Museum of the Yiddish Theatre
          Visit Us            Exhibitions           
Collections            Research            Opportunities            About the Museum            Site Map            Contact Us            Links



Welcome to the Movies!



The following review of the Yiddish talkie, "Mamele (Little Mother)," was written by Ab. Cahan for the Yiddish Forward newspaper and was published on December 30, 1938.

  The Cast:    

Molly Picon ... Khavtshi Samet, aka Mamele
Edmund Zayenda ... Schlesinger, Musician
Gertie Bulman ... Berta Samet
Max Bozyk ... Berl Samet 
Ola Sliwkowicz
(Ola Shlifko)
... Yetke Samet
Menashe Oppenheim ... Maks Katz 
Simche Fostel ... Nadirman
Max Perlman ... Dawid Samet
Ruth Turkow ... Bajlcie / Bailchi
Mae Schoenfeld Lew Szryftzecer ... Konchicker
Max Brin    
Karol Latowicz ... Zeisher
Adam Domb    
Mae Schoenfeld Edward Sternbach    

Ad from the Forverts on December 25, 1938, the opening date for the film in the United States. Here it opens at the Continental Theatre, in New York City on Broadway and 52nd Street.


The play is playing in the Second Avenue Theatre
with Molly Picon in the main role.

--Now there has been made a talkie in Lodz, Poland.

                      --Molly Picon in the main role of the talkie.

The Yiddish theatre audience of America thinks quite well of the operetta, "Mamele," which appeared in New York eight years ago with Molly Picon in the role of the small "Mamele." This was one of her greatest successes. Amidst the danger in Lodz a year ago, they made a Yiddish talkie of this play. It was directed by the Green Film Company of Warsaw, which also directed the talkie, "Yiddle with Her Fiddle." The music to the operetta, "Mamele," in New York was written by Joseph Rumshinsky. (The author of the play is Meyer Schwartz.) For the Lodz talkie, however, other music was created -- by Ab. Ellstein.

The talkie now will be shown in the Continental Theatre, on Broadway, the corner of 52nd Street.

Besides Molly Picon, from New York to the production of the talkie, there came the local actress, Gertrude Bulman. Furthermore, all male and female participants are local actors ... [continued at the bottom of the page ...]







The entire atmosphere is Polish-Yiddish, with the conversations, the costumes, the manners, the types, with hocus-pocus. If you want to take a look at Jewish life in Poland, you do not need to buy a ship card at all. Go see the talkie, "Mamele," and you will have the Jewish life in Lodz handed to you on a plate.

The content of the operetta is remembered in America by a large, large audience. However, there are many who are not familiar with this. For their benefit, thus, we will briefly convey the essence of the "story."  A woman died who was the mother of six children -- three sons and three daughters. The widow is a happy, Lodz Jew. He has more desire to play cards and to campaign, than to work, and only the older two daughters went to work. One is an older girl named Yetke (Ola Shlifko). She works with desire and has money in the bank. She picks up a dowry. The second girl, Berta, also earns, but she spends a lot on bargains. The youngest girl is Khavtshi (Khava), and this is the role played by Molly Picon, the role of the "Mamele (The Little Mother)."

The eldest of the three sons looks for work, and the second, a youngster, is still a little small, a five or six-year-old youngster.

An important role in the play is the father. The father often invites one of his friends to the house. They must honor him, and it makes him happy that he has someone to play cards with.

Since her mother passed away, the small Khavtshi'le takes the place of the head-of-household. She becomes the "little mother" of the family, and she indeed is a dedicated mother, a rare creature and very faithful and committed to the heavy duties that have been inflicted on her since her mother passed away.

As the reader is able to see for themselves, there is no large livelihood for his family, and the fact that the father (Berl Mamet) is anxious to work for and has a great desire to honor his friends, this creates newer and newer holes in the needed income. He is, however, a lively young man, Berl, and the role is played excellently (by Max Bozyk); It breathes from him the genuine Polish idea of his kind. Be yourself, pay attention and add yourself to the talkie, happily. But is Khavtshi happy? Not very! But she finds various means to leave the hole she is in. She borrows, she borrows, she divides — where one can and where one cannot; She plans. In short, she comes through. The role is filled with humor and is also in need of a truly good role.

