“The Jolson Story” opening review

1 01 2013

Liberty, October 19, 1946

A perfect tribute to Al Jolson, this movie is as schmaltzy, spirited, and unforgettable as the singer himself. It affectionately traces Jolson’s tune-packed, knee-bending fifty years in show business.

With Larry Parks catching the Mammy singer’s eye-rolling exuberance in a bang-up impersonation, the film highlights in Technicolor such Jolson lore as his bouncy blackface routines, his one-man shows at Broadway’s Winter Garden, and his pioneering in talking pictures. Read the rest of this entry »

Paul Bowers’ Winter Garden history

21 01 2012
Winter Garden Theatre in 1911

Winter Garden Theatre in 1911

Excerpts from article “The Winter Garden, Al Jolson and the Shuberts”, by Paul A. Bowers

“The New York Times remarked, “New York’s latest plaything, is a very flashy toy, full of life and go and color, and with no end of jingle to it.”  With a capacity of over 1500 seats, the new Winter Garden became the Shubert’s largest theatrical house.

“Although the Winter Garden was impressive, it wasn’t just the structure that captured the American imagination. The theatre’s very first production featured Broadway newcomer Al Jolson. From that point on, much of the early Winter Garden history paralleled his spectacular ascent in American show business. The next seventeen years would find Al Jolson, the Shuberts, and the Winter Garden inextricably linked.”

(Download entire article )

Robert Benchley

14 05 2008

photo from www.natbenchley.com

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.”