Pros:musical numbers, story, historical importance
"The Jazz Singer" is of great historical importance, as it was the first feature to incorporate dialogue and sound. Although primarily a silent, the musical numbers all have sound, and there are brief snippets of dialogue. The ad-libbed dialogue by Al Jolson delighted the audience. The tremendous box office success launched the film career of Jolson, and put the Warner Brothers studio on the map.
Recommend this product?
The story has an aging orthodox Jewish tenor
(Warner Oland, better known for playing Charlie
Chan in 1930s movies) raising his young son Jakie
(Bobby Gordon) to take his place in the
synagogue. Jakie wants to be a jazz singer,
however, and runs away from home. Years later,
Jakie (now played by Jolson) is a success, about
to star in a Broadway show. But on opening night,
which falls on the Jewish Day of Atonement, his
father becomes gravely ill. Jake's mother
(Eugenie Besserer) implores him to skip the show
to sing in the synagogue, which she believes will
reconcile him with his father.
"The Jazz Singer" has been been criticized for
its heavyhanded drama. The film's story and
characters are simplistic. Jakie's father is
humorless and stubborn, his mother is selfless
and loving, and even his girlfriend and Broadway
co-star (May McAvoy) isn't more than an ambitious
pretty face. The choices that Jakie must make,
between career and family, jazz and religion,
take on a significance in the story that is much
greater than the viewer's interest.
More interesting are the musical numbers. Jolson
has a couple black-faced numbers, delivering
"Mammy" with mawkishness ripe for parody. There a
few uptempo numbers, and Jolson's enthusiasm and
ability to entertain is evident. While "The Jazz
Singer" is not a good movie, it isn't bad either.
It is a watchable Jolson vehicle, as well as one
of the most historically significant films.