The Jazz Singer (1927 film)
name = The Jazz Singer
amg_id = 1:25963
imdb_id = 0018037
Jack Warner(executive in charge of production)
Samson Raphaelson(play) Alfred A. Cohn(adaptation)
Al Jolson May McAvoy Warner Oland
released = start date|1927|10|6
runtime = 89 min.
country = USA
language = English
"The Jazz Singer" is a 1927 American
musical film. The first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialoguesequences, its release heralded the commercial ascendance of the "talkies" and the decline of the silent filmera. Produced by Warner Bros.with its Vitaphone sound-on-discsystem, the movie stars Al Jolson, who performs six songs. Directed by Alan Crosland, it is based on a play by Samson Raphaelson.
The story begins with young Jakie Rabinowitz defying the traditions of his devout Jewish family by singing popular tunes in a beer hall. Punished by his father, a cantor, Jakie runs away from home. Some years later, now calling himself Jack Robin, he has become a talented jazz singer. He attempts to build a career as an entertainer, but his professional ambitions ultimately come into conflict with the demands of his home and heritage.
Background and production
In 1917, after attending the musical "Robinson Crusoe, Jr." featuring a
blackfaceperformance by a young singer named Al Jolson, Samson Raphaelsonwrote a short story, "The Day of Atonement," based on Jolson's life. [Brenner (2003) [p. 1 online] .] He later adapted the story into a stage play, "The Jazz Singer". It was a hit on Broadway in its original 1925 production and in a 1927 revival with George Jessel in the lead role. Warner Bros. acquired the movie rights, but when the studio refused to meet Jessel's salary demands, he turned down the part in the film. Warners next approached Eddie Cantor, who also rejected the role. The part was then offered to Jolson, who had inspired it in the first place.
Describing Jolson as the production's best choice for its star, film historian Donald Crafton wrote, "The entertainer, who sang jazzed-up minstrel numbers in blackface, was at the height of his phenomenal popularity. Anticipating the later stardom of crooners and rock stars, Jolson electrified audiences with the vitality and sex appeal of his songs and gestures, which owed much to African-American sources." [Crafton (1999), pp. 108–9.] Jolson took the role, and became one of the film's primary financial backers. [cite web|url=http://wms26.streamhoster.com/mike101/Jolson/Videos/Other/Jessel_interview.wmv| title=Interview with George Jessel|publisher=|date =ca. 1980|accessdate = 2008-07-01]
While many earlier sound films had dialogue, all were short subjects.
D. W. Griffith's feature "Dream Street" (1921) was shown in New York with a single singing sequence and crowd noises. It was preceded by a program of sound shorts, including a sequence with Griffith speaking directly to the audience, but the feature itself had no talking scenes. [Bradley (1996), p. 4.] Similarly, the first Warner Bros. Vitaphone feature, "Don Juan" (1926), like several that followed over the next year, had only a synchronized instrumental score and sound effects. "The Jazz Singer" contains those, as well as numerous synchronized singing sequences and some synchronized speech: Two popular tunes are performed by the young Jakie Rabinowitz, the future Jazz Singer; his father, a cantor, performs the devotional Kol Nidre; the famous cantor Jossele Rosenblatt, appearing as himself, sings another religious melody. As the adult Jack Robin, Jolson performs six songs, five popular "jazz" tunes and the Kol Nidre. The sound for the film was recorded by British-born George Groves, who had also worked on "Don Juan".
Jolson's first vocal performance, about fifteen minutes into the picture, is of "Dirty Hands, Dirty Face," with music by
James V. Monacoand lyrics by Edgar Leslieand Grant Clarke. The first synchronized speech—uttered by Jack to a cabaret crowd and to the piano player in the band accompanying him—occurs directly after that performance, beginning at the 17:25 mark of the film. Jack's first spoken words—"Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain't heard nothin' yet"—was well-established stage patter of Jolson's. He had even spoken very similar lines in a 1926 short, "Al Jolson in "A Plantation Act."" [cite web|author=Kehr, Dave|url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/16/movies/homevideo/16dvd.html?_r=1&oref=slogin| title=New DVDs: "The Jazz Singer"|work=New York Times|date = 2007-10-16|accessdate = 2007-10-16] The line had developed as something of an in-joke: he had recorded the song "You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet" in 1919. [Rees (1999), p. 261.] In a later scene, Jack talks with his mother in the family parlor; his father enters and pronounces one very conclusive word. In total, the movie contains barely two minutes worth of synchronized talking, most of it improvised. The rest of the dialogue is presented through the caption cards standard in silent movies of the era. Still, the songs and live-recorded dialogue sequences, fueled by Jolson's charisma, were enough to create a sensation among moviegoing audiences.
