The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (film)

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (film)
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Produced by John Kemeny
Screenplay by Lionel Chetwynd
Based on The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by
Mordecai Richler
Starring Richard Dreyfuss
Micheline Lanctôt
Jack Warden
Randy Quaid
Music by Stanley Myers
Andrew Powell
Cinematography Brian West
Editing by Thom Noble
Studio Astral Bellevue Pathé
Canadian Film Development Corporation
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) April 11, 1974 (1974-04-11)
Running time 120 minutes
Country Canada
Language English
Budget $910,000 (Canadian)

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is a 1974 Canadian comedy-drama film directed by Ted Kotcheff and starring Richard Dreyfuss. It is based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Mordecai Richler.



"Duddy" Kravitz (Richard Dreyfuss) is a brash, restless young Jewish man growing up poor in Montreal, Canada. His taxi driver father Max (Jack Warden) and his rich uncle Benjy (Joseph Wiseman) are very proud of Duddy's older brother Lenny, whom Benjy is putting through medical school. Only his grandfather (Zvee Scooler) shows the motherless Duddy any attention.

Duddy gets a summer job as a waiter at a Jewish resort hotel in the Laurentian Mountains. His hustle, energy and coarse manners irritate condescending college student and fellow waiter Irwin. Irwin gets his girlfriend Linda, the daughter of the hotel's owner, to persuade Duddy to stage a clandestine roulette game. Unbeknownst to Duddy, the roulette wheel is crooked, and he loses his entire $300 earnings to Irwin and some hotel guests. Fortunately for Duddy, the other waiters find out and make Irwin give back the money. Unaware of this, the hotel guests, led by Farber, feel bad and give him a further $500.

Duddy starts a serious relationship with another hotel employee, French-Canadian Yvette (Micheline Lanctôt). One day, she takes him on a picnic beside a lake. Duddy is stunned by the beauty of the setting, and his ambition crystallizes: taking to heart his grandfather's maxim that "a man without land is nobody", he decides he will buy all the property around the lake and develop it. Because the current owners might not want to sell to a Jew, he gets Yvette to front for him.

Duddy sets out to raise the money he needs. He hires blacklisted, alcoholic American director Friar (Denholm Elliott) to film weddings and bar mitzvahs. His first customer is Farber, who drives a hard bargain. If he does not like the result, he will not pay. Despite Friar's artistic pretensions, the film is a success, and more orders are quickly forthcoming.

However, when a piece of land comes up for sale, Duddy does not have enough money. He begs his father to get him an appointment with his friend Dingleman, "the Boy Wonder", a rich, successful gangster who had equally humble beginnings. Dingleman turns down his request for a loan but later invites him to discuss his scheme on a train to New York. It turns out that Dingleman just wants a dupe to take unknowingly the risk of smuggling heroin, but Duddy gets a loan out of it.

On the train, Duddy meets good-natured Virgil (Randy Quaid) and, ever open to a deal, offers to buy his pinball machines, which are illegal in the United States. When Virgil shows up, Duddy does not have enough money to pay him, so Duddy hires Virgil as a truck driver, even though he has epilepsy. Tragedy strikes when Virgil has a fit while driving and crashes; he is left permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Duddy is distraught and guilt-ridden. Blaming Duddy, Yvette leaves him to care for Virgil.

Duddy becomes alarmed when Dingleman finds out about his lake. When the last piece of property Duddy needs comes on the market, Dingleman bids for it. Desperate, Duddy forges Virgil's signature on a check to buy the land, leading to a final rupture with Yvette and Virgil.

Undeterred, Duddy proudly takes Max, Lenny and his grandfather to see his property. When Dingleman shows up to offer to raise the financing for its development, Duddy tells him to get off his land. However, Duddy's grandfather refuses to pick out a plot for his farm; Yvette has told the grandfather what Duddy did to get it.



The film was actually Kotcheff's second adaptation of Richler's 1959 novel. In 1961, he had directed a television play for the BBC's Armchair Theatre based on Kravitz, with Hugh Futcher in the title role.

The film was shot in Montreal, including the Wilensky's lunch counter, and in the Ontario village of Elora.[citation needed]


Duddy Kravitz has an important place in Canadian film history because it was the most commercially successful Canadian film ever made at the time of its release, and has thus been described as a 'coming of age' for Canadian cinema.[1] The film has been designated and preserved as a "masterwork" by the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada, a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the preservation of Canada’s audio-visual heritage. [1]

Richard Dreyfuss was initially horrified at his performance in the film, and fearing it would end his career, jumped at the role of Matt Hooper in Jaws.[2]



Stage adaptation

In 1987, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz was adapted into a musical for the New York stage, directed by Austin Pendleton.


  1. ^ George Melnyk, One Hundred Years of Canadian Cinema (University of Toronto Press, 2004), p. 118.
  2. ^ Spotlight on Location: The Making of Jaws, Jaws 30th Anniversary DVD documentary, [2005]
  3. ^ "Berlinale 1974: Prize Winners". Retrieved 2010-07-02. 

External links

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