Monday, January 4, 2010
The Younger Generation (1929)
I may have to take back what I said about Lina Basquette. While still not what I’d consider a terrific actress, she deserves more credit than I’ve given her – especially after watching her tackle another emotionally taxing role and do it so well.
This picture is a moving examination of how the children of immigrants often rejected their cultures in order to assimilate and get ahead. Ricardo Cortez is good as the son trying to erase his Jewish heritage, but the film belongs to Jean Hersholt. He exhibits such quiet dignity, such familial pride and genuine love that, when shattered, his disbelief and pain stuns you. Basquette is very effective as Birdie, the daughter deeply in love and caught in the middle. Her suffering is very real and you ache for her.
“Generation” was made on the cusp of sound, and as often happened, contains some talkie scenes. Compared to the rest of the film they seem stilted, but that was par for the course at that time and does not hurt the picture as a whole. I defy you to watch Hersholt quietly singing to his as-yet-unknown grandchild with dry eyes.
I give this one: