Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Younger Generation

TCM is running a bunch of Ricardo Cortez movies on Thursday. A search of the blog claims that I haven't done a full-length post on The Younger Generation before, and it's a really interesting little movie.

The Goldfishes are a Jewish immigrant family led by patriarch Julius (Jean Hersholt). He's got a wife Tilda and two children, son Morris (Ricardo Cortez) and daughter Birdie. They, like a lot of Jewish immigrants of the early 20th century, live in the tenements of lower Manhattan, where Julius works as a peddler, buying and selling stuff from a push cart.

Immigrant parents want their children to have a better life, and to that end, Morris starts from the bottom in childhood as a paper boy, while Birdie wants to marry her sweetheart Eddie, a budding musician. Morris grows up to become a second-hand dealer, and then a dealer in antiques, making good for himself and being able to move uptown.

There's a catch, however. When you talk about the "polite" society uptown, it really means Gentile society. And the Goldfishes are Jews. Morris is anxious to fit into that society enough that he's willing to change his surname. And then he brings his parents uptown, only for them to find they don't necessarily like polite society. Meanwhile, Eddie is about to get in a legal jam....

The Younger Generation is a very early Frank Capra movie. So early, in fact, that it's only a partial talkie. The movie was conceived back in the silent days, but with the release of The Jazz Singer (a movie with similar themes that also happens to be a partial talkie), studios realized that talking pictures could work. So they did some of the scenes as sound, and the result is a mix of silent and talking picture, something that's always interesting even if it doesn't always work.

In the case of The Younger Generation, it does more or less work, although the themes play almost as tropes and there's a lot of melodrama. I don't think the movie has ever been released to DVD, so you'll have to catch the exceedingly rare TCM showing. It's worth a viewing, too.

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