Joseph Urban and Cosmopolitan Films


"Humoresque," Cosmopolitan Productions Number 5, was released on May 30, 1920. It was the first picture that used Joseph Urban's talents, and was also Hearst's first great critical and commercial success, winning the Photoplay Gold Medal for best picture of 1920, the first year that the award was given, being the precursor of the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The film was directed by Frank Borzage from a 1919 short story by Fannie Hurst that had appeared in Cosmopolitan Magazine in March, 1919, with a scenario by Frances Marion. Hearst had Marion change the ending of the original work into an uplifting miracle.

The film tells the tale of a young Jewish immigrant, Leon Kantor (played by Bobby Cannelly as the boy Leon, and by Gaston Glass as the adult), whose talent as a vionist enables him to move his family out of the New York City ghetto to live comfortably uptown on Fifth Avenue.

Leon serves in the World War and his arm is injured, ending his violin career. He subsequently rejects Gina Berg (played by Alma Rubens) his true love, calling himself a useless cripple without a career. Leaving him, she collapses, and when Leon rushes to pick her up, he discovers that his arm has regained its strength, allowing him to resume his violin playing.

Shown here are the sets for the Kantor (marked here Cantor) Brass Shop, and the set for the Toy Shop where the young Leon finds his first violin.

Other performers in the film are Dore Davidson as Leon's father, Abraham Kantor, and Vera Gordon as Mama Kantor.

Shown here is the Sun Parlor set where Leon rejects Alma, causing her to collapse from a broken heart in the room to the left. Leon then rushes to her, picking her up, and then realizing that his arm is restored to his former strength. Going to his violin, his playing awakes her to end the film as the family rejoices.

In 2015, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

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