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The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

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Original title
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Running time
121 min.
Canada Canada
Lionel Chetwynd, Mordecai Richler (Novel: Mordecai Richler)
Stanley Myers
Brian West
Paramount Pictures
Drama. Comedy | 1940s
Synopsis / Plot
It took a pair of Canadian ex-pats to beat Hollywood at its own game. The nascent Canadian film industry of the seventies suffered from two shortcomings when it came to making commercial films that could compete in the marketplace: a lack of both competent scripts and professional actors with drawing power. So Ted Kotcheff, who had started his career in Toronto before moving to London – where he met Mordecai Richler – teamed up with the Montreal-born novelist to adapt a Canadian classic. That took care of the script.
Kotcheff then persuaded rising young American star Richard Dreyfuss, Randy Quaid and a trio of fine character actors – Jack Warden, Denholm Elliott and Joe Silver – to make the trip to Montreal. This group, ably supported by a number of talented Canadians, including the wonderful Micheline Lanctôt (seen in last year’s Canadian Open Vault film La Vraie Nature de Bernadette) and Lionel Chetwynd, who helped with the adaptation, turned The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz into a film that worked on every level.
Duddy Kravitz was not your typical Canadian protagonist. His brash, cocky, in-your-face ambition was not what self-effacing Canadians were used to, but his barnstorming energy was contagious. His drive to succeed whatever the cost – and get the girl too – was pure hubris, so his comeuppance probably fed our deeply- ingrained distrust of such a slippery type. But what a roller-coaster ride along the way: the film is full of rollicking fun and well-crafted scenes, bright dialogue and total familiarity with the working-class Jewish community of 1948 Montreal.
Kotcheff spares no one, but at the same time is equally in love with all of his characters. Duddy Kravitz portrays a world in which no one shrinks from declaring the truth in the baldest, most cynical terms – and Duddy is the sharpest, most reckless of all. Quaid is touching and memorable, while Dreyfuss’s performance is phenomenal, exploiting the sleaziness of Duddy’s actions yet making his dreams of improving his life entirely sympathetic.
1974: Nominated for Oscar: Best Adapted Screenplay
1974: Berlin Film Festival: Golden Bear
1974: Golden Globes: Nominated Best Foreign Film
1974: New York Film Critics Circle: Nominated for Best Actor (Richard Dreyfuss)
1974: Writers Guild of America (WGA): Best Adapted Comedy Screenplay
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