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Memories & Candles

“What a great life! Enjoy the greatest theater of all. ”
1 of 2 | Posted by: Jeanette Kelsey - Beverly Hills, CA

“I knew Mrs. Chafran from a bank I worked in years ago. I always remember how nice she looked and how well she spoke. How lucky for her to have made...Read More »
2 of 2 | Posted by: Susan Johnson - Palm Desert, CT


Charlotte Goldstein Chafran passed away peacefully on October 30, 2015. She was 103 years of age.
Born on August 7, 1912 in New York, New York; Charlotte was the daughter of Jacob Goldstein and Sadie Shapiro Goldstein. Her father was a Yiddish actor as were her maternal grandparents, and so it was at the age of 16, Charlotte too became a Yiddish actress. As Charlotte put it, "In those years ... you didn't train for it formally. You either 'had it' or you didn't." Apparently, Charlotte had it.
Charlotte starred in dozens of Yiddish plays most notably with Maurice Schwartz's famed Yiddish Art Theatre, which toured internationally. Additionally she performed on radio and acted in three Yiddish films.
In the early June of 1939 Charlotte married singer, concert artist and actor Menasha Oppenheim. Just prior to their planned newlywed trip to Poland to meet Menasha's family, his entire family perished in the gas chambers of the Holocaust. He fell into depression and solitude. Their marriage ultimately ended. Charlotte continued to pursue her career.
In her 2008 self-published memoir "Memories Are Forever", Charlotte recalls performing for such luminaries as Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontaine accompanied by Noel Coward ("who came backstage to congratulate us"), Eugene O'Neill, Edna Ferber, Elmer Rice, Greta Garbo, and Marc Chagall who "would drop into the theatre to watch rehearsals then linger to visit with us." Charlie Chaplin was so impressed he came two nights in a row." Charlotte states her "greatest thrill of all was performing "Yoshe Kalb" for Albert Einstein."
Charlotte's relationship with Fred Chafran, an importer of precious stones, began to blossom in 1945. Fred split his time between Paris and New York, and it became the pattern of Charlotte's life to spend the summers in Europe and the theatre season in New York. In 1951, Charlotte withdrew from acting to be free to travel with Fred. They married on April 9, 1970. Fred passed away in May of 1980.
Friends invited Charlotte to Palm Springs where she met Sidney Harmon - a theatre and film producer who played a key role in the building of the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert. In 1983, as part of a series to promote the building of a theatre audience in the Desert, Sidney encouraged Charlotte to stay in the desert and co-star in "Death of A Salesman" opposite Nehemiah Persoff at the Annenberg Theater, directed by College of the Desert's Terry Nicholson. Later she played Fonsia in "The Gin Game" (for which she won 'Best Actress' at the Desert Theatre League Awards) and Daisy in "Driving Miss Daisy"; both at COD with Nicholson as director.
Charlotte then spent a year writing a one-woman show, "An Evening With Charlotte", which she performed over the next several years throughout California, as well as in New York, London and Oxford.
Charlotte will be interred at Knollwood Park Cemetery in Glendale, New York beside her beloved Fred. Although Charlotte had no children, and has no surviving family, her legacy will continue in the theatre, and in the hearts of all those who were blessed to know her. Her friends suggests donations in Charlotte's memory be made to the theatre community of your choice.
~~~ Shine bright, dear star.~~~~