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HISTORY

The film opens with titles reading: "In a time...when the world of study belonged only to men there lived a girl called … Yentl."
       According to a 14 Nov 1979 Var article, Barbra Streisand acquired screen rights to Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story, "Yentl, The Yeshiva Boy," in 1968. Three years later, the 21 Mar 1971 NYT reported Streisand's intent to star in a motion picture adaptation tentatively titled Masquerade. Valentine Sherry was set to produce through Streisand's company, First Artists Productions, with Czechoslovakian filmmaker Ivan Passer slated to direct. Over the next several years, Streisand, who was in her thirties, faced discouragement from studio executives that felt she was too old to portray the teenaged "Yentl." By the end of the decade, however, the 9 Nov 1979 DV announced that Streisand would make her directorial debut from a screenplay by Ted Allan. The project had since been reimagined as a musical drama and moved to Orion Pictures, where the 14 Nov 1979 NYT stated that it would be produced in conjunction with Streisand's Barwood Films and the Jon Peters Organzation (JPO), owned by Streisand's then-boyfriend, Jon Peters. The 12 Dec 1979 LAHExam mentioned that Streisand was interested in actor Richard Gere for the male lead.
       The following year, however, the 17 Dec 1980 Var revealed that Orion Pictures had bowed out of Yentl, having become nervous about the risk involved with shooting a big-budget film overseas with a first-time director. Despite interest from both Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures, the project found a new home at Polygram Pictures, where Peters had ... More Less

The film opens with titles reading: "In a time...when the world of study belonged only to men there lived a girl called … Yentl."
       According to a 14 Nov 1979 Var article, Barbra Streisand acquired screen rights to Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story, "Yentl, The Yeshiva Boy," in 1968. Three years later, the 21 Mar 1971 NYT reported Streisand's intent to star in a motion picture adaptation tentatively titled Masquerade. Valentine Sherry was set to produce through Streisand's company, First Artists Productions, with Czechoslovakian filmmaker Ivan Passer slated to direct. Over the next several years, Streisand, who was in her thirties, faced discouragement from studio executives that felt she was too old to portray the teenaged "Yentl." By the end of the decade, however, the 9 Nov 1979 DV announced that Streisand would make her directorial debut from a screenplay by Ted Allan. The project had since been reimagined as a musical drama and moved to Orion Pictures, where the 14 Nov 1979 NYT stated that it would be produced in conjunction with Streisand's Barwood Films and the Jon Peters Organzation (JPO), owned by Streisand's then-boyfriend, Jon Peters. The 12 Dec 1979 LAHExam mentioned that Streisand was interested in actor Richard Gere for the male lead.
       The following year, however, the 17 Dec 1980 Var revealed that Orion Pictures had bowed out of Yentl, having become nervous about the risk involved with shooting a big-budget film overseas with a first-time director. Despite interest from both Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures, the project found a new home at Polygram Pictures, where Peters had an established relationship with chairman Peter Guber. Not long after, items in the 31 Mar 1981 DV and 1 Apr 1981 Var announced that the film went into turnaround yet again before landing at United Artists (UA). According to the 12 Jun 1981 HR, Jon Peters was no longer slated to produce, and he was replaced by former Peters associate Rusty Lemorand, with Stanley O’Toole serving as executive producer. On 6 Aug 1981, the LAHExam mentioned that Streisand was unable to sign actor Michael Douglas to appear in the film, and the role of "Yentl's" love interest was eventually filled by Mandy Patinkin.
       After nearly a decade of setbacks, principal photography finally got underway on 14 Apr 1982 at Lee International Studios in London, England, according to the 15 Apr 1982 DV. The company moved to Roztyly, Czechoslovakia, in Jul 1982, where “Yentl’s” home village of "Yanev" was constructed. Local film workers, under the supervision of Karel Skop, joined the crew during Czech shoot. After the unit finished in Roztyly, they moved to the old Jewish quarter of Zatec, which stood in for the town of "Beshev" in the film. Finally, the company went to the Czech capital of Prague. Among the Prague locations was the Charles Bridge, according to production notes in AMPAS library files.
       ”The Write Stuff” column in the 12 June 1982 LAHExam reported that Yentl was eight days behind schedule and that screenwriter Alvin Sargent flew to London on a “hush-hush” mission to consult with Streisand. As investors grew nervous about the production, a 21 Oct 1982 DV item reported that MGM/UA decided to sell part of its interest in Yentl to a tax shelter group in England.
