David is a poor but ambitious Polish Jew who reinvents himself as a powerful New York business magnate. After gaining wealth, he relocates to Paris, only to have his selfish and demanding wife squander his fortune.
With "David Golder" ,Duvivier the great director,the master of the darker side of the human soul was born.It contained the seeds of all that would be developed afterward.
Harry-Baur gives a powerful performance of a wealthy Jewish businessman;he is so good that the actresses seem mediocre by comparison.
David Golder thinks that money can buy everything;he does not want to help his associate who takes his own life ("I do not care"°;his wife and his daughter live in luxury and would not imagine it any other way:see the daughter stroke the banknotes which her dad won for her.She displays no love,no tenderness,no human emotion at all.Later when she comes back to her desperate father,she will have the same behavior.
And then David has a heart attack! The missus is not prepared to accept poverty.While the man is lying on his bed she begins to tell him he may die soon and she has not a Franc to her name.A masterful scene where David grabs her by the throat and almost strangles her with her valuable necklace:"What about that?" he thunders.There's a similar scene in "Chair de Poule" (1963) when Catherine Rouvel tries to worm information from a wounded bedridden Robert Hossein;and Golder's shrew is not unlike Danielle Delorme's abominable mother in "Voici le temps des assassins" (1956) Like many Duvivier heroes ,Golder ,although a ruthless financier ,is still a human being.When he loses the power that gives money ,he thinks that his daughter's love will make up for it.Unfortunately there's no place for love in a world where rapaciousness and greed run rampant.
Duvivier's blackness is absolute disembodied blackness.David will go to his grave a broken man .on his death bed,his sufferings are so intense we feel them within our body and our soul.
Some people think that there's anti-Semitism in the film .There isn't: Harry Baur's wife was a Jew.
Based on Irene Nemirovsky's novel; a writer who sadly was to die in the concentration camps.