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The story of the rise of the Rothschild financial empire founded by Mayer Rothschild and continued by his five sons. From humble beginnings the business grows and helps to finance the war against Napoleon, but it's not always easy, especially because of the prejudices against Jews. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
fascinating film about the international banking family
Darryl F. Zanuck covered Napoleon's sweep across Europe in two early films: "Lloyds of London," in which Tyrone Power plays a fictional character who continues insuring the British fleet so that his childhood friend, Horatio Nelson, can win the war; and "The House of Rothschild" in which Nathan Rothschild and his banker brothers provide the financing to beat Napoleon. Both are excellent films.
There are a few historical liberties in "The House of Rothschild," but the film is based on fact. George Arliss has a dual role as Mayer Rothschild and his son, Nathan. When the film begins, the family is living in a Prussian Jewish ghetto where Mayer is doing well but doesn't want the tax collectors to know. On his deathbed, he instructs his sons to establish banking houses throughout Europe as so much money is stolen when it is being carried by messengers. The plot then focuses on Nathan and goes into the rampant anti-Semitism which forces Nathan out of an important loan. It also shows his brilliance for business as he fights Count Ledrantz (Boris Karloff) who spreads propaganda and incites pogroms. The climax of the film takes place when it appears Napoleon is winning and Nathan starts buying up everything on the stock market, which is bottoming out, in order to keep the deal he made for the war effort. Though not much is made of it, the Rothschilds had informants everywhere, which enabled them to get information before anyone else. He is able to announce before it is made public that Napoleon has been defeated at Waterloo.
"House of Rothschild" stars one of the great actors, George Arliss. Other actors from the stage entering films often used tremulous voices and melodramatic gestures but Arliss had a tremendous speaking voice and a grand acting style that made a powerful impression on the screen and infused the characters he played with a believability as well. A blond, beautiful Loretta Young is on hand as his daughter, who is in love with a Gentile named Fitzroy (Robert Young) - and though one would expect the love story to be fiction, it isn't.
This film has an interesting history of its own: Excerpts from it, taken out of context, were used in the anti-semitic Nazi films Der ewige Jude and Die Rothschilds. Despite persecution, the Rothschilds remain an extremely powerful family in the present - the original name of the family was Bauer; Rothschild is actually German for "red shield," which is in the center of the family coat of arms. Today, they're in a variety of occupations besides banking - actress Helena Bonham Carter is a Rothschild due to a marriage on her mother's side.
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