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In the Laurel & Hardy movie (or episode, if you will) Blotto (1930), in the first scene, Stan is reading a hebrew newspaper.

Hebrew newspaper

So I was wondering, why a hebrew newspaper? Is there any reason and purpose for this, or has it got any meaning? I couldn't sport anything in the movie that this is reference too or anything... I can guess it's sort of a 'random' joke that really doesn't have a special meaning or purpose, yet I'm eager to find out if this is the case.

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I wish someone could tell us what the headline reads. –  user1614 Jul 2 '12 at 23:51
    
Indeed, that would be great :) –  poepje Jul 3 '12 at 7:51
    
@user1614 As Mike has said, the paper is "Yiddishe Welt" ("Jewish World"). The two-line headline beneath the title seems to read "Lindbergh flight in rain and fog [illegible] Cuba to St. Louis". The journey described took place in early 1928, so not only can't Stan read the paper, it's two years out of date! –  FredH Jun 17 '13 at 18:30
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3 Answers 3

This is not a hebrew newspaper but a yiddish newspaper "Yiddishe Velt", (Yiddish World).

Yiddish can be written in either hebrew or latin characters. In the first half of the 20th Century there were many yiddish newspapers in the USA catering to the large jewish immigrant community. There was also a very active yiddish film industry in the USA and Europe.

This could be an 'in joke' between the cast and crew, or just an interesting accident.

Incidentally, Laurel and Hardy were (and are) very popular with jewish audiences; in hebrew they are known as "Hashamen v' he razeh", literally "the fat one and the thin one".

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But... Yiddish uses Hebrew writing..? –  poepje Jun 14 '13 at 9:55
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It was typical at the time to film movies in more than one language. Blotto was simultaneously filmed in French and Spanish. Anita Garvin, who plays Stan's wife, is replaced by Spanish and French actresses in those versions of the film. Perhaps the choice of newspaper was an attempt to find a visual joke that would work in more than one country.

This excerpt from an article on Leo McCarey (who wrote Blotto) by film historian Richard W.Bann suggests it may be a carryover from McCarey's other work at the time:

One of McCarey's first projects as production supervisor was to develop a series of Max Davidson comedies. Somehow, McCarey's Irish heritage helped him see the possibilities for Jewish humor surrounding Max Davidson as a beseiged, henpecked husband at the mercy of his family. And what a family. Rich in visual gags and situational humor, the Max Davidson comedies written, supervised, or directed by Leo McCarey remain among the funniest - and also the most unsung - of all silent short subject films. Born in Berlin, Max Davidson's brief series ended only when ethnic humor temporarily fell out of favour. One reason it fell out of favour was quite simply that the Jews who ran Hollywood were embarrassed by what they considered to be stereotypes. Seen even today, the little comedian's material is basically inoffensive and quite restrained.

http://www.laurel-and-hardy.com/archive/articles/1998-10-mccarey-long.html

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Thanks, I knew about the Spanish version, but are you sure about a French one? (can't find anything about it on Wiki or IMDB) I was already surprised to find Stan and Oliver spoke both Spanish and German (these films were not voiced-over, but genuinly spoken by L&H themselves). –  poepje Jul 1 '12 at 13:33
    
According to TMC, it was filmed "in French with Georgette Rhodes as Stan's wife and in Spanish with Linda Loredo in the role." The French version does not seem to be in existence any longer. tcm.com/tcmdb/title/511011/Blotto/articles.html –  MJ6 Jul 1 '12 at 17:44
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I think the joke is that he is presumed not to be able to read Hebrew, so this signifies that he is only pretending to read the newspaper. It could have been any other language, but one which uses a different alphabet makes it more obvious, and it may be that at the time the only choices most Americans would recognize would be Hebrew and possibly Russian, although since this is pre-Cold War, even that might be a stretch.

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Pre-WW2 even... But yes that sounds eligible –  poepje Jul 1 '12 at 2:24
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