|Amerikaner Shadkhn (The American
Matchmaker), 1940, USA
Cast: Leo Fuchs, Judith Abarbanel, Rosetta Bialis, Yudel Dubinsky,
Abe Lax, Anna Guskin, Celia Budkin, William Mercur, Esther Adler
In this delightful comedy, Leo Fuchs plays a wealthy man, unhappily married several times, who decides that if he cannot have happiness he can at least bring joy to the lives of others by becoming a modern day "matchmaker." Life becomes all the more complicated when he realizes, too late, that one of his female clients is better suited for him than the man he originally chose for her.
# IM517, 87 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles,
$32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|A Brivele der Mammen (A Letter
to Mother), 1938, Poland
Cast: Lucy Gehrman, Misha Gehrman, Max Bozyk, Edmund Zayenda,
Max Bozyk, Gertrude Bullman, Alexander Stein, Itshok Grudberg, Simche Fostel,
Shmuel Landau, Chana Lewin, Irving Bruner, Gustav Berger.
"...arguably the most artful and shameless of Yiddish weepies." (J. Hoberman) "Set in the Ukraine before World War I and in New York afterwards, this was one of the last films made in Poland (Warsaw) before the Nazi invasion. Its tale of loss, family disintegration and poverty serves director Joseph Green as a metaphor for the displacements and difficulties facing European Jews in 1939. Lucy Gehrman's performance as the storekeeper-mother, whose heroic attention to the everyday eventually rewards her travails, stands out, as do Max Bozyk and Chane Levin's comic interludes." (National Center for Jewish Film) A wonderful mix of intense melodrama and stylized comedy.
# IM510, 103 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles,
$32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Der Dibuk (The Dybbuk), 1937,
Cast: Avrom Marevsky, Isaac Samberg, Lili Liliana, Leon Liebgold,
Moyshe Lipman, Dina Halpern, Max Bozyk, Shmuel Landau, David Lederman,
S. Branecki, Abraham Kurc, M. Messinger, G. Lamberger
Considered by some to be the greatest of Yiddish films, it was certainly the boldest undertaking, requiring special sets and unusual lighting. In Der Dibuk, as in mysticism and love, the past has a magnetic pull on the present, and the dead are as alluring as the living. Khonnon (Leon Liebgold) and Leah (Lili Liliana), betrothed before birth, meet, knowing nothing of the vows. Khonnon becomes obsessed with Leah and begins to dabble in the kabbala. Leah is betrothed to a wealthy man, and Khonnon offers her his body, soul and intelligence--via Satan--and dies. Leah's father invites the spirit of her dead mother to the wedding; Leah invites Khonnon from the grave. The film is filled with haunting, unforgettable scenes that verge on the surreal, set to choreography by Judith Berg. Jewish mysticism links with expressionism--as in Nosferatu or Vampyr, man is an insubstantial presence in the cinematic ether. S. Ansky's play was written during the turbulent years of 1912-1917; Waszynski's 1937 film was made during another period of prewar unease. It was shot on location in rural Poland, and captures a rich folk heritage. Noted Warsaw historian Meyer Balaban oversaw the accuracy of the presentation.
# IM505, 100 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Di Freylekhe Kabtsonim
(The Jolly Paupers), 1937, Poland
Cast: Jennie Lovie, Shimen Dzigan, Yisroel Schumacher, Ruth Turkow,
Chana Lewin, Max Brin, Max Bozyk, Menashe Oppenheim, Simche Natan, S. Goldstein,
Broderson had discovered Dzigan and Schumacher, probably the greatest Yiddish comedians of all times. Di Freylekhe Kabtsonim is about a promoter who tricks a local tailor by "planting" oil on a farm. Investigators are brought in and this results in comic situations until the real source of the oil is finally discovered.
# IM507, 62 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00
|Got, Mentsh un Tayvl (God,
Man and Devil), 1949, USA
Cast: Michel Michalesko, Berta Gersten, Gustav Berger, Lucy Gehrman,
Max Bozyk, Shifra Lehrer, Leon Schechter, Esta Salzman, Joshua Zeldis
Based on Jacob Gordin's play about the transformation of a traditional Jew into a man of station whose greed destroys everything around him. A reworking of "Faust," the devil has overpowered the poor man, causing him to divorce his wife, effect a murder, and bring about his own ruin. At the time it was Seiden's biggest project ever, and biggest budget ever, with Sholem Secunda hired as composer-conductor.
