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Welcome to the Movies!
  The Cast:    
Michal Michalesko ... Hershele Dubrovner
Gustav Berger ... Uriel Mazik (Satan)
Berta Gerstin ... Pesenyu, his wife
Shifra Lerer ... Fraydenyu, his older niece
Esta Salzman ... Tsipenyu, his younger niece
Max Bozyk ... Lazar Dubrovner, his father
Leon Schachter ... Khatzkl, a neighbor
Lucy German ... Dobe, his wife
Joshua Zeldis ... Motl, their son



Directed by Joseph Seiden
based on the play by Jacob Gordin
Screenplay by Isadore Frankel
Produced by Daniel Silver and Sol C. Rynd
Music by Sholom Secunda
black and white
Yiddish with English subtitles
Released in the U.S. on January 21, 1950.
100 minutes

"A wager between God and Satan has dire consequences in this allegory about the material world's false promises. Beware when money sounds sweeter than music, it cautions; those who win in lotteries stand to lose all, including their spiritual treasures -- their families, communities and religion. Poor, pious Torah scribe Hershele Dubrovner has a life that glorifies God until Satan, disguised as a business partner, turns him into a greedy, dishonest factory owner whose success desecrates both his religion and his community. Betrayal and abandonment replace serenity and familiarity; the instruments of good fortune become instruments of death. Not even music -- previously Hershele's j0y -- can heal these rifts. Only death resolves." -- The National Center for Jewish Film.

The Forverts article begins at the bottom of this page.


Advertisement in the January 23, 1950 edition of the Forverts.

Aaron Productions presents Jacob Gordin's "God, Man and Devil."

With Michal Michalesko, Berta Gerstin, Gustav Berger and Lucy German.

Music by Sholom Secunda. At the Stanley Theatre, 7th Avenue, between 42nd Street and 41st Streets.

WI. 7-9686. Doors open at 9:30 a.m.

[On the same program: Moishe Oysher in the homey "Sounds of Yesteryear.")

You can see a video clip of "God, Man and Devil" here:


The following review of the Yiddish talkie, "Gott, mentsh un tayvl (God, Man and Devil)," which was written by H. Firsht for the Yiddish Forward newspaper, was published on January 24, 1950:


A successful movie of Jacob Gordin's play, "God, Man and Devil"

The movie was produced in Canada through the Aaron Production Company.

-- It will be shown in the Stanley Theatre (41st Street and Broadway, New York). 

In the Stanley Theatre (41st Street and Broadway, New York) there is now appearing a very successful movie of  Jacob Gordin's play, "God, Man and Devil." The movie is made very cautiously. the photography is good, and the movie takes almost an hour-and-a-half. It is a "full-length movie," as they all it on Broadway.

Jacob Gordin's "God, Man and Devil" already belongs to obsolete things. As a theme Gordin has taken the naiveté of certain people, who wonder when a poor man suddenly becomes rich, and this changes his relationships with his fellow man. He becomes rude to them and exploits them. But even the subject is treated badly in the play. The author deliberately portrayed the scribe, Hershele Dubrovner, as the supreme example of good and of righteousness, virtually an angel, a man who knows no form of currency, in order to later be able to show the opposite, how far he is corrupted; He becomes an abuser and then comes the reaction again, when he has hate for everything. He repents in his heart and is moved by his thoughts of his death. We see thus, Hershele Dubrovner. in three different mental states, but each time it is not established. A scribe for Jews is not a rabbi, such a righteous man like Jacob Gordin, to whom Jewish life was foreign, wants to introduce him. It is also not natural that only Hershele wins the money. He becomes so extraordinarily corrupt. This is what the author wrote more according to the concept of that time, when they were introduced to the rich, the bourgeoisie, as a corrupt man.

The author of the play also does not give any underlying causes why he is so corrupt. This is Uriel Mazik, the devil, speaks to him. Talking to him is not a prophetic motive. To whom does the devil not speak to without evil intentions?

You see that here we do not intend to write a critique of Jacob Gordin's play. If we did touch on those points, it's just a matter of how much it has to do with the current movie.

