“Blue Skies” transforms film industry

23 11 2011


Excerpts from The Songs of Hollywood  By Philip Furia

“Blue Skies” thus resonates with the dramatic moment in “The Jazz Singer” when Jolson, after many years of missing his beloved mother, is reunited with her. Before he sings, the scene is silent. Jolson enters his parents’ apartment, surprising his mother, and we see his father giving Hebrew lessons in another room. After a few moments of title-card dialogue, Jolson offers to demonstrate one of the songs in his new Broadway show. As synchronized sound comes up again, Jolson strides to the parlor piano and launches into “Blue Skies.” While he renders the song as a performance, his hammy, flourishing rendition portrays him as a kid showing off for his mother.

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“You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet”

15 08 2011

Opening night of "The Jolson Story"

A New Jewy? America since the Second World War
By Peter Y. Medding, Oxford University Press, 1992

While Einstein was based in Zurich, formulating in abstract mathematical terms the notion that energy consisted of mc², he might have easily discovered its most ebullient embodiment dominating the vaudeville circuit across the Atlantic. Perhaps no white entertainer in American history has ever exuded the demonic razzle-dazzle and the kinetic force of Al Jolson; probably no one could match his Eureka gift for deluding everybody in the audience into believing that “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody” or “Sonny Boy” was being belted out just for them. Read the rest of this entry »

Sneak Preview

27 07 2011

February 27, 2009 – May 9, 2009 albumcover

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“Rose of Washington Square”

25 03 2011


Twentieth Century-Fox Strolls Down Melody Lane in ‘Rose of Washington Square,’ at the Roxy

New York Times
By Frank Nugent
Published: May 6, 1939

Twentieth Century-Fox’s latest tour down Melody Lane has come to the Roxy under the blushing title “Rose of Washington Square,” the Rose being neither Al Jolson nor Tyrone Power (as we had feared), but Alice Faye, who flowers lushly in the cabarets and flounces of the post-war years. Obviously designed as a thematic sequel to “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” the picture makes much the same capital of its sentimentally evocative score, its nostalgic reminders of the speakeasy era, its delicate reminder that the Nineteen Twenties already have become a “costume period.” Read the rest of this entry »

“Rock-a-Bye” helps Jerry Lewis become a singer

24 03 2011

From Dean and Me, by Jerry Lewis (2005)

Back in July, as things were winding to a close with us, Dean turned down the lead in Warner Brothers’ movie version of “The Pajama Game.” We didn’t speak about it—we weren’t speaking about anything at the time. . . .

Regardless of the press, I was panicked: I felt incredibly alone and desperate. The fact that everyone around me seemed sure that I’d land on my feet made things worse. I didn’t know what the fuck I was going to do. Read the rest of this entry »

Jolson and Cab Calloway in “The Singing Kid”

16 02 2011


from Disintegrating the Musical: Black Performance and American Musical Film,  by Arthur Knight (2002)

Jolson’s film, The Singing Kid (1936), wanted to stage an explicit autocritique of the old-fashioned content of Jolson’s past while maintaining some of his modernist form and style. It wanted to both erase and celebrate boundaries and differences, including most emphatically the color line.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Star is Born: Larry Parks as Al Jolson

13 02 2011

poster - jolson story

New York Times, Oct. 27, 1946

Introducing Larry Parks, Al Jolson’s Alter Ego”

A YOUNG man from Olathe, Kan., who is prancing the Music Hall’s screen as Al Jolson, is the sudden current personification of the “‘Star Is Born” motif. His name is Larry Parks. In setting about to make “The Jolson Story” two years ago, Columbia Pictures put on the traditional search for the man who would play the name role. Most of the aspirants had indulged in that popular American indoor sport, giving an imitation of the “Mammy” perpetrator. None, however, seemed to be just what Sidney Skolsky, the columnist who who turned producer to film the story of his lifelong friend, ordered. Read the rest of this entry »