An outstanding historical account of the Rothschild financial dynasty during the Napoleonic wars, THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD was the ambitious brainchild of Darryl F. Zanuck, who had left Warner Bros. to form Twentieth Century Productions, which would later merge with Fox.
George Arliss, who plays a dual role, is first seen as the patriarch of the German-Jewish ghetto family. On his deathbed, he urges his five sons to travel to the capitals of Europe and establish powerful banking firms. Led by their brother (Arliss's other role), the Rothschilds slowly build the
most powerful banking conglomerate in Europe. The Rothschild banks secretly lend money to England, Austria, Italy, and Prussia to defeat Napoleon. Once Napoleon is in exile, however, Boris Karloff, the anti-Semitic Prussian ambassador to England, refuses Arliss's offer of money to rebuild France.
Outraged, the banker creates financial havoc in the bond markets, but this only results in Karloff's launching violent and bloody pogroms. Fate intervenes when Napoleon escapes from exile and rises again to threaten Europe.
A potent, adult film, handsomely produced (the final sequence was shot in early three-strip Technicolor) and cast, and a memorable showcase for the effective "old school" acting of the unique Arliss.
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