The Jazz Singer

The Jazz Singer

Al Jolson
Director: Alan Crosland Cast: Al Jolson
Al Jolson
, May McAvoy
May McAvoy
, Warner Oland
Warner Oland
Alan Crosland

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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.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/19/2019
UPC: 0883929675777
Original Release: 1927
Rating: NR
Source: Warner Archives
Time: 1:36:00
Sales rank: 13,227

Special Features

Disc 1: The Movie: Feature digital transfer and immaculately refurbished from restored picture elements and original Vitaphone-Sound on-Disc recordings; Commentary by film historian Ron Hutchinson and bandleader Vince Giordano; Rare cartoon and collection of shorts: I Love to Singa, Hollywood Handicap: A Day at Santa Anita, Al Jolson in A Plantation Act; An intimate Dinner in Celebration of Warner Bros. Silver Jubilee; 1947 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast starring Al Jolson (audio only); Theatrical Trailer; Disc 2 (DVD): The Early Sound Era: Feature-length documentary The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk; Surviving sound excerpts from 1929's Gold Diggers of Broadway; Studio shorts celebrating the early sound era: The Voice from the Screen, Finding His Voice, The Voice That Thrilled the World, Okay for Sound, When Talkies Were Young; Disc 3 (DVD): Vitaphone Shorts: Over 3 1/2 Hours worth of rare, historic Vitaphone comedy and music shorts, including Elsie Janis in a Vaudeville Act: Behind the Lines, Bernardo De Pace: Wizard of the Mandolin, Van and Schenck: The Pennant Winning Battery of Songland

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
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)
Nat Carr Levi
Richard Tucker Harry Lee
Anders Randolf Dillings
Jane Arden Actor
Audrey Ferris Chorus Girl
Ena Gregory Actor
Violet Bird Actor
Roscoe Karns The Agent
Myrna Loy Chorus Girl
William Walling Doctor
Louis Silvers Conductor

Technical Credits
Alan Crosland Director
Alfred A. Cohn Screenwriter
Gordon Hollingshead Asst. Director
Jack Jarmuth Screenwriter
Harold McCord Editor
Hal Mohr Cinematographer
Louis Silvers Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Nugent Slaughter Special Effects

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- "The Jazz Singer"
255. Chapters
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 Jolston [2:57]
11. Triumph and Tragedy [5:13]
12. Box-Office Success [5:43]
13. Music Revues [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]
19. Chapter 19 [2:08]
1. Tip Toe Through The Tulips [5:33]
1. Finale [10:11]

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