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The Films of Jack Nicholson

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18 • THE MAKING OF CABARET Harold Smith Prince was born in New York City on January 30, 1928, to (what he himself calls) “privileged, upper-middle lower rich-class” Jewish parents of German stock whose families had settled there soon after the Civil War. He was raised by his kind stepfather (because his own father, who lived to a ripe old age, rarely saw him). This stepfather was a Wall Street stockbroker, who possibly passed on his business acumen to him. Prince’s mother, who was an avid theatergoer, probably fostered his enthusiasm for the stage.

True, there was no real Nazi power in America in the sixties, but the country had the Ku Klux Klan, and where Germany had its gay bars and clubs where drugs and sex could be negotiated from table to table, each conveniently equipped with telephone, America discovered that cocaine, marijuana, and LSD were just around the corner and that free love was almost as prevalent as rock’n’ roll. The Berlin of the twenties and thirties and the United States of the sixties were both riddled by the deepest social and political problems, often based on race and the arrogance of power.

It would take a long time for Christopher to come out in public, and even then, it would be on film and after a name change to Brian Roberts. Of course in the sixties Broadway was hardly ready for such a candid sexual persona, and as Masteroff transformed the character into an 28 • THE MAKING OF CABARET American, there was a different sensibility to be shaped and projected at audiences for whom “the gay life” was only the title of a droll turn-of-thecentury American musical comedy set in Vienna and whose tolerance for sexuality was apparently limited to such material as Tenderloin, Camelot, The Girl Who Came to Supper, and Pousse-Café.

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