Uncle Moses


1h 28m 1932

Brief Synopsis

"Uncle" Moses is a wealthy garment store owner in the Lower East Side. He lords his wealth and its attendant power over the neighborhood, dispensing noblesse oblige and conducting casual affairs with numerous women. When he falls in love with the beautiful young daughter of one of his employees, he discovers what it is like to be beholden to another person. He convinces her to marry him, but she does so out of financial and social obligation, and Moses' love remains distressingly unrequited. At the same time, the growing labor movement attacks him for his exploitative employment conditions, and Moses begins to doubt the truth of the American Dream he thought he had achieved.

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 1932
Premiere Information
New York opening: 20 Apr 1932
Production Company
Yiddish Talking Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Yiddish Talking Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Uncle Moses by Sholom Asch (New York, 1918) and the play of the same name, as adapted by Maurice Schwartz (New York, 28 Nov 1930).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Film Length
7,902ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

The owner of a New York Lower East Side sweatshop and clothing store, who is called "Uncle Moses" by his employees, is a philanderer who continually complains that everyone comes to him for money, while his employees, whom he brought over from his village of Kuzmin in Europe, complain about their fourteen-hour work day. When Masha, the eighteen-year-old daughter of his former employee Aaron Melnick, asks Uncle Moses for money so that her father could open a business, Uncle Moses angrily refuses because Aaron has ridiculed his "fat belly." Incensed, Masha insults Uncle Moses, which only increases his desire for her. After she leaves, Uncle Moses gives her father back his job with a raise and talks Aaron into asking him to dinner. When Uncle Moses gives Masha a bracelet, her mother, who is against her match with Charlie, who works in the shop, embraces her. As Uncle Moses continues to give presents to Masha, his nephew Sam, who runs the shop, fears that his uncle will marry Masha and that he will lose his inheritance. Sam gets gangster Mannes to try to create scandals involving Uncle Moses with a restaurant proprietress and a Polish woman, with whom he has been involved, but their efforts fail. To inure himself with Masha, Uncle Moses, over the next year, exercises to get rid of his paunch, shaves his beard, gives her parents presents and sends her dresses and fur coats. He continues, however, to dream of his deceased wife. When labor organizer Moishe Gross urges the shop workers to strike, Uncle Moses increases their salaries substantially and orders improvements in the shop. Moishe, however, refuses to budge from his demand of setting up a union shop. After Uncle Moses shows Masha a house for them to share once they marry and confesses his love, she cries in despair. He then complains that she has led him on has and deceived him, and because she is unwilling to ruin her parents' happiness, she says that she now loves him and will marry him. After the wedding celebration, the image of Uncle Moses' first wife in a photograph glares at him as he prepares for the wedding night. Later, while Masha is in the maternity hospital, Charlie orders the workers to go on strike. Although Uncle Moses wants to give the workers more money, Sam refuses and gets Mannes to send thugs to interrupt the workers' meeting. In the midst of the strike, a son is born to Masha. Masha, who is unhappy with her life, tells Uncle Moses that she was happier washing dishes and going to concerts in Jackson Park with Charlie than with her life of luxury. She tells Uncle Moses that she loves him, but that she must go away, and he sadly offers to send for a lawyer to get a divorce. When he learns that the thugs beat the workers and that Charlie has been arrested, Uncle Moses sends Sam to get him out and rebukes Sam for using thugs. Pushing him away, Uncle Moses stumbles and falls. During his recovery, Uncle Moses sends word to the strikers that he will agree to an eight-hour day, a twenty percent raise and electric machines, among other things, and Moishe becomes the union delegate. Uncle Moses makes out his will, leaving his estate to Masha and his son, who are going to Europe, to his workers, and to Sam. He also leaves money for hospitals and to be sent to Kuzmin. His wife's image now shows a concerned expression. When he gets well, Uncle Moses visits the shop and relates that upon driving around the city, which is something he never took the time to do before, he overheard a sermon at a great synagogue which defined man. He then wondered, "What is man?" After a life of accomplishments, he realizes, only the grave awaits. Uncle Moses then asks one of the workers to sing a melody that his father used to sing.

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 1932
Premiere Information
New York opening: 20 Apr 1932
Production Company
Yiddish Talking Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Yiddish Talking Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Uncle Moses by Sholom Asch (New York, 1918) and the play of the same name, as adapted by Maurice Schwartz (New York, 28 Nov 1930).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Film Length
7,902ft (9 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The running time listed above was calculated from the footage given in NYSA records. According to a pre-production news item, this film was going to be made by Yiddish Talking Pictures, Inc. in association with Weiss Bros. Weiss Bros. is not credited on the film, although Louis Weiss is listed as presenter and supervisor. According to news items, the film was planned to be completed in time for release during the Passover week in 1932. The film includes shots taken at Delancey and Orchard Streets in New York's Lower East Side. Modern sources note that Sholem Asch (whose name is spelled "Sholom" in the screen credits) was America's most popular "serious" Yiddish writers and that Maurice Schwartz was the country's leading Yiddish actor. Modern sources also state that Asch's novel was first serialized in the Forward.