# IM521, 100 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Grine Felder (Green Fields),
Cast: Michael Goldstein, Helen Beverly, Isidore Cashier, Anna
Appel, Leah Noemi, Dena Drute, Max Vodnoy, Saul Levine, Herschel Bernardi
Based on the play by Peretz Hirschbein. An ascetic-quixotic yeshiva student sets out in search of "true Jews"--those whose spirit is the more profound for their connection to the land, unadulterated by the evils of city life. He finds that and more, as he becomes the quarry of two farm families who want him for their children's tutor. Quite in spite of himself the dreamy pedant (Michael Goldstein) inspires a variety of desires including a lust for learning in the irrepressible Tsine (Helen Beverly) and her wide-eyed brother Avrem-Yankl (Herschel Bernardi). Theater director/actor Jacob Ben-Ami is credited with giving the film its "authentic flavor." On the other hand, who but Edgar G. Ulmer--Hollywood's stylish, expressionist "King of the Bs"--could have transformed New Jersey locations and a New York studio set into bucolic-rustic Old Russia, with its delicately balanced relationships? "Green Fields celebrates a vanished world of tribal wholeness and stubborn piety.... Sweet but unsentimental, the film exudes a dreamy pantheism unique in Yiddish Film." (J. Hoberman)
# IM508, 120 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00
|Hayntike Mames (Mothers of
Today), 1939, USA
Cast: Esther Field, Max Rosenblatt, Gertie Krause, Paula Lubelska,
Vera Lebedoff, Arthur Winters, Simon Wolf, Jack Shargel, Leon Seidenberg,
A touching melodrama about a cantor's son who steals, runs off with a woman of "questionable morality," and even breaks his mother's heart. The filmmakers were trying to make a statement about the erosion of Jewish life and tradition, as they knew it. The film reflects a fear that America had corrupted the values of the new generation and that there was little that could be done.
# IM514, 86 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Dem Khazns Zindl (The
Cantorís Son), 1937, USA
Cast: Moishe Oysher, Florence Weiss, Judith
Abarbanel, Michael Rosenberg, Isidore Cashier, Yehuda Bleich, Bertha Guttenberg,
Irving Honigman, Rose Wallerstein, Lorraine Abarbanel, Vicki Marcus
Barely able to subsist, a young immigrant lands a job as a custodian, where he is "discovered" and gains immediate fame. That success, though, seems meaningless as he longs for home. Based on Moyshe Oysher's life.
# IM504 90 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Kol Nidre, 1939, USA
Cast: Lili Liliana, Leon Leibgold, Leibele Waldman, Joel Feig
Double Choir, Menashe Oppenheim, Bertha Hart, Mischa Stutchkoff, Chaim
Tauber, Yetta Zwerling, David Lederman
A tearful melodrama, with a happy ending. A woman about to end her own life is reunited with her family as the solemn "Kol Nidre" is chanted, beginning the Day of Atonement. With comedy, and beautiful songs written by Sholem Secunda and performed by Cantor Leibele Waldman.
# IM515, 85 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $2.00 ($36.00)
|Mamele (Little Mother), 1938,
Cast: Molly Picon, Edmund Zayenda, Max Bozyk, Simche Fostel,
Gertrude Bullman, Menashe Oppenheim, Ola Shlifko, Max Perlman, Ruth Turkow,
Shmuel Landau, Lew Schriftzetzer, Carl Latowich, Max Brin, Adam Domb, Edward
Ten years after her stage success in Mamele, Molly Picon was still able to pull off the role of Khavtshi, who promises her dying mother she will look after her four older siblings and perpetually unemployed Papa (Max Bozyk). The "little mother" exercises her creative impulses by selecting her sisters' suitors and acting as advice-central for the tenement. Though unappreciated by all (but us), she's both vivacious and self-aware: in one of the film's high points she sings her way through the stages of a woman's life, from girlhood to old age. Transposed from the stage play's Lower East Side to Lodz, Poland, director Green's hometown, and edited just in time for its makers to leave Warsaw for friendlier ground, "Mamele embraces prewar Polish-Jewish life in all its diversity, including tenements and unemployment, nightclubs and Jewish gangsters, and religious Jews at Succoth, the harvest festival." (National Center for Jewish Film)
# IM511, 95 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 ($36.00)
|Mazl Tov Yidn (Mazel Tov,
Jews), 1941, USA
Cast: Michael Rosenberg, Leo Fuchs, Yetta
Zwerling, Chaim Tauber, Leibele Waldman, Esta Salzman, Hanna Hollander,
Lili Liliana, Jacob Zanger, Menashe Oppenheim, Gustav Berger, Seymour Rechtzeit,
In this compilation of Seiden's shorts and feature film clips, the multi-star cast creates a delightful and amusing celebration, a tribute to the Golden Years of Yiddish song, dance and comedy.
