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My Lord Lives in America: Arab​-​American Songs in California ca. 1940

by Braheen Abdo Urban

The Freedom 03:07


Ibrahim Abdo Urban was born Feb. 25, 1902, one of eight children, in Douma, Syria and arrived in New York City on June 17, 1912.

We can say for sure that Braheen Edward (aka Eduardo or Abraham) recorded at least a couple rather Western-assimilationist discs in the early 1920s for Alexander Maloof’s label, based in the Little Syria neighborhood of Manhattan. His family moved to the west coast; his brother Thomas worked successfully as a merchant in San Francisco. By April 1923, Braheem was married in San Francisco to a 26-year old woman named Virginia, with whom he spent a several weeks in August and September 1926 in Hawaii. There are then a couple blank pages between his Declaration of Intent to become to a citizen of the U.S. in 1927 and his Petition of Citizenship (at which point he gave his occupation as “singer”) in January 1934, both in San Francisco, and his marriage in New York on May 29, 1934 in Brooklyn, NYC to one Marie Khoury.

In the mid-30, an opportunity in Canada had come up, so that by January 8, 1936 Variety reported that: “All-Canadian Opera Association has come into being. Braheen Urban is impresario and producer. Richard Hageman, formerly of the Metropolitan Opera, the Los Angeles Opera, and Chicago City Opera, will direct and conduct an opera season. He arrives in Toronto January 17.” Their repertoire was Verdi, Bizet, Gounod with an orchestra of 36 and a chorus of 80. The venture appears to have flopped, because Braheen permanently settled in California, and spent the years 1937-47 mostly going after parts in Hollywood movies with some success. Although he rarely landed a credited part, he did appear (mostly uncredited and often off-screen as a singer) in Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937 starring Eddie Cantor), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939 starring Charles Laughton), The Rains Came (1939 starring Myrna Loy), Kismet (1944 starring Marlene Dietrich), and The Mummy’s Curse (1944, starring Lon Chaney, Jr).

Late in 1938 he posted an ad in trade papers:
“Tri-Art Film Productions is preparing a program of short subjects for release on the independent market. The organization is headed by Braheen A. Urban, veteran stage and screen player, who once was general director of the Canadian Grand Opera Association.” The backer for that company and for the recordings presented here under the same trade name was very likely one Mrs. Edith Gaines, a wealthy widow living on Nob Hill, historically the richest part of San Francisco.

From April to June, widely-reported legal separation and divorce proceedings between Braheen Abdo Urban (age 39) and his wife Marie (age 33) began when Marie sued Mrs. Edith Gaines for $100,000 for alienation of affections of her husband. Gaines (age 60) responded that she had supported the couple and that her relationship with him was purely platonic. The two had lived part-time together. Love letters from Braheem were read in court, and Gaines’ maid’s testimony that the two were in love resulted in a jury verdict award $2500 for loss of love against Gaines. The love letters letter later turned out to have been directed toward Braheen’s accompanist, one Miss Rose Saron.

By 1941, Braheen was living back in San Francisco working as an antiques dealer, but by 1942 he was back in LA and re-married. He spent the years 1944-48 acting mostly on the stage. On August 14, 1951, at the age of 49, he was married for the fourth time to one Diana Cecille Hartt (age 24) of Hollywood in San Bernardino.

He died June 4, 1961 San Diego CA. Prof. Richard Breaux’s research points out that his obituary in the Pasadena Independent described him as a “well-known sports fisherman” with no mention of his career as a performer.


released September 25, 2021

transfers, restorations, and notes by Ian Nagoski

thank you: Richard Breaux, Kevan Harris, Rohan Advani
Further reading: syrianlebanesediasporasound.blogspot.com/2019/05/braheen-edward-abdo-urban-musician.html


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