We Americans (1928)

Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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We Americans was based on the Broadway play of the same name. Returning to the "melting pot" themes that he handled so well, director Edward H. Sloman concentrates on the trials and tribulations of three first-generation American families: The Jewish Levines, the German Schmidts and the Italian Albertinis. Most of the footage is devoted to the efforts of pants-presser Mr. Levine (George Sidney) to carve out a decent existence for his family in the teeming garment district of New York. While Levine's daughter Beth (Patsy Ruth Miller) dedicates herself to hard work, his son Phil (George Lewis) prefers to fritter away his time at sports events. Angry that Beth spends too much time at her job and not enough with her housekeeping duties, Levine orders her out of the house -- and when Phil, angry at the treatment afforded his sister, marches off to WWI, Levine and his wife (Beryl Mercer) are left all alone. Their neighbors, the Schmidts and the Albertinis, try to convince the stubborn Levines that they've mishandled their children, but to do this it is necessary to educate the Jewish couple in American manners and mores. Thus, the Levines are encouraged to join their neighbors in attending night school, where they are finally convinced that the ways of the Old World are not necessarily the best. Soon afterward, Phil Levine is killed in the trenches of France while saving the life of the socially prominent Hugh Bradleigh (John Boles). Upon his return to New York, Hugh seeks out Phil's family and promptly falls in love with Beth, now a successful dressmaker. Hugh's parents are initially resistant to their son's romance, until they discover that their boy would not be alive today were it not for Phil Levine's sacrifice. In the film's sentimental finale, the Levines and the Bradleighs meet one another for the first time to exchange pleasantries before the wedding of Hugh and Beth. Edward Sloman had originally wanted Yiddish stage actor Muni Weisenfreund, a specialist in elderly characterizations, to play the role of Levine, but upon discovering that Weisenfruend was only 30 years old, the director opted for middle-aged George Sidney instead. The "rejected" Weisenfreund later attained film stardom under the name of Paul Muni.