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TEVYE (1939) * with hard-encoded English subtitles *

Maurice Schwartz; Miriam Riselle; Rebecca Weintraub; Paula Lubelski; Leon Liebgold; Vicki Marcus; Betty Marcus; Julius Adler ; Daniel Makarenko; Mikita Galagen; Helen Grossman; Morris Strassberg; Al Harris; Louis Weisberg;
$15.99

This 1939 film version of Sholem Aleichem's tale about the Jewish dairyman in the pre-revolutionary Pale of Settlement in Ukraine keeps closer faith to the original story than the 1971 film Fiddler on the Roof.  Nevertheless, this film combines the essence of the original tale with two prior works composed by Maurice Schwartz in 1919  (Schwartz also stars in this film as Tevye).   The film was put together on a 130-acre potato farm near Jericho, Long Island.  Midway through its shooting on 23 August 1939, the entire crew -- as well as most of the world -- were astonished to hear, that the Third Reich's foreign minister, von Ribbentrop, had concluded a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union's Stalin, thus effectively condemning the nascent Polish republic to an early death.  The news was especially distressing to many of those involved in the film's production, as they had families, who would be right in the path of Hitler's tanks.  Leon Liebgold (who plays Fedya Galagen in the film) booked passage on a boat leaving for Poland on 31 August.  However, as fate would have it, Tevye had fallen behind schedule due to a number of scenes being ruined by the location's proximity to Mitchell Airfield.  Liebgold's visa for Poland expired and he was compelled to delay departure.  The very next day, the Germans invaded Poland. 

Of particular note is the film's obvious animosity and aversion toward gentiles.  The speculation that this might have been due to current events taking place in Europe is probably less accurate an appraisal than the simple fact, that anti-Semitism was widespread and had been particularly virulent since the late 19th Century.  Unlike the 1971 version of the story, Chava -- who has married a Russian gentile and accepted his ways -- has a much more different fate than the modern-day daughter, who's firmness and heroic defiance of both her father and the hostile gentile world is a reflection of the attitudes of the rebellious 1970s and not those of the more perilous early 20th Century.  It was the Jews' place in most of the world at that time that dictates how Tevye and his family react to events ... and unlike the popular movie of the Seventies, it's a reaction that doesn't leave one with a "feel-good" impression.

DVD-R is in Yiddish with hard-encoded English subtitles.  Approx. 93 mins.  Some pixellization and softness.

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