The Jazz Singer
Directed by: Alan Crosland
Cast: Al Jolson, May McAvoy, Warner Oland
Running Time: 1 hr 37 mins
Due Out: January 8, 2013
PLOT: Jakie Rabinowitz (Al Jolson) is the son of a Jewish Cantor who must defy his father in order to pursue his dream of becoming a jazz singer.
WHO’S IT FOR? Are you desperate to see where film came from? Then you should be required by law to see this film. Plus, you’ll see the roots for every father/son story Hollywood has recreated, and plenty of Jewish guilt.
Message from Warner Bros.
The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length film with completely synchronized dialogue and musical sequences, will mark another milestone January 8 when Warner Home Video releases the Blu-ray commencing the 2013 year-long 90thAnniversary of Warner Bros. Studios.
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I never saw the first talkie. I didn’t feel that guilty. Watching the first talkie … you feel the guilt. You also feel the beginning magic that is the Hollywood that is mainly worth knowing and loving.
The Jazz Singer is an incredibly small story. A young boy runs away from home because his dad doesn’t want him singing that no good, crazy jazz music. The boy should be a Cantor like his father. That would make everybody happy … except Jackie. He’s got big dreams. He runs off, and honestly, I have no clue how much time passes. Al Jolson plays the grown up Jackie, and was in his early 40s at the time. The characters in the story keep heaping praise on Jackie’s talents. There is constant talk that he’s a real talent, he’s the only one worth seeing, and that he can save the show.
The film itself is incredible to study. I’m talking print quality here. There are moments the quality is so good, you could have convinced me I was watching a deleted scene from The Artist. There are also moments when you wonder how hard they tried (and failed) to restore the tattered remains of a film from 1927. I loved the good and the bad.
For the first feature-length talkie, I also was amazed to find the silent film qualities take up the majority of the film. Sure, there is singing, and a little talking, but there is more full screens of dialogue than anything else. My favorite of those full screens? “You’ll queer yourself on Broadway.” Yes, language has changed. Jackie going black face for a performance also leads to this line, “He talks like Jackie, but he looks like his shadow.” Sure, the black face is dated and racist, but luckily it doesn’t feel extreme. Besides, if you know your history, Jolson fought for African American rights for years.
The Jazz Singer brings to life singing and talking to the big screen. It’s surprising that it feels like it eases us in to this process. There is plenty of silence, though that doesn’t hurt the drama.
MOVIE SCORE: 7/10
· Commentary by film historians Ron Hutchinson (founder of The Vitaphone Project) and Vince Giordano
· Collection of vintage cartoons and shorts:
o “Al Jolson in ‘A Plantation Act’“ – 1926 Vitaphone short
o An Intimate Dinner in Celebration of Warner Bros. Silver Jubilee – 1930 short
o I Love to Singa – Classic 1936 WB parody cartoon directed by Tex Avery
o Hollywood Handicap – Classic 1938 M-G-M short with Al Jolson appearance
o A Day at Santa Anita – Classic Technicolor WB 1939 short with Al Jolson & Ruby Keeler cameo appearance
· 1947 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast starring Al Jolson (audio only)
· Theatrical Trailer
The Early Sound Era
· Feature-length historical documentary The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk
· Two rarely-seen Technicolor excerpts from Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929 WB film, most of which is considered lost)
· Studio shorts celebrating the early sound era:
· Finding His Voice (1929 Western Electric animated promotional short, produced by Max Fleischer)
· The Voice That Thrilled The World – Warner Bros. short about sound
· Okay for Sound 1946 WB short celebrating the 20th anniversary of Vitaphone
· When Talkies Were Young 1955 WB short looking back at the early talkies
· The Voice from the Screen — 1926 WB ‘demonstration’ film explores the Vitaphone technology, and looks at the making of a Vitaphone short.
Over 3 1/2 hours worth of rare, historic Vitaphone comedy and music shorts
· Elsie Janis in a Vaudeville Act: “Behind the Lines”
· Bernado Depace: “Wizard of the Mandolin”
· Van and Schneck: “The Pennant Winning Battery of Songland”
· Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields
· Hazel Green and Company
· The Night Court
· The Police Quartette
· Ray Mayer & Edith Evans: “When East Meets West”
· Adele Rowland: “Stories in Song”
· Stoll, Flynn and Company: “The Jazzmania Quintet”
· The Ingenues in “The Band Beautiful”
· The Foy Family in “Chips off the Old Block”
· Dick Rich and His Melodious Monarchs
· Gus Arnheim and His Ambassadors
· Shaw and Lee: “The Beau Brummels”
· Larry Ceballos’ Roof Garden Revue
· Trixie Friganza in “My Bag O’ Tricks”
· Green’s Twentieth Century Faydetts
· Sol Violinsky: “The Eccentric Entertainer”
· Ethel Sinclair and Marge La Marr in “At the Seashore”
· Paul Tremaine and His Aristocrats
· Baby Rose Marie: “The Child Wonder”
· Burns & Allen in “Lambchops “
· Joe Frisco in “The Happy Hottentots”
EXTRAS SCORE: 10/10