The first talkie – “The Jazz Singer”

10 09 2013

From Movies of the 20s”, Jurgen Muller, editor (Taschen), video clip from “Broadway – The American Musical” (PBS)

Watching the movie today, the dialog on the intertitles seems tired and outdated and the players’ gestures  very theatrical. But the reason why the Jazz Singer occupies such an important place in the history of cinema is not so much the story as its technical achievement. Read the rest of this entry »

Variety reviews The Jazz Singer, 1927

29 04 2012

Variety, October 12, 1927.
Undoubtedly the best thing Vitaphone has ever put on the screen. The combination of the religious heart interest story and Jolson’s singing “Kol Nidre” in a synagog while his father is dying and two “Mammy” lyrics as his mother stands in the wings of the theatre, and later as she sits in the first row, carries abundant power and appeal. Besides which the finish of the “Mammy” melody (the one that goes “The sun shines east, the sun shines west” is also the end of the picture with Jolson supposedly on a stage and a closeup on the screen as his voice pours through the amplifiers. Read the rest of this entry »

The significance of “The Jazz Singer.”

1 09 2010

Kol Nidre - Barrios
excerpt from:  A Song in the Dark: the Birth of the Musical Film
by Richard Barrios (1995)

The most detectable asset of The Jazz Singer is the conviction put into it – Warners’ and Alan Crosland’s belief in the project and Jolson’s belief in his powers as a musical entertainer. Whether the material was worthy of belief is another issue; what matters is that this story carried a force that more conventional screen fare lacked. Jewish themes were not uncommon in 1920s cinema, not only trivia of the Private Izzy Murphy/Kosher Kitty Kelly variety but sensitively considered dramas such as Humoresque (1920) and His People (1926). 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 »

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 »