My Yiddish Movies

All movies are on DVD and have English subtitles. All movies are black & white, except where noted.

Yiddle With His Fiddle. (Yidl Mitn Fidl) Poland. 1936. 92 minutes. Comedy. The most financially successful Yiddish film ever made. Starring Molly Picon, the top comedienne of Yiddish movies, theater, and vaudeville. This is the story of an impoverished girl who dresses as a boy in order to get an education and make money. Yiddle became the basis of several later Hollywood movies, including 'Yentl' starring Barbara Streisand.

Tevye. (Tevye the Milkman) (Tevye der Milkhiker) United States. 1939. 96 minutes. Drama. Tevye is the central character in a number of stories by Sholem Aleichem. This movie centers on Chave, one of Tevye's daughters. Chave marries a Christian and is shunned by Tevye, who cannot accept the marriage. The Tevye stories later became the basis for 'Fiddler on the Roof.'

Green Fields. (Grine Felder) United States. 1937. 95 minutes. Drama. The most critically acclaimed American Yiddish film. Winner of the Best Foreign Film Award in France in 1938. The story of a traveling scholar who travels through Lithuania in search of 'true Jews.'

The Jester. (Der Purimspiler) Poland. 1937. 90 minutes. Drama. The story of a lonely wanderer and the daughter of the town's shoemaker, who tries to marry her off into a wealthy family. Contains lively Jewish vaudeville music and set pieces. Most of the film's crew and actors were killed in the Holocaust.

Jolly Paupers. (Freylekhe Kabtsonim). Poland. 1937. 62 minutes Musical comedy. The famous Jewish comic duo Dzigan and Shumacher believe that they have struck oil in a local field. The whole town finds out leading to a comedy of error, including millionaire investors, American schemers, and insane asylums.

The Light Ahead. (Fishke the Lame) United States. 1939. 94 minutes. Drama. Impoverished and disabled lovers Fishke and Hodel dream of life in the big city of Odessa, where they will be free from poverty and where they imagine there is no anti-Semitism. Made on the eve of World War 2, the movie is painfully conscious of the danger about to engulf the Jews of Eastern Europe.

Mamale. (Little Mother) Poland. 1938. 100 minutes. Musical comedy. A wonderful musical comedy with upbeat songs, nightclubs, unemployed Jews, gangsters, and religious Jews celebrating Sukkot. Includes Molly Picon's trademark theme song 'Abi Gezunt.'

Unser Kinder. (Our Children) Poland. 1948. 68 minutes. Drama and comedy. My personal favorite Yiddish film. The last Yiddish film ever made in Poland. Features the famous Yiddish comedy duo Dzigan and Shumacher, who play all the parts in a Sholem Aleichem story staged for an audience of children who survived the Holocaust. Both funny and grim, the children tell stories of their experiences during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

The Cantor's Son (Dem Khazns Zundl) United States. 1937. 90 minutes. Musical drama. The reverse Jazz Singer. The story of a Jewish immigrant from Poland to the U.S. who becomes a successful and well-known singer and then returns to Poland to his family and childhood girlfriend. Contains the famous Yiddish 'Mayn Stetele Betz.' (My Little Village Betz)

The Cowboy United States. 1968. 11 minutes. A bizarre little movies. An old Western was dubbed into Yiddish with hilarious dialogue.

Mark Tarses

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