The Jazz Singer

The Jazz Singer

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

DVD (Subtitled / B&W / Full Frame)

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Overview

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: 02/26/2019
UPC: 0883929675531
Original Release: 1927
Rating: NR
Source: Warner Archives
Presentation: [B&W, Full Frame]
Time: 1:36:00
Sales rank: 1,526

Special Features

Disc 1: The Movie: Digital transfer and immaculately refurbished soundtrack from restored picture elements and original Vitaphone-Sound-on-Disc Recordings Commentary by Ron Hutchison, founder of The Vitaphone Project and Nighthawks bandleader Vince Giordano Vintage Al Jolson shorts, radio show adaptation and movie trailer gallery Classic homage cartoon I Love to Singa Disc 2: The Early Sound Era: Feature-Length documentary The Dawn of Sound: How the Movies Learned to Talk Surviving sound excerpts from 1929's Gold Diggers of Broadway Studio shorts from or celebrating the early sound era Disc 3: Astonishing Rarities: Over 3½ hours' worth of rare, historic Vitaphone comedy and music shorts starring the greats of Vaudeville and the early sound era, many recently recovered and restored after being thought lost forever

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 - The Movie
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 - Special Features
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 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]
Disc #3 -- The Jazz Singer - Special Features
1. Elsie Janis In A Vaudeville Act: "Behind The Lines" [7:26]
2. Bernado De Pace: "The Wizard Of The Mandolin" [10:29]
3. Van And Schenck: "The Pennant Winning Battery Of Songland" [9:22]
4. Blossom Seeley And Bennie Fields With The Music Boxes [9:43]
5. Hazel Green & Company [8:12]
6. The Night Court [9:30]
7. The Police Quartette [8:09]
8. Ray Mayer & Edith Evans In "When East Meets West" [8:43]
9. Adele Rowland: "Stories In Song" [9:44]
10. Stoll, Flynn & Company: The 'Jazzmania Quintette" [9:38]
11. The Ingenues: "The Band Beautiful" [9:14]
12. The Foy Family In "Chips Of The Old Block" [7:42]
13. Dick Rich And His Melodious Monarchs [9:37]
14. Gus Arnheim And His Ambassadors [9:40]
15. Shaw & Lee: "The Beau Brummels" [8:43]
16. Roof Garden Revue Directed By Larry Ceballos [9:34]
17. Trixie Friganza In "My Bag O' Tricks" [10:02]
18. Green's Twentieth Century Faydetts [7:13]
19. Sol Violinsky: "The Eccentric Entertainer" [7:17]
20. Ethel Sinclair And Marge La Marr: "At The Seashore" [8:20]
21. Paul Tremaine And His Aristocrats [9:29]
22. Baby Rose Marie: "The Child Wonder" [8:34]
23. Burns & Allen In "Lambchops" [8:01]
24. Joe Frisco In "The Happy Hottentots" [10:41]

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