Museum of the Yiddish Theatre
The advertisement below appeared in the Forverts, on the date of its release on November 30, 1938:
"World premiere today, 10:30 a.m. "Two Sisters," the first artistic image of Jewish life, with Jennie Goldstein, in her first performance on leyvent. With the cooperation of a troupe of artists like Michel Rosenberg, Muni Serebroff, Abraham Teitelbaum, Sylvia Dell, Bettie Jacobs, Jacob Wexler, Yudl Dubinsky, Joan Carroll, Bettie Bialis et al. At the Continental Theatre, Broadway at 52nd St."
The Yiddish talkies in America have begun to Americanize. The "Two Sisters," the new talkie that will now be shown in the Continental Theatre, is an image of Jewish life in America. This alone is news, because the main theme in almost all the movies until now, as well as in the plays in Yiddish theatre, is always the old country, with "greenhorns," and with loves that stretch from Europe like this to America. The second piece of news is that the movie is not overused by an older play, only that the play is written especially for the movie. This shows that the Yiddish talkie has reached such a level that the playwrights have begun to pay attention to it. It also must be noted that this is Jennie Goldstein's first performance in a Yiddish talkie.
But although the play is written especially for the movies -- in the program it will be given that this is an original story -- the theme is quite old. It happens perhaps not so often the beloved of the older sister should hand over to the younger sister, but this is not news. The theme is, however, worked in quite smoothly, and the drama develops in a natural way. The play contains good possibilities for dramatic actors, and it is played well, although in several places there were many actors who were a little too melodramatic.
"Two Sisters" is a melodrama, one can say, a Yiddish melodrama, that is, one that begins with a sigh and ends with a whimper, and in both cases "rivers" of tears flow. I think that the director of the movie already has somewhat overshadowed the masses in his attempt to bring tears to the eyes of the public. The play contains so much drama, that it is absolutely not necessary. There was no need to start with the horrible scene of the mother of the two little girls dying. Why put the audience in a sad mood even before the drama unfolds?
The drama plays out in the Glickstein family. Mrs. Glickstein dies, leaving two young girls, one eleven years old, and the other a six-year-old.
Before her death, the mother Betty says to her eldest daughter that she should take care of the baby, and she should be to her not only a sister, but also a mother. Mr. Glickman, an exhausted worker, is entirely broken from his wife's death. He runs to his brother-in-law, a butcher, that he might start raising the two children. Betty and Sally show up at the good uncle and the good-hearted aunt.
Betty looks at Sally like an eye in her head. She sends her younger sister to school, sews dresses for her and takes care of her like a true mother. From an early age, one notices that there is a greater stress between the two sisters. Betty, the eldest, is as good-hearted person, a sweetheart, and she would give up her soul. Sally is capricious, who returns nothing for all of that. She often causes Betty pain, even though she sacrifices her life for her.
The two sisters are now grown up. Both are gemstones. Betty is in love with a young doctor whom she has helped with her saved money so he could go to college. Sally goes out with a young dentist. Betty is in seventh heaven with happiness. She prepares herself to marry the young doctor. But Sally is surrounded by a filthy, capricious person. It is clear that she is not overly happy with her son-in-law. No one suspects, however, that her black bitterness comes from the fact that she has cast an eye on her sister's groom.
Sally spreads her net to catch the young doctor. She knows that with a direct declaration of love she will not get him, because he is too eager to keep Betty, even though she, Sally, is younger and prettier than her. Sally, however, has another plan. She becomes a nurse in the hospital where Max Feinberg, Betty's fiancé, is an "intern." She maneuvers, just when there is a need to make an "emergency" operation on a patient. None of the recognized doctors can be found. The only doctor who was on hand was Max Feinberg. He operates successfully.
At that moment we are happy and satisfied. The young Doctor Feinberg, due to the operation, becomes famous as a surgeon. Betty is happy that her bridegroom-to-be has ascended in the profession, and she soon will be able to marry him. Sally also is satisfied that through her tact and understanding, Max became a famous surgeon. She now has a "claim" on him.
The closer it gets to the day of Betty's wedding, the more Sally persuades Dr. Feinberg to give up Betty and give her his love. She seeks to win him over, not on the grounds that she is young and beautiful, but on the argument that Betty is old-fashioned, ignorant and she will be only a hindrance to him. She, however, Sally will be his inspiration, and she will help him grow.
Here comes the exciting moment of the drama. Betty, you see, is the central figure. The misfortune came as a surprise to her, as she did not suspect that behind her shoulders she was being betrayed by her own sister. In her heart there comes a strong struggle between the love for Max, with whom her future happiness is connected, and her love for Sally, to whom she feels not only like a sister, but also like a mother.
Jennie Goldstein performs the scene very well. The audience feels her tragedy, and they cry together with her about her broken life. The scene could be still stronger if in the "script" such a long monologue would not have been written, through which Betty speaks out to her sister and recounts everything that she has done for her. In a moment of a great tragedy, silence expresses much more sorrow than the strongest words.
The ending is that Betty is sacrificing her own happiness, and she gives up her sweetheart to Sally. For a type like Betty, this is not hard to believe. She grew up feeling the need to sacrifice herself for her sister, and when Sally plans to commit suicide if she does not marry Dr. Feinberg, Betty steps aside and helps lead Sally to the wedding canopy, though she does so with a contrite heart.
The role of the younger sister, Sally, is played by Sylvia Dell, and she guides herself through her role as it befits such a type of girl as Sally. Jack Wexler performs his role very well as the good-natured uncle, the butcher. Rebecca Weintraub plays the role of the butcher's wife. Muni Serebroff is good in the role of the young doctor. Harvey Kier is the young dentist, Sally's original bridegroom-to-be.
Michael Rosenberg has a comic role in the talkie. He is a chicken-flicker for the butcher. His job is to break the strained tension of the crowd in dramatic moments and evoke laughter. He achieves this to a great extent. He can even be forgiven when he tries a little to burlesque his role.
Abraham Teitelbaum plays the father of the two sisters, and Sylvia Boodkin -- the deceased mother. Yudl Dubinsky has but a small role as a matchmaker. The roles of the two sisters as children are played by Bettie Bialis and Joan Carroll. Bettie Jacobs has a comic role as the widow who is married to the chicken-flicker.
The play was written by Samuel H. Cohen. The director of the movie is Ben Blake.
Here is a short video clip from "Two Sisters."
Cast listings courtesy of www.imdb.com.
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