The Jazz SingerDirector: Alan Crosland, Al Jolson, May McAvoy, Warner Oland
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On the verge of receivership in 1926, Warner Bros. studio decides to risk its future by investing in the Vitaphone sound system. Warners' first Vitaphone release, Don Juan, was a silent film accompanied by music and sound effects. The studio took the Vitaphone process one step farther in its 1927 adaptation of the Samson Raphaelson Broadway hit The Jazz Singer, incorporating vocal musical numbers in what was essentially a non-talking film. Al Jolson stars as Jakie Rabinowitz, the son of Jewish cantor Warner Oland. Turning his back on family tradition, Jakie transforms himself into cabaret-entertainer Jack Robin. When Jack comes home to visit his parents, he is warmly greeted by his mother (Eugenie Besserer), but is cold-shouldered by his father, who feels that Jack is a traitor to his heritage by singing jazz music. Several subsequent opportunities for a reconciliation are muffed by the stubborn Jack and his equally stubborn father. On the eve of his biggest show-business triumph, Jack receives word that his father is dying. Out of respect, Jack foregoes his opening night to attend Atonement services at the temple and sing the Kol Nidre in his father's place. Through a superimposed image, we are assured that the spirit of Jack's father has at long last forgiven his son. Only twenty minutes or so of Jazz Singer is in any way a "talkie;" all of the Vitaphone sequences are built around Jolson's musical numbers. What thrilled the opening night crowds attending Jazz Singer were not so much the songs themselves but Jolson's adlibbed comments, notably in the scene where he sings "Blue Skies" to his mother. Previous short-subject experiments with sound had failed because the on-screen talent had come off stilted and unnatural; but when Jolson began chattering away in a naturalistic, conversational fashion, the delighted audiences suddenly realized that talking pictures did indeed have the capacity to entertain. Despite its many shortcomings (the storyline goes beyond mawkish, while Jolson's acting in the silent scenes is downright amateurish), The Jazz Singer was a box-office success the like of which no one had previously witnessed. The film did turn-away business for months, propelling Warner Bros. from a shoestring operation into Hollywood's leading film factory. Proof that The Jazz Singer is best viewed within its historical context is provided by the 1953 and 1980 remakes, both interminable wallows in sentimental goo. Worse still, neither one of those films had Al Jolson--who, in spite of his inadequacies as an actor, was inarguably the greatest musical entertainer of his era.
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- Warner Home Video
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- [Full Frame, Wide Screen]
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Cast & Crew
|Jolson||Jakie Rabinowitz (Jack Robin)|
|May McAvoy||Mary Dale|
|Warner Oland||Cantor Rabinowitz|
|Eugénie Besserer||Sara Rabinowitz|
|William Demarest||Buster Billings|
|Otto Lederer||Moishe Yudelson|
|Cantor Josef Rosenblatt||Himself|
|Bobby Gordon||Jakie Rabinowitz (age 18)|
|Richard Tucker||Harry Lee|
|Audrey Ferris||Chorus Girl|
|Roscoe Karns||The Agent|
|Myrna Loy||Chorus Girl|
|Alfred A. Cohn||Screenwriter|
|Gordon Hollingshead||Asst. Director|
|Louis Silvers||Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision|
|Nugent Slaughter||Special Effects|
1. Overture [4:31]
2. Credits [1:00]
3. Ragtime Jakie [4:54]
4. Our Boy Has Gone [3:48]
5. I Have No Son [3:14]
6. Dirty Hands, Dirty Face [4:29]
7. Toot Toot Tootsie (Goodbye) [2:31]
8. Tear in Your Voice [1:41]
9. Fallen for a Shiksa? [2:44]
10. Mary's Broadway Break [3:14]
11. Kaddish Memories [2:26]
12. Jakie's Broadway Break [3:22]
13. Homecoming [6:06]
14. Blue Skies [2:53]
15. Leave My House! [5:18]
16. Rehearsal [3:25]
17. Illness Strikes [7:13]
18. If He Would Only Sing [3:28]
19. Cry of My Race [5:07]
20. Come Home, Jakie [4:03]
21. Mother of Mine, I Still Have You [4:44]
22. Reconciliation [3:23]
23. Jakie's Choice [3:36]
24. Kol Nidre [3:38]
25. My Mammy [2:25]
26. Exit Music [2:44]
Disc #2 -- The Jazz Singer - The Early Sound Era
1. Introduction [3:08]
2. Thomas Edison [4:45]
3. D.W. Griffith [2:09]
4. Vitaphone System [5:25]
5. DeForest-Case System [5:14]
6. Phonofilms [5:58]
7. Vitaphone Shorts [4:18]
8. Don Juan Et Al. [3:16]
9. Sound Newsreels [4:51]
10. Al Jolson [2:57]
11. Triumph and Tragedy [5:13]
12. Box-Office Success [5:43]
13. Musical Reviews [6:11]
14. Rumor That Will Not Die [5:18]
15. Stars in Transition [5:02]
16. Garbo Talks [4:55]
17. Last Holdout [2:45]
18. Pioneering Efforts [5:48]
Commentary by Ron Hutchinson and Vince Giordano
Al Jolson in A Plantation Act
An Intimate Dinner in Celebration of Warner Bros. Silver Jubilee
I Love to Singa
A Day at Santa Anita
6/2/1947 Lux Radio Theatre Broadcast
Jolson Trailer Gallery
The Jazz Singer (1927)
The Singing Fool (1928)
Wonder Bar (1934)
Go Into Your Dance (1935)
The Singing Kid (1936)
Spoken Languages: English
Subtitles: English (For the Hearing Impaired)
Disc #2 -- The Jazz Singer - The Early Sound Era
The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk
Gold Diggers of Broadway Excerpts
Tip Toe Through the Tulips
The Voice From the Screen
Finding His Voice
The Voice That Thrilled the World
Okay for Sound
When the Talkies Were Young
Disc #3 -- The Jazz Singer - Astonishing Rarities
Elsie Janis in a Vaudeville Act: "Behind the Lines"
Bernardo De Pace: "The Wizard of the Mandolin"
Van and Schenck: "The Pennant Winning Battery of Songland"
Blossom Seeley and Bennie Fields With the Music Boxes
Hazel Green & Company
The Night Court
The Police Quartette
Ray Mayer & Edith Evans in "When East Meets West"
Adele Rowland: "Stories in Song"
Stoll, Flynn & Company: The "Jazzmania Quintette"
The Ingenues: "The Band Beautiful"
The Foy Family in "Chips of the Old Block"
Dick Rich and His Melodious Monarchs
Gus Arnheim and His Ambassadors
Shaw & Lee: "The Beau Brummels"
Roof Garden Revue Directed by Larry Ceballos
Trixie Friganza in "My Bag O' Tricks"
Green's Twentieth Century Faydetts
Sol Violinsky: "The Eccentric Entertainer"
Ethel Sinclair and Marge La Marr: "At the Seashore"
Paul Tremaine and His Aristocrats
Baby Rose Marie: "The Child Wonder"
Burns & Allen in "Lambchops"
Joe Frisco in "The Happy Hottentots"
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