The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974) is a Canadian comedy-drama, set in Montreal, and based on the book (1959) with the same name, by Mordecai Richler.
Ted Kotcheff already was an experienced director, mainly in television, and mainly in the U.K., when he returned to Canada in 1974. Mordecai Richler was he personal friend, which probably added to his enjoyment of directing this film, which became an important film in Canadian film history. It was the first commercially successful film in Canada, and won many awards. Among those, was an Academy Awards Nomination for Writing Adapted Screen Play. It was said to be the coming of age of the Canadian Film Industry.
Richard Dreyfuss (70) played Duddy Kravitz, as one of his first major film roles. He was offered a part in Jaws at the same time, but turned it down. When he saw The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, he was so upset by his own performance, he took the part in Jaws. He hoped the public would see him first in that film, and not as Duddy Kravitz. He thought Duddy Kravitz would ruin his reputation.
Watching his performance as Duddy Kravitz, I could see what he meant. It was just on the edge of being overdone, narrowly escaping being a caricature. On the other hand, he did capture the unquenchable spirit of this young man growing up in a poor Jewish neighbourhood in Montreal. He also made the character likeable.
The film could be called a coming of age movie. We see Duddy as the younger son, causing trouble and being criticized negatively as a result. Instead of giving in, he rises above his situation. He buys property, putting it in the name of his gentile girlfriend, because at that time Jews weren’t allowed to buy in that area. This is his salvation. He is forced into bankruptcy, but those properties remain his as they are not in his name. In the end, when Duddy could pay his bill in the Jewish restaurant where the story began, the owner, knowing that he owned property, gave him a tab. Duddy had made it!
My Film Group all thoroughly enjoyed The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. It has the always attractive story of young people, learning from life, growing up, and leaving us knowing that they were on their way. They were now in control of their own lives, and will succeed in whatever they choose to do. This was all set in the interesting background of the struggles of immigrant Jewish culture in Montreal, Canada, in the 1950s.
The acting was good, we would relate to these people, and like them; the directing and screenplay were good. The whole thing was fun, and most enjoyable. An honest film, showing real life as it was then, warts and all, and with a good story. This is my kind of film!