How does a talented silent film director from Budapest end up directing Casablanca, which the American Film Institute rates as the third greatest film of all time? Moon of Israel sets the whole process in motion. Directed by Mihaly Kertesz in 1924, the same year that Cecil B. Demille released The Ten Commandments, Moon of Israel tells the story of a Hebrew slave girl who falls in love with a son of Pharaoh. While overshadowed in the press by Demille’s epic, critics considered Moon to be far more visually advanced and interesting – so much so, that Jack Warner (of Warner Brothers) recruited Kertesz to work at his studio to direct another planned biblical epic, Noah’s Ark.
In 1926, Mihaly comes to America, changes his name to Michael Curtiz and proceeds to have a successful career including 8 Oscar-nominated films including Yankee Doodle Dandy, Mildred Pierce, Four Daughters, and Casablanca as well as White Christmas, We’re No Angels, and Elvis Presley’s King Creole.
All this because of Moon of Israel, which you can enjoy this Saturday, March 5, 7:30 pm at the Somerville Theater in a newly restored 35mm print never before scene in America and with live musical accompaniment by pianist and Austrian silent movie authority, Gerhard Gruber.