Soap-opera about a social-climbing Jewish man and his old-world parents who are heartbroken by his rejection of them.Soap-opera about a social-climbing Jewish man and his old-world parents who are heartbroken by his rejection of them.Soap-opera about a social-climbing Jewish man and his old-world parents who are heartbroken by his rejection of them.
Enough about the poverty row qualifications. The film itself is an excellent Frank Capra work about a Jewish family in a poorer section of New York City. Don't expect the optimistic Capra of later years here, though. The film is surprisingly downbeat although the Capra themes of the importance of family and the evils of chasing riches for riches sake shine through.
The film opens with Julius Goldfish (Jean Hersholt) selling from his push-cart. Actually, he's loafing and talking with friends and ignoring the push-cart. His wife Tilda (Rosa Rosanova) scolds him about his loafing and says he'll never get ahead. Meanwhile their children do not get along with each other. Morris, their son, is always looking for ways to make money, even salvaging stuff from a burning building in order to have a fire sale. Birdie Goldfish (as an adult, Lina Basquette) and Eddie Lesser (as an adult, Rex Lease) are childhood sweethearts. Ma Goldfish is always building up Morris' industry and ingenuity, and Birdie is Pa Goldfish's pride and joy, although Ma and Pa love both children.
Time passes, and the adult Morris (Ricardo Cortez) builds up the push-cart into a thriving antique business and moves the entire family to Fifth Avenue, not so much because he wants his family with him, but because you feel he would be embarrassed to have it known that his family is living on the East Side. Morris even changes his name to Fish to leave his Jewish roots behind and be accepted in the gentile social circles of upper crust New York City. To this end he tries to control the lives of his parents and his grown sister, even shooting disapproving looks at his dad whenever he wears his prayer shawl. Eventually Morris turns his parents into museum pieces and pushes his sister out of the family when her marriage to Eddie embarrasses him socially. The end is bitter-sweet with a final scene that is hard to forget.
Highly recommended as a touching dawn of sound film and a showcase of Capra's talents during this technologically challenging era when so many others were making either stiffly acted static dramas or ludicrous musicals in this transitional year of all-talking pictures.
- Dec 16, 2009