Mothers of Today
USA, 1939, 85 minutes, B&W
Public Exhibition Formats: 35mm, Beta
Mothers of Today includes the sole motion picture performance of radio star Esther Field, who was well-known on the radio airwaves of the 1930's as the 'Yidishe Mama.' The film exemplifies the Yiddish film genre of shund, a brand of popular entertainment which appealed to working-class Jewish-American immigrant audiences with broadly-drawn, sentimental stories that reflected the daily life and culture of a distinctly American Yiddish community.
While the shund films were invariably low-budget (and lowbrow) affairs, these humble productions formed an important part of life in the United States for their audience. For actresses such as Field or Celia Adler (star of Where is My Child?, also directed by Lynn in 1939), shund offered one of the few opportunities to play strong leading roles. In retrospect, Mothers of Today is an important cultural artifact expressing the anxieties of the families faced with a younger generation's increasing assimilation.
Shund often dealt with the plight of the Jewish mother, recognizing the important role women played in Jewish family life during the difficult period of immigration. Such is the case with Mothers of Today, in which Field plays a mother coping with her children's troubles resulting from their straying from Jewish tradition. In one subplot, a cantor's son led astray by a woman of "questionable morality" becomes involved with gangsters and ends up stealing the deed to his mother's store.
"Heavy tragedy, which seems to be an essential basis of all Yiddish dramas, is done to a turn in this new film and it should please the dyed-in-the-wool Yiddish fans. Produced on a small budget with a scurried shooting schedule, the film has considerable merit. Cast members, with the exception of the talented Esther Field, were recruited from the stage for their initial appearance on the screen, and they give Miss Field adequate support. Henry Lynn directs the film feelingly.”
-Film Daily, 1939
Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival (2008)
Festival of Jewish Cinema, Australia (2007)
NCJF Film Restoration
Restoration was completed with funding from The National Endowment for the Arts with additional support from Brandeis University, Sheldon Feinberg, and The Massachusetts Cultural Council
Director Henry Lynn
Producer Henry Lynn
Screenplay Henry Lynn
Based on a story by Simon Wolf
2001 Restoration © The National Center for Jewish Film
Executive Director Sharon Pucker Rivo
Associate Director Miriam Saul Krant
Technical Director Rich Pontius
Translator Solon Beinfeld
Title Animation Frame Shop
Laboratory Cinema Arts, Inc.
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Also directed by Henry Lynn