Hungry Hearts

1922 | USA | Black & White | 80 min

Silent, w/Eng. Subtitles
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Archive Details

Screened at SFJFF 2010

Special Live Musical Event

This don’t-miss event combines a classic Lower East Side silent melodrama with a brand new commissioned score performed live on stage at the Castro Theatre by the Moab Strangers. Composer Ethan Miller (of Howlin Rain fame and Comets On Fire) leads talented and innovative Bay Area psychedelic and folk heroes—including Matt Baldwin, Utrillo Kushner (Comets On Fire, Colossal Yes), Joel Robinow (Howlin Rain, Drunk Horse) and even a female Gamelan band—in a cutting-edge soundtrack to the 1922 restored silent Hungry Hearts.

The film is a Hollywood adaptation taken from the short stories of Anzia Yezierska, a writer whose rags-to-riches tales of immigrant hardship led to her being known as the Sweatshop Cinderella. The film opens with scholarly father Abraham Levin teaching Talmud classes secretly from his home in czarist Russia. Discovered by roaming Cossacks and threatened with prison, Abraham, his devoted wife, Hannah, and wide-eyed daughter Sara set out for America. Misinformed that the New World is a golden land with never-ending fields of sunshine, the Levins soon find themselves in the urban jungle of a New York tenement slum. Abraham, thoroughly uninterested in financial gain, has his pushcart stolen while his head is buried in a book. The radiant Sara is forced to eke out a living scrubbing the stairs of their apartment building. When Sara falls in love with a promising young lawyer, his irate landlord-uncle attempts to break the engagement by doubling the rent of the struggling Levins. What follows next is a thoroughly jaw-dropping sequence as the near hysterical Levin matriarch, Hannah, takes a meat cleaver to the white walls of her freshly painted apartment. Produced by Samuel Goldwyn and shot on location in New York’s Lower East Side, Hungry Hearts is a vividly drawn portrait of a Jewish family, at once tragic and richly comic, colored by a palpable sense of real life.—Thomas Logoreci

Listen to a sample of the score to Hungry Hearts - click here

Restored print courtesy National Center for Jewish Film. Support for this special program generously provided by The Columbia Foundation.

Introduced by film preservationist Sharon Puker Rivo.
This program has been selected for participation in the San Francisco Bay Guardian's Guardian Arts Series. Enter to win free tickets at


E. Mason Hopper
Julien Josesphson
Robert Newhard
Robert Kern
Principal Cast
Helen Ferguson, E. Warren, Bryant Washburn
Sharon Pucker Rivo
Restored print courtesy of
The National Center for Jewish Film
Support for this special program generously provided by
Columbia Foundation
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