french films > David Golder

David Golder

David Golder

David Golder

Review score: * * * * *

cast: Harry Baur (David Golder), Jacques Grétillat (Marcus), Paule Andral (Gloria), Jackie Monnier (Joyce), Jean Coquelin (Fischl), Jean Bradin (Alec), Gaston Jacquet (Hoyor), Camille Bert (Tubingen), Léon Arvel, Jeanne Bernard, Paul Franceschi, Charles Go

year: 1931

colour: no


director: Julier Duvivier

runtime: 86

Golder has refused to help his colleague of many years, Marcus. As a result of this, Marcus, bankrupt, commits suicide. Following the funeral, Golder travels to Biarritz where he has a huge, opulent house. His wife and daughter reside there in luxury, spending Golder's cash like water. On the train, he suffers a heart attack. Seriously ill, he is forced to re-evaluate his life.

David Golder is a self-made man. From humble beginnings as a Jew in the Ukraine selling rags, he is now a cold, ruthless businessman. It is suggested by his wife, Gloria, that Marcus is not the only casualty of Golder's brutal dealings. However he has an Achilles heel, well hidden: his feckless daughter, Joyce. It is this weakness that eventually ruins him.

Now 68 and dying, he realises that his wealth has not brought him happiness; simply a grim satisfaction that, as "a good Jew" he has provided for his uncaring family. Gloria and Joyce are portrayed as grasping and selfish, barely showing concern or interest in Golder except when they need more money for jewellery, furs, cars and cash for their lovers.

Based on Irene Nemirovsky's novel, it is an astonishing portrayal of a businessman and his family in the years leading up to the Great Depression. It also introduces characters of great depth, like Soifer, the old German Jew who "walks on tiptoe" to save shoe leather; he is Golder's only connection with the old world from which he himself came. His wife, Gloria, (Havke is her Yiddish name) is as beautiful, cold and hard as the jewels she so treasures. But it is Joyce, Golder's 18-year-old daughter, who is central to the story. It is she who ultimately causes his ruin.


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