Eddie Cantor meets Jolson

12 04 2010

from “Take My Life”, by Eddie Cantor (1957)

While I was still a stooge for Bedini and Arthur, still rushing around backstage at Hammerstein’s taking suits out to be pressed or seeing that Jean Bedini’s laundry was back on time- a fellow in blackface wandered onto the stage one day. He was from Lew Dockstader’s Minstrels. Now he was doing a single and there was something electric about him that sent a thrill up your spine. He sang and talked; but he was more than just a singer or an actor, he was an experience, and he was to become the most romantic figure of a romantic era, the King of it. Al Jolson. Read the rest of this entry »

Jerry Lewis in the “Jazz Singer”

12 04 2010

From “Life with Father” by Krin Grabbard (in Enfant Terrible!: Jerry Lewis in American Film By Murray Pomerance)

The narrative of father-son tension was undoubtedly what attracted Lewis to the original Jazz Singer. As in all versions, Lewis’s rendering of the story does not confront anti-Semitism. The only problem remaining to face a Jewish entertainer is opposition from is father, thus placing even more weight on the oedipal narrative. But in Lewis’s version, little else remains from the original or even from the various remakes. Read the rest of this entry »

Jack Benny dedicates Jolson’s memorial

1 04 2010

from Jack Benny, , by Mary Livingstone Benny, 1978

On September 23, 1951, when, according to Jewish tradition, the monument–a magnificent statue of Al, bending on one knee, exactly the way he performed when he sang “Mammy”–was formally unveiled, it was Jack who delivered the memorial address:

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Show Business to Korea’s Front Lines

4 03 2010
Jolson visiting a Tokyo hospital







Jolson, other names want to work in Korea

Billboard, August 12th 1950.

HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 5. — With the intensification of the Korean crisis, showbiz here is girding for battle. Names and various orgs devoted to entertaining the troops during the last war are either resuming their previous operations or are ready to go into action on a call from Washington. Al Jolson, one of the first personalities to hit the fighting front in World War Two, has volunteered to entertain armed forces in Korea. Read the rest of this entry »

“The Jazz Singer” Opening review

26 02 2010

The Jazz Singer movie premier

New York Times
October 7, 1927


Published: October 7, 1927. In a story that is very much like that of his own life, Al Jolson at Warners’ Theatre last night made his screen début in the picturization of Samson Raphaelson’s play “The Jazz Singer,” and through the interpolation of the Vitaphone and the audience had the rare opportunity of hearing Mr. Jolson sing several of his own songs and also render most effectively the Jewish hymn “Kol Nidre.”

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The spirit of Larry Parks

19 02 2010

Taken from Monthly Review online magazine, “MRZine”  Feb. 19, 2010

Parks was called to testify before HUAC on March 21, 1951, not long after attaining stardom in two biopics about Al Jolson.  Parks told the congressional Committee: “Being a member of the Communist Party fulfilled certain needs of a young man who was . . . idealistic . . . for the underprivileged, the underdog.” Read the rest of this entry »

How I Came to Write “The Jazz Singer”

16 02 2010

Samson Raphaelson

How I Came to Write “The Jazz Singer,”   By Samson Raphaelson
from the original Souvenir Program  of “The Jazz Singer”

When I was a junior at the University of Illinois, it became very necessary that I should impress a certain young lady. I had a date with her for a certain evening. I wanted to show her the best time to be had in the town of Champaign, Illinois. I borrowed ten dollars and bought two tickets for the one-night performance of Al Jolson in “Robinson Crusoe Jr.” Read the rest of this entry »