Poland, 1937, 90 minutes, b&w/sepia tone/blue tone, Yiddish w/ new English subtitles
Public Exhibition Formats: 35MM, Beta, 16MM, DVD
“A wistful romance that’s interspersed with songs but rooted in the wisecracks and banter of Yiddish culture.”
– J. Hoberman, The Village Voice
“An incomparable window into the world of Jewish Eastern Europe in the 1930s, where the rich folk-culture of the shtetl and ghetto meet the urbane sophistication of contemporary European society. Tap dancing, an old-fashioned Purim play, and a love scene in the park... The Jester truly has it all!”
– Hankus Netsky, Director, Klezmer Conservatory Band
The Jester was co-directed by Joseph Green and Jan Nowina-Przybylsk in 1937, following the great success of their film Yiddle with His Fiddle the previous year. Green who had emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1924, returned to Poland with the American Yiddish theater stars (and then married couple) Miriam Kressyn and Hymie Jacobson for the procuction. Shot on location on a farm outside of Warsaw and in the predominantly-Jewish town of Kazimierz, near Lublin, the film also stars Zygmunt Turkow, co-founder with Ida Kaminska of the Warsaw Yiddish Art Theater. The film premiered in Warsaw in September 1937 and opened in New York City three months later.
This musical drama stars a lonely wanderer, a circus performer and Esther, the shoemaker's daughter, whose family tries to marry her into a prominent family. One of the film's centerpieces is a Purim shpil (Purim play) with its parade of costumes and music.
The Jester's lively circus and vaudeville music and set pieces provide a glimpse of Warsaw's then-thriving Yiddish revues and cabarets, which were destroyed soon after. Many of the film's Polish-Jewish crew and actors were killed during the Holocaust, giving the film's touches of melancholy an even more profound reading for today's audiences.
Another important historical note: In 1941, the Nazis appropriated a segment from The Jester's Purim play scene for use in their notorious antisemitic propaganda film Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew).
Yiddish Book Center (2014)
Mandel JCC, Hot Days Cool Flicks Series (2014)
HOUSTON AREA PREMIERE Houston Jewish Film Festival (2014)
Washington Jewish Film Festival (2009)
Vancouver Jewish Film Festival (2009)
Pacific Film Archive (2009)
UK Jewish Film Festival: Polish Jewish Season of Polska (2009)
Stockholm Jewish Film Festival (2009)
Wisconsin Film Festival (2009)
International Yiddish Theatre Festival of Montreal (2009)
Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles (2009)
EAST COAST PREMIERE New York Jewish Film Festival (2009)
NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE Palm Springs International Film Festival (2009)
WORLD PREMIERE Jerusalem International Jewish Film Festival (2008)
NCJF 2008 Film Restoration
NCJF's 35mm restoration of The Jester was especially exciting and challenging because of the unusual film materials used to achieve the restoration: One of the two original 1937 35mm nitrate prints located by NCJF includes six color toned scenes-four in sepia and two in blue-totaling 27 minutes, or one third, of the film's running time. Color toning-employed to create mood and enhancing narrative-was often utilized for silent films. It was, however, extremely rare for sound films especially for independent productions.
Because there are no subtitles on the original prints, it was possible for NCJF to create a completely new subtitle track. A new English translation was commissioned and a separate subtitle track was prepared, allowing for the newly preserved materials to be archived in their original form. The outstanding restoration work was accomplished by Janice Allen and Michael Kolvek of Cinema Arts, Inc, NCJF's laboratory for over 25 years.
Joseph Green, the producer/director and owner of the film donated The Jester with all rights to NCJF in 1989. In recent years, only inferior and incomplete copies of the film have been available.
Preservation and restoration of The Jester was made possible by grants from the National Film Preservation Foundation, Jules Bernstein and Linda Lipsett, the Eastman Kodak Company, and The Nation Center for Jewish Film's Reel Funders, with support from Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
2008 Restoration © The National Center for Jewish Film
Executive Director Sharon Pucker Rivo
Associate Director Lisa Rivo
Technical Director Rich Pontius
Educational Advisor Sylvia Fuks Fried
Translators Solon Beinfeld, Sylvia Fuks Fried, Ellie Kelman, Hankus Netsky, Peter A. Stark
Title Animation Frame Shop
Laboratory Cinema Arts, Inc.
Premiere Screening Press Release (PDF)
North American Premiere Screening Press Release (PDF)
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Also Directed by Joseph Green
Also with Zygmunt Turkow