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World of Sholom Aleichem
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2000
During the Golden Age Of Television, there were many wonderful dramas that were not afraid to showcase ethnicity. Dramas such as "The Tenth Man", and"The World Of Shalom Aleichem" showed universal truths. Here you can see a preview of Zero Mostel in his environment, long before his emmy winning "Fiddler On The Roof." Here, Jack Gilford performs his wonderful pantomine soon to be used for Cracker Jack commercials. The three stories show the depth of Aleichem's humor; the wise foolishness of Chelm; the sarcastic tale of the meek inheriting the earth, and the poignant tale of quotas in education which existed in the 1950's and 1960's. Besides, I had a chance in high school to play "Bontche Schweig", and seeing the master at work is a dream come true.
Don't miss out on this one.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
One of the many pleasures of the DVD market is the rediscovering of significant entertainment programs that have been long unavailable to a mass audience. In particular, I have been enjoying the restoration and releasing of classic television broadcasts that I would have had no other opportunity to have seen. Starting in the fifties, so many important theatrical works were produced for television showcases. And my favorite new trend is revisiting some of these classics. A couple of my recent favorites were compilations--the BBC's Terence Rattigan Collection and Criterion's stellar The Golden Age Of Television box set. The Archive of American Television has also gotten into the act recently and this month two classic Yiddish dramas from David Susskind's Play of the Week anthology are being released: "The World of Sholom Aleichem" and "The Dybbuk." These titles may have more specialized appeal as they specifically cover religion-based tales, but anyone who appreciates theater, classic television, and/or Jewish heritage should have an interest in these presentations.

Please note that the plays themselves are presented as actual plays--meaning the usual artifice of stagecraft is apparent. Those not accustomed to the theater should not be expecting dramatic realism in the sets, effects, props, etc. Hopefully, the primary audience for these pieces will know what to expect in this regard, I just thought I'd mention it for those that are new to the genre. Also, the physical flaws of the source material (especially in The World of Sholom Aleichem) are noticeable and the transfers aren't as pristine as contemporary releases. That's to be expected, of course, but again thought it deserved mention for newbies. For the purposes of this review, I will address the two releases together as they were dropped on the same day and share similar themes. Both contain a ten page reference guide booklet as well to help place the work in context. It's the only real extra, but it's a nice one.

The World of Sholom Aleichem (3 1/2 stars): This presentation from 1959 serves up a trio of stories by (you guessed it) Sholom Aleichem. But wait, they fooled you--the second tale is actually by Y.L. Peretz. Nice bait and switch! With a cast featuring Zero Mostel, Lee Grant, Nancy Walker, Sam Levene and Jack Gilford, this is certainly a nice collection if the more lightweight of the two. It starts off with "A Tale of Chelm" which details a town of fools and the pursuit of one man to buy a goat. It's gently amusing and entertaining and Walker (as a put-upon wife) is a comedic treat. Peretz's "Bontsche Schweig" is a sweet parable of a selfless man's entrance into the afterlife. A virtually wordless Gilford is a quiet inspiration to the angels themselves. And the bulk of the DVD belongs to "The High School," the set's most grounded and realistic tale (aside from the oldest fifteen year old I've ever seen!). This well acted entry details the struggles of a family trying to secure their son a place in a secular school. It's my favorite segment with lots of heart.

The Dybbek (4 1/2 stars): Award winning director Sidney Lumet is responsible for this 1960 adaptation and it's a powerhouse. While "Sholom Aleichem" MIGHT have more limited appeal, this is a presentation that should be embraced by all serious theater-goers. Starring, among others, Theodore Bikel, Carol Lawrence, and Vincent Gardenia--this classic tale of unrequited love and possession gets progressively stronger and more affecting. Upon the eve of her wedding, a young bride is suddenly taken over by a spirit. It's a strange supernatural love story and the emotional finale staged in Rabbinical court is incredibly effective and surprising. Combining superb performances and great thoughtfulness, I was really caught up in this story. It's no wonder this is one of the classics of Yiddish theater and Lumet (who has an emotional connection to the piece) brings it off expertly. KGHarris, 9/11.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The excellent review previously posted by KGHarris gives you a lot of information about this DVD release but I wanted to supplement it with additional info and my take on the DVD.

