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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon August 31, 2001
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. And the theater in which Jolson sings was the Wintergarden, a theater in which he often performed. g)Cultural historical value: even though Jolson's belt-em-out vocal style (effective in theaters without mikes) is part of the reason you don't hear about him anymore, a MAJOR part of his vanishing public historical profile is because he did some of his stage act in "blackface" and minstrel shows were viewed a bit differently in those days. You will SELDOM EVER see this film aired on television due to the fact that blackface is so obviously politically incorrect (understatement!). Does this hold up? YES, it is corny but it is also deeply touching and Jolson's stage pizazz reaches across nearly a century on most numbers (one or two now are almost "camp" but weren't back then). Advice: it won't be available on video forever as the 21st century advances. And you might not find it at your local rental store. Get it now. It's the movie that forever changed Hollywood -- and it's still entertaining.
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