The Yiddisher Boy (1909)
(UK, 1909) Markt and Company
(VHS, 1991) National Center for Jewish Film (NCJF)
This is one of the few surviving films made by the Sigmund Lubin Company of Philadelphia. Lubin, who immigrated to the United States in the 1870s, changed his name from Lubszynski and became the first Jewish-American filmmaker. It is believed that the film contains the first instance of flashback, showing the hero involved in a boyhood street fight 25 years earlier.
In the film, Moses lives on the Lower East Side and helps support his family by selling papers. When one of the other newsboys tries to rob Moses, Ed comes to his rescue. Moses invites Ed over for Shabbat dinner. When Ed is run down by a passing bicycle, Moses visits his friend in the hospital and uses his last pennies to help him. Years later Moses is a successful merchant, and Ed, down on his luck, comes looking for a job. Moses recognizes his old friend and offers him the best job he has.
This film, while somewhat difficult to follow, is remarkable for portraying the religious tradition, concern, and compassion that Jews maintained in the face of the oppressive conditions they experienced in American slums.
Little Moses. A typical scene of a living room of Jewish immigrants. The family is sewing clothes while little Moses makes money in selling papers and takes care of the family. He is a bright little chap and has many customers for his papers. Mike, a big fellow, is jealous of Moses, throws him down and robs him of his hard-earned pennies. This enrages the other newsboys, they throw down their papers and fall over the other fellow, boating him and forcing him to return Moses' money. Ed., a ragged looking lad, was the leader of the rescuing party. Moses thanks the little fellow and asks him to accompany him to his home.
Sabbath Evening. The room has changed its appearance. Work is put aside, the table is set, everything looks clean and inviting. Little Moses enters followed by Ed. They sit down at the table, and after saying grace, partake of a modest meal.
Doing Good for Evil. Peace reigns among the boys. Mike in his eagerness to sell a paper is run down by a bicycle. Unconscious he is carried away and brought to the hospital. Little Moses followed the patrol wagon and gives up his last pennies to procure for Mike some extra food at the hospital.
You Have Helped me Years Ago, I am Clad to Help You Now. Twenty-five years has passed. Moses is now a prosperous merchant. Among other people a poor man is coming asking for work. Moses looks at him sharply. He recognizes in him the little boy who years ago defended him so bravely. Now Ed., too, remembers little Moses; they shako hands. Moses rings for his foreman and tells him to give Ed. the best job in the place, Thus kindness is rewarded.
Source: The Film Index - 1909