The House of Rothschild

The House of Rothschild was the first important film made by the then-newly formed 20th Century Pictures in late 1933. The studio acquired Fox Pictures in 1935 and is still known today as 20th Century-Fox.   George Arliss was the studio’s first major star and producer Darryl Zanuck bet that ROTHSCHILD would be hit. It was.

This film was nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award in 1934 – a banner year for superb films. It was no disgrace that IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT picked up the Award. ROTHSCHILD was also one of the very few films ever made dealing with anti-Semitism.  Arliss wrote 14 pages of script suggestions urging the official screenwriters to enlarge the anti-Semitism theme. Here is a particularly fine study of Arliss as Meyer Rothschild in the film’s prologue:

The rise of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany by 1933 made the film especially timely. In a master stroke of casting, Boris Karloff played the anti-Semitic Prussian Ambassador, Count Ledrantz. I believe the character was fictional but served as a composite for a number of real-life Prussians during the Napoleonic Wars:

The film reunited Arliss with fellow British actor C. Aubrey Smith – they played together on the London stage in 1903. Smith as the Duke of Wellington nearly stole the show from Arliss. Florence Arliss played Hannah Rothschild to George’s Nathan Rothschild (son of Meyer). One wit remarked that this film was so big, George Arliss had to play two parts!

In the above photo, note the wedding ring worn by Arliss. He wore it in almost all his films, even when his character was unmarried.

The supporting cast was impressive. Here is Loretta Young playing Julie, Nathan’s daughter

Reginald Owen as Herries, the real-life Chancellor of the Exchequer circa 1815. He and Count Ledrantz don’t see eye-to-eye:

Film History is Made – Arliss Meets Karloff:

Time magazine felt the film important enough to grace its cover:

The Astor Theater in New York City gave ROTHSCHILD the deluxe treatment:

Even a British fan magazine had to acknowledge it:

The film’s artistic and financial success made celebrating the studio’s first anniversary a joyous occasion:

[Click on this image to view “hidden” screen captures from the film itself]

Published in: on February 7, 2011 at 8:50 PM  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Entertaining film. Too bad the version shown on TCM on 2/7/11 had the finale in black and white.

    George Arliss had a certain charisma which very few actors had. That brought his films above the ordinary.

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