# IM519, 120 minutes, B&W, Yiddish and English, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Mirele Efros, 1938, USA
Cast: Berta Gersten, Michael Rosenberg, Ruth Elbaum, Albert Lipton,
Sarah Krohner, Moishe Feder, Louis Brandt, Jerry Rosenberg, Ruben Wendroff,
Jacob Mestel, Paula Walter, Moishe Schorr, Eugene Sigaloff, Clara Deutchman
Jacob Gordin's classic play about a noble, dignified widow and successful businesswoman who comes into conflict with the daughter-in-law she chose for her son. Her generosity and love for her son lead to her own undoing. A classic study in the relations between mothers- and daughters-in-law.
# IM512, 91 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Der Purimshpiler (The
Jester), 1937, Poland
Cast: Hymie Jacobson, Zygmond Turkow, Miriam Kressyn, Isaac Samberg,
Max Bozyk, Berta Litwina, Eni Liton, Max Brin, Jacob Rajnglas, Shmuel Landau,
"Set in a Galician shtetl before World War II, this musical comedy focuses on three characters: the sad vagabond peasant jester, Getsel; a vaudeville performer in a traveling circus; and a shoemaker's daughter, whose father tries to marry her into a prominent family. The climax is a traditional Purim festival during which the performers drive off the rich suitor's family..." (National Center for Jewish Film) "A wistful romance that's interspersed with songs but rooted in the wisecracks and banter of oral Yiddish culture. Green's films are always part documentary... even the studio scenes are populated by an army of Old World Jewish extras." (J. Hoberman) Green created a convincing "shtetl set" on the outskirts of Warsaw, and also filmed on location in Krakow. Aside from the song lyrics, the famed Itzik Manger wrote some of the dialogue.
# IM506, 90 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Tevye der Milkhiker
(Tevye the Milkman), 1939, Poland
Cast: Maurice Schwartz, Miriam Riselle,
Rebecca Weintraub, Paula Lubelska, Leon Liebgold, Vicki Marcus, Julius
Adler, Morris Strassberg, Boas Young, Helen Grossman, Betty Marcus, David
Makarenko, Louis Weisberg, Al Harris
When the restored Tevye was re-released in 1979-1980, critics felt they had found the screen Tevye in Maurice Schwartz, the great Yiddish actor-director. Tevye the Dairyman is a kind of Jewish Everyman, struggling to hold on to that which defines him against the winds of change. The film, adapted from a stage play written by Sholem Aleichem based on his famous stories, focuses on two crises in Tevye's life: the conversion of his daughter Khave (Miriam Riselle) to Christianity in order to marry a Russian intellectual, and the expulsion of the Jews from the small Russian town that was Tevye's birthplace. Critic Rob Baker wrote, "Tevye is a pastoral gem comparable to much of the best of Pagnol [and] Renoir.... Filmed in Long Island, the film's accuracy in capturing the cultural patina of the day-to-day life of Russian Jews is striking." In 1991, this film was selected for inclusion in the United States National Film Registry.
# IM516, 90 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Uncle Moses, 1932, USA
Cast: Maurice Schwartz, Zvee Scooker, Judith Abarbanel, Mark
Schweid, Rubin Goldberg, Sally Schor, Rebecca Weintraub, Jacob Mestel,
Sam Gertler, Leon Seidenberg, Wolf Goldfaden
"Maurice Schwartz, the monarch of New York's Yiddish theater, plays a sweatshop owner in Uncle Moses.... Patriarch and exploiter, cunning businessman and dazzled suitor, Moses is a symphony of contradictions, which Schwartz orchestrates brilliantly." (Richard Corliss, Time, 1992) The first Yiddish sound film to deal with a contemporary social theme, Uncle Moses is a portrayal of life on the Lower East Side, depicting transplanted Jews whose values are not so much unraveling as transmogrifying before our eyes in the sweatshops and crowded tenements. Moses--in Poland, a lowly butcher, in America, the benevolent despot of Orchard Street--would seem the apotheosis of change, but not really. He himself represents an old order, the patriarch who asserts that his workers are mishpokhe (family--but they're not buying it), whose vanity produces sundry progeny, whose deep pockets buy him a bride (or rather, her family.) Change comes only when he realizes that, as a human being, he is powerlessness in pressed pants. Then Schwartz's delightfully comic ham transforms into that thing that had him known as "the Olivier of the Yiddish stage."
