01 December 2010

The Canada Doctor: Second Visit

Continuing from Monday's post...

"A NOVEL OF TO-DAY" proclaims the title page, "A Romantic Novel" counters the dust jacket. A knee-jerk reaction favours the latter. Flip to the final pages and you'll find Milt Feidlestein falling for Rebecca Rubinoff as Hector Farrington's chauffeur and house-maid stroll hand in hand through an idyllic rural setting. Their employer follows with Millie Waters, "walking slowly beneath the arched torrent of petals which fluttered down at a breath of wind or a touch against branches or twigs."

It's no wonder that the closing scene belongs to
this is her love story. An "exquisite young woman, fair of skin and hair, blue of eyes, budding like a flower, an uncanonized angel in disposition," from the beginning she arouses passion in very nearly every unattached male she encounters. Milt, for one, moons over her from across the floor of Fiedelstein's Flower Shop. He's "worshipfully in love with this pretty goy girl", but cannot act. You see, t
hough Milt works hard to transform himself into an "All-American", he cannot imagine this "earthly angel condescending to the low level of the 'kike kid'". So, it's h
is father, Isaac, who makes the first move by wrapping an arm Millie's waist, holding her tight with his "claw-like" hand: "Nu, nu, you shouldn't be foolish about old Isaac, my dear! It is no goot trying to... Dese leetle gold-diggers, dey vant to remember who is de real sugar-papa. Not any of my moneys vill you get for noddinks, remember."

Millie rejects the old man, as we knew she would, though her words come as a surprise: "I don't vant your money
or Milton's either, if that's what you think. I hate you! I hate you both, you cheap kike!"

Undaunted, Isaac continues his pursuit: "You say you don't vant Milt? You hate him? Vell, you don't hate his moneys. You couldn't haff him, anyvay. I guess so you don't vant him! You vant him bad enough. You goy girls is all alike, you. It vill giff anyt'ink for moneys. Yah, efen to such old fellers as me. Vy not? Get friendly vit de pocket-book. It is a sugar-papa dat you vant. I am it for you, eh?"

You'd think this sort of exchange between employer and employee would lead to termination. Maybe – but just moments later Crinkles runs into traffic, Joan is struck by the limo, and Milt has his unfortunate facial encounter with the back end of a truck.

You gotta wonder what Milt hits. A handle? A taillight? Whatever it is, the thing alters his appearance, leaving a wound that makes him look "entirely the Jew". When Millie visits his hospital room, she finds it hard to hide her revulsion. Milt understands: "Oh, I know I look the kike I am, just now... I've seen myself in a mirror. You now see Milton Feidlestein as he really is – and as he will be, when he is old. A Jew, a cheap kike..."

So much self-loathing, and yet Milt is such a good guy. He not only covers Joan's stay in the hospital, but brings her ailing mother to see saintly Dr Rocke. "Begorry, 'tis a big-hearted kike," remarks cabby Red Hogan. "There's a lad with a soul, even though he is a Jew", observes his sister-in-law Hattie.

Authors Perry and Pell torture the character, but there's purpose behind the pain, a message that is none too subtle: stick with your own kind. Just look to the example set by the Hogans, Irish immigrants whose marriage, the only one depicted in the novel, is so happy. (Though Bridget does sometimes worry about her mate's weight: "That man of mine is like to get hungry any toime. I've knowed him to eat two breakfasts and three lunches and a dinner in wan day, fergitful loike, such an appetite he has.")

So it is that in the end long-suffering Milt comes to realize that he belongs with a Jewess who had "always thought him wonderful", the loyal chauffeur shows that he knows his place by hooking up with fellow servant Hattie, and Farrington declares his love for Millie... after learning that she comes from a wealthy family that went into decline after her heroic father was wounded in the Great War.

All three couples move toward matrimony, but not before encountering the novel's last sentence: "It is love."

So, yes, "A Novel of Romance"... but in 1933, the year in which Adolf Hitler came to power, The Canada Doctor was also very much "A NOVEL OF TO-DAY".

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  1. You may be the first person since 1933 to read this novel. And may be the last.

  2. What? You mean to say that I've tempted no one?

    Well, you may be right - I could well be the last person to ever read the novel (especially when one takes scarcity into account). I note that under current American copyright law, print on demand folks won't be able to touch the thing until 2032.