       In her 1 Apr 1983 LAT “Film Clips” column, staff writer Deborah Caulfield reported that Barbra Streisand had been “ousted” as producer of the film, and that an unnamed completion bond company was now overseeing production, as a result of cost overruns. The article offered estimated varying production costs of from $14--$20 million. The 8 Apr 1983 HR carried a statement by MGM/UA vice-chairman Frank Yablans, issued the day before, which read: “I want to make it clear that Ms. Streisand is, has been and will always be credited the producer and director retaining full artistic control.” The removal announcement, Yablans said, arose from a “technicality within the financial structuring of the film, an arrangement which is not uncommon with many current Hollywood productions. It by no means affects Ms. Streisand’s creative and artistic contributions to the film.” At the time of the statement, Streisand was reported to be in London supervising scoring and post-production. The 12 Oct 1983 Var stated that Streisand was reported to have personally invested some $4 million in the production, although the article stated that “sources aren’t sure whether Streisand’s was a direct investment in the project or as the result of a commitment to cover overruns on what turned out to be an extended shoot.”
       On 16 Nov 1983, LAHExam noted that source author Isaac Beshevis Singer had been invited to the Yentl premiere that evening, but that he would not be attending. Roger Straus, of Singer’s publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux, was paraphrased as saying that Streisand had paid Singer a “modest amount” for the story rights several years earlier, and had paid the final installment of $20,000 the previous day. It was stated that Singer had never been paid for the Yentl screen treatment he prepared at Streisand’s request, which she praised, but never used. The 29 Jan 1984 NYT published an “interview” conducted by Isaac Beshevis Singer with himself, in which he stated: “I did not find artistic merit neither in the adaptation nor in the directing. I did not think that Miss Streisand was at her best in the part of Yentl.”
       A 21 Nov 1983 MGM/UA Entertainment Co. press release noted that in its first three days of exhibition in thirteen theaters in New York City; Toronto, Canada; and Los Angeles, CA, Yentl grossed $341,768. Studio records through Feb 1986 indicate the final negative cost of the film was $18,298,000, and the domestic box-office gross totaled $40,218,899 during its theatrical run.
       Overall critical reaction was positive. The film won an Academy Award for Music (Original Score), and received nominations in the following categories: Music (Original Song - "Papa, Can You Hear Me?"), Music (Original Song - "The Way He Makes Me Feel"), Art Direction, and Actress in a Supporting Role (Amy Irving).
       End credits include the following acknowledgments: "Special Thanks to Valentine Sherry"; "Filmed on Location in Czechoslovakia through Ceskoslovensky Filmexport and Filmore Studio Barracks, Prague, and at Lee International Film Studios, London, England."; and, "This film is dedicated to my father … and to all our fathers." More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
9 Nov 1979
p. 1, 35.
Daily Variety
7 Jul 1980
---
Daily Variety
31 Mar 1981
p. 1, 22.
Daily Variety
15 Apr 1982.
---
Daily Variety
21 Oct 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Apr 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 1983
p. 3, 38.
LAHExam
12 Dec 1979.
---
LAHExam
6 Aug 1981.
---
LAHExam
12 Jun 1982
Section A, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
1 Apr 1983
p. 1, 15.
Los Angeles Times
18 Nov 1983
Section J, p. 1, 16.
New York Times
21 Mar 1971.
---
New York Times
14 Nov 1979
---
New York Times
18 Nov 1983
p. 10.
