Elia Kazan gives a penetrating, thorough and profoundly affecting account of the hardships endured and surmounted at the turn of the century by a young Greek lad in attempting to fulfill his cherished dream – getting to America from the old country.
Kazan’s film stems from his book of the same title which evidently was inspired by tales of the experiences of his own ancestors that sifted down through the family grapevine. The picture begins with the young Greek hero witnessing Turkish oppression of Greek and Armenian minorities, circa 1896. It follows him to Constantinople, to which he has been sent by his family with its entire fortune to pave their way. He finally arrives in the promised land -America – where, as a lowly shoeshine boy, he painstakingly earns and saves the money that will bring the other members of his large family across the sea.
The acting is incredibly good. In the all-important focal role of the young man with the dream, Stathis Giallelis, an unknown, makes a striking screen debut. Virtually everyone is memorable, perhaps the three most vivid are Linda Marsh as the plain and unassuming maiden to whom the hero is treacherously betrothed, Paul Mann as her sybaritic, self-indulgent father and Lou Antonio as a thoroughly detestable crook.
1963: Best B&W Art Direction.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Original Story & Screenplay