Hester Street (film)
Hester Street is a 1975 romantic film based on Abraham Cahan's 1896 novella Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto, and was adapted and directed by Joan Micklin Silver. In 2011, Hester Street was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joan Micklin Silver|
|Produced by||Raphael D. Silver|
|Screenplay by||Joan Micklin Silver|
|Based on||Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto|
by Abraham Cahan
|Music by||Herbert L. Clarke, William Bolcom|
|Cinematography||Kenneth Van Sickle|
|Edited by||Katherine Wenning|
Kane was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Hester Street tells the story of Jewish immigrants who come to the Lower East Side of New York City in 1896 from Eastern Europe, and who live on Hester Street in Manhattan. When Yankle first comes to the U.S., he quickly assimilates into American culture, and becomes Jake. He also begins to have an affair with Mamie, a dancer. His wife, Gitl, who arrives later with their son, Yossele, has difficulty assimilating. Tension arises in their marriage as Jake continually upbraids and abuses Gitl. Additionally, Jake continues to see Mamie, which Gitl later discovers through Mrs. Kavarsky, a neighbor. Jake and Gitl ultimately divorce, whereby Gitl takes all of Mamie's money and marries Bernstein, a faithful traditionalist. By the end of the film, she is sartorially and lingually assimilated — walking down the street with Bernstein and Yossele (now known as Joey), speaking English, and showing her hair. But she is now liberated from Jake, who in turn has married Mamie.
The film is noteworthy for its detailed reconstruction of Jewish immigrant life in New York at the turn of the century - much of the dialogue is delivered in Yiddish with English subtitles - and was part of the wave of films released in the late 1960s and through the 1970s which began explicitly to deal with the complexities of American Jewish identity. In addition, Carol Kane's lead character posed a still-provocative synthesis as she discovers her own self-assertion on behalf of her right to maintain a traditional identity in an aggressively modern setting.
Hester Street was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress - Carol Kane. In 2011, this film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress, and selected for the National Film Registry. In making its selection, the Registry said that Hester Street was "a portrait of Eastern European Jewish life in America that historians have praised for its accuracy of detail and sensitivity to the challenges immigrants faced during their acculturation process".
- "Hester Street". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
- "Review: 'Hester Street'". Variety. December 31, 1974. Retrieved February 11, 2017.
- "2011 National Film Registry More Than a Box of Chocolates". Library of Congress. December 28, 2011. Retrieved December 28, 2011.