The House of Rothschild (1934)

rothschild

Starring: George Arliss, Boris Karloff, Loretta Young, Robert Young

Director: Alfred Werker

Summary: The story of the rise of the Rothschild financial empire founded by Mayer Rothschild and his five sons

Other nominations: None

Positives

-The crux of the film is about the problem of racism against Jews, which was a rarely seen subject for a movie back then. I’m not sure how much of this film was directly a reaction against what was starting to happen in Germany at the time, but regardless, it was an important subject that I have to give the film credit for addressing in that time.

-George Arliss once again gives a strong performance, where much like in Disraeli, he’s dignified and the smartest guy in the room. It may be a coincidence, but it’s interesting that he apparently liked playing famous Jewish historical figures even though he himself was not Jewish.

-The last three minutes are in three-strip technicolor, making it the oldest Best Picture nominee to have a surviving color sequence. The Broadway Melody also had a color sequence, but it has been lost and only the black and white version of that scene survives.

Negatives

-The majority of the movie suffers from a severe lack of stakes, where the primary concern is whether they are going to mega-rich or just super-rich which is something that’s hard to get all that invested in. A family of wealthy bankers is not normally the heroic subject of a film for good reason, even if there some are other things at play here.

-There’s a romance subplot that doesn’t have that much depth to it and reeks of “we need something to get this movie to 1 ½ hours.” We barely get into these characters and the story would lose nothing of consequence by excising them entirely.

Overall

Perfectly okay movie that had very relevant themes for the time and a good performance at its core but failed to feel like anything was of real consequence of large parts of the movie

Rating: C

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