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The Jester (1937)

Der Purimshpiler (original title)
Approved | | Drama, Romance | 5 December 1937 (USA)
Getsel, a wandering Purim player, comes to a Galica village and gets a job with Reb Nuchem, the shoemaker. He falls in love with Esther, the shoemaker's daughter, but knows she is in love ... See full summary »


Joseph Green (story) (as Joseph Victor), Itzik Manger (dialogue) (as I. Manger)


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Complete credited cast:
Miriam Kressyn Miriam Kressyn ... Ester
Zygmunt Turkow ... Gecel / Getsel
Hy Jacobson Hy Jacobson ... Dick (as Hymie Jacobson)
Ajzyk Samberg Ajzyk Samberg ... Reb Nachum / Nukhem Gerz
Max Bozyk Max Bozyk ... Reb Zurekh (as Maks Bozyk)
Berta Litwina Berta Litwina ... Cype / Tsippe
Eni Liton Eni Liton ... Lea
Jacob Reinglass Jacob Reinglass ... Learning shoemaker (as Jakub Rajnglas)
Maks Brin Maks Brin ... Szames
Samuel Landau Samuel Landau ... Mekhele Zaidman
Jakob Fischer Jakob Fischer ... Feiwel / Fyvel - the matchmaker (as Jakub Fiszer)


Getsel, a wandering Purim player, comes to a Galica village and gets a job with Reb Nuchem, the shoemaker. He falls in love with Esther, the shoemaker's daughter, but knows she is in love with a wandering circus player. However, Getzel is content in his work and dreams. Esther's father inherits a fortune and attempts to marry her to a man of his choice, but she flees with Getzel to Warsaw, where he meets and marries the circus player. Getzel returns to the village and is blamed for Esther's disappearance until she shows up and explains what happened. Getzel shoulders his pack and wanders on to another village. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

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Drama | Romance





Poland | USA



Release Date:

5 December 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Jester See more »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Green-Film See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Referenced in The Eternal Jew (1940) See more »

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User Reviews

One of the enduring classics of pre-war Yiddish cinema
24 July 2017 | by alexdeleonfilmSee all my reviews

Viewed at the Barbican Yiddish Film Retrospective, London, October, 1996. DER PURIMSHPILER -- (THE PURIM-PLAY ACTOR) By Chaim Pevner: (later, Alex Deleon)

"Der Purimshpiler" (The Jester): Directed by Joseph Green and Jan Nowina-Przybilski, with camera work by Seweryn Steinwurzel. Poland, 1937. Green co-wrote the script with "Chaver-Paver", the pen name of a well-known left-wing New York journalist, which in English would come out something like "Comrade-Pomrade".

This film stars Zygmunt Turkow as Getsel, a roving jack-of-all-trades and sometime actor who is sort of a "shlimmazel" (luckless loser) but once played the Persian king Akhashuerus in a Purim play. The other major roles, Esther and Dick, are played by Meriam Kressyn and Hymie Jacobson who were a real life couple and become a couple in the film. Turkow was a leading figure on the Polish Yiddish film scene from the early twenties on as actor and publicist.

At the very beginning we see the feet of Getsel (Turkow) trudging through the Polish countryside with a knapsack over his shoulder. It's summer and Getsel comes upon an orchard where a pretty young woman (Kressyn) is up in a tree picking apples (the apples of temptation?). After a knowingly shy flirtation scene - the Yiddish version of Eve coming on with The Apple—he tramps into the village walking on air and finds work in the local cobbler's shop. The crabby boorish owner of this cobbling atelier is the father of the young woman in the tree. The good-natured Getsel quickly ingratiates himself with the other workers with his repertoire of skits and pranks and is well liked. He obviously has eyes for the daughter, Esther, who carries the name of the Jewish heroine of the well known Purim story—and the feeling is apparently mutual. Up to here the rustic lyrical atmosphere is comparable to Ulmer's lyrical "Green Fields", but now the direction changes sharply... A circus comes to town, and the entrance into the village of the circus is a major event. The star of the circus (Hymie Jacobson as "Dick") a fast talker who claims to come from "Macedonia", immediately takes a shine to Kressyn and she is equally enthralled by his glibness and fine garb. He invites her to see his act, which is basically a vaudeville type soft-shoe song and dance, and he quickly sets up a couple of late-night trysts with Esther.

The father is against this liaison with an itinerant actor and when she stays out all night on one occasion, he forbids her to see him again. The circus leaves town, but soon the boorish father comes into an unexpected inheritance. One of the best sequences in the film is a montage of town gossips commenting (like a Greek chorus) on the surprising good fortune of the not too highly regarded local clod. Suddenly rich he now wants to promote his social standing by marrying Esther off to the son of a wealthy family. A match is arranged at a lavish Purim party but the groom of the wealthy family is a driveling idiot. Esther's aversion is so great that she has to be physically dragged into the room to meet the doltish marriage prospect. Meanwhile Getsel has gathered a small group to perform a masked Purim play at the matchmaking festivities. The merry entrance of the Purim jesters turns into a derisive parody of the nouveau riche father trying to buy "ikhes" (social standing) - When the outraged father unmasks Getsel the latter proclaims that a cobbler is still a cobbler no matter how much money he has. The match falls through and Getsel is unceremoniously kicked out. Esther approaches him and says "take me away with you". Things now look good for Getsel but he is, after all, a loser.

On the road with Esther he can't find a job to support her and they have to live like vagabonds on the verge of starvation. One day they come upon a cabaret where -- guess who? ~~Dick, is the MC up on stage! Esther mounts the stage, gets into a vaudeville song and dance duet with Dick (almost a parody of an MGM number), and they end up dancing the night away while Getsel looks woefully on. For a while, at Dick's generous invitation, Getsel hangs around but soon, realizing that three's a crowd, he moves off humbly on his own. Esther marries Dick, becomes rather well off herself, and confronts her father as a now successful bride. In the last scene Getsel passes the orchard and gazes up at the tree where he first saw Esther, then shuffles off. The camera picks up the same shot of the striding feet that we saw at the start, now heading the other way.

What is odd about this film is that the climax, the Purim play, comes in the middle—and the rest is denouement, all about how the hapless hero, Getsel, unquestionably the good guy, the sympathetic central figure of the piece, who loses the girl to a basically shallow jerk with a smooth line. one who isn't even very good looking. Nicely shot by a professional Polish crew on Polish country locations (once again the old Jewish town of Kazimierz na Wisle), and well acted, it looks as if director Green who was still learning the trade (this was his second collaboration with the Polish professional Przybilski) was trying, in his second outing as a co-director, to break away from some of the more worn clichés of the Yiddish theater and stake out new territory more in the line of mainstream cinema. While "Purimspieler" may not be quite as satisfying dramatically as his other three films, it is, in a way, the most experimental piece in the Green cannon and Zygmunt Turkow's Getsel, even though he turns out to be a sad sack after his big Purim scene, is somehow a shlimazel you can't quite forget

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