Leaving behind him a bloody trail of purges and pogroms in three separate European countries, the former "Jackie Coogan" of German motion pictures is now working for his Ph.D. in Romance Languages at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Born in Russia, twenty-two year old Marc Mara Spiegel fled with his parents from there to Berlin, from Berlin to Warsaw, and, finally from Warsaw to this country in an effort to escape racial persecution. His mother has not been heard from since August 26, 1939, and, as far as he knows, she is still in the ruins of Warsaw, whether alive or dead, he cannot say.
His parents, both physicians, made their first escape from oppression in 1921. Three years later, when Spiegel was only six, he had become one of the juvenile stars of German motion pictures and had been given the title of "German Jackie Coogan." He strongly resembled the original Coogan and still looks like him to a certain extent.
After several successful silent pictures filmed by Berlin's largest producer, the UFA Motion Picture company, he was sent through Germany and then throughout Europe making personal appearances. During a two year stay in London, the young actor met Sophie Tucker, whom he now describes as one of his closest friends.
Called back to Berlin in 1930, he accepted a five-year contract to make three pictures at a salary of $1,000 a week. This was automatically broken after the Nazi coup d'etat. His last film, titled "Thirteen Valises of Mr. O. F.," was made with Hedy Lamarr, then a comparatively unknown actress called Hedy Kiesler. Although he was only nine years old at the time, Marc says he thought Hedy was a "very beautiful woman, though a trifle too exotic."
When Hitler began his first purge of the Jews in Germany, Spiegel's father, then general secretary of the German Red Cross, escaped Nazi Storm Troopers by jumping out the rear window of his office and fleeing to Warsaw. Spiegel himself remained in Berlin, until he became involved in a violent fight with the son of a Nazi leader for refusing to give the "Heil, Hitler" salute. In the fight the other boy suffered a fractured skull, and Spiegel had to flee to France, where he graduate from the University of Nancy in 1937.
Later he joined his father who had succeeded in establishing a travel agency in Warsaw. But disaster once again overtook the family when, in the Polish pogrom of August, 1937, an armed band of roughnecks broke into his father's office and injured the elder Spiegel.
Although Mare and his father came to the United States after the pogrom, Mrs. Spiegel remained in Warsaw to settle their financial affairs. She was caught in the war, and Marc believes that being a doctor, she was pressed into service during the six day siege of the Polish capital.