New York Times
29 Jan 1984.
---
Variety
14 Nov 1979.
---
Variety
17 Dec 1980.
---
Variety
1 Apr 1981.
---
Variety
12 Oct 1983.
---
Variety
2 Nov 1983
p. 16.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Starring:
as Yentl
as Avigdor
[and]
as Hadass
Co-starring:
as Reb Mendel, "Papa"
as Reb Alter Vishkower
as Shimmele
as Esther Rachel
[and]
as Rabbi Zalman
+

PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A United Artists Presentation
A Ladbroke Feature
A Barwood Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Stills photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d unit cam
2d unit cam
Key grip
Steadicam op
Steadicam op
Video op
Elec gaffer
Best boy
Supv rigger
Photographed with
Lighting equipment supplied by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
2d asst ed
2d asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Propman
Dressing pop
Const mgr
Const foreman
Supv painter
Supv plasterer
Supv stagehand
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward master
Ward mistress
MUSIC
Lyrics by
Lyrics by
Mus orch and cond by
Mus seq staged by
Mus ed
Mus ed
Dubbing ed
Asst dubbing ed
Dubbing mixer
Asst dubbing mixer
Mus mixer
Mus rec at
London, England
Re-rec at
Borehamwood, England
Re-rec at
Culver City, USA
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Sd eng
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opticals
DANCE
Wedding dance choreog
MAKEUP
Chief makeup
Makeup
Chief hairdresser
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Prod supv
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Prod coord
Asst to prod
Pub coord
Pub consultant
Pub consultant
Pub asst
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst to Ms. Streisand
Spec consultant
Dial coach
Prod asst
Asst to Cis Corman
Post-prod coord
Post-prod coord
Post-prod assoc
Prod secy
Prod secy
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Czech supv
Czech supv
Czech supv
Czech supv
Czech supv
Czech supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story Yentl, The Yeshiva Boy by Isaac Bashevis Singer (first published in English in the 1 Sep 1962 issue of Commentary magazine).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Masquerade
Release Date:
18 November 1983
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 18 November 1983
Production Date:
began 14 April 1982
Copyright Claimant:
Ladbroke Entertainments, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
23 January 1984
Copyright Number:
PA197867
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Prints
Prints by Metrocolor®
Duration(in mins):
134
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1904, as Yentl walks through the open air market of her Eastern European shtetl, she hears an itinerant book peddler calling out, “Story books for women, Sacred books for men!” When she attempts to buy a sacred book, the dealer refuses to sell it to her until she lies and tells him it is for her father. At home reading the book, Yentl burns the fish intended for dinner, and underbakes the dinner rolls, as her father, Rabbi Mendel, instructs a boy named David for his upcoming bar mitzvah. David becomes concerned when Yentl shouts out the answers he cannot recall, telling the rabbi that his father told him that a woman who studies Talmud is a demon. Yentl’s father dismisses the boy’s concerns, saying that his daughter simply has big ears, and there is no need to mention this to his father. After dinner, Yentl laments to her father that she cannot study. He reminds her that men and women have different obligations, and tells her not to ask why. But he relents, and they start to discuss the topic of the day. Rabbi Mendel dozes off, and Yentl pretends to be tired herself, and puts off their study until tomorrow. After seeing her father off to bed, Yentl pulls out his prayer shawl and appeals to God for his health and her own pursuit of knowledge. Papa Mendel wants Yentl to be married, but she is not interested. He claims, “Children are more important than the Talmud,” because without them, "learning will die when the old men die." In time, Papa Mendel dies, and Yentl ... +


In 1904, as Yentl walks through the open air market of her Eastern European shtetl, she hears an itinerant book peddler calling out, “Story books for women, Sacred books for men!” When she attempts to buy a sacred book, the dealer refuses to sell it to her until she lies and tells him it is for her father. At home reading the book, Yentl burns the fish intended for dinner, and underbakes the dinner rolls, as her father, Rabbi Mendel, instructs a boy named David for his upcoming bar mitzvah. David becomes concerned when Yentl shouts out the answers he cannot recall, telling the rabbi that his father told him that a woman who studies Talmud is a demon. Yentl’s father dismisses the boy’s concerns, saying that his daughter simply has big ears, and there is no need to mention this to his father. After dinner, Yentl laments to her father that she cannot study. He reminds her that men and women have different obligations, and tells her not to ask why. But he relents, and they start to discuss the topic of the day. Rabbi Mendel dozes off, and Yentl pretends to be tired herself, and puts off their study until tomorrow. After seeing her father off to bed, Yentl pulls out his prayer shawl and appeals to God for his health and her own pursuit of knowledge. Papa Mendel wants Yentl to be married, but she is not interested. He claims, “Children are more important than the Talmud,” because without them, "learning will die when the old men die." In time, Papa Mendel dies, and Yentl shocks the mourners when she reads Kaddish over her father’s grave. Not content with becoming a proper