Humoresque (1920 film)

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For works with similar titles, see Humoresque.
Humoresque  (1920) 
by Frank Borzage
A 1920 American silent drama film, from a 1919 short story by Fannie Hurst. This film was the first film to win the Photoplay Medal of Honor, and was selected for preservation by United States Library of Congress in the National Film Registry.
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Video Camera Icon.svg The following is a transcription of a film. The contents below represent text or spoken dialogue that are transcribed directly from the video of the film provided above. On certain screen sizes, each line is represented by a timestamp next to it which shows when the text appears on the video. For more information, see Help:Film.

Famous Players-Lasky Corporation
From the story by

Copyrighted with International Film Service Co., Inc.
A Paramount Picture


Cosmopolitan Productions


Scenario by

Photography by
Gilbert Warrenton

New York—an ensemble of all the civilizations of history, its towers rising into the blue like vast instruments in the orchestra of time.

Its Ghetto, echoing the eternal march of triumph and tragedy—a strident melody whose first measures begin with the tender theme of mother love.

In this lambent vale of things and things and things there labored Abrahm Kantor…


…transforming new brasses into rare Russian antiques.

While in the tenement above, the voice of mamma Kantor could be heard, even above the shriek and thunder of elevated traffic.


"Rudolph! Come up here quick! You got lessons!"

"Esther! Give back them Murphy twins and help your own mamma with table-setting."

"Isadore! No monkey-shines! You come home now to mamma."

Sadder than the passing of many little ones in this living dead thing, Mannie … their first child, born to them as they fled from the massacres of Russia.


"Don't cry, Mannie baby! Today is your little brother Leon's birthday, and a happiness must set into this house."

Poor Mannie… with a tiny baby's mind, what made him cry and laugh in the cradle fifteen years ago makes him cry and laugh to-day.

Leon Kantor, showing off his birthday suit—marked down from "summer sales".


"One dollar for a birthday present! I tell you, mamma, the way you spoil our children, it will some day come back on us!"

"It's his birthday night, Abrahm—nine years since his little head first lay on the pillow next to mine."

"All right! All right! Drive me crazy because he's got a birthday!"

"Abrahm… ain't you forgot something?"

Like a little scraggly plant grown without sunlight is Gina Ginsberg, a daughter of the Ghetto.



"It's hern. She got it outa the ashes. It's all cold, anyhow!"

"Maybe, Leon, I can warm it live again!"

"For nothing will I show you how I can wiggle my ears."


"Go, Izzie! It's a customer! Remember, the first asking price is the last three figures on the tag."

"Aw ma, I got 'rithmetic to do! Make Esther go!"

"Every time I ask that boy he should do one thing, right away he gets lessons!"

"Ain't you ashamed, Rudolph, stealing it from Leon! Always on my children's birthdays a meanness sets into this house!"


$ 7.30
$ 4.00

"Listen, my son, to its tinkle! This is moosic!"

"Swell noises it makes… for only sixty-five cents!"

"A four dollar feedle he wants! So, we shall have another feedler in the family for some thirty-cent lessons out of my pants while I sleep!"

"It's come, Abrahm—the dream of my life—my prayers—it's come!"

"I knew it must be one of my children, if I prayed long enough. He cried for a violon! My baby—a musician!"

"Always a moosician! Why not you should sometimes pray for a business man—maybe in brasses like his papa?"

"I swear to you, Abrahm, God hears a mother's prayers. All the months before he was born I prayed for it. Each one before they came I prayed it should be the one."

"Oi, oi! The mother is crazier as her son."

"Nebich! You said Isadore would yet be a moosicer."

"I thought that time when our Isadore ran after the organ-grinder he could be the one. How could I know it was only the monkey he wanted?"

"If he wants a violin, please he should have it."

"I know he's got talent, maybe a genius! A father don't understand like a mother who's so—so next to them."

"It's like a pain—back in out hearts."

"A pain in her heart she gets for this ganef! I'll feedle him—"

"Abrahm, he'll have a fit!"

"He should have two fits!"

"Where's that old feedle from Isadore—that seventy-five cents one?"

"Papa! It's Rudolph eating first again."

"Pig! You should wait for your mamma!"


"Say, pop—wait for ma!"

"Don't 'say pop' me. I don't want from you no street-bum freshness."

"Come, Sarah, dish up or I'll give him a potch he won't soon forget!"

"A dead cat she wants to plant like it was violets. Not in my home such an insanitation!"

"Please papa, he's so tired. He ain't left to rest—even after he's dead."

"Only for you would I stand such a stink. Always sacrifices are parents making."

Forever blessed are those who have faith—and sublimest of all is the faith of a mother.

On the wings of a mother's answered prayer, Leon Kantor was lifted to the pinnacle of fame… At twenty-three a "command" performance before the Royal Family of Italy ended his first triumphal tour of Europe.


"They're hanging a medal on him. It's worth two hundred and fifty dollars if it's worth a cent!"

"Always cute Leon was to his mamma. Just like a cupid, ain't it?"

"Didn't I always tell you that my boy would be some day a fancy feedler?"

Moonlight in Venice, and another chapter of a romance that began in the Ghetto of New York.

Gina Ginsberg, whose father outgrew poverty even as she outgrew the infirmity of childhood, is finishing her education in Europe…


Then the Kantors returned to America, where the tide of Leon's success carried them even to the golden shores of Fifth Avenue.

