internet’s more useful sites, which lists the actor here. I followed the longitude and latitude coordinates to a Google Maps link and printed the resultant image; I also plugged those coordinates into my GPS.

The GPS got me to within a couple of hundred feet of the marker, but its “Pedestrian” setting failed to indicate a clear path to my destination. I used the map printout to aim myself further, and when I spotted the big SOULS-DYER-LEE monument, I was still, according to the GPS, some 70 feet from the coordinates.

Actually, the Mischa Auer marker was at my feet. He’s to the left of Elise; her previous husband, Herbert Lee, is to her right. It would have been almost impossible to find without internet help, so stop by some time and we’ll grab a sandwich at the co-op and I’ll show it to you.

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