Baruch Mayr, son of an orthodox rabbi from a poor shtetl in Galizia, decides to break with the family tradition and leave the shtetl to become an actor. Due to this behaviour his father ...
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Baruch Mayr, son of an orthodox rabbi from a poor shtetl in Galizia, decides to break with the family tradition and leave the shtetl to become an actor. Due to this behaviour his father bans him from his family. Baruch, who joined a small burlesque troupe is discovered by an Austrian Erzherzogin (archdutchess) who introduces him to the director of the most important Theater in Vienna, the Burgtheater. Baruch receives a contract there and becomes more and more an assimilated jew. But his relation with the Erzherzogin isn't approved by the Austrian court, so they have to end it. When an old friend of his father, who is always traveling from one Jewish community to the next (and has told him first about the theatres in the world), Baruch becomes a little bit homesick and returns for a holiday to his old shtetl to see his folks and to pick up his childhood sweetheart. But his father wants him not to enter his house, so he returns to Vienna, with his bride. But his old friend does not stop...Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
E.A. Dupont is one of the UFA crowd who, in a long career, turned out numerous works in many genres. Only one is remembered: VARIETY -- and, as an aside, what is it with German directors and the circus? On the basis of this single movie Dupont is acclaimed a great director. Not a single one of his other movies is remembered, except by the diligent -- not even the sprightly work he did in Hollywood in the 1930s. I look out for them, and this is only the seventh I have been able to find. I have enjoyed them all, and this one in particular.
This is the movie that THE JAZZ SINGER was based on: a young man wants to be an actor in Vienna, but his father the rabbi.... well, you know the story. It's very well told, with some nicely broad acting, and a wonderful turn by Hermann Valentin as the theater manager Heinrich Laube. This movie is based in large part on Laube's memoirs. There is also a typically fine performance by Henny Porten as an aging archduchess who yearns for a handsome young lover.
It is not, however, the performances, excellent though they are, that make this movie work. It is the sense of separate worlds that interact to their mutual confusion and grief: the poor shtetl that the man grows up in, dominated by his father and the richly adorned shul; the tawdry traveling show that he initially joins; the Habsburg court; the Royal theater.... each is a little kingdom with its own laws and each interacts poorly with the others... only Robert Garrison as the wandering cantor is uneasily welcome in more than one realm.
For me, this is summed up in one brief shot, when the rabbi, desperate to know what has drawn his son away, opens up a copy of HAMLET to read.... and opens it the wrong way, as if it were a book in Yiddish or Hebrew, from right to left, instead of the other way around. Suddenly the rules of his world no longer work.
All these factors add up for me and make it better than its American remake, THE JAZZ SINGER is. Even though no one in it sings as well as Jolson.
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