As noted, this was one episode of the "Play of The Week Series" that David Suskind produced for "Independent" NY TV station WNTA. It only lasted 2 years because this was before "Public Broadcasting", as we know it. When WNTA became non-commercial (the DVD has the show with commercials excised), the show was too expensive to produce.

The play itself was produced off-Broadway as a way to employ many Blacklisted actors. Some of the original cast - Jack Gilford, Lee Grant, among them - from that cast are in this TV production. And, it's important to remember that this show aired five years before the Broadway smash "Fiddler on the Roof" (based on characters from Aleichem's stories) was produced. Watching Zero Mostel (the only actor to appear in all three stories on this DVD), in the first story, you know that non one else could have created the role of Tevye in FOTR.

The first story is funny and clever. The second is a tribute to Jack Gilford's (who later worked with Mostel in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum") use of facial expressions. The third, about quotas in high schools, was on the cusp of the civil rights and school integration movement. And Gertrude Berg shows us her Molly Goldberg persona at its best.

There are some weaknesses here: The print shows a good bit of wear and dust during the first three minutes - and, periodically, later in the show. I'm not sure if this was restored, as were other Archive of American TV releases like the superb "Evening Primrose". But it is certainly watchable. While all the cast is first rate, I do question casting the role of the 15 year old boy in the "High School" story with an actor clearly in his mid 20s. But these are not enough for me to drop a star.

The enclosed 12 page booklet of essays is an integral part of the enjoyment of this DVD and is welcomed.

Just a small observation as I watched the credits roll at the end of the show. Many great directors got their start in television dramas in the 1950s. You'll note one "Robert Rafelson" as the "Script Editor". This, I am certain, is Bob Rafelson who - along with Jack Nicholson - wrote and directed the classic "Five Easy Pieces"!

I've watched - and reviewed - nearly all the Academy of American Television releases and love them. This is a part of broadcast history that needs to be preserved.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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on November 4, 2005
What a gentle and charming film! Amazing. This film includes three short stories done in the style of the Yiddish theatre at the turn of the century. Today when we are used to extraordinary special effects, virtual reality, digitally enhanced images, the simple props of the Yiddish Theatre

bring back a world lost to time. The first story is about a

Jewish fool played by Zero Mostel who repeatedly gets tricked when he goes out to buy food provisions for the family. He

needs to bring back a she goat but (behind his back), this is

turned into a he goat that does not deliver milk. Zero Mostel

turns in a wonderful performance as he dances through the story with that wonderful love of life peculiar to the Jewish life of the shtetl. The second story is a fable about an unfortunate

poor man who never complains to God about his miserable lot on earth. For his stoic attitude, he is greeted in heaven as a saint worthy of Moses, superior to Job - who did complain!

The last story is the most interesting. It concerns a husband and wife who struggle to get their intelligent son into a

Russian high school when the authorities routinely restrict the

number of Jews who are admitted. Delightfully acted. For those

who can't get enough of "Fidder on the Roof", this is the movie for you.
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on February 21, 2014
This story is so fascinating...one that I had never heard. What started as interest in the back story of "Fiddler on the Roof" lead to this marvelous trip through the life and times of Sholom Aleichem and also history lessons we should never forget.
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Zero Mostel's name is sure to sell, but his role is not as large in old film that was thankfully saved. He was not the comic Tevye, but a true member of the ensemble of Yiddish players, all of whom were excellent. Frankly, The tale of "Bontche Shveig" by I.A.L. Peretz lost its impact by showing actors. I have a recording In which Jack Gilford plays Bontche; by listening and creating the scenes in my head, I was reduced to tears. This did not touch me. The last and longest video "The High School" was by far the best.

Rabbi Richard Allen
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on October 16, 2013
I learned so much from this film about the origins of yiddish theater of which I'm a big fan. It described his work to a great extent.
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on April 17, 2013
I remeember reading 2 of the 3 tales in this DVD, of course when I was a school boy so it brought back tons of memories
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on January 19, 2013
The stars alone are worth the watch. Great programming! This was when television shined! Even if you are a youngster, get this DVD and enjoy!
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on January 11, 2013
This is a beautifully done DVD recapturing the old "Play of the Week" series from the 1950's. The acting is superb and the tales are powerful and moving in thier content and presentation.
Do yourself a big favor and give them a look!
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