Primary Sources & Lesson Plans
A longtime star of Yiddish theater and film, Molly Picon began performing in vaudeville. Her career flourished in the Second Avenue theaters of the Lower East Side, the center of immigrant Jewish life in New York. She became an icon for second-generation Jews who wanted a synthesis between their immigrant roots and their new American identities. Film, in general, was the great homogenizing agent of American culture. Picons success in both Yiddish and American films is testimony to her acceptance not only by a Jewish audience, but also by the broader culture.
In this film, made in Poland in 1936, Picon plays a young girl who dresses up as a boy so she and her father can earn a living as traveling musicians. They meet another father and son team, and the four join together for a comedic and musical tour. The trouble begins when Picons character falls for the other son. In this scene, Picon sings to herself and asks her deceased mother what she should do about her quandary.
For more information on this film and the career of Molly Picon, go to JWAs Women of Valor exhibit.
1. What is the demeanor of Picons character?
2. Picons actions are exaggerated. What does this mode of acting convey?
3. What has the director done to set the tone for this scene?
4. The film is set in Poland before World War II. What are the clues to its time and place?
5. Why did Picons character have to pretend to be a boy?
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