Lionel Barrymore stars as Mathias, an Alsatian innkeeper whose political ambitions drive him to commit brutal murder in this 1926 melodrama based on Alexandre Chatrian and Emile Erckmann's 1869 play, "Le Jeuf Polonais" (The Polish Jew). Hunted by a circus mesmerist (chillingly played by Boris Karloff) and haunted by the ghost of his victim, Barrymore's Mathias is caught in a surreal fantasy where his guilty conscience torments him to the brink of spiritual agony.
Although only marginally Jewish in subject matter, The Bells is an example of one way in which Jews have been stereotyped in theater and cinema-as the traveling merchant who becomes an easy target for violence and/or mockery.
USA, 1926, 85 minutes, B&W, Silent
Directed by James Young
Public Exhibition 16mm available