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2. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

Country Available: Canada, USA
Related Programs:
  • On Screen! II
  • 'On Screen! III
  • Based on the first great success of the late author Mordechai Richler and directed by one of his best friends, Ted Kotcheff, the legendary film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz proved that English Canadian cinema could play with the big boys. In post World War Two Montreal, young working-class Jew Duddy (Richard Dreyfuss) schemes his way to the big time, aggressively pursuing wealth against the desires of his father (Jack Warden), and sweeping up his lover, Yvette (Micheline Lanctôt) and friend, Virgil (Randy Quaid) in his midst. An incisive portrait of the Montreal Jewish community, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is full of intelligence, wit, and wisdom. "What is a man without land?" the film asks, as it manages to capture many of the issues and tensions separating Canada from its southern neighbor, as well as the deep divides between English and French Canada.

    Now appearing on a postage stamp, and also being recently re-released, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz was a difficult film to realize in 1974. An unheard of effort transformed Montreal into an earlier version of itself, including a full-scale recreation effort encompassing 1950s cars, wardrobe, and haircuts. (Now the Oscar-winning producer of Chicago , then-location manager Don Carmody attests to the organizational difficulties posed by this undertaking). One of the most legendary creations in Canadian film and literature, Duddy Kravitz is brought to life by the explosive performance of Richard Dreyfuss, in the role that catapulted him into Hollywood stardom. (Insight into the casting of Dreyfuss is provided by legendary casting director Lynn Stalmaster). Most certainly, the character and the actor are fused in the public consciousness, and this performance surely helped the film to win the Golden Bear at the Berlinale (after controversially being rejected from Cannes), and then led Paramount Pictures to take a chance on the film, buying it for American distribution. Though, of course, many favorite moments are just as indelible, especially the notorious bar mitzvah film.

    Over the years, the stories of the making of Duddy Kravitz have become legendary. One of Canada's most successful directors, Ted Kotcheff, who would later go on to adapt Joshua Then and Now , and is currently working on Richler's Barney's Version , tells numerous stories about meeting Richler, and living with him in London while the book was being written. For the first time, lead actress Michelene Lanctôt discusses her relationship on and off screen with Kotcheff, which blossomed after the film was finished shooting, as well as recalling Richler showing up in the middle of the woods in northern Quebec, inconceivably, carrying a glass of whisky. More controversially, screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd (now one of America's most right-wing filmmakers) discusses the battle over screenwriting credit between himself and Richler, as Chetwynd alone received an Academy Award nomination, despite Richler's rewrite (other perspectives on this are provided by Mordechai Richler's son Daniel, host of Book TV , and Michael Posner, author of The Last Honest Man: Mordechai Richler ). There will also be discussion of just how Canadian this film is by academics and critics like Tom McSorley and Jerry White: is Duddy Kravitz a representative of American values, or does the film criticize them?

    View a printer friendly version of this page...Copyright Date: 2006 Length: 48 minutes Library Audience:
  • General Interest
  • Canadian Film Studies
  • School Audience:
  • 10-12
  • Post Secondary
  • Subjects:
  • Canadian Film Studies
  • Media Studies
  • Film Making
  • Language Arts
  • Formats Available:
  • DVD
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