# IM502, 80 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Unzere Kinder (Our Children),
Cast: Shimen Dzigan, Yisroel Schumacher,
"Not only among the first films about the Holocaust, it is also the first to critique its representation." (J. Hoberman) Suppressed by the postwar Communist government as too "pro-Zionist," then lost for over thirty years, Unzere Kinder features the comedy duo Shimen Dzigan and Yisroel Schumacher. Recently returned to Poland from the Soviet Union, they explore the impact of the Holocaust on survivors, particularly the children of an orphanage/school near Lodz. Performing for the children, the comics are told in no uncertain terms that they have oversentimentalized the wartime conditions that these kids survived by their own wits. In the most delightful scene, the duo stage a playlet based on Sholem Aleichem's "Kasrilevke Is Burning," in which they take all the roles including the women. The children themselves perform in this film that explores the healing possibilities of song, dance, and storytelling, and the question of whether it is more therapeutic to remember or to forget.
# IM520, 75 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Der Vilner Shtot
Khazn (The Vilna Cantor / Overture to Glory), 1940, USA
Cast: Moishe Oysher, Helen Beverly, Florence Weiss, Baby Winkler,
Maurice Krohner, Lazar Freed, Benjamin Fishbein, Jack Mylong Munz, Ossip
Dymow, Leonard Elliot, Luba Wesoly, Ivan Busatt, Erika Zaranova
Yankel Der Shmid's Moishe Oysher here portrays a cantor who faces a rather different sort of "B" temptation--Beethoven and Bach, the world of Gentile music. Leaving his family for Warsaw and the opera, he is drawn by the attentions of a countess (Helen Beverly) before tragedy brings him back to the Vilna synagogue he had deserted, to sing one last Kol Nidre. Telling an allegedly true story that had become the stuff of orthodox Jewish folklore, the film did what it set out to do: The New York Times wrote, "designed...to tug upon the heartstrings susceptible to plaintive ritual singing, religious ceremonials, touches of filial piety...the sweet smile of a dying child or the face of a wandering father outside a candlelit window on a rainy night. All are generously provided." Based (uncredited) on the play Der Vilner Balebesl by Mark Arnshteyn.
# IM518, 85 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Vu Iz Mayn Kind (Where
is my Child?), 1937, USA
Cast: Celia Adler, Anna Lillian, Morris Strassberg, Ruben Wendroff,
Morris Silberkasten, Blanche Bernstein, Mischa Stutchkoff, Ceril Arnon,
Leon Schechtman, Solomon Steinberg, Esther Gerber
Based on a Louis Freiman story. A widowed mother turns over her child for adoption and then is committed to an asylum for a number of years. There, twenty years later, she is reunited with him. The film raises the important issue of inhumane treatment of the mentally ill, the only Yiddish film to take on such a difficult subject. Celia Adler's work in the lead role, and George Roland's editing, are outstanding.
# IM509, 92 minutes, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Yankl Der Shmid (The
Singing Blacksmith), 1938, USA
Cast: Moishe Oysher, Miriam Rissele, Ben-Zvi Baratoff, Florence
Weiss, Anna Appel, Michael Goldstein, Leah Noemi, Max Vodnoy, Yudel Dubinsky,
Benjamin Fishbein, Ruben Wendroff, Herschel Bernardi
Yankel Der Shmid was a vehicle for the rich vocal talents of cantor and matinee idol Moishe Oysher (who works a little "scat" into the repertoire). Shot on the cheap in a "shtetl" created in New Jersey, using extras from a nearby monastery (they had beards), The Singing Blacksmith looks more like Edgar Ulmer's Hollywood B films than his better-known Green Fields, but "it was probably modeled on the Soviet musicals of the period: folkloric, montage-filled, and thoroughly class-conscious" (National Film Theatre). Though set in the old world, it speaks to anxieties of the transplanted Jew in the character of Yankl, a proletarian-identified smithy who is tempted by drink and women until centered by the love of a progressive young woman. "This colorful romantic melodrama brims with stock comic characters--a matchmaker, peasants, a suspicious mother-in-law, a seductive woman, and a pious weak husband--but their activities pale before Oysher's splendid voice and presence, and Ulmer's poetic direction." (National Center for Jewish Film)
# IM513, 95 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Yidishe Glickn (Jewish
Luck / Menakhem Mendl / Yevreiskoye Schastye), 1925, Russia
Cast: Solomon Mikhoels, Tamara Adelheim, T. Hazak, M. Goldblatt,
Y. Shidlo, E. Rogaler, S. Epstein
This adaptation of the Menakhem Mendel Letters by Sholem Aleichem, filtered through Isaac Babel, who wrote the original Russian intertitles, and photographed by Eduard Tissé (before his work with Eisenstein,) is considered by many to be one of the three or four finest Yiddish films ever made. With the Moscow Yiddish State Theater; and starring Solomon Mikhoels in his screen debut, Jewish Luck represents an extraordinary meeting of Russian-Jewish talent. Sholem Aleichem made Menakhem Mendl a classic Jewish figure of tsarist Russia, the luftmensch--literally, a man who lives on air--whose schemes are only dreams, and whose dreams are of something vaguely if universally understood as Jewish luck. He slips from one doomed strike-it-rich scheme to the next, first failing as a corset salesman, then trying his luck as a "shadkhn." He falls asleep and dreams that he is outside Odessa's Grand Palace with Baron de Hirsch, preparing to export these brides to America. The dream ends after a matchmaking calamity, and Menakhem Mendl, without money or profession, leaves in search of better "luck.." Throughout, he refuses to concede to tsarist Russia's oppressive restriction of Jews. His quixotic persistence transforms Menakhem Mendel from schlemiel to hero, as Granovsky and Mikhoels uncover the tragic underpinnings of Sholem Aleichem's comic tales.
