Film and Jewish Culture Bridging Two Worlds
YIDDISH Film Between Two Worlds" was organized by Museum of Modern Art curator Adrienne Mancia, Sharon Pucker Rivo of the National Center for Jewish Film, and J. Hoberman, author and critic. Highlights include:"The Dybbuk," Poland, 1937. A student of ancient Jewish lore conjures with the devil's name, loses his life in the process, and returns as a spirit to possess the body of his loved one. None of the main characters are entirely good or evil in this stagy but unforgettable version of a classic Yiddish play, directed by Michal Waszynski. "Tevya," US, 1939. Maurice Schwartz directed and stars in this adaptation of Sholom Aleichem's play about a Jewish dairyman who disowns his daughter when she marries into another faith. The tale of family strife in the old country is underlain by fears of assimilation and anti-Semitic pogroms, lending complexity and unexpected sadness to the film. "Yiddle With His Fiddle," Poland, 1936. Leading star Molly Picon plays a girl disguised as a boy wandering the countryside with her father, an itinerant musician. Joseph Green and Jan Nowina-Przbylski directed the corny but charming romance. "American Matchmaker," US, 1940. Edgar G. Ulmer, later an auteur of low-budget Hollywood pictures, directed this gently mournful comedy about Americanization, focusing on a New Yorker who becomes a matchmaker after his eighth attempt at marriage fizzles out. Filmed in long and leisurely shots, with lovely violin music that harkens to the Vienna of Franz Lehar. "East and West," Austria, 1923. A student slips a ring on Molly Picon's finger as a joke, then discovers that the law is strict about such things, and they're actually married now. She learns to love him, but not before he woos her in disguise and finds that inner faith is more important than outward signs of Jewish identity. Directed by Sidney M. Goldin. "Uncle Moses," US, 1932. Among the earliest Yiddish films produced in New York, this masterful drama touches on assimilation, Americanization, and modernization via the emotionally complex story of a garment-factory owner who dominates his employees, resists union organizers, and courts a teenage bride by lavishing gifts on her parents. Maurice Schwartz, a founder of the Yiddish Art Theater, plays the title character. Sidney Goldin and Aubrey Scotto directed.