Their children grown, and now polished like the brasses of their old Allen Street shop.

A great unrest had torn at Leon's heart ever since Europe unleashed her grim hounds of war.

And now, America was calling her own young men.

"Now, mamma, you eat dinner before I get mad from you!"

"I'm not hungry, mother. I want to walk in the park—alone—before tonight's concert."

This was Leon's final seal of triumph… a concert for his own people of the Ghetto.

"God!! This real! This is what gets me, playing for my own!"

"Try to get quiet, son. Count like you used to…"

"Just feel my hands, ma. Like ice."

"My baby! To think the greatest one of them all should be mine—a plain woman like me!"

"Not so much vanity, ma, until Elsass, the great manager, comes to me with a contract."

"He will come! I know it! It's like a mother can always tell what will happen to her children."

Sol Ginsberg
and Daughter.

"$5000.00 in the house tonight if there's a cent!"

Then he played the Kol Nidre, which is the prayer of his race for atonement—played as if his very blood were weeping.

"Already fifteen recalls!"


"Humoresque"… that laugh on life with a tear behind it.

"Leon, here is Elsass, the great manager! He's come to sign you for fifty concerts—two thousand dollars a concert!"

"Chammer! Lump! You hear that? Two thousand dollars a concert for your Uncle Leon. Didn't I tell you to practice!"

"See! So quick he would get you, the contract he has already printed."

"Father, I've just signed a contract with Uncle Sam."

                    NOVEMBER 9, 1917


NOON NOVEMBER 15th, 1917.

           72th ST. & CENTRAL PARK 2.
           NEW YORK CITY, N. Y.

JJBJ.J. Brant 2nd A
102th Inf

"Mamma—your poor mamma!"

"We must not tell her—tonight—"

Then, not many weeks later, with sailing orders heavy and light in his heart, Leon Kantor took leave of home.

"I'm not one of those fine mothers that can be so brave."

"Cut out my heart—but leave me my wonder boy."

"Is that the way you're going to act—after your promise—"

"Oh Leon, come to my arms! Sit with me like you used to when you were a little boy. Here on my lap."

"For shame, ma, a great big boy like me!"

"Please, Leon, like you used to be, my little boy—my baby."

"Think, ma, how the men in my regiment would laugh if they could see me now!"

"Many's the boy being rocked in his mamma's arms to-night."

"A genius like you could so easily get excused, Leon, darling—don't go!"

"You wouldn't want me to hide behind my violon."

"I must go! Look at Mannie, born an imbecile because of autocracy! What is music, what is art—what is life itself, in a world without freedom?"

"Don't let them little devils of French girls fall in love with my dude in his uniform!"

"Shut up, Nebich. I'm not crying. I'm laughing—laughing—"

"Well, son, are you going to play—for your old mother—before you go?"

"Play something to make mamma laugh."


"It is like life, son, that piece. Crying to hide its laughing—and laughing to hide its crying."

"Play that new piece you set to music… 'I Have A Rendezvous'…"

"See, it always makes Mannie laugh. Even Mannie should have, too, his goodbye."

"But I've a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill
When Spring comes 'round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear."

"What does it mean, son, that word 'rondy-voo'?"

"It's a sort of meeting—an engagement—isn't it, Gina?"

"Have I an engagement with you, Gina?"

"Oh, how—how I hope you have, Leon."

"In the Spring?"

"Quick, Leon! I got the car downstairs. Fifteen minutes to make the ferry! The sooner we get him over there the sooner we get him back!"

"No nonsense! No waterworks! Am I right mamma?"

Though Leon was gone—her faith remained unshaken.

There passed agonizing months of waiting… Then a cablegram told that Leon was on his way home.

"For why, mamma, get all tired out and make yourself little before the cooks?"

"For shame, papa! That maybe our boy comes home on his birthday—and not have a cake made by his own mamma's hands."

"All right—all right—drive me crazy because he's got a birthday."

"It's Leon!"

"Mamma! He's an officer!"

"I bet my boy is a General!"

"I was your son's buddy in France…"

"No, he is here. They have just brought him over on a hospital ship—wounded—"

Months of suffering had driven the daylight from the mind of Leon Kantor. And groping in the darkness, he struggled against that all destroying thing—Fear. Fear that he could never use his wounded arm again.

"Doctor! Can't something be done for him?"

"Not in his present state of mind. It was a shrapnel wound and the scar adhesions are binding his shoulder. A terrific effort would be his only hope, but as long as he fears he will never recover—science cannot help him."

"But his music is his life…"

"That's just it. He's lost all interest in life and because of that we are powerless."

"I'm done for. I'm a useless crippled thing."

Then Springtime came… though eternal winter still lay in the heart of Leon Kantor.

"What do those blossoms remind you of, Leon?"

"… that we had a rendezvous in Spring."

"Gina, do you love me?"

"Then you must leave me. My career is ended. I will not let you sacrifice yourself to a—cripple!"

"But Leon, I love you! You haven't the right to send me away from you—"

"Leon, I can't… my heart is broken…"

"I tell you, Abrahm, God always hears a mother's prayers."

"I suppose a papa's payers has nothing to do with it!"


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927.

The author died in 1962, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 50 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.