Amerikaner Shadkhn (American Matchmaker), made in the Bronx in 1940, depicts the saga of Nat Silver, a wealthy businessman who has been engaged seven times. When his eighth engagement fails, he reinvents himself as a matchmaker, though he refuses to charge his clients money, angering the matchmakers’ union (yes, a real thing). Leo Fuchs, who played Silver, was known as the “Yiddish Fred Astaire,” so it’s a musical as well as a mad-cap love story.
As the last of director Edward G. Ulmer‘s Yiddish-language films (not speaking the language didn’t stop Ulmer—he made a version of the Ukrainian story Natalka Poltavka as well), American Matchmaker lets old-world methods prevail, in spite of Silver’s American business acumen, and looks ahead to the figure of the neurotic protagonist, a la Woody Allen.
Watch a version of Natasha Poltavka: