This low-budget film cost only US $400,000 to make but grossed around US $5 million in the USA alone.
Breakthrough and first major film role of actress Carol Kane. The film garnered Kane her only ever Academy Award nomination for acting, for the Best Actress Oscar. Kane did not win, losing to Louise Fletcher for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975).
The picture had trouble getting distributed. The movie was consider too specialist, mainly of interest to a niche market of only audiences of a Jewish ethnicity, and without any mass or general appeal. In the end, the filmmakers decided to distribute the movie themselves.
Joan Micklin Silver wrote the film's screenplay in six weeks. Silver changed the emphasis of the film's source novel "Yekl" from a man's the point-of-view (the husband's POV) to a woman's perspective (the wife's POV).
The majority of the cast worked with a dialogue coach in order to competently deliver the Yiddish dialect effectively.
Director Joan Micklin Silver said of this film to 'American Film' magazine in 1989: "I thought, I'm going to make [a film] that will count for my family. My parents were Russian Jewish, and my father was no longer living, but I cared a lot about the ties I had to that world. So that was how Hester Street (1975) started."
Director Elia Kazan and editor Ralph Rosenblum viewed the film in rough cut and provided feedback to the filmmakers during post-production so as to advise the best way to shape the final structure of the picture.
Hester Street is a real life place in Manhattan in New York City. It is situated in Manhattan's Lower East Side. As depicted in this film, Hester Street has traditionally been a center of Jewish Ashkenazi culture amongst Jewish immigrants to New York.
Apparently, the cast's only non-actor was Mel Howard, who played Bernstein. Yiddish Howard was at the time the director of New York University's graduate film program. The picture was Howard's debut theatrical feature film as an actor.
The Hester Street in the film was not the real Hester Street in New York City's Manhattan. It was played by Morton Street in New York's Greenwich Village.
The film was labeled an "ethnic oddity . . . a lovely film, but for a Jewish audience" in the commercial American movie trade.
Despite the success of this film, and even with both a Writers' Guild Best Screenplay nomination for writer-director Joan Micklin Silver and an Academy Award Best Actress Oscar nomination for Carol Kane, the major Hollywood studios still refused to back the director's subsequent film project.
Debut theatrical feature film as both a writer and a director for Joan Micklin Silver.
First of only two filmed adaptations from a published story by Abraham Cahan. The second would be The Imported Bridegroom (1990) around fifteen years later.
Joan Micklin Silver director and Raphael D. Silver producer were married. This film was the first of a number of feature film collaborations they have worked on together.
The film was directed by a woman, Joan Micklin Silver, something which during the early 1970s, was not a very common occurrence.
The film was made and released about seventy-nine years after its source novel "Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto" by Abraham Cahan had been first published in 1896.
Screenwriter Joan Micklin Silver was moved by the film's source novel "Yekl" as it aroused emotions in her of her own Jewish parent's immigration to America.
The film was selected to screen in competition during the prestigious Critic's Week strand at the Cannes Film Festival in 1975.
The original Jewish name of the Jake character (played by Steven Keats) was Yankel Bogovnik.
Writer-director Joan Micklin Silver read the film's source novel "Yekl" during the early 1970s whilst working on a educational short film about Polish immigrants.
The amount of money Jake (Steven Keats) earned working as a seamster was $12 per week.