Movie Review: The Juggler (1953)


Movie Review: The Juggler (1953)
THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; ‘ The Juggle,’ With Kirk Douglas as Former Vaudeville Actor, Makes Debut at Victoria
Published: May 6, 1953

Kirk Douglas has a fine opportunity to elaborate an interesting role in Stanley Kramer’s “The Juggler,” which came to the Victoria yesterday. It is the role of an ex-vaudeville actor, a darling of old Germany, who comes to Israel in quest of a peaceful haven after being brutalized in Hitler’s torture camps and who can’t rid himself of the fixation that he is still being driven by brutes. It is a role that calls for vivid acting—and Mr. Douglas gives it that.

His brash and demented ex-juggler is a violent and eccentric chap who can’t stand incarceration, even in an innocent reception camp. He is a savage and muscular fellow whose whims are like the clouds that pass above—a fellow who has no hesitation to kill when he believes himself abused. And so he is put to running very soon after he reaches Israel, and he doesn’t stop running over that vivid country until he finally is trapped by sympathy and love.

The screen play by Michael Blankfort, adapted from his own book, is, in major aspects, a melodrama. It is mainly the story of a chase, from the moment the ex-juggler smashes an Israel policeman in the face and takes off for distant places until he is finally brought to rest and apparent romantic attachment on a kibbutz—or a Jewish community farm.

And, following this pattern, Edward Dmytryk, who directed, has kept it on the run in the sense that the tempo of the picture is pretty much at an accelerated speed. He has sharpened his episodes with violence, he has etched them in vivid relief and he has used the beautiful Israel country, wherein the film was photographed, to exquisite effect.

But, thanks to the conception and to the performance that Mr. Douglas gives, a strong and compelling sense of character and of human pathos does come through. Even though the torment may be vagrant, it is real and terrible on Mr. Douglas’ face and in the muscular strain and frenzy that his powerful body reveals. And although the ultimate relaxation in romance may be rather pat and not entirely convincing, it is a gratifying release for him, at least.

A pretty young blonde named Milly Vitale is physically impressive in the role of the girl who subdues the fleeing actor, and this partially compensates for the self-consciousness of her acting in a somewhat implausible role. (What’s such a handsome girl doing unmarried on a community farm?) Joey Walsh as an apparently homeless youngster who takes up with the juggler is pleasant, too, and Paul Stewart, Alf Kjellin and John Bleifer are solid in other roles.

“The Juggler” may not be entirely consistent dramatically, but it offers a fast and fascinating journey through modern Israel, in addition to an intriguing and often touching study of a man.

THE JUGGLER, screen play by Michael Blankfort based on his novel of that name; directed by Edward Dmytryk; A Stanley Kramer Company Production released by Columbia Pictures. At the Victoria.

Hans Muller . . . . . Kirk Douglas
Ya’El . . . . . Milly Vitale
Detective Karni . . . . . Paul Stewart
Yehoshua Bresler . . . . . Joey Walsh
Daniel . . . . . Alf Kjellin
Susy . . . . . Beverly Washburn
Rosenberg . . . . . Charles Lane
Emile Halevy . . . . . John Banner
Kogan . . . . . Richard Benedict
Willy Schmidt . . . . . Oscar Karlweis
Mordecai . . . . . John Bleifer
Sarah . . . . . Greta Granstedt
Papa Sander . . . . . Jay Adler
Dr. Traube . . . . . Shep Menkin
Dr. Sklar . . . . . Gabriel Curtiz