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The Jazz Singer (Three-Disc Deluxe Edition)

4.4 out of 5 stars 142 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Jazz Singer, The: Deluxe Edition (DVD)



It's one of the most famous titles in film history, and everybody knows why: in a handful of sequences in The Jazz Singer, sound and image are excitingly synchronized. By 1927, some short subjects had already been "talkies," and a few features had synchronized music, but The Jazz Singer gets the prize as the breakthrough. Because the film is largely without dialogue, you can--even watching the film today--almost palpably sense the shift in movie epochs, as cinema takes an evolutionary leap from one form to the next. The movie itself, based on a successful Broadway show by Samson Raphaelson, is strictly melodrama of an ancient kind. Young Jakie Rabinowitz is expected to follow in the long line of family Cantors, but his heart yearns to sing "Toot Toot, Tootsie" instead of "Kol Nidre." Al Jolson plays Jakie (later Jack Robin of footlights fame), and you get a taste of why he was widely considered the greatest entertainer of his time; watch him with a tearjerker such as "Dirty Hands, Dirty Face" and you'll see the skillful, completely irony-free manipulations of a master storyteller. Equally fun is Jolson's non-singing patter--in fact, this is where you get the thrill of talking pictures, more so than the songs. "You ain't heard nuthin' yet," he burbles, and it's hard not to catch the excitement.

Jolson's numbers include his blackface act, a longstanding tradition of minstrel shows and music halls, and an unavoidable source of awkwardness for later viewers (see The Savages for an amusing account of the embarrassment this can cause). Blackface is a bizarre show business reality, and it's part of the movie, so some historical context is required.

Warner Bros. rightly considers The Jazz Singer a key moment in the studio's history, and this three-disc DVD package gives the deluxe treatment. The film itself is beautifully restored, and reproductions of original supporting materials (souvenir program, stills, ads) are fun. A booklet on early Vitaphone shorts clearly predates The Jazz Singer, for Jolson is mentioned only as a star of Vitaphone shorts, and George Jessel is tabbed as the future star of The Jazz Singer (he'd played Jakie on Broadway). A 90-minute documentary gives a fine account of how the Vitaphone system worked, and how other systems actually became the industry standard.

Supplemental short films are a true treasure trove. A Plantation Act is more Jolson blackface, Hollywood Handicap a studio short comedy directed by Buster Keaton, and I Love to Singa a hilarious 1936 Tex Avery cartoon--a spoof of The Jazz Singer starring a bird named Owl Jolson. A flabbergasting collection of Vitagraph shorts--over four hours' worth--makes up disc 3 of this set: utterly weird and wonderful performances by some of the strangest acts ever to kill vaudeville. There are a few names here: George Burns and Gracie Allen in a short called Lambchops, the Foy Family doing wacky stage business. But the cornball timed jokes of Shaw & Lee, the saucy songs of Trixie Friganza, not to mention "The Wizard of the Mandolin," Bernardo De Pace--these are gems, folks. Anyone with a taste for showbiz past will love them. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • Disc 1: The Movie
  • All-new feature digital transfer and immaculately refurbished soundtrack from restored picture elements and original Vitaphone-Sound-on-Disc recordings
  • Commentary by film historians Ron Hutchinson and Vince Giordano
  • Collection of rare cartoons and shorts: I Love to Sing (a classic 1936 WB parody cartoon directed by Tex Avery), Hollywood Handicap (classic M-G-M short with Al Jolson appearance), A Day at Santa Anita (classic Technicolor Warner Bros. short with Al Jolson & Ruby Keeler cameo appearance), Al Jolson in 'A Plantation Act' (1926 Vitaphone short made a year prior to The Jazz Singer), An Intimate Dinner in Celebration of Warner Bros. Silver Jubilee
  • 1947 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast starring Al Jolson (audio only)
  • Al Jolson Trailer Gallery
  • Disc 2: The Early Sound Era
  • All-new feature-length documentary The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk
  • Two rarely-seen Technicolor excerpts from Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929 WB film, most of which is considered lost)
  • Studio shorts celebrating the early sound era: Finding His Voice (1929 Western Electric animated promotional short, produced by Max Fleischer), The Voice That Thrilled The World (Warner Bros. short about sound), Okay for Sound (1946 WB short celebrating the 20th anniversary of Vitaphone), When Talkies Were Young (1955 WB short looking back at the early talkies), The Voice from the Screen (1926 WB 'demonstration' film explores the Vitaphone technology and, looks at the making of a Vitaphone short)
  • Disc 3: Vitaphone Shorts
  • Over 3 1/2 hours worth of rare, historic Vitaphone comedy and music shorts: Elsie Janis in a Vaudeville Act: "Behind the Lines", Bernado Depace: "Wizard of the Mandolin", Van and Schneck: "The Pennant Winning Battery of Songland", Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields, Hazel Green and Company,  The Night Court,  The Police Quartette, Ray Mayer & Edith Evans: "When East Meets West", Adele Rowland: "Stories in Song", Stoll, Flynn and Company: "The Jazzmania Quintet", The Ingenues in "The Band Beautiful", The Foy Family in "Chips off the Old Block",Dick Rich and His Melodious Monarchs, Gus Arnheim and His Ambassador,[Shaw and Lee: "The Beau Brummels",Larry Ceballos' Roof Garden Revue, Trixie Friganza in "My Bag O' Tricks", Green's Twentieth Century Faydetts,Sol Violinsky: "The Eccentric Entertainer", Ethel Sinclair and Marge La Marr in "At the Seashore", Paul Tremaine and His Aristocrats, Baby Rose Marie: "The Child Wonder", Burns & Allen in "Lambchops", Joe Frisco in "The Happy Hottentots"
  • Collector's Edition bonuses:
  • Rarely seen behind-the-scenes photo cards
  • Original release lobby card reproductions
  • Original release souvenir program book reproduction
  • Booklet with vintage document reproductions and DVD features guide
  • Reproduction of post-premiere telegram from Al Jolson to Jack L. Warner