# IM501, 100 minutes, B&W, silent with Yiddish and English titles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Yidl Mitn Fidl (Yidíl
with His Fiddle), 1936, Poland
Cast: Molly Picon, Leon Liebgold, Max Bozyk, Simche Fostel, Shmuel
Landau, Dora Fakiel, Chaya Levin, Basia Liebgold, S. Nathan, A. Kurc
The first truly international Yiddish hit. Molly Picon's vaudeville antics are backed by some of the most enchanting music of any Yiddish film, in the tale of itinerant klezmorim and the girl (Molly at 37!) who disguises herself as a boy to join them. The plot takes them through countryside to town and the Warsaw stage, even to Second Avenue, New York, and is not without romance nor a feminist touch: Yid'l gets it all, her man and a musical career. The film "offers a still-fresh collection of Picon's characterizations and routines--ranging from the tipsy yeshive boy to the overexcited chatterbox to the pert gamine." (J. Hoberman) Joseph Green filmed on location in Warsaw and Kazimierz (where he employed shtetl inhabitants as extras) and the result is a wonderful folk comedy that has the authentic feel of small-town and urban Polish-Jewish life, affirming both in a period of growing anti-Semitism. Opening in New York City at the Ambassador Theater in January 1937, the film received much critical praise. The New York Times: "Miss Picon puts so much infectious gayety, not forgetting the proper modicum of sadness, into the action that the result is genuine entertainment." Its success set into motion the so-called Golden Age of Yiddish Cinema, a period which lasted from 1936 until the Nazi invasion of Poland in September, 1939.
# IM503, 86 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
|Di Kleyne Mentshelekh,
Featuring the three Shmuliks - Rudensky, Atzmon, and Segal - great Israeli actors performing some of Shalom Aleichemís most beloved stories.
# IM551, 100 minutes, color, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00
Burstyn: A Khasene in Shtetl (A Wedding in the Shtetl), Israel
Cast: Mike Burstyn and Lilian Lux (his mother!)
A full three hours of the world famous Yiddish Hassidic musical comedy. A live show filmed at the Jerusalem Theater with all the dances, songs and jokes.
# IM552, 180 minutes, color, Yiddish, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
Burstyn - Yiddish Concert in Israel
Mike Burstyn demonstrates his extraordinary talents in this memorable show with Yiddish jokes and shtetl stories. A treasure for Yiddish stage lovers.
# IM553, 60 minutes, color, Yiddish, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
the Living with Dudu Fisher, Israel
From the killing fields Europe to the hills of Jerusalem: Israeli singing star Dudu Fisher travels to the scenes of his familyís destruction, singing the unforgettable Yiddish and cantorial songs of the victims, followed by songs in Hebrew of a free people in its own land. Also includes a message from Rabbi Israel Lau - currently Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel.
# IM554, 100 minutes, color, $32.00 (Cat. $36.00)
Shimen Dzigan, Israel (# IV555)
The S. Dzigan Show, Israel (# IV556)
These two videos contain many different funny sketches taken from Dziganís live stand-up comedy shows which he did in Israel. These sketches were kept for years in the archives of the Israel Broadcast Authority, and were recently released. The best Yiddish stand-up comedy!
# IM556, 60 minutes, B&W, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00
|Lomir Ale Zingen: Yiddish
Sing-Along with Mike Burstyn, Israel
Mike Burstyn performs beautifully and is accompanied by talented young singers and dancers. Sing along with Mike as he performs the most famous Yiddish songs.
# IM557, 35 minutes, color, Yiddish with English subtitles, $32.00