Robert Benchley

14 05 2008

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Robert Benchley, writing in “Life Magazine,” captured Jolson’s unique effect on audiences: “The word ‘personality’ isn’t quite strong enough for the thing that Jolson has. Unimpressive as the comparison may be to Mr. Jolson, we should say that John the Baptist was the last man to have such power. There is something supernatural at the back of it, or we miss our guess. When Jolson enters, it is as if an electric current has been run along the wires under the seats where the hats are stuck. The house comes to a tumultuous attention. He speaks, rolls his eyes, compresses his lips, and it is all over. You are a member of the Al Jolson Association. He trembles his lip and your heart breaks with a snap. He sings a song and you totter out to send a letter to your mother…while singing would run up and down his runway addressing members of the audience making them each feel that Jolson was singing to them alone.”



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