"Charlie and a Half"
"Charlie and a Half" is an Israeli comedy film that hit the screens in 1974 and belongs to the genre of Burlesque films. It is considered one of the most famous Israeli films of all time. At its release, "Charlie and a Half" sold 698,000 tickets in Israel, making it a massive success.
The film's story revolves around Charlie Ben-Hanania, portrayed by Yehuda Barkan, a small-time hustler from a disadvantaged neighborhood. Charlie makes a living through scams and illegal gambling, often enlisting the help of Miko, played by David Shushan, a young and unruly partner in crime. Miko is an orphan who lives in a shabby hut with his older sister Lili, whose boyfriend resides in the United States.
Charlie falls in love with Gila Zahar, played by Haya Katz, a beautiful blonde teenager from a wealthy North Tel Aviv family. Her parents are trying to arrange her marriage to Robert, the son of one of Mr. Zahar's business associates in the United States. However, she is repulsed by the American playboy, who is primarily interested in classical music, golf, and the like. Charlie and Gila continually find ways to avoid Robert and spend time together.
Charlie attempts to conceal his true occupation, telling Gila that his father is a "beverage importer." His father, Zachi, portrayed by Arie Elias, is a heavy drinker, particularly fond of Arak.
Charlie is also engaged in power struggles with his adversary, Shoshon, played by Zeev Revach, who guards a well-maintained car and is trying to start a relationship with Miko's sister, a devout woman. Shoshon has trouble bringing a child into the world with his wife, and he turns to Flora, played by Edna Fliedel, a fortune teller and Charlie's mother, for advice. She reads his coffee grounds and sees something high that he needs to remove from his hair to bring salvation.
Shoshon has a friend from childhood, a mute named Gedaliah, portrayed by Moshe Ish-Kassit. The film is interspersed with interactions between Charlie and Shoshon, with Gedaliah and without, sometimes with Charlie gaining the upper hand, and other times, Shoshon prevailing. Two of the most entertaining scenes in the film occur in a restaurant where the hero competes with his rival to eat a wide variety of dishes together.
Gila encounters Charlie by chance while he is managing gambling games and realizes that he cheated her. She rushes home, distraught, and locks herself in her room. Charlie calls her, but she refuses to speak with him. At night, Miko arrives and convinces her that Charlie does indeed love her. He invites her to Charlie's house. The two make amends.
Gila brings her parents to meet Charlie's parents, and while they pretend to be cooperative, they are, of course, appalled by the scruffy Charlie. They cannot understand what their daughter sees in this "wild man."
In the meantime, Zachi interprets Flora's vision for Shoshon, concluding that the tall thing is a giraffe. Shoshon must remove two hairs from its tail. He does so, and his wife becomes pregnant. He comes to thank them. Lili also receives tickets to travel abroad with Miko from her boyfriend. In the midst of their joy, Charlie arrives. He kisses Lili, overwhelmed with happiness.
Gila sees him, believes he betrayed her, and flees the scene. Charlie chases after her in Shoshon's car, but during the chase, he accidentally falls off the road, and the car plunges into a ravine. Miko calls Gila, explaining what happened ("He's seriously injured, and we don't know what's wrong!"). She rushes to the hospital.
She finds out Charlie's room number and goes up. However, as she walks down the corridor, she hears Charlie's voice, sitting on a bed, playing cards with his roommates, wearing a bandage on his head. She bursts into hysterical laughter.
The film ends at the airport, where Gila and Charlie part with Miko and Lili, who are about to board a flight. Charlie kisses Lili again, and his farewell scene with Miko is one of the film's highlights. Lili and Miko board the plane, and Charlie and his wife head to their honeymoon.
The film was produced by the "Filmor" company, owned by the Zebuloni brothers. Shmuel Zebuloni was born in Iran, grew up and was educated in Israel, and served in the Israeli military. At the age of 24, he returned to Iran and joined his brothers' production company, "Sinaphilms," in Tehran. This company was responsible for many "Luti" films during their heyday in Iran. Some of these films were produced directly by "Sinaphilms."
In this genre, Luti, the protagonist, is a kind of "tough guy" and a neighborhood ruffian from a lower class, representing a contrast to the upper-class Westernized characters and their lifestyles. When a twenty-something woman falls in love with him, the two worlds collide. Zebuloni decided to produce an Israeli film based on a similar concept and approached journalist Eli Tavor to adapt the script for the Israeli audience.
The first part of the film was shot in the months leading up to the Yom Kippur War, until the scene where Gedaliah walks by Charlie in the shopping center while Charlie is operating illegal gambling games. The film's cast and crew were recruited for the war, and the rest of the well-known shoot took place only a few months later, after the war ended.
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