This 1931 Yiddish comedy directed by Sidney Goldin was once touted as "the first Jewish musical comedy talking picture," though it doesn't have much music. Shot in New York in nine days, it's a fascinating example of the long-gone Yiddish film, with a wonderful performance by Ludwig Satz as a successful actor named Edouard Wien. The plot centers on a quarrel about the nature of women between Wien and his factory-owner uncle Oscar Stein, who bets Wien $10,000 that "there is not one honorable woman left in the world." To test this thesis, Wien dresses up as a rich old man to see whether he can convince a young woman, one of Stein's most upstanding employees, to marry him for his money. Satz excels at being both loud and babyish, his obnoxious mannerisms so exaggerated they become a vicious parody (like Stepin Fetchit and Jerry Lewis, he arguably mocks the stereotypes he portrays). The film's editing, with its oddly mismatched moments, recalls that of other early sound films, and the convoluted plot twists, while holding the viewer's attention at first, eventually become contrived. Though the film is interesting for historical reasons, it's the quirky, anarchic energy of Satz's performance that makes it worth seeing. Also being shown is the 1928 silent short Pass the Gravy, directed by Fred L. Guiol and starring Max Davidson. Presented in part by the Jewish Film Project, this is the first of six monthly programs focusing on Jewish humor in cinema. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, February 23, 2:00, 312-443-3737 . --Fred Camper
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.