Movie 13min

Romance of a Jewess (1908)

The melodramatic plot involves the conflict between generations in an immigrant Jewish family.

+ 8 images
Director D.W. Griffith
Country United States
Language English
(Country Spesific) Romance de una judía
(DVD, 2004) Grapevine Video
Accident Arranged Marriage Black and White Culture Death Drama Family Relationship Father-Daughter Relationship Interfaith Marriage Jew Jewish Ghetto Marriage New York Pawnbroker Poverty Romance Short Sickness Silent Film

Ruth Simonson, with her father, is seen kneeling at the bedside of her mother, whose sands of life are rapidly ebbing. Realizing her end near, Mrs. Simonson takes from her neck a chain and locket and places it around the neck of her daughter, Ruth, with the prayerful injunction that she be ever guided in the path of prudence and virtue by this memorial. Commending her to the care of her father, the old lady goes to meet her Master in the Great Beyond. Two years later we find Ruth assisting her old father in his pawnshop. Mr. Simonson, although a money-lender, is benevolent in nature and his many deeds of munificence have endeared him to all who know him. Hence, when the local schatchen appears with Jacob Rubenstein, a wealthy suitor for his daughter's hand, it was his desire for her future happiness that induced him to look with favor on him. Ruth, however, had given her heart to Sol Bimberg, an impecunious bookseller in the neighborhood. While Mr. Simonson has no aversion for Sol, still to wed his daughter is out of the question, as his prospects are very poor. Ruth is determined, and when it comes to choosing between her father and her lover, she accepts the latter. Seven years later the little family, increased by a child, are living happily, when a fall from a ladder causes the death of Sol. Ruth, finding business cares too much for her, is forced to sell out to Rubenstein. The pittance realized from the sale does not last long, and poor Ruth is stricken down with the dread disease that carried off her mother. Reduced to poverty, she is forced to send the little girl to the pawnshop with the locket, on which to raise enough to buy a bit of bread. At the pawnshop, old Simonson recognizes the locket, and his heart at once softens, so he goes with the child to the garret, where he arrives just in time to reconcile his lost one when she breathes her last. Crushed and heartbroken, the old man folds her child, his granddaughter, to his breast, which forms the closing scene of a most touching and heart-stirring film. Several of the scenes arc decidedly interesting in the fact that they were actually taken in the thickly settled Hebrew quarters of New York City.

Source: Moving Picture World

This early D.W. Griffith short shows the director's interest in Jewish ghetto life, portrayed here with sympathy and sentimentality. The melodramatic plot involves the conflict between generations that life in the New World brought to the Jewish family.

Lower East Side street scenes blend actors from the Biograph Studios (such as the young Gladys Eagan) with actual street vendors and passersby in such a natural way that it is obvious they were shot candidly with a hidden camera. The part of Ruth, heroine of the story is played by Florence Lawrence, the "Biograph Girl" whose popularity with audiences was such that she became the first American movie star even before her name was known. Romance of a Jewess anticipates Jewish immigrant dramas like The Jazz Singer and His People. Griffith explored similar themes in Old Isaacs, the Pawnbroker and A Child of the Ghetto.

Source: The National Center for Jewish Film

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Florence Lawrence - Ruth Simonson
George Gebhardt - Soloman Bimberg
Gladys Egan - The Daughter
Guy Hedlund -
Arthur V. Johnson - In Bookstore/Matchmaker
Charles Inslee -
John R. Cumpson - Customer
Alfred Paget -
Mack Sennett - Customer/Doctor
Harry Solter - Customer/Rubinstein
Mabel Stoughton - Customer
D.W. Griffith - Writer
G.W. Bitzer - Cinematography
D.W. Griffith - Director
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Romance and Poverty

This film had ideas that were already explored at the time quite well, but also added some of the particular interests of D.W. Griffith, namely the Jewish Ghetto life. The film is not that interesting, but the storyline does come through pretty well. The mother dies, and the daughter needs a husband. Many people come for her hand but the Father seems not to want to choose the one that the Women choose, and thus reject them. She moves away, and a few years later, having a daughter, the husband dies and they end up in poverty. The girl goes off to sell the bracelet her grandfather gave her mother, and it just happens to be in her grandfather's pawnshop. They reunite, but the ending is not very happy. It shows some promise and quality for the time, but the plot is not very spectacular, and it does not add much new. I enjoyed it.