It took victories by star Rod Steiger and director Sidney Lumet at the Berlin Film Festival 50 years ago to win this innovative drama a U.S. release. The first U.S. film to deal with the Holocaust from a survivor’s viewpoint, THE PAWNBROKER depicts a man totally withdrawn from the world around him. By day, he loans desperate people in Harlem money without ever connecting with them. At night, he retreats to the anonymity of a high-rise apartment building. The film’s uncompromising nature, and a few moments of nudity, originally scared off distributors who were convinced it would not make back its investment. But producer Ely Landau successfully appealed to get the nudity past the Production Code Administration—making it the first U.S. film to break their ban on nudity—then shepherded it to a small profit, largely on the strength of Steiger’s performance. THE PAWNBROKER established him as a leading man and ranks as his favorite of his films. It would also inspire the acclaimed miniseries Holocaust (1978) and Stephen Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993).
50th Anniversary screening from newly struck print and presented in collaboration with Paramount Pictures.
Dir. Sidney Lumet
In attendance: Quincy Jones