AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Younger Generation
Director: Frank R. Capra (Dir)
Release Date:   1929
Premiere Information:   release: 4 Mar or 9 Mar 1929
Duration (in mins):   75 or 95
Duration (in feet):   7,866 or 8,217 ft.; also si: 7,246 or 7,394
Duration (in reels):   8
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Cast:   Jean Hersholt (Julius Goldfish)  
    Lina Basquette (Birdie Goldfish)  
    Ricardo Cortez (Morris Goldfish)  
    Rosa Rosanova (Tilda Goldfish)  
    Rex Lease (Eddie Lesser)  
    Martha Franklin (Mrs. Lesser)  
    Sid Crossley (Butler)  
    Julia Swayne Gordon (Mrs. Striker)  
    Julianne Johnston (Irma Striker)  
    Jack Raymond (Pinsky)  
    Otto Fries (Tradesman)  

Summary: Morris Goldfish, the son of a Jewish immigrant family living on Delancey Street in New York's East Side, resides with his father Julius, a pushcart pot salesman; his mother Tilda, who toils in the kitchen all day long and resents her husband's laziness; and his sister Birdie, who is in love with their neighbor Eddie Lesser. Julius' favorite child is Birdie, while Tilda's favorite is Morris, who, she believes, will grow up to be a very successful businessman. Morris fights with his sister and then with Eddie over a piece of bread that his mother promised him for being a good son and making some money selling newspapers. The fighting results in an accident which sets their apartment ablaze, but Morris proudly tells his mother that he was able to salvage some valuables that they can now sell in a fire sale. Many years later, Tilda's prophesy is proven true when Morris makes a fortune as a successful Fifth Avenue antique dealer and is able to move his family into his swank uptown apartment. Tilda is comfortable in her new surroundings, but Julius is lonely and Birdie misses Eddie, now her sweetheart. Both admit that they are "a couple of Goldfish in the wrong fishbowl," and complain that they don't laugh anymore. Julius' pride is hurt when Morris announces that he has changed his name to Fish in order to ease his assimilation into Park Avenue society. When Birdie claims that Morris has moved his family in with him only to protect his image, Morris upbraids her for her insolence and reminds them that they should be grateful that he saved them from squalor. Morris forbids Eddie to visit Birdie, but Eddie manages to see her long enough to plan an elopement with her. Before the rendezvous takes place, however, Eddie unwittingly becomes an accomplice to a jewelry store robbery and is forced into hiding. After a detective shows up at Morris' looking for Eddie, Birdie finds him at their planned meeting place and succeeds in convincing him to surrender himself. Eddie is jailed, but Morris is furious at the publicity his story has attracted and evicts his poor sister. Morris keeps Birdie's banishment a secret from his parents and intercepts all her letters to them, so that they worry for her safety. Two years later, Julius, fed up with being "jailed" by his own son, sets out to find his daughter, and soon learns that she has had a child and has earned enough money to support herself while awaiting Eddie's release from prison. Julius and Tilda return to Morris', where they are humiliated when their son addresses them as his servants in order to avoid social embarrassment. Unable to continue living under such conditions, Julius packs his bags, but does not get far before he becomes ill. Morris softens at the sight of his father on his deathbed and summons Birdie to be with him, and for a brief moment the family is happily reunited. Following Julius' death, Morris offers to comfort his mother with a trip to Europe, but she refuses and tells him that she is leaving to live with Birdie on Delancey Street, where she belongs. 

Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corp.  
Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures Corp.  
Director: Frank R. Capra (Dir)
  Tenny Wright (Asst dir)
Producer: Jack Cohn (Prod)
Writer: Sonya Levien (Scr)
  Howard J. Green (Dial)
Photography: Teddy Tetzlaff (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Harrison Wiley (Art dir)
Film Editor: Arthur Roberts (Film ed)
Music: Bakaleinikoff (Mus cond)
  Columbia Symphony Orchestra ([Mus performed by])
Production Misc: Edward Shulter (Tech dir)
  Joe Cooke (Prod mgr)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the play It Is to Laugh by Fannie Hurst (New York, 26 Dec 1927).
Authors: Fannie Hurst

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Columbia Pictures Corp. 18/3/1929 dd/mm/yyyy LP227

Physical Properties: Si with sd seq: Western Electric System

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Domestic
Subjects (Major): Assimilation (Sociology)
  Cultural conflict
  Family life
  New York City--Fifth Avenue
  New York City--Lower East Side
Subjects (Minor): Antique dealers
  Death and dying
  Jewel thieves

Note: According to modern sources, half of The Younger Generation was filmed at the Columbia studio with the remainder filmed on a sound stage on Santa Monica Boulevard during the winter of 1929. This was the first part-dialogue sound film for both Capra and Columbia, and there are four lip-synchronized dialogue passages. Modern sources also include Bernard Siegel ( Kruger ) and Walter Brennan in the cast. The sound cameraman was Ben Reynolds, according to Capra's autobiography, in which he also said that both he and Columbia preferred to make an all-talking film, but sound stages and equipment were at a premium, so all the dialogue scenes had to be shot together. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   17 Mar 1929   p. 5.
MPN   23 Mar 1929   p. 923.
New York Times   11 Mar 1929   p. 22.
Variety   20 Mar 1929   p. 12.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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