It begins with the voice of God telling the devil that he is proud of his righteous Hershele Dubrovner, who is a God-fearing Jew. Satan, however, tells God that he can show Hershele to be a wicked, corrupt man with money, if God will only give him permission to do so. He gets the permission and he comes down to our world as a human being, in the form of Uriel Mazik.

Now you can see the house of the God-fearing Hershele Dubrovner. He is poor, but soaked in righteousness. So not only is Hershele the head of the family, but of everyone. So also is his wife, Pesenyu; so are the two nieces, Fraydenyu and Tsipenyu; so is even one of the elders Lazer the badkhan, the father of Hershele Dubrovner, and thus everybody. They are preparing to have a simkha (joyous event), it should be a shidukh (match) between Fraydenyu and Motele, Khatzkel's son. But in

But in the middle Uriel Mazik enters and wants Hershele to buy a lottery slip. Hershele doesn't want to buy because why does he need to win money? But Uriel Mazik leaves him with the slip without money, and Hershel wins 50,000 rubles. Soon after Hershele has it all, the first thing he does is -- he divorces his wife Pesenyu, with whom he has lived for more than twenty years, and with her has no children. He marries Fraydenyu, his niece, then creates a large factory for tallit (prayer shawls), and the whole town was shut down in a factory until there is an accident when Motl loses a hand at work, and after an operation he dies. Hershele takes this to heart so much that he hangs on.

Understand that this is an increasingly old thing, that once a divorce with a wife, even after twenty years of life, it is not news today; a marriage with a niece is not news either (for Jews it is only a mitzvah); If a man who became rich were to build a factory and give work to the whole town, he would not now be hailed as an exploiter, but as a benefactor to his community; that a worker should lose a hand at work is one of the deeds [that occur] every day. In short, the whole "scandal" of the terrible deed is not so great.

The producer of the movie in the year 1949 had to reckon with all of this. One can not take an out-of-date play and perform it now, as it stands. It must have good editors, and a good director, the same that is done with many out-of-date plays on all the world stages. Most of all, Jacob Gordin's plays have to be heavily edited because he was not an artist, but a dramatic craftsman and actually wrote roles for artists, and not a play. There is a lot that is crude and cheap in his dramas.

As a sample of a better direction, one should not have exaggerated too much with the sanctity of Hershele Dubrovner as a scribe. He is meant to be more human. Also in the love scene between Hershele and Fraydenyu, it is strongly exaggerated. It soon happens that a man declares himself in love for a woman, as a woman to a man, but just then Hershele says nothing at all, but the silent dove, the shy Fraydenyu, shouts as many as three times loudly, "I love you, Uncle." It is also wrong for Pesenyu to give in immediately to a divorce without any resistance, and even to agree that Fraydenyu should take her place.

Also not true are the scenes of his exaggerated love of money and of gleaning money. Then the new friendship that develops between Herschel and Uriel, but the quarrel is far from established. And so on to the end: strong exaggerations, exaggerated actions; All in a screaming, squeaky tone, when it would have been better to have a quiet tenor, more calmness, pianism.

The artists play very well. Michal Michalesko plays a very good Hershele Dubrovner, although in the beginning his voice breaks, and he is not better in his role. But he warmed up with his playing. Gustav Berger is actually a good Uriel Mazik. He always plays well, and we see the devil in him the entire time that he is on the stage. Not too good is Berta Gerstin as Pesenyu. She could have been better if she had made the effort. Max Bozyk, as Lazer Badkhan, is not bad, and in several moments very good. This time Shifra Lerer plays a starring role -- Fraydenyu -- and in the beginning she is good, but later, as Hershele's wife, she needs more depth in her role to make the audience feel her suffering. But she doesn't do it.

Lucy German plays a very good Dobe, also Leon Schachter is a good Khatzkl. but Zeldis gives us a weak Motl. Also here the stage direction misses the mark. With certain artists one needs to study the role more, so they can act more genuinely, and not only to repeat or echo the phrase.

In general, however, the movie is a great earner. It is the first great Yiddish movie that was made ŕ la Hollywood, and this is the main thing. One sits tensely, and one is very interested in it all the time. It belongs to the good movies of the new year.

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