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Americaner Schadchen

Americaner Schadchen(1940)

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Americaner Schadchen (1940)

The musical comedy American Matchmaker (Amerikaner Shadkhn) (1940) was the last of four films made in Yiddish by director Edgar G. Ulmer, whowould become a cult favorite through his ultra-low-budget yet stylish Hollywood films, including the expressionistic horror masterpiece The Black Cat(1934) and the minimalist noir thriller Detour (1945).

Ulmer also produced and photographed The American Matchmaker,which was written by his wife, Shirley. The movie stars Leo Fuchs, who has beencalled "the Yiddish Fred Astaire," as Nat Silver, a wealthy and debonairNew Yorker who decides to open a matchmaking business in the Bronx after his eighthplanned marriage fails on the way to the altar. Hired by a local housewife to finda match for her daughter (Judith Abarbanel), Nat discovers that the young woman is falling in love with the matchmaker himself. Fuchs also plays his Uncle Shya,whose luck in matchmaking in the old country has inspired his nephew to follow suit.

The film spoofs the idea of matchmaking, with Nat turning the enterprise into anAmerican-styled business with staff meetings and elaborate advertising -- thoughtraditional old-country values win out in the end. Although some 90% of the dialogueand lyrics is in Yiddish (with the remaining 10% in English), Ulmer himself did not speak the language.

The Austrian-born Ulmer, who settled in Hollywood in 1930, also made Ukrainian films and an all-black-cast musical (Moon Over Harlem, 1939),during his "ethnic" period. He reportedly had been driven out of mainstreammovie-making after The Black Cat because he had an affair withShirley Castle, then married to Max Alexander, nephew of powerful Universal studiotycoon Carl Laemmle.

Ulmer and Castle later enjoyed a marriage that lasted until his death in 1972. Shirley Ulmer acted as script supervisor on nearly all of her husband's films from1934 on. She also wrote books, taught classes in script supervision and, after her husband's death, spoke at many tributes to him.

Producer, Director, Cinematographer: Edgar G. Ulmer
Screenplay: Shirley Ulmer, from story by Gustav H. Heimo
Production Design: William Saulter
Original Music: Sam Morgenstern
Editing: Hans E. Mandl
Principal Cast: Leo Fuchs (Nat Silver/Uncle Shya), Judith Abarbanel (Judith Aarons),Judel Dubinsky (Maurice), Anna Guskin (Elvie Silver), Celia Brodkin (Mother Silver),Rosetta Bialis (Mother Aarons).

by Roger Fristoe

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