Director Green returned to his native Poland from America to produce this film, the most commercially successful musical in the history of the Yiddish cinema, starring Molly Picon, consummate comedienne of Yiddish theater, vaudeville, and film. This is the classic folk comedy about a man and his daughter who, penniless, decide to become traveling musicians. The daughter disguises herself as a boy to relieve her father's anxiety about unforeseeable problems that could befall a young woman "out in the world." They then join together with "another" father-son duo for music, comedy and romance. Green's original screenplay was enhanced by the folksy lyrics of Yiddish poet Itzik Manger and the memorable musical score of Abraham Ellstein, as well as the talents of Leon Leibold, the romantic lead who later starred in The Dybbuk and Tevye, and Max Bozyk, a character actor par excellence. Breaking away from the studio-bound cinematography of the early Yiddish talkies, the film was shot on ... Written by
I'm writing mainly as a corrective to the appallingly ignorant review that complains about Molly Picon being too unattractive, the bad teeth of some of the extras, and the fact that this movie is too much like a musical -- that's because it IS a musical.
Let's be honest -- anyone who seeks out this movie isn't looking for stunning cinematography, a witty plot, or world-class acting. If it wasn't for the uniqueness of the time and place in which it was made, it wouldn't be worth remembering. The plot is creaky, the acting a bit hammy, and the dialogue forgettable. But that's not why you watch this movie. You watch it because it is, to the modern eye, not so much an entertainment as a fascinating and tragic historical document of a culture and a people that was, at the time of filming, about to be obliterated. You watch it because you want to see what an actual shtetl looked like, to get a real life glimpse of a community that had its own language and music and traditions, and because you know that that community is about to be wiped out. There is an eerie quality in watching the film, because you know that most of the people flickering before you, singing and laughing and going about their daily business, would in a short time most likely be rounded up and sent to the death camps.
You don't have to be specifically interested in Yiddish culture to appreciate that aspect of the movie -- you just have to be interested in the ways people used to live, especially when those ways have disappeared for one reason or another. (People who enjoy this movie may also enjoy "Nanook of the North," a documentary about the traditional ways of the Inuit -- you can see how an actual igloo was made.) Perhaps the movie will appeal more to historians or ethnographers rather than the casual movie-goer just looking for an entertaining way to spend 90 minutes. So please, don't complain about bad teeth and unattractive leading ladies, because if that's all you're looking for, there are plenty of better places to look.
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