The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974)




Director:  Ted Ketcheff.

Starring:  Richard Dreyfuss (Duddy), Micheline Lanctt (Yvette), Jack Warden (Max), Randy Quaid (Virgil), Joseph Wiseman (Uncle Benjy), Denholm Elliott (Friar), Henry Ramer (Dingleman, the mobster), Joe Silver (Farber), Zvee Scooler (Grandfather), Robert Goodier (Calder), Alan Rosenthal (Lenny), Barry Baldaro (Paddy), Allan Kolman (Irwin), Barry Pascal (Bernie Farber), Susan Friedman (Linda).

anti-Semitism in Canada


Very good movie.  The movie is set in Montreal, Canada.  Almost immediately, we can tell that young high-schooler Duddy Kravitz is a cut-up and a hustler.  His father is a taxi driver making some additional money by driving the local prostitutes around. 

Duddy wants to be a somebody, probably because, as a kid, he felt neglected by both his father and uncle in favor of his older brother.  He wants to be a success and is willing to cut corners and run over people in order to further himself.

The Jewish Duddy takes a job as a waiter in an area of Canada that is something like the Jewish Catskills in New York State.  At the restaurant he meets the French Canadian Yvette who is a maid at the local hotel.  To impress her, he lies about his social class background.  He adds: "I'm a real comer."

As much as Duddy is selfish, Yvette is self-less.  They soon develop a strong attraction for each other.  Yvette shows Duddy a beautiful lake that Duddy decides he just must have. Yvette tells him that the farmers who own the land will not sell to a Jewish person.  She agrees that she will put the land in her name if Duddy does try to purchase land tracts around the lake. 

Meanwhile, Duddy starts a business (using the name Duddy Krane instead of Duddy Kravitz) with a partner making Bar-Mitzvah films.  Even though Duddy is jealous of his brother, he comes to the rescue when the brother gets in a jam.  When his uncle becomes ill, Duddy asks him why he so favored his brother over him.  The answer is harsh and telling:  "Because you're a born push kid; a little Jew boy on the make and guys like you make me feel sick and ashamed."  But the Uncle does not realize that the "Jewish" part of the explanation is far less important than Duddy's early and continuing sense of neglect. 

Duddy is constantly looking for opportunities to make a buck.  He takes advantage of a young man from Plattsburgh, New York and the damage that is done to the man is so great that Yvette breaks with Duddy. 

Can Duddy ever overcome his persistent obsession with success at any price and learn to appreciate other things besides money, such as love?  And if he can, will Yvette forgive him? 

Although it is different, the movie reminded me a bit of "Death of a Salesman" where the main character has also lost the ability to keep his priorities straight.

Richard Dreyfus is absolutely outstanding as Duddy.      

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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