A lavish Selznick biopic in which Arliss first plays Mayer, founder of the House of Rothschild, then his son Nathan, the financial wizard who made London his HQ. A lengthy prologue, set in Prussia in 1780, argues that money was the only way out of the ghetto for a Jew. Thereafter, infused with the spirit of the New Deal, Nunnally Johnson's script waxes lyrical over the great social good that Nathan achieved by putting his resources behind the fight to save Europe from Napoleon's empire-building (no comment is made on the fact that this also made him the richest man in Europe). Rather more interesting are details concerning the expansion of Mayer's humble money-changing business, and about the tricky insider deals which brought Nathan to a position of power. Commenting on the legacy of anti-semitism (with Karloff's sinister Prussian baron pointedly coming on like a Nazi), the film hedges its bets by casting non-Jews in the leading roles, and by bursting into Technicolor for a tendentious finale in which Nathan finally achieves social acceptance along with a knighthood from the Prince Regent.
Cast and crew
C Aubrey Smith