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John M. Stahl
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A brilliant young doctor grows away from his family and his community when his older brother convinces him to make his fortune as a Park Avenue doctor. He spends his time prescribing placebos to people who are not sick leaving no time for his clinic and his passion of genuine healing. When tragedy strikes, he sees where his obligations lie, but will it be too late? Written by
Sister Grimm <email@example.com>
My boy, there are two kinds of men in our profession. Some are gifted with the spark of genius; some of us are... just doctors.
[walks to the door and opens it, then turns back toward Felix]
Felix Klauber, you're more capable than I, but if you don't go through with this operation, I will.
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In the 1930s, the world was filled with antisemitism and Hollywood rarely made stories about Jews. Aside from the very famous film THE JAZZ SINGER and a few other exceptions here and there, films tended to ignore this group. In addition, while many of the studio heads were Jewish, the stars of the films were not. In the case of handsome leading man Ricardo Cortez, he was Jewish but the studio gave him a Hispanic name and often had him play either Italian or Hispanic leads--such was Hollywood's attitude towards Jews! However, SYMPHONY OF SIX MILLION is an amazingly rare film in that it is all about a Jewish neighborhood and focuses on a Jewish family...and for once, Cortez actually plays a Jewish man! Now some might complain that most of the Jews in the film were very stereotypically Jewish (perhaps too much so), but considering they were supposed to live in the poor part of New York City and many of them were first generation Americans, it didn't seem out of line. Plus, fortunately, the people all seemed so decent and humane--with the same feelings, values and struggles facing any American.
Now for the plot--this movie is also like "THE ANTI-JAZZ SINGER". In THE JAZZ SINGER, Al Jolson plays a young man who wants to lead his own life and struggles with respecting his father and making his own career. Jolson, naturally, wants to follow his own dream and the father wants him to be a cantor in the synagogue. However, in SYMPHONY OF SIX MILLION, while everyone in the family wants Ricardo to be a doctor, the struggle is between what kind of doctor and the clientèle he will have. Cortez wants to be a doctor who works with the poor Jews of the ghetto while his brother and mother want him to be a rich society doctor. So the central struggle is the main character wanting to follow tradition and work with an almost exclusively Jewish clientèle and his family is pushing him away from his people--as I said, like an ANTI-JAZZ SINGER! Fortunately, SYMPHONY OF SIX MILLION was not a dull film like THE JAZZ SINGER. At the time, THE JAZZ SINGER was a fresh and innovative film, but seen today it seems very old fashioned (even for 1927) and stilted. SYMPHONY OF SIX MILLION still is an interesting film because it chronicles part of the Jewish-American experience and better portrays the struggle between modern and traditional life. In fact, the film was so compelling and well made, that it nearly earns an 8. Sadly, when the new Production Code came into effect in 1934, films with ethnic characters like you see in this film became much rarer in American films.
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