Romance of a Jewess (1908)

 |  Drama, Short  |  23 October 1908 (USA)
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This early D.W. Griffith short shows the director's interest in Jewish ghetto life, portrayed here with sympathy and sentimentality. The melodramatic plot involves the conflict between generations in an immigrant Jewish family.



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Credited cast:
George Gebhardt ...
Gladys Egan ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
John R. Cumpson ...
Guy Hedlund
Charles Inslee
Arthur V. Johnson ...
Alfred Paget
Harry Solter ...
Mabel Stoughton ...
Customer (unconfirmed)


Ruth Simonson, with her father, is seen kneeling at the bedside of her mother, whose sands of life are rapidly ebbing. Realizing her end near, Mrs. Simonson takes from her neck a chain and locket and places it around the neck of her daughter, Ruth, with the prayerful injunction that she be ever guided in the path of prudence and virtue by this memorial. Commending her to the care of her father, the old lady goes to meet her Master in the Great Beyond. Two years later we find Ruth assisting her old father in his pawnshop. Mr. Simonson, although a money-lender, is benevolent in nature and his many deeds of munificence have endeared him to all who know him. Hence, when the local schatchen appears with Jacob Rubenstein, a wealthy suitor for his daughter's hand, it was his desire for her future happiness that induced him to look with favor on him. Ruth, however, had given her heart to Sol Bimberg, an impecunious bookseller in the neighborhood. While Mr. Simonson has no aversion for Sol, ... Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

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Drama | Short





Release Date:

23 October 1908 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Early Griffith
21 August 2010 | by ( – See all my reviews

One of Griffith's early directing efforts, Romance of a Jewess already shows some of the themes that would interest Griffith for most of his career: the clash of both races and generations, Jewish ghetto life, and the sentimental position the beloved mother apparently holds in the life of all men.

The story is simple and eternal. A young Jewish woman, working in the pawnshop owned by her recently widowed father - we see the mother's death in what seems to be a somewhat superfluous scene - rebels against the arranged marriage organised for her by him, and chooses a native Indian bookseller, much to her father's displeasure. The father banishes her from his sight, but he and his daughter are fated to be reunited under tragic circumstances...

The film is fairly ordinary, but clearly well directed for the time, although the acting is still very much of the exaggerated gesture school. Only in the brief scenes in which Griffith takes his camera out onto the real streets of New York does the film truly come alive.

It was interesting to see the American Bioscope logo clearly visible on the wall of the pawnshop, put there by the makers in an attempt to stop other distributors from duping the film (copying it and passing it off under their own name - a practice that was common in the wild, early days of cinema). It's also amusing to note that, even though a number of years pass during the telling of the story, the old pawnbroker still hasn't managed to shift that guitar hanging on the wall...

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