Moishe Oysher gives his most robust performance as a passionate shtetl blacksmith who must struggle against temptation to become a mensch. Ulmer's film is a musical version of David Pinski's classic 1906 play Yankl der Schmid.
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Moishe Oysher, the renowned cantor and star of Yiddish radio, stars in Edgar G. Ulmer's musical version of David Pinski's play Yankl der Shmid. Singing, dancing, and flashing his eyes, Oysher gives his most robust performance as a passionate shtetl blacksmith who must struggle against temptation to become a mensch. Recently rediscovered footage makes this the most complete extant version of Ulmer's lively folk operetta, replete with an example of Yiddish swing.Written by
National Center for Jewish Film
Director Edgar G. Ulmer stated in an interview that the location shooting near Newton, NJ, was on land owned by the Catholic Monastery of the Benedictine Order, who were very cooperative in letting him build sets and film there, even supplying some monks who wore beards to be cast as extras. He also said there was a camp of a violent pro-Nazi organization called the German-American Bund nearby, and when they heard there was a company of New York Jews shooting a film in Yiddish near them, they threatened to assault the cast and crew and burn down the sets. Ulmer stated that the Benedictine monks - many of whom were Germans themselves - patrolled the film's location at night carrying shotguns to guard against any attack by the Bund. See more »
Viewed in London at the 1996 Barbican Yiddish Retrospective
THE SINGING BLACKSMITH" -- (Yankl der Shmid), 1938. Adapted for the screen by David Pinski, from his play of the same name, Yankl had been a long established classic of the Yiddish stage.. Directed by Edgar Ulmer with a Screenplay by Ossip Dymov and Ben-Tsvi Baratof; Music, Jacob Weisberg; running time 116 minutes.
Moishe Oysher, the suave superstar synagogue cantor with a voice like Caruso, made three films between 1937 and 1940. His best, "The Cantor's Son" and "Overture to Glory" are, unfortunately, not available for this retrospective, however, "Blacksmith" still affords ample opportunity to hear one of the great screen tenors of all time. As Variety put it: "There may be flaws in direction, photography and acting, but there can be no denying that Oysher's voice by far dwarfs those faults".
The story concerns a swaggering, womanizing, hard drinking blacksmith who has this great voice and will sing for anybody, anywhere, at the drop of a hat. With the pencil mustache he wears for the role Oysher looks like Hollywood leading man, Gilbert Roland. When the Smith is smitten by the Coup de Foudre for the beauteous Tamara and decides to give up his free-wheeling bachelorhood, the matchmakers in town, one an impossible stutterer, start vying for his business. Chaye, considered the best shadchen (MATCHMAKER) in town, is forcibly engaged by the shmit to do the arranging, but she thinks he's such a bad catch she feels compelled to apologize to the prospective in-laws (the film's most comedic scene). To everyone's amazement Tamara, who clearly has a mind of her own, abruptly accepts. They are married, but the other woman, Rifke, who although married to a simpering wimp, has had her eyes on Yankl from Day One, is not about to let little things like marriage contracts stand in her way. In one steamy scene in the forge she really turns on the heat in what is probably the most, if not the only, explicitly raunchy sex scene in all of Yiddish filmdom.
Caught with his fingers in the pie, so to speak, Yankl, sorely chagrined by his weakness for drink and inability to resist Rifke's advances, even as his new bride is found to be with child -- is now an outcast and slinks from the house head lowered in shame. In the end Family Values will finally win out -- but just barely -- as Ulmer stretches them to the limit in this all-but-black comedy. After all the Peyton Place shenanigans that have come before, the final shot of the repentant Yankl and his forgiving Tamara, half hidden behind a close-up of the newborn baby suspended in an airborne crib by strings from above, has more the air of a dirty joke than a morally proper conclusion. Leave it to Ulmer.
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