Not in vain did Molly Picon have great success in New York, in Chicago, in Philadelphia. She has the same success now in the talkie.

In the film there is a story involving an underworld "hero" who pretends to be a rich, an only son [ben-yokhid], and he becomes Berta's cavalier. The gang tries to drag the middle boy of the family into a "hold-up," and so on. But "Mamele," who is skillful and wise on all intents and purposes, notices certain signs shown by her sixteen-year-old brother, and she saves him from this misfortune, even though he is already by then he is slightly injured. 

So as Khavtshi is a girl with every virtue, she also is unusually good-hearted. As for her sister Berta, her kindness goes so far as to play a false role in sacrificing her own happiness for Berta's happiness. Her self-sacrifice here is as follows: There is a handsome young man, a violin player by name of Schlesinger; He had previously fallen in love with Berta. But as she was indifferent to him, he turned to Khavtshi when Berta saw that Khavtshi had a chance to make a similar shidukh; she is saddened that she has alienated Schlesinger from herself. She turns to Khavtshi, tells her that she made a mistake and that she wants the shidukh back. Consequently, she demands that she let Schlesinger return to her.

And the saintly Khavtshi is ready to satisfy her and to give in to her wish, to offer her own happiness for her sister's. Her sister is not worth it, but so is Khavtshi! The whole family kicks her in the foot, treats her like a slave, and she carries it all out and pays for each blow with new toil for them. Not for nothing is she a heroine of an operetta! Like a heroine, she must already be a heroine and an angel with all the clichés.

But just as an operetta must still have a happy match for the heroine, the story ends with the "Mamele" marrying the hero, with his name.

The wedding is attempted, and even at the feast, Khavtshi always remains a "Mamele." In the midst of the joy, she engages with her little brother, washes him, comes to him, and so on and so forth.

*   *   *

A few words about the talkie. Mechanically it is actually a great success. The photographic work is outstanding, and the voices and the words of the actors ring clear and are authentic and pleasing.

The volume of work is much smaller than in the American talkies. Here the scope is large, and so are the movies from England and France. The talkie that we are considering here occupies a restricted space. But this does not matter. You quickly become accustomed to the images, to the individuals, to the voices, to everything that goes on there, and you feel like you are in a real theatre.

After all, the essence of such an idea lies in the technical success of everything that has to appeal to the eye and ear, and this success has been fully realized here.

*   *   *

Finally, a word about the actors. Molly Picon is Molly Picon. As an operetta star she shines as always, with her pleasing movements, appeal and humoristic "touch."

Edmund Zayenda in the role of the musician Schlesinger has success with the audience. That he is a handsome, young man, there can be no question. With his personality, with his demeanor, with his speech, he makes a good impression on the audience.

Max Bozyk, who has the role of the father, is already an actor of another sort. One can immediately see that this is a successful and accomplished character-"role-player." He has the best role from an artistic standpoint, and he performs it well. He creates a type that turns out to be a living person, really a piece of Lodz or Warsaw.

Gertrude Bulman as Berta is also very good. You know her from the American stage as an actress with temperament. She demonstrates this temperament in the play, "Mamele," in a restrained manner, which is one of the better art moments of the performance. Berta's zest for life is neither overwhelming nor overbearing. It is compelling and good in the play and incorporates a feature of an unbridled romanticism.

An actress by the name of Ola Shlifko must also be mentioned, in the role of Khavtshi's oldest sister. She is well made-up and has a good demeanor, according to the role.

The other participants are: Simche Fostel, Menashe Oppenheim, Max Perlman, Ruth Turkow, Lew Szryftzecer and Karol Latowicz.


Cast listings courtesy of

Copyright © Museum of the Yiddish Theatre.  All rights reserved.















Copyright © Museum of Family History. All rights reserved. Image Use Policy