The American Yiddish film Tevye (1939), produced, directed, written by and starring Maurice Schwartz, has been discussed solely in relation to its source—Sholem Aleichem's famed cycle of stories—and the history of its adaptations. Moving from the question of adaptation to that of intertextuality and cultural continuity, this essay argues that the film ought to be recognized as a seminally subversive work and a contradictory visual text, whose indebtedness to the Yiddish classic is surpassed by its internal complexity. Positioning the film within the network of intersecting influences, cinematic, theatrical, and literary, the essay shows that in Tevye, the patriarchal character becomes the platform for a turning point in the Jewish intellectual psyche on the eve of the Holocaust, marked by a sense of tortured ambivalence toward the traditional Jewish world to which American Yiddish artists and intellectuals felt compelled to return. By suggesting that the film was a response to Yankev Glatstein's seminal poem, "Good Night, World," the essay begins to (re)construct the engagement between Yiddish cinema and literature and their formation of a new historical moment out of the mixture of intellectual and artistic anxieties.


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pp. 49-72
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