Hey Yiddle Yiddle

Name this movie: A wildly popular actress stars as a young, sassy, headstrong Jewish woman who masquerades as a man and falls in love with one of her colleagues. Sound familiar? Oh yeah, and this proto-feminist must flout tradition to follow her heart and...play a fiddle in a band of roving musicians? No, it's not the director's cut of Yentl. It's Yidl Mitn Fidl, or Yiddle With a Fiddle, and the actress is Molly Picon.

A comedic actress and singer on the stage and screen, Picon saw her heyday in the '30s and '40s, but her colorful career lasted for more than 75 years. She made her theatrical debut at age 5; she thrived on the vaudeville circuit; her role in 1962's Come Blow Your Horn earned her an Oscar nomination; and she toured in a one-woman show when she was 81. Picon even has a cocktail --a martini-like concoction--named after her (not even Babs can claim that).

When Yidl was released in 1936, it was advertised as the "first all-talkie Yiddish musical comedy sensation." But look beyond all the fun, and you'll get a fascinating glimpse into the past. The film takes place in urban and rural Poland during a time of increasing anti-Semitism. Director Joseph Green shot Yidl on location using residents of local shtetls, the Jewish villages that dotted the landscape, as extras, capturing the authentic look and feel of Jewish Eastern Europe.

The Jewish Community Center of Dallas will provide an opportunity for cineastes and history buffs alike to catch this seldom-screened movie. It kicks off the Jewish Film Festival of Dallas Thursday at Plano's Granada Theatre. The Truce, an Italian film starring John Turturro as a survivor of Auschwitz, continues the festival on Saturday, and other Jewish-themed movies from around the world will be screened through March16.

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Other features of the festival will be special children's programs, guest speakers, luncheons, and a mah-jongg tournament. And because it all takes place at the Granada, you can include dinner in your plans. Oh yeah--there's a bar too. Order a Molly Picon before you catch the flick.

--Larra Ann Robertson

The Jewish Film Festival of Dallas takes place February 25-March 16 at the Granada Movie Grill at Belt Line and Prestonwood. Films start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5-$7.50 per movie, $45 for the whole series. Call (214) 739-2737, ext. 260 or 227.

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