Most people, cinephiles or not, know Carol Kane as Valerie, bossy wife to Billy Crystal’s Miracle Max in “The Princess Bride.” Her face may have been tough to recognize under all that old age make-up, but her distinctive warble is unmistakable, causing new generations to fall in love with her as Kimmy’s eccentric landlady Lillian in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”
But Kane wasn’t always the incomparable character actress we know and love today, and younger audiences may be surprised to learn that her early career included some more dramatic turns, most notably in her Oscar-nominated performance in Joan Micklin Silver’s 1975 masterpiece “Hester Street,” which is receiving renewed interest with a gorgeous 4k restoration from the Cohen Film Collection.
In “Hester Street,” the young Kane plays a Jewish immigrant who arrives in New York to find her husband (Steven Keats) already happily assimilated into American life. She has a much bumpier ride detaching from her home, customs, and language, while also getting to know this new version of the husband she thought she knew.
Shot on a shoestring budget, the film expertly recreates 1890s Lower East Side in all its bustling glory. It is a rare example of that nearly-extinct cinematic achievement — the truly low budget indie that garnered critical acclaim, box office success, and Oscar recognition. Sumptuously shot in black and white, it’s a loving, funny, and heartbreaking look at the immigrant experience that still resonates today.
“It’s such a thrill to see this special film from Joan Micklin Silver, restored by the Cohen Film Collection, return to the big screen for a new audience to discover and original fans to enjoy again,” Kane told IndieWire via email. “I loved every minute of working closely on this with Joan and only wish she was here to see how she’s finally being celebrated for the unparalleled filmmaking talent she was.”
A true trailblazer, Micklin Silver, who sadly passed away in December of last year, was one of the only women directors working at the time. “Hester Street” was her debut film, and its success led to a string of indies that included the early Jeff Goldblum starrer “Between the Lines” (1977). She then was able to pivot to studio movies, leading to her best known film, the 1988 romantic comedy “Crossing Delancey.” (She also, somewhat hilariously, directed the Patrick Dempsey teen gigolo comedy “Loverboy.”)
After playing at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it originally debuted in 1975, “Hester Street” will have a theatrical release this fall. IndieWire is proud to premiere both the gorgeous new trailer and poster, available exclusively below.
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