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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>
George Arliss asked Warner Bros. to buy the play on which this film was based while he was under contract there in 1931. Warners bought the play but did not make the film. When Arliss left Warners, he convinced Darryl F. Zanuck to purchase the play from Warners for 20th Century Pictures, where it was eventually made. See more »
... which is appropriate since he had the talent of at least two actors of any era. In this case Arliss plays both Mayer Rothschild and son Nathan after the house of Rothschild has begun to flourish into a huge banking enterprise. What makes these precode biopics of Arliss fun to watch is his mischief, the precocious energy of a five year old and the wisdom of a sage observer of human nature all packed into one lean unimposing frame. The precode era also allowed Arliss to make a comment here and there that likely would be censored in the production code era.
The time is that of the Napoleanic Wars and the Rothschilds, after funding the British in the first defeat of Napolean, find the British aristocracy develops a not so startling case of amnesia and begins treating Nathan Rothschild as an outsider - a Jew - and excludes him from their most lucrative deals. When Nathan Rothschild initially outsmarts them in business, the vindictive Count Ledrantz (Boris Karloff) incites riots against the Jews throughout Europe, even putting Nathan's own mother at risk back at the ancestral home in Germany. However, what nobody knows at the time is that Napolean will escape and a second campaign against him will be necessary. Will the Rothschilds go after their own best interests and back Napolean or will they again side with those that have discarded them - the British. Watch and find out.
Also watch George Arliss' other biopics of the early sound era - Disraeli, Voltaire, and Alexander Hamilton are the ones I've actually been able to see so far. All of these are very much worth your time.
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