young lady, Yentl cuts her hair, puts on glasses, dresses as a boy, and makes her way to an inn, where she is befriended by a young student named Avigdor, whose brother has recently died, and another named Shimmele. When asked her name, Yentl responds “Anshel.” They go to Bechev, a town where Avigdor has been studying Yeshiva for four years. Avigdor introduces Yentl/Anshel to his landlady, Mrs. Jacobs, and asks if there is a place in the rooming house for his friend. Not tonight, he is told, a niece is visiting from Latvia, but will be leaving in the morning. Over Anshel’s objection, Avigdor suggests his friend share his bed for the night. In conversation, trying to avoid getting into bed with Avigdor, Yentl learns that he is engaged to marry a girl named Hadass Vishkower. The next morning, although Yentl/Anshel drives the inquisitor rabbi crazy with questions, she is accepted as a student in the Yeshiva, with Avigdor as her study partner. She becomes an exemplary student, and Avigdor takes her to his weekly dinner with Hadass and her family. Afterward, Yentl observes that Hadass does not speak very much, and Yentl argues that God intended for man and woman to be equal. Avigdor playfully wrestles Yentl/Anshel into admitting she is wrong. In the process, he gets a strange feeling about his fellow Yeshiva student. He runs toward a river and urges Anshel to join him skinny-dipping in the water, but she refuses. On the way to Yeshiva the next morning, Avigdor receives a message from Hadass’s father, Rabbi Vishkower, asking him to come to the house immediately. By nightfall, he has not returned, and since it is their usual Tuesday night dinner date, Yentl goes to the house at the appointed time and asks if Avigdor is there. Instead, she finds Hadass crying with no explanation. When Yentl finally finds Avigdor, he tells her that his engagement to Hadass has been broken her family learned that Avigdor’s brother committed suicide. Yentl suggests Avigdor will fall in love again, but he insists Hadass was the only woman he ever wanted. The following Tuesday, Yentl/Anshel comes to dinner and pleads Avigdor’s case with Rabbi and Mrs. Vishkower, but the rabbi is unmoved, and insists his daughter must make the right match--a match with someone like Anshel. When informed of this turn of events, Avigdor leaps at the chance for Anshel to marry Hadass. He says they are like brothers, and it is written that if one brother dies, it is the obligation of the brother to marry his dead brother’s wife. If Anshel marries Hadass, Avigdor would be able to visit her, which he could not do if she were married to a stranger. Anshel refuses, prompting Avigdor to ask Anshel to reconsider. As time goes on, Yentl/Anshel continues to visit the Vishkower home for Tuesday dinners, and comes to realize what a relief it must have been for Avigdor to have a woman who said little and never contradicted him after spending his days in deep religious discussions with someone like her. But when Hadass tells Yentl/Anshel that she might be sent away if they are not married, Yentl runs back to her boarding house. When she gets there, the landlady tells her that Avigdor has packed his things and left. She catches up with Avigdor just as he is about to leave town, and he apologizes for having asked Anshel to do the impossible. As Yentl visits the tailor to have her wedding suit tailored, she wonders what she has gotten herself into. She comes to realize that people only see what they expect to see, and they are all unaware of her deception. On the night of the wedding, Avigdor urges Yentl/Anshel to woo Hadass with graciousness and patience before he leaves. As Rabbi Vishkower escorts Yentl/Anshel to the bride’s room, he reveals that they have told Hadass nothing of the facts of life, but the scholar should know everything. To avoid consummating the marriage, Yentl convinces Hadass that she should not sleep with her husband when she still has feelings for Avigdor. Later, Avigdor asks Anshel about his wedding night. The new husband tells him that she called out, “I love you Avigdor,” although when he asks if Anshel is telling the truth, he does not realize that Yentl is really speaking for herself. At home, Hadass tells her husband that Avigdor made her tremble, be he makes her feel safe. She asks her husband to teach her. Yentl takes this as an opportunity to teach Hadass the Talmud, but Hadass is too tired to study on Friday night. When Hadass’s parents are away the following Tuesday, Yentl invites Avigdor to dinner. The visit is awkward, and Avigdor leaves. Hadass holds Yentl’s hand, realizing that Avigdor has made Anshel tremble. The next morning, Yentl sets out for the big city, ostensibly only for a few days, and urges Hadass to have patience. Yentl/Anshel catches up with Avigdor, and they journey to Lublin, Poland, where she finally reveals her true identity. Afraid that she is a demon, Avigdor demands to know why she carried out this masquerade. Yentl confesses her love, and Avigdor suddenly realizes the reason for his complicated feelings for Anshel. Yentl tells him the marriage to Hadass was never consummated. He suggests they move to a town where they are not known, get married, and find a new Yeshiva. Although Avigdor says Yentl should discontinue her study to "act like a woman," she is unwilling to give up her dreams. The next morning, Yentl gives Avigdor an apologetic statement for the rabbi and a letter for Hadass, and asks him to deliver them when he gats back to Bechev. Months later, Avigdor receives a letter from Yentl, who informs him that she has set sail for the U.S., where she hopes "things are different." +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.