Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You ain't heard nothin yet!

Edit:  I wrote this blog when I was seventeen/eighteen years old. As such, I wasn't really as well informed and educated. This movie, while historic, does contain 'blackface' by the main actor.  While I was disgusted back then with this display, I now understand more the history/etc, of what this means.  It no longer sits right to me to recommend this movie or its star. No matter how historic of a film or actor he was.  That said, I do believe that this movie still has a purpose. A purpose to tell us how far we, as a society have come- and how far we still have to go.

Those words made movie history.

Today I was privileged enough to see The Jazz Singer for the first time. I picked it up at my local target for only eight dollars. Being the landmark movie it is, I thought that it would only be fitting that I devote my first real post (the last one doesn't count, as it was an introduction of sorts) to The Jazz Singer.

There's a lot of controversy surrounding this movie. Some say it is racist, others say it's outdated. I must admit I do find the film both outdated and racist, which is hardly surprising since it was made in 1927 and based on a very outdated play.  I think it's important to view these movies as a reminder of what used to be.  

I have not come across many Al Jolson works, save for his music of course- which, though you may not know it is still very much around. But he seems to sparkle and light up the screen in a special way. For those who do not know about The Jazz Singer, let me tell you a little bit about it. The Jazz Singer was released in 1927 by Warner Brothers.

Yes, that's right I said Warner Brothers, not MGM as some believe.

The Jazz Singer is often credited to be the first feature-length distributed movie that used synchronized sound and dialogue for different parts of the movie.

It is about a man that comes from a very orthodox Jewish family and due to his love for Jazz and unwillingness to follow in his father's footsteps, he leaves home in pursuit to become a star, much to his mothers heartbreak. Eventually after many years of trying to make it big, he meets Mary Dale a beautiful dancer, who helps him get his big chance, and eventually lands him a spot on Broadway. However as time goes on and he tries to reconcile himself with his father and mother, the choice between his career and what his family wants become more and more pressing. What will he decide? *queue suspenseful music here* XD

Image removed. 

For most of the film it is a silent film, only through songs and one particular scene with the main character and his mother, do we hear a sound and/or dialogue. The Jazz Singer is often attributed to stopping silent films altogether. This is not really true. Though of course it did have a profound effect on the industry, silent films continued to be produced for many years to come -though admittedly these silent films would often use synchronized music and sound effects after the successes of this movie and Don Juan (1926).

While I was watching this movie I wondered to myself what it must have been like for audiences of that time to go and see this movie... Especially in the scene where Jackie (Al Jolson) sings and talks to his mother. How the audiences must have reacted, when they were so used to silent films, to have suddenly the main character speak and laugh. It must have been magic.
I almost wish I could go back in time and observe everyone.

Other then Al Jolson, the cast also includes May Mcavoy, Warner Oland, Cantor Rosenblatt and lots more. May I say that the lighting on this film was absolutely brilliant, particularly when used on May Mcavoy who at times looked absolutely stunning. Apparently, Myrna Loy can briefly be seen as one of the chorus girls, I must confess I missed her.If you get the chance to see this movie, I definitely suggest you do. Though some themes may be outdated and perhaps offensive to some people, the movie itself is a landmark in movie history. The relationship between the mother and son in particular is very touching.

A must see for all movie buffs.

DISCLAIMER; THE JAZZ SINGER belongs to Warner Brothers, all images and references to it in this blog are used in a manner of awe and admiriation. I do not claim to own or to be affiliated with Al Jolson, any of his family, any of the other actors or Warner Brothers themselves. I am just a star-struck kid, who is very scared of lawyers, so if there are any issues please do not hesitate to contact me.


  1. Nelly, this isn't just "posting" an issue. You're truly staging and you surely have the right stage now to do that.

    Your blog will be quite famous. Just have a little patience, Nelly: Human beings are rather shy animals and they need time to sniff at something new. Well, if I see something gorgeous, I am enthusiastic at once. Sometimes people might think I'm exaggerating, but I really mean it.

    Oh, there's so much to say - as at your first issue - but I got to postpone it, Nelly ...


  2. Thank you Clarissa. Words cannot describe how your comments and words of encouragement have helped me. Thank you so much. :)

    I look forward to anything you may have to say. :)

    thank you again!

  3. That's fine Nelly. I just had to think about THE JAZZ SINGER, so it took a little time. Well, I'm having a private 20s-revival anyway these days, so why not listening to Al Jolson's music this Sunday?

    I never saw a film with Al Jolson, but I have a CD-box with original music from THE JAZZ SINGER in it too. Honestly, I always skipped those recordings, but would surely be touched, if I saw the film. And afterwards I may be hearing those songs on CD over and over ...

    Al must have had something, because Ruby Keeler married him (I admire Ruby, because she's a swell tap dancer!). Ruby may have been crying, when Al sang to MOTHER.* And maybe she already crushed on him 1927, in the movie house. Three years later Al was going to appear in a new Ziegfeld show and Mr. Ziegfeld wanted Ginger Rogers to be the leading lady. She was looking forward to work with Al, but he decided he wanted to perform with Ruby. Soon they married, so Ginger wasn't wondering any longer - maybe she had crushed on him too, 1927 in the movie house ... Well, Ruby even gave up her career for Al - I'm happy Ginger never did such a thing. But well, Al must have had something ...

    So I'm very curious now and must try to get THE JAZZ SINGER ...

    * Frankly, I thought: „This man must have had a mother fixation, because he's ALWAYS singing about MOTHER!“ Now your latest issue makes me wiser, Nelly: He certainly had to sing about mother, after THE JAZZ SINGER, because the film touched a lot of people.

  4. When I saw pictures of Al Jolson, I couldn't understand his appeal. I heard his voice and I thought that he had a lovely voice, but then so do so many other entertainers in the world... I still couldn't work out why for a period of time he was considered the most beloved performer of the world. In the Jazz singer I finally understood.

    At first in the beginning of the movie I thought him stiff,bland, not at all as he was portrayed through the websites and books devoted to him, but as the movie progressed more and more of him seemed to come out, and when that special scene, the one that I can't help but keep referencing between his mother and him was shown where he talked AND sang, I saw a glimpse of the vitality and energy he must have had on stage.

    By the end of the movie I felt like applauding , though I'm still not quite certain as to why. I think that to see him on vaudeville, and on stage, he must have been absolutely magical.

    I giggled at your thoughts of his mother fixation, I too thought that. I think he sang ''mother'' songs as you say because of The Jazz Singer, and also because it's a sentimental subject, the love for ones mother. So it's always bound to draw a tear or a round of applause.

    Frankly as I have been researching him more and more I can't help but respect him, apparently he was one of the first entertainers of that time to admit that he was Jewish, and he also was said to have been a strong advocate for equality between all, regardless their race. At least that's what I have been reading.

    I did not know that about Ginger. I find that fascinating, I too am glad she never did such a thing. Imagine a world without Ginger! A world without her movies and dance routines- several of which were with the awesome Fred Astaire. :O So yes, I too am glad she didn't do it either. Phewf.

    No disrespect to Ruby or anyone else who gives up their careers for their partners, but I can't imagine how someone so talented at dancing like Ruby was could give up their career/passion, even for someone like Al Jolson. Of course, it was a different era, and they probably wanted to start a family and perhaps she had other reasons... But still...

    I was very shocked to find The Jazz Singer in my local target and new if I did not get it then, I never would. Of course this is in Australia, so I don't know if it would have it in any of your stores.. Perhaps it could be online somewhere? It could be on amazon or ebay, or there may be even a link to watch it for free. I confess, I have watched a lot of silent movies through youtube, simply because most aren't for public distribution.