In this look at Yiddish filmmaking and its changing perspectives during the era of the early sound pictures (1930s), director Russ Karel uses film clips taken from the archives of the National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and he also illustrates his subject with still photos, old posters, and other mementos from this period. Orson Welles narrates. About one and a half million Jews came to settle in New York in the first two decades of the 20th century, and many of these early immigrants such as Louis B. Mayer went to Hollywood and found future success as actors, directors, screenwriters, and producers. The revolutionary talkie film that saved the Warner Bros.' studio from financial ruin, The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson (1927) was almost made in Yiddish. In fact, Yiddish was so common in the 1930s that for the entire decade -- ending significantly with the beginning of World War II -- Yiddish films continued to be created, not only in the U.S., but in Europe as well. The 1997 French film Madame Jacques sur la Croisette is another poignant if fictional, look at the vanishing culture of the Ashkenazi Jews and their distinctive Yiddish language.
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