In 2011, the National Film Preservation Foundation awarded Hamon’s G. William Jones Film and Video Collection a grant of $31,000 to support the preservation of the Yiddish-language film Catskill Honeymoon (1950, directed by Joe Berne). We are happy to announce that the NFPF has now made the film available for viewing on its website.
Considered one of the longest running Yiddish films on record, Catskill Honeymoon is a musical comedy that takes place at the Catskill resorts in upstate New York. Characters switch back and forth between Yiddish and English in their song and dialogue as they celebrate an elderly couple’s 50th wedding anniversary. The NFPF describes the film in its film notes:
Catskill Honeymoon is a raucous marriage ceremony between Yiddish-American cinema and the Borscht Belt. Billed as a “Yiddish-American Musical Revue,” it was one of the very last Yiddish-language films to premiere on Broadway. Its success demonstrated that by 1950 the center of Jewish-American entertainment had moved from New York City to the Catskill resorts of upstate New York . . . With its performers, emcee, and audience often filmed separately and awkwardly intercut, Catskill Honeymoon has the airless feel of “canned vaudeville,” as critic J. Hoberman put it. Nevertheless, it became one of the longest-running Yiddish films. Up to the late 1970s, it was still a favorite in elderly and rehabilitation homes, having outlasted the Yiddish theatre scene and Young’s Gap Hotel, which closed in 1967. Increased social mobility and assimilation doomed the Catskills resorts, but not before they introduced performers such as Danny Kaye, Mel Brooks, Sid Caesar, and Jerry Lewis. Catskill Honeymoon preserves the performances of a grab-bag of entertainers from this tradition, allowing viewers to enjoy a night in the mountains.
For further reading on Yiddish-language films in the United States, the NFPF recommends J. Hoberman’s Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds (1991), which you can find at Hamon.
Image from Catskill Honeymoon (9:08), National Film Preservation Society, http://www.filmpreservation.org/preserved-films/screening-room/catskill-honeymoon-1950