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Jolson: The Legend Comes to Life Paperback – June 7, 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (June 7, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195063295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195063295
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,286,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Al Jolson is probably best remembered for the film The Jazz Singer . But in his time, he was an immensely popular performer whose gift was the ability to communicate magically with live audiences. Comprehensively researched and written in a straightforward anecdotal style that is neither endearing nor debunking, Goldman details Jolson's complex life and career, from early beginnings as a street performer through his multifaceted career. The author seeks the real person behind the legend, exploring Jolson's giant ego and mercurial personality. Fascinating reading, this highly recommended work will no doubt come to stand as the definitive book on Jolson and his times.Arthur Bargar, Media Librarian, Milford P.L., Conn.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author


About the Author:
Herbert G. Goldman is a free-lance writer who lives in New York City. He is currently at work on a biography of Fanny Brice.

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By John Kenrick (jbk@corcoran.com) on April 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
If you love the theatre, or if you just love a book that takes you to another time and place, this book is essential reading. I've read every Jolson biography around, and none can match this one for its scope, its honesty, and its invocation of Jolson's world. The notes exhaustively catalog every recording, every broadcast, and every stage appearance in Jolson's long career -- an incredible achievement, and a priceless resource to future theatrical researchers. The text itself (which is magnificently readable) is an honest but understanding look at Jolson's life and complex personality, explaining much of what drove this man without excusing or condeming his often cruel actions. The real treat here is how Goldman brings the long-dead worlds of Vaudeville and early 20th Century Broadway to life. You can sense the energy and excitement of that era, get into the mindset of oldtime show business -- and understanding Jolson's time makes it infinitely easier to comprehend why he was such a popular phenomenon. This is a model biography, one that knows the difference between writing vibrant history and (as too many others do) just re-hashing old gossip columns. Goldman serves us Al Jolson as a fascinating, egotistic, riveting, hateful, sentimental, insufferable, utterly believeable man -- appropriate for someone who was America's first multi-media superstar. The ever-insecure Jolson would never have approved of some of this candid book, but it is not a tawdry tell-all. Its a classy and well-written showbiz biography well worth treating yourself to.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Emile Smiley on April 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have read several books about Al Jolson and I want to tell you that Goldman's biography is the most accurate and provides you with the best view of the very complex man, Al Jolson. The book is a must for people interested in the history of Showbusiness from the beginning of the 20th. Century until the 1950's. It gaves you a well-rounded view of the master entertainer, his strengths, his problems and most of all the reasons why Jolson was such a complex and dynamic man. Whether you are a Jolson fan or not, this book is a fabulous read. I recommend it highly!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By E. F. Isaacs on September 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The only convincing Jolson biography. It's astonishing how much the author found, so long after his subject's death. Jolson the public wonder and private sociopath (loosely speaking) are each given their due. The author doubts neither aspect. He has interviewed people who knew J. well (Irving Caesar, Jessel, etc.)and he has found vivid contemporary accounts. He writes well: concisely, judiciously. The work of a real biographer, not a journalist perpetrating a show-biz bio. He has done the research and digested it. I'm very grateful.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "smileyev" on August 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a biography of one, if not the greatest, stage entertainers of the 20th. Century. Many say the only entertainer in his class would be Frank Sinatra. Al Jolson was a very complex man, a man who sole purpose in life was to entertain people. In the first 30 years of the 20th. century no one was his equal in showbusiness. When he performed in front of an audience of 2 or 2000 people it was as if hypnotized them. As his rival Eddie Cantor said, " He was the king. Once you saw Jolson perform you became a subject for life"! Jolson is remembered as a singer, but he was also a great comedian. He is also vilified today for his use of 'Blackface' and some indicate he was a racist. This is totally untrue! as you will read in this book. He made the greatest comeback in the history of showbusiness in the 1940's when hollywood made two pictures about his life. Both were hughly successful financial for Columbia Pictures although the facts of his life were far from the truth but got across the fact that Jolson loved to sing and his audiences loved him. The book is a super look at showbusiness in the early decades of the 20th. Century. You will enjoy this book!! Get it!!!!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By JLBordel on February 19, 1998
Format: Paperback
I knew the name JOLSON, but nothing about the man. After reading the book, I became a die-hard Jolson Fan. Jolson was of his time, but his talent is timeless, as Mr. Goldman expertly shows us.
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