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The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

(L'Apprentissage de Duddy Kravitz)

Year: 1974
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 121 min
Director: Ted Kotcheff
Producer: John Kemeny
Writer: Mordecai Richler, Lionel Chetwynd
Cinematographer: Miklos Lente, Brian West
Editor: Thom Noble
Sound: Patrick Rousseau
Music: Stanley Myers
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Joe Silver, Henry Ramer, Denholm Elliott, Joseph Wiseman, Randy Quaid, Jack Warden, Micheline Lanctôt
Production Company: International Cinemedia Center

Eighteen-year-old Duddy (Richard Dreyfuss), the son of a Jewish Montreal cabbie, is a relentlessly scheming opportunist. Because of his careening ambition, he will stop at nothing to gain fame and fortune; he wants it all – and he wants it now.

Inspired by his grandfather, Duddy is determined to acquire a piece of land. He works as a waiter at a resort where he meets his gentile girlfriend, Yvette (Micheline Lanctôt). Although he loves her, he ends up using Yvette as a front when he discovers the lakefront prop­erty he wants to buy and develop. He also sets up a movie business, filming Jewish family and religious events with the help of a faded, drunken film director, John Friar (Denholm El­liot).

To further his land deal, Duddy gets involved with legendary gangster Jerry Dingleman (Henry Ramer), who built his fortune on heroin and prostitution. While smuggling heroin over the border on the train, Duddy meets Virgil (Randy Quiad), a dimwitted but sweet-tempered young man whom Duddy swindles then hires as a driver and projectionist.

After Virgil suffers an epileptic seizure that paralyzes him, Yvette takes care of him. Meanwhile, in order to buy his land and beat Dingleman, Duddy forges a cheque on Virgil's bank account, sells his own be­longings and borrows money from his father. Finally, he gets the land but loses Virgil's friendship and Yvette's respect in the process. The only people who give him credit for his accomplishments are his father and friends at the neighbourhood snack bar.

Firmly rooted in the urban Jewish milieu of Montreal of the forties, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is dominated by the blustery magnetism of Duddy, played with manic obsession by Richard Dreyfuss (who scratches himself as though greed were some kind of skin disease). Duddy is simultaneously repulsive and irresistible.

The novel by Mordecai Richler was already a literary icon in English Canada by the time it was adapted for the screen by Richler and Ted Kotcheff. The film’s pastiche Hol­lywood-North style reflects Richler's own cultural disaffection.

British critic Caroline Lewis remarked, “The most effective part of the movie is undoubtedly Duddy's film�€'within�€'a­-film... produced out of a confusion of Duddy's commercial ambitions and addled director Friar's artistic preten­sions. But this wild amalgam of ethnic stereotype, Ken Russell–like documen­tary and ethnography�€'made�€'easy is fi­nally not too distorted a reflection of the film which contains it.”

Winner of many awards and the major prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is one of the biggest commercial successes in English-Canadian cinema and was widely praised by reviewers on its re­lease.

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz was identified as a “culturally significant film” by the AV Preservation Trust through the 2002 Masterworks programme. It screened at the Canadian Open Vault selection at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival.