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  • Awake and Sing! (Broadway Theatre Archive) [VHS]
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Awake and Sing! (Broadway Theatre Archive) [VHS]


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Product Details

  • Actors: Felicia Farr, Leo Fuchs, Robert Lipton, Walter Matthau, John Myhers
  • Directors: Norman Lloyd, Robert Hopkins
  • Writers: Clifford Odets
  • Producers: Norman Lloyd, Lewis Freedman
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Kultur Video
  • VHS Release Date: February 4, 2002
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000639JB
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #598,883 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Walter Matthau heads the cast of this television recreation of Clifford Odets' 1935 hit Broadway play, the first full-length work performed on the commercial stage by the legendary Group Theatre. This portrait of a Jewish family in a Bronx tenement perfectly captures the spirit of the Depression years, and is suffused with details of character and place that combine to be affecting even now. The Bergers, burdened by financial difficulties, have taken in a boarder, Moe Axelrod (Matthau), who lost a leg in World War I. Cynical and outspoken, Moe adds a spark to the somewhat accepting lives of the Bergers. The family fights to survive on $16 a week while the intellectual, Marxist-leaning grandfather (brilliantly played by famed Yiddish theatre star, Leo Fuchs) tries futilely to spur his family to action with the injunction, "Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust ." (Isaiah 26:19). With Ruth Storey, Robert Lipton, and Felicia Farr.

Customer Reviews

The cast is very good and the play a knock out!
Romeu França
Walter Matthau plays the cynical, injured war veteran Moe Axelrod who resides with the family and we learn has had a relationship with Hennie.
█ R I Z Z O
In this, they are not the least bit dated, and show that while individual issues may vary with time, human nature doesn't.
R. Scharba

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By R. Scharba on January 21, 2003
Format: DVD
I can't commend this highly enough. I saw it on the local Public Television station here in Chicago when it was first broadcast in the early 1970s, and it made a tremendous impact on me. This play, and the very similar "Paradise Lost," are depression era dramas written by Clifford Odets and originally produced for the stage in the mid 1930s, when they were the cutting edge of contemporary theatre and dealt with contemporary issues. These new DVDs contain television productions done with top-notch casts in the early 1970s. I found them unforgettable, and am delighted to be able to savor them again after 30-plus years. They're just as good as I remember.
They tell their stories from a rather specific perspective, i.e., that of educated middle-class Jewish families living in New York, and falling on hard times during the depression. These people have pretensions of gentility and high culture, but quickly-encroaching poverty is grinding at that façade and leaving them without much more than primal survival instincts. The main themes they deal with, as I read it, are familial love (and how it sometimes mutates into betrayal or hate under pressure of poverty), what we owe to our fellow humans and vise versa, grace or the lack of it under extreme pressure, and the wisdom or folly of optimism for the future. I expect there are themes, subtleties, and symbolisms that I overlook, but they're extremely rich brews of ideas that can keep you pondering long after having seen them. What they are most emphatically NOT is light entertainment. Dark and somewhat depressing, they explore how severe economic pressures degrade the quality of life, and poison relationships with our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, community and government.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By NMdesapio on February 28, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
Walter Matthau is brilliant as the physically and spiritually impoverished Moe Axelrod in this 1972 television production of Clifford Odets' Depression-era drama AWAKE AND SING! Matthau is the most famous "name" in the production, yet he blends beautifully into a top-notch ensemble cast that includes Ruth Storey as matriarch Bessie Berger, who has pretensions of culture and wealth; Leo Fuchs as Grandfather Jacob, who looks to both the Bible and the words of Karl Marx for inspiration during hard economic times; and Robert Lipton as his grandson, Ralph Berger, who will be the one to break the spell - that is, the preoccupation with money - that has mesmerized this financially reduced family. Under the direction of Norman Lloyd and Robert Hopkins, Odets' dialogue crackles and snaps; and small touches, from the actors' speech inflections to the menorah that adorns the dining room of the Bergers' modest tenement home, suggest the family's Jewish ethnic identity. One could not imagine a more perfect production of this play. An interesting footnote: Felicia Farr, who portrays Hennie Berger, was married to the late actor Jack Lemmon - so as Axelrod in AWAKE AND SING! Walter Matthau was romancing the wife of his best friend!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By TravelMod on February 4, 2007
Format: DVD
There is a stage revival of this play recently presented in New York and I was curious to see this film version. I found it very dull. Walter Matthau acted very well but I thought him miscast (appearing too old, to me, for the part of the angry war vet). Felicia Farr (Jack Lemmon's wife) was excellent, though certainly there was no chemistry between her and Matthau. I don't know what happened to actor Robert Lipton; he does a good job here as the frustrated idealist. As a bit of theatrical history (many consider this to be Odets's best play), you could do worse, but the play deserves a better film version.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 24, 2003
Format: DVD
This play was great. I feel that the playwrite caught the essense of the story & it's one of the best I've seen of Walter Matthau in the Broadway theater archive series. I am becomeing a real fan of broadway theater archive series as well.
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Format: DVD
My favorites line from this play is by Moe Axelrod: I'll tango on a dime, don't give me ice when your heart's on fire!!

Playwright Clifford Odet's Awake and Sing is the story of a Jewish family, three generations embattled during the depression 1935. The title, a Bible scripture, originates from Isaiah 36:19, "Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust, and the earth shall cast out the dead."

The setting takes place in the living room of a Bronx tenement, the time is the worst of the depression era when suicides were common, and here, tension and fear rip apart a family.

The themes run the gamut, betrayal, pregnancy, manipulation, strife, capitalism, socialism, greed, etc. The matriarch, Bessie is negative, fearful, demanding, manipulative and above that, insulting to her husband Myron. The grown children, Hennie and Ralph become embroiled in the tough love mom dishes out. Ralph reveals such frustration hoping for better, while daughter Hennie's future after a pregnancy is planned out as her parents have found a man for her to marry. Walter Matthau plays the cynical, injured war veteran Moe Axelrod who resides with the family and we learn has had a relationship with Hennie.

The first act begins with the grown daughter pregnant, while the second act takes us one year later.

The inspirational, hopeful character is grandfather, Jacob who encourages his grandson to live his life, go after the girl he wants, build his dreams, but yet, grandfather takes on the wrath of Bessie too. To go any further would give clues away to the wonderful play.

There is a lot of dialogue here, often characters speaking over each other, cynicism, music; so it goes fast and one needs to pay close attention, or better, see it twice if needed.
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