Friday, April 04, 2003


A predictable melodrama with a plot trajectory very similar to the later THE CITADEL. Ricardo Cortez plays a young man who grows up poor and Jewish on the lower East side of New York City; he and his family sacrifice so he can to go medical school. He becomes a doctor and returns to his old neighborhood to tend to the poor, often for little or no payment. But egged on by his well-intentioned family (mother Anna Appel, father Gregory Ratoff, and brother Noel Madison), he moves uptown and soon has fame and fortune thanks to his idle rich patients. In a nice touch, we see that he is the subject of a Vanity Fair article that refers to his "million dollar hands." He helps his family move to a better neighborhood, but he ignores his poor patients, including his crippled childhood friend Irene Dunne. Eventually, things start to fall apart: he forgets that he scheduled an operation for one of the poor children and consquently, the child dies; he tries but fails to save his sick father. Of course, when he hits bottom, all that's left is for him to reorder his priorities, with the help of Dunne. Cortez is aged well through the film (unlike Dunne or Ratoff) and is mostly fine in the part. One important scene is set at a Jewish ritual I'd never heard of called the Redemption of the First Born, when the father of a new firstborn "buys" the child from God. The movie has the reputation of being an effective tearjerker, but I found it a bit too much, particularly Cortez's big confrontation with Dunne which comes off as overheated soap opera.

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