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Fans of classic movies often have a hard time finding their favorite selections on television or in stores. While there are of course a few basic channels that will occasionally show older, classic films, tv schedules are generally aiming for the broadest possible appeal, and classic films don’t always reach the widest audiences. This is why, if you have been having trouble finding programming that you like, you may want to look into something like direct tv choice extra, which can offer you additional channels, as well as special film networks. Some of these networks can be particularly appealing for fans of certain genres. For example, fans of classic Jewish films may have luck finding some of the following respected and historically important films on a network like TCM (Turner Classic Movies).
- The Jazz Singer, The landmark 1927 movie starring Al Jolson that was Warner Brothers first sound film, an adaptation of a hit Broadway musical. This is a film that is greatly appreciated by fans of classic film—it features the Yom Kippur liturgy—but is rarely if ever shown on basic cable channels.
- The Younger Generation, 1929, a silent film directed by the great Frank Capra. Story of a social-climbing Jewish man, played by Ricardo Cortez, b. Jacob Kranz, and his old-world parents who are heartbroken by their son’s rejection of family and Judaism.
- The Yellow Ticket, an obscure 1931 film directed by Raoul Walsh starring Laurence Olivier, Lionel Barrymore and Elissa Landy, the story of a young Jewish woman from a shtetl who must secure a Yellow Ticket in order to reach St. Petersburg to visit her dying father. But the Tsarist issued Yellow Ticket is only given to prostitutes. This film is rarely screened but is a must-see for those who are interested in the image of Jews in Hollywood movies.
- Symphony of Six Million, 1932, again starring Ricardo Cortez, with Irene Dunne before she emerged as a brilliant screwball comedienne. Based on a novel by Fanny Hurst this is the story of a brilliant Jewish doctor—is there any other kind—who turns his back on his poor Jewish patients in favor of uptown society swells. The six million of the title refers to Manhattan’s population at the time the film was produced. This film is notable for including a scene of the Pidyon Ha-Ben, Redemption of the First Born, the only time, to my knowledge, this ancient Jewish ritual has appeared in a Hollywood film.
- Straight is the Way, 1934. Franchot Tone as tough Jewish kid who gets out of prison and tries to go straight on the crime-ridden Lower East Side. Look for the scene where Tone’s mother lights the Shabbat candles.
- The Juggler, 1953. One of the earliest Hollywood films shot in Israel starring Kirk Douglas, b. Issur Danielovitch, The Juggler is a powerful drama that, unfortunately, garners very little attention on basic cable. This is a lovely and wrenching film in that depicts the drama of a Holocaust survivor who moves to the newly formed state of Israel where he glimpses his wife and children—who were murdered by the Nazis.
These are just a few examples of some movies that, primarily because they are old and may lack the mass appeal of more modern Hollywood hits, don’t often appear on basic television. It’s important to remember that the founders of the American movie industry were poor Jewish immigrants who brought their memories and experiences to the fledging art form thereby paying homage to the struggle and identity of the 20th century Jew. If these are subjects with which you identify or in which you are interested or just plain curious, you may want to see about updating your television package, as this is one of the best ways to gain access to these wonderful of films.
Seraphic Secret will be offline until Sunday in order to celebrate the last days of Succot and Shabbat. We wish all our friends and relatives a chag sameach, joyous holiday and a Shabbat Shalom, peaceful Shabbat.