On a heym (1939)
1h 28min · Drama · 31 March 1939
The last Yiddish feature made in Poland before WWII, this 1939 film was based on a 1907 play by the prolific playwright Jacob Gordin. Best known for his folksy didacticism and moralism, Gordin brought the common life of the Lower East Side to the Yiddish stage. With over 100 plays to his credit, Gordin was a formative influence on modern Yiddish theater. He was so popular among theatergoers that reportedly a quarter of a million people attended his funeral in New York City. Without a Home is the story of the separation and hardships faced by immigrants in America at the turn of the century. Its touching portrayal of the hardships of immigrant life enthralled Jewish theater audiences and it became part of the standard Yiddish stage repertoire in America and Poland. The film provides a poignant and dramatic picture of a difficult era, focusing on the bleak prospects for the survival of traditional Jewish family values. When the eldest son of the Rivkin family is drowned, the father leaves his family in Europe to go to America. There he finds only financial hardship and loneliness, struggling to find a way to bring the rest of his family over. The stellar cast includes stage actress Ida Kaminska and the hilarious comedy duo, Dzigan and Shumacher, who provide a healthy measure of comic relief. The title, Without a Home, intended by Gordin to symbolize the uprooted Jewish immigrant family and by extension, the Jewish people, was a particularly poignant one for Jewish film audiences in Poland on the eve of WWII. The film underscored the growing sense among Polish Jews facing the Nazi threat and increasing antisemitism in Poland that they too might soon be "without a home."
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