Judy Garland’s Stardom Reborn

4 04 2012

excerpt from: Music and the Racial Imagination
By Ronald Michael Radano, Philip Vilas Bohlman (2000)

The film A Star Is Born further complicates the issue of impersonation by having Judy “do” Al Jolson. . . .  But the key moment in the number is Garland’s version of Al Jolson’s “Swanee.” By the early 1950s, Jolson’s blackface was a central figure of nostalgia in “American” mass culture, not only due to its role in the history of cinema from Singin’ in the Rain, but also in relation to the very popular new Jolson films of the late 1940s, The Al Jolson Story and Jolson Sings Again, the latter being the top grossing film of 1949. Not only was Jolson’s figure a central mnemonic for an imagined national past, but Garland’s stardom was intimately associated with the nostalgia that this mnemonics guaranteed. Read the rest of this entry »