Little Mother

Ten years after her stage success in Meyer Schwartz's play Mamele, Molly Picon was still able to pull off the role of Khavtshi, who promises her dying mother she will look after her four older siblings and perpetually unemployed Papa (Max Bozyk). The “little mother” exercises her creative impulses by selecting her sisters' suitors and acting as Advice Central for the tenement. Picon is both vivacious and self-aware; her “maternal drag” performance sheds light on the heavy price paid by women in fulfilling the self-sacrificing mother ideal, so prevalent in Yiddish film. Transposed from the stage play's Lower East Side to Lodz, Poland, director Green's hometown, and edited just in time for its makers to leave Warsaw for friendlier ground, “Mamele embraces prewar Polish-Jewish life in all its diversity, including tenements and unemployment, nightclubs and Jewish gangsters, and religious Jews at Sukkoth, the harvest festival” (National Center for Jewish Film).

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