Product Details

  • Actors: Al Jolson
  • Directors: Alan Crosland
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: October 16, 2007
  • Run Time: 265 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JKSC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,485 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Jazz Singer (Three-Disc Deluxe Edition)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joel L. Gandelman VINE VOICE on August 31, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Almost immediately after Warner Bros' huge financial gamble premiered in Oct 1927, other studios' concerned bigwigs frantically ordered their studios to immediately equip themselves to do sound movies. New careers were made -- and shattered -- overnight. If you haven't seen The Jazz Singer, considered the first "talking movie" (even though there actually were some earlier sporadic experiments) this is a video worth not only seeing but OWNING for several reasons: a)You see Al Jolson at his height. He was one of the first half of the 20th century's biggest stars and some of his stage charisma comes through in this movie's songs. Most of the flick is actually silent except for the songs. Originally he was only supposed to sing, but he ad libbed a few lines and the response was absolutely electric when audiences heard and saw him say these few words on the screen. b)The story's value: a Jewish religious leader's son, torn between tradition (using his voice for religion and following in his dad's footsteps) or to please the masses (as a jazz singer in vaudeville). Follow family tradition or national culture? c)The historical show biz value: the Warner brothers put everything they on the line in doing this flick and if it had failed sound movies would have been set back about 10 years (or more) -- and maybe Bugs Bunny wouldn't have been invented. d)Technical show biz value: The Warners used Vitaphone, which was basically sound on disks synchronized to the film's action. You also get a nice zippy period musical score throughout the movie. f)American history historical value: Note long shots of the Jewish ghetto. They were actual shots of a New York street taken through a window -- NOT extras on a movie set.Read more ›
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Let's cut to the chase because it is obvious that all film collectors either need this or already have the DVD -- yes, you DO need to upgrade from the DVD to this new Blu-ray edition. It IS that much better.

All of the errors in the DVD have been corrected. The scratches during "Dirty Hands, Dirty Face" and much of the rest of the Coffee Dan's scene have been eliminated without a trace. The mis-matched synchronization of the entire reel before "Blue Skies" has been fixed. The artificial shaking of the inter-titles to disguise them being free-frames has been steadied. In the extras, they have put in the correct two scenes from "Gold Diggers Of Broadway" -- we actually see Nick Lucas sing in 2-strip Technicolor "Tip-Toe Through the Tulips" this time. As an additional bonus they have added two shorts which have cameo appearances by Al Jolson and Ruby Keeler at Santa Anita Raceway. Most of the printed extras from the DVD set are in the book except for most of the postcards, but they have added some great portraits, bios, and an illustrated essay on the earlier film sound systems.

Only disc one is Blu-ray. Discs two and three are still DVD, and actually have the same labels and catalog number as the originals -- so don't mix them up with your originals or else you'll lose Nick Lucas. They are still standard definition, but the first disc is High Defination and the image sparkles! The DVD was good, but the Blu-ray image will blow you away. It probably looks better than original nitrate prints looked in 1927. I'll go so far as to say that it proves that you DO need to buy that Blu-ray player if you haven't yet.

The aforementioned scratches on the DVD were always a puzzle to me. They were continuous vertical scratches that often hit right on Jolson's face.
Read more ›
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
In 1926 Sam Warner of the Warner Brothers decided to invest in the Vitaphone sound system. Don Juan was their first Vitaphone film, but it only contained music and sound effects. In 1927 Warner adapted the Samson Raphaelson Broadway hit The Jazz Singer into a movie and, this time, they incorporated vocal musical numbers in what was still a silent film for all but twenty minutes. Contrary to popular belief, audiences had heard music on film before, and they had heard dialogue on film before. What they had not heard or seen before were either of these things being particularly entertaining. When Jolson sings "Blue Skies" to his mother while adlibbing humorous comments, it all came across as so completely natural that people suddenly realized that sound on film could be entertaining and not just some novelty act. Despite its many shortcomings, including the predictable storyline, The Jazz Singer was a box-office success and a cinema milestone.

This new 80th Anniversary Edition of the Jazz Singer due in October 2007 contains three discs of extras and appears to be just as much a tribute to the birth of the talking picture as a fully digitized release of the Jazz Singer. Disc 1 is dedicated to the film itself, and includes a commentary track. "A Plantation Act" is also included. This is a 1926 Vitaphone short also starring Jolson. Disc 2 is dedicated to the silent to sound transition and includes a documentary on this subject along with shorter featurettes. The real jewel in the crown of this disc is the excerpt from "The Gold Diggers of Broadway". That was the top-grossing picture of 1929 and is an example of a very good all-Technicolor musical of the pre-Depression era. Unfortunately, it was considered lost for years and only a little over two reels (about 20 minutes) survive.
Read more ›
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