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The Pawnbroker (1964)

Approved | | Drama | 20 April 1965 (USA)
A Jewish pawnbroker, victim of Nazi persecution, loses all faith in his fellow man until he realizes too late the tragedy of his actions.

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(screenplay) (as Morton Fine), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Sol Nazerman
... Marilyn Birchfield
... Rodriguez
... Jesus Ortiz (as Jaime Sanchez)
Thelma Oliver ... Ortiz' Girl
... Tessie
... Mendel
... Mr. Smith
... Ruth Nazerman
Nancy R. Pollock ... Bertha
... Tangee
John McCurry ... Buck
... Robinson
... Mrs. Ortiz
Warren Finnerty ... Savarese
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Storyline

In a poor neighborhood of New York, the bitter and lonely Jewish pawnbroker Sol Nazerman is a survivor from Auschwitz that has no emotions or feelings. Sol lost his dearest family and friends in the war and his faith in God and belief in mankind. Now he only cares for money and is haunted by daydreams, actually flashbacks from the period of the concentration camp. Sol's assistant is the ambitious Latino Jesus Ortiz, who wants to learn with Sol how to run a business of his own. When Sol realizes that the obscure laundry business he has with the powerful gangster Rodriguez comes also from brothels, Sol recalls the fate of his beloved wife in the concentration camp and has a nervous breakdown. His attitude leads Jesus Ortiz to tragedy and Sol finds a way to cry. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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The Most Talked About Picture!

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

20 April 1965 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El prestamista  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$930,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sidney Lumet had approached Sir Laurence Olivier, Kirk Douglas, and Burl Ives to play the title role. See more »

Goofs

Quantity and location of blood on the lip is inconsistent. See more »

Quotes

Sol Nazerman: I do not believe in God, or art, or science, or newspapers, or politics, or philosophy.
Jesus Ortiz: Then, Mr. Teacher, ain't there nothing you do believe in?
Sol Nazerman: Money.
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Soundtracks

Soul Bossa Nova
(uncredited)
Written by Quincy Jones
Performed by Quincy Jones and His Orchestra
Courtesy of Mercury Records, Inc.
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User Reviews

Visually stunning, provocative drama.
5 October 2004 | by See all my reviews

Powerful drama centering around elderly NYC slum-area pawnbroker (Rod Steiger in Oscar nominated performance), tormented by his painful memories of Nazi concentration camp nightmare. Embittered, he brushes off all friendly people in his life, insisting that nothing matters and emotions are wasted.

Apparently "playing the system" for years, allowing king-pin thugs to use his store as a money laundering "front", while collecting his "cut", the no-nonsense pawnbroker is suddenly plagued by flashbacks, showing how his young wife and son are killed, and at once wanting to stop the evil workings of his hoodloom infested slum neighborhood. When the young "apprentice" he hired lays his own life on the line to protect him from being shot during a robbery, the pawnbroker shows his first human emotions since the horrific day he lost his family.

The flawless direction, masterful black & white cinematography, haunting Jazz score, along with innovative handling of the themes (racism, prostitution, social reforms, etc.), make this nothing less than a masterpiece. There is a sequence with prolonged nudity, considered daring during the "Hayes Code" years, even if it appears tame by today's standards. The scenes are not gratuitous, but essential to the plot. Still these scenes may make this film unsuitable for pre-teens.

Like Shindler's List, this is a film many may find painful to watch. By 1965 standards, the mere attempt of giving insight into the evils of the Holocaust was a strong move. The resulting product withstood the test of time and will endure. Named as his personal favorite work, "The Pawnbroker" gives us Rod Steiger's finest performance! Highly recommended.


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