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#90 - The Jazz Singer

The 1927 classic stars Al Jolson as a rabbi's son who becomes estranged from his family because he wants to be a jazz singer... and that's about it. There's not much more to the plot -- like many musicals, the plot serves as a vehicle for the musical numbers.

I can only assume that this film is on the list for purely historical reasons. Because it is not a good film. Admittedly I have seen very few silent films, but Jolson's acting isn't very good, nor is that of many of the supporting actors. Many of the more intanglibes I've mentioned in previous reviews (cinematography, costumes, etc.) are lacking. What I can tell you is what I know regarding my viewing and things I've read.

The film is oftentimes called the first "talkie" -- that is, the first movie featuring synchronized audio and picture. To be honest, though, it isn't actually. And much of the movie is silent -- the Vitaphone sequences are limited to the musical numbers and immediately surrounding dialogue. What it is, however, is the first monumentally successful talkie. And apparently this is largely attributed to a scene where Jolson breaks into an ad-libbed soliloquy to his stage mother (who appears visibly startled).

I must admit that I can understand this attribution. That was the only part of the film that really seemed like a "movie" in the sense that we currently understand it. The rest of the film felt like another art form (which silent film really was, it can be argued) interspersed with some musical numbers.

It's cool to see Jolson, who was a legend on Broadway in his time. I'm sure the original viewers felt the same way, also contibuting to the movie's success. I can dimly sense the kind of stage magnetism he must have possessed. Other than that, the film is pretty dull. But I expected an education in film history as well as fun films by undertaking this project, so I have to take the former in absence of the latter, right?

(See this post if you're confused why I'm reviewing movies.)


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 10, 2005 2:00 PM.

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