YIDDLE WITH HIS FIDDLE (aka: Yidl Mitn Fidl)
(directors: Joseph Green/Jan Nowina-Przybylski; screenwriters: from the novel by Konrad Tom/Joseph Green; cinematographers: Jack Jonilowicz/Seweryn Steinwurzel; editor: ; music: Abraham Ellstein; cast: Molly Picon (Yiddle), Simche Fostel (Father), Max Bozyk (Isaac), Leon Liebgold (Froym), Samuel Landau (Zalman Gold), Dora Fakiel (Taybele), Symche Natan (R. Singer, theater manager), Chana Lewin (The Widow); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Joseph Green/Jacob Kalich; Ergo; 1936-Poland-in Yiddish with English subtitles)
“Cheerful Yiddish musical comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Joseph Green codirects with Jan Nowina-Przybylski this cheerful Yiddish musical comedy. It was the first international Yiddish hit. The interiors were shot in a Warsaw film studio, while the location shots were in Kazimierz. It stars the diminutive Molly Picon, who was at the time the most popular vaudevillian on the American Yiddish stage.
When the Yiddle (Molly Picon), a violinist, and her bass playing father (Simche Fostel) can’t pay the rent, they wander the countryside and with the Yiddle disguised as a boy they play in the town streets to get some small change donations. They are soon joined by other street musicians, the talkative clarinet playing Isaac (Max Bozyk) and his fiddler handsome son Froym (Leon Liebgold), whom Yiddle falls in love with but can’t reveal her true gender.
The film’s centerpiece takes place in a restaurant where a wealthy but unpleasant elderly merchant, Zalman Gold (Samuel Landau), is set to marry a pretty young bride, Taybele (Dora Fakiel), who loves a poor electrician but is forced to marry the rich man by her mother. While the guests are dancing, the unhappy bride runs off with the musicians and joins them as a singer. Yiddle is jealous that Froym is in love with Taybele, but when the musicians go to Warsaw she soon learns that Froym’s only helping her locate her true love electrician boyfriend. While singing in the courtyard, a theater producer (Symche Natan) discovers Taybele and hires her to be the headline singer in his revue. When she gets stage fright and leaves the theater, the Yiddle drops her disguise as a boy and wows the audience as she takes Taybele’s place. The successful show then travels to New York, where the Yiddle reunites with Froym in a happy ending.
The film gives you some rough idea of what life was like for the Polish Jews of 1936 (a way of life that no longer exists), and also dazzles with a lot of lively songs. Picon does her corny comic shtick, which didn’t do much for me; but she has oodles of charm and her role was the prototype for Streisand’s Yentl.
REVIEWED ON 2/5/2008 GRADE: B+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/