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The Golem (1936)

Le golem (original title)
The Golem, a giant creature created out of clay by a rabbi, comes to life in a time of trouble to protect the Jews of Prague from persecution.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Harry Baur ...
L'empereur Rodolphe II, roi de Bohème
Roger Karl ...
Le chancelier Lang
Charles Dorat ...
Le rabbin Jacob
...
Trignac
Raymond Aimos ...
Toussaint
Gaston Jacquet ...
Friedrich, le chef de la police
Ferdinand Hart ...
Germaine Aussey ...
La comtesse Strada
Jany Holt ...
Rachel
Truda Grosslichtová ...
Madame Benoit (as Tania Doll)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ernst Reicher
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Storyline

The Golem, a giant creature created out of clay by a rabbi, comes to life in a time of trouble to protect the Jews of Prague from persecution.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Fantasy | Horror

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Release Date:

21 March 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Golem  »

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Technical Specs

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(Tobis-Klangfilm)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The synagogue seen in the initial scenes (and others) is clearly modeled on the Alt-Neu Synagogue in Prague, supposedly the place where the Golem would have been stored. See more »

Connections

Remake of The Golem (1920) See more »

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User Reviews

the golem films, the death of Harry Baur and pro-Jewish propaganda in the thirties
29 February 2016 | by (France) – See all my reviews

Certain precisions:

The Paul Wegener film of 1920 Der Golem : Wie er in die Welt kam/The Golem: How He Came into the World was not exactly "the originaL". It was the third film to be made on the subject. The original, Der Golem, directed by Wegener and Henrik Galeen in 1915, alas survives only as a fragment. Inspired by the success of the novel Der Golem by Austrian writer Gustav Meyrinck (serialised 1913-14), it was not really an adaptation but an original script, although, like the Meyrinck novel, it was set in modern times with an antiques dealer rediscovering the golem. The second film , also lost, Der Golem und die Tanzerin/The Golem and the Dancing Girl (1917) was a comic sequel, again obviously set in modern times.

Wegener and Galeen were responsible for one very important element in the story, the idea that the golem was susceptible to the charms of the fair sex, a theme that would be enormously influential in all subsequent "monster" films including Whale's Frankenstein and King Kong. This element was retained in the film of 1920 which is a kind of "prequel" going back to the supposed sixteenth century origins of the golem in Prague and its creation by one of the great heroes of European Jewish culture, the Rabbi Loew (Judah Loew ben Bezalel) to protect the Jewish community against the depredations of the Emperor Rudolf II.

So this film is certainly not a remake of the German films but it is a sequel of sorts to the 1920 film in the sense that it follows it more or less immediately in chronological terms, being set just after the death of Rabbi Loew and still during the reign of Emperor Rudolf (played by Harry Baur). It is however based on a new work - a 1931 play by two well known Czech actors Jiri Voskovec and Jan Werich.

The "golem" legend has a long history. It may have influenced Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) but this is uncertain. It is true that a very young Jakob Grimm (one of the brothers later famous for their fairy tales) had published a Polish "golem" story in 1808 (in the collection Journal for Hermits) which inspired other stories on the theme and might possibly have been known to Byron, the Shelleys and their circle. It is however absolutely certain that the German "golem" films influenced upon the later film-versions of Frankenstein.

The specific story of the golem of Prague was seemingly of German rather than Czech origin and was largely a nineteenth-century invention.It only subsequently seems to have become a popular story in Bohemia/Czechoslovakia.

The French actor Harry Baur was not Jewish nor he was exactly killed by the Nazis. He did frequently play Jewish characters and had a Germanic name, two factors which led to his being falsely accused during the forties of being Jewish. He was arrested by the Gestapo in occupied France in 1942, ironically just after returning from Germany, where he made his last film, Symphonie eines Lebans (actually part of an extended visit by French actors and actresses organised by the German propaganda ministry). He was held in La Santé prison in Paris for four months and eventually released without charge but never fully recovered from the ill-treatment he received and died in April,1943.

Several accounts say he was arrested with his wife or that he was arrested on account of his wife, who was Jewish. The first is correct but the second not. Baur's second wife, actress Rika Radifé, was born in Turkey and, although she may well in practice have had Jewish origins (her real first name was Rebecca), she was actually a Muslim (and neutral Muslim Turkey was friendly to Germany until it opportunistically sided with the Allies in 1945) and she was released just two weeks after the arrest. She was never subsequently troubled and later in fact converted to Catholicism.

Baur's involvement with this film probably did him no good in the eyes of the Germans. Duvivier himself moved to the US in 1938. Although other countries, including the US and Britain, were outrageously silent on the subject of the persecution of Jews in Germany (and remained so even during the war), there had been a certain discrete propaganda effort by some producers during the thirties as more and more Jews fled or attempted to flee from Germany. So the British film The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) clearly draws a parallel with the flight of French aristocrats from the Revolution (both producer Alex Korda and star Leslie Howard were of East European Jewish origin)and another British film of the same year, The Jew Suss, had a pro-Jewish theme that would later be answered by the anti-semitic German version of the same story in 1940. The British film starred expatriate German Conrad Veidt, not a Jew but a fierce and strongly committed anti-Nazi (he even devoted part of his income to the cause).

In the US, another dissident German, Wilhelm Dieterle, whose wife was Jewish, made The Life of Émile Zola in 1936 (concentrating on the Dreyfus affair) and later drew a clear parallel in his depiction of the persecution of gypsies in his 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The House of Rothschild (1934) would also paint a sympathetic picture of Jews which particularly infuriated the Germans and resulted in another anti-semitic riposte (Die Rothschilds Aktien auf Waterloo) in 1940).

The only film to openly expose and attack German treatment of the Jews, Professor Mamlok, was made in Russia in 1938. Although praised by anti-Nazi campaigner Edward G. Robinson (from a Polish Jewish family), who said he wished he could act in such a film, it was widely dismissed in the US as communist propaganda (which it also is) and was actually banned in Britain for fear of offending Mr. Hitler.


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