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His People
     

His People

Director: Edward H. Sloman, Edgar Sloman, Rudolph Schildkraut, Rosa Rosanova

Cast: Edward H. Sloman, Edgar Sloman, Rudolph Schildkraut, Rosa Rosanova

 
On the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early years of the twentieth century, a Jewish family struggles to survive -- David Cominsky (Rudolph Schildkraut), who was a man of learning and a teacher in Russia, ekes out a living from his pushcoart, selling the little items that his wife Rose (Rosa Rosanova) toils to make at home, so that their two sons, Morris and

Overview

On the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early years of the twentieth century, a Jewish family struggles to survive -- David Cominsky (Rudolph Schildkraut), who was a man of learning and a teacher in Russia, ekes out a living from his pushcoart, selling the little items that his wife Rose (Rosa Rosanova) toils to make at home, so that their two sons, Morris and Sammy, can have a better life. Morris, the older, likes to study, almost to the exclusion of much else; and Sammy, the younger, is always getting into fights and, as David says, is either going to commit murder or become a prize-fighter (which may be worse). When Sammy gets a dollar from a local tout (Edgar Kennedy) for winning a fight with a bigger boy who was picking on his brother, David is furious -- but it earns Sammy the admiration of Mamie Shannon, the girl who lives in the next apartment over. By the time they're in their early 20's, both boys are moving into the bigger world beyond the ghetto, and are also forced to hide aspects of their new lives from their parents -- and visa versa. Morris (Arthur Lubin) is an attorney and an associate in a law firm, with lots of friends uptown; his employer, former judge Nathan Stein (Bertram Marburgh), even sees him as a potential fiance for his daughter Ruth (Virginia Brown Faire); but he is also doing his best to hide his Lower East Side background from his more worldly friends, claiming he is an orphan; and Sammy (George Lewis) is getting ready to go into the ring professionally, under the name "Battling Rooney," and has been stepping out with Mamie (Blanche Mehaffey). When he learns of Sammy's secret fighting, David is devastated by the fact that one of his sons should become a boxer and throws him out of the house; and when Morris announces that he is leaving home, to live uptown in order to further his career, the Cominsky parents feel as though they've lost a part of themselves. David keeps at his pushcart, scratching out a living even in the dead of winter -- meanwhile, Rose secretly visits Sammy to watch out for him, and he secretly gives her money. When Morris arrives one day to say that he needs money for a dress suit, David sells the coat that that has kept him warm through winters going back to Russia, to buy him a suit -- which Morris throws away in disdain as soon as he leaves their home; but in running his errand, David has caught pneumonia, and Morris neglects to come to see him -- Sammy arrives and pretends to be his older brother, and the subterfuge helps get his father through; in the process, he also decides to settle down and marry Mamie. But now David needs to move to someplace warmer and more hospitable than New York, such as California -- Sammy decides to return to the ring with his old manager when the latter loses his best fighter on the eve of a championship match. On the same night that Sammy is fighting his heart out to help his father, David learns that Morris has abandoned the family, and multiple confrontations ensue as proud old man finally starts to see the truth about both of his sons and his own mistakes.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
His People was among the earliest serious dramas from a major studio (Universal) to deal with life among the Jewish poor in America -- for that reason alone, it's a movie of major interest to contemporary viewers, especially when one takes into consideration Hollywood's general tendency to shy away from Jewish-oriented subject matter, for fear of calling attention to the ethnicity of most of the men who founded the major studios. But beyond its value as an artifact of its time -- and it does vividly capture aspects of Jewish life on the dramatic screen that were true to contemporary life from the 1880's into the 1920's and beyond -- it is still a superb film. Director Edward H. Sloman was renowned for being able to get supremely naturalistic performances out of his actors and here, with a cast led by Rudolph Schildkraut (and including two future directors, Arthur Lubin and Robert Gordon), he outdoes himself. One quickly forgets the "fourth wall" of cinema in watching these performers work, and what's even more effective with modern viewers is that the dialogue -- on inter-titles, of course -- is also very much from life, and perfectly fits the nuances of the performances. We even get a performance by Edgar Kennedy in a dramatic context, in a dramatic role as Nolan, the local tout who becomes Sammy Cominsky's manager. Of course, the movie also benefits from an extraordinarily durable story -- the plot of His People is just as relevant in the twenty-first century as it was in 1925, and the performances and direction (including a lot of very lively and striking visuals) make it viable as viewing more than 80 years later, even as a silent. Indeed, this is one of that relative handful of silents that allows one to quickly forget that we're watching a silent movie -- it pulls you in from the opening frames depicting life on New York's Lower East Side and never lets you go. In the latter regard, this is also a brilliant movie about New York, and not just about New York's Jewish immigrants of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries -- about a side of life that's too seldom chronicled but had as much to do with the making and running of the city as the careers of all the mayors, governors, and presidents who passed through the city on their way to biggest things.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/31/2013
UPC:
0842614105869
Original Release:
1925
Source:
Grapevine Video
Sales rank:
64,266

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