The production cost for the film was $422,000 [Crafton (1999), p. 111.] —a large sum, especially for Warner Bros., which rarely spent more than $250,000. It was by no means a record for the studio, however; two features starring
John Barrymorehad been costlier: " The Sea Beast" (1926), a loose and entirely silent adaptation of " Moby-Dick", at $503,000 and "Don Juan" at $546,000. [Glancy (1995) [pp. 2, 4 online] . Both Schatz (1998), p. 63, and Gomery (2005), p. 44 (possibly relying on Schatz), claim "The Jazz Singer" cost $500,000 and was the most expensive picture in Warners history. Glancy's and Crafton's well-sourced figures belie those claims.]
Al Jolsonas Jakie Rabinowitz (Jack Robin)
May McAvoyas Mary Dale
Warner Olandas Cantor Rabinowitz
Eugenie Bessereras Sara Rabinowitz
Otto Ledereras Moisha Yudelson
*Bobby Gordon as Jakie Rabinowitz (age 13)
*Richard Tucker as Harry Lee
Reception and impact
The success of the movie, which opened on
October 6, 1927, demonstrated to Hollywood and the world the potential profit offered by the " talkies." " New York Times" critic Mordaunt Hall, reviewing the film's premiere, declared that
not since the first presentation of Vitaphone features, more than a year ago [i.e., "Don Juan"] , has anything like the ovation been heard in a motion-picture theatre.... The Vitaphoned songs and some dialogue have been introduced most adroitly. This in itself is an ambitious move, for in the expression of song the Vitaphone vitalizes the production enormously. The dialogue is not so effective, for it does not always catch the nuances of speech or inflections of the voice so that one is not aware of the mechanical features. [Hall (1927).]
As conversion of theaters to sound was still in its early stages, the film played in a silent version in most of those venues outside the major cities that it reached in the first months of its run. The sound version was not released nationally until early the following year.
Critical reaction was generally positive. "Variety" called it " [u] ndoubtedly the best thing Vitaphone has ever put on the screen... [with] abundant power and appeal." ["Variety" staff (1927).] The film received favorable reviews in both the Jewish press and in African American newspapers such as the Baltimore "Afro-American", the "
New York Amsterdam News", and the " Pittsburgh Courier". [Brenner (2003) [pp. 2, 4 online] .] "When Jolson... sang numbers like "Toot Toot Tootsie Goodbye" and uttered the immortal line 'You ain't heard nothin' yet, folks!' the audience leaped up and cheered. This was the essence of the great populist art form of the movies: who ever rose to her feet while reading a Tolstoy novel?" [Kroll, Jack. [http://www.newsweek.com/id/97577 | "Newsweek", "The Movies," December 2, 1997] ]
While the film was a major hit, Donald Crafton has shown that the reputation the film later acquired for being one of Hollywood's most enormous successes to date was inflated. The movie did well, but not astonishingly so, in the major cities where it was first released, garnering much of its impressive profits with long, steady runs in population centers large and small all around the country. On the other hand, Crafton's statement that "The Jazz Singer" "was in a distinct second or third tier of attractions compared to the most popular films of the day and even other Vitaphone talkies" is also incorrect. [Crafton (1999), p. 529.] In fact, the film was easily the biggest earner in Warner Bros. history, and would remain so until it was surpassed a year later by "
The Singing Fool", another Jolson feature. In the larger scope of Hollywood, among films originally released in 1927, available evidence suggests that "The Jazz Singer" was among the three biggest box office hits, trailing only "Wings" and, perhaps, " The King of Kings". [For the following earnings of "Don Juan", "The Jazz Singer", and other early Vitaphone features, see Glancy (1995) [pp. 4–5 online] (and, for the domestic earnings of "The Jazz Singer", Crafton  , p. 528):
*"Don Juan" (nontalking)/premiered August 6, 1926: $1.695 million total (domestic & foreign) [new Warner Bros. record]
*::Thomas Schatz (1998) claims that "Don Juan" "was much less successful than the previous Barrymore vehicle, "The Sea Beast" (p. 63). This claim is belied by Glancy's figures, which show total earnings of $938,000 for "The Sea Beast" [p. 2 online] .
*"The Better 'Ole" (nontalking)/premiered October 7, 1926: just over $1 million total (dom. & for.)
*"When a Man Loves" (nontalking)/premiered February 3, 1927: just over $1 million total (dom. & for.)
*"Old San Francisco" (nontalking)/premiered June 21, 1927: $638,000 total (dom. & for.)
*"The Jazz Singer" (part-talkie)/premiered October 6, 1927: $2.625 million total (dom. & for.) [new Warner Bros. record] /$1.97 million domestic
*::These figures apparently include earnings from the film's 1931 rerelease. While no authoritative source has broken out those numbers from those of the initial release, even if they constitute as much as 25 percent of the total (a generous assumption), "The Jazz Singer" still set a Warner Bros. record in its initial release and was one of the top films of the 1927–28 exhibition season.
*"Tenderloin" (part-talkie)/premiered March 14, 1928: just under $1 million total (dom. & for.)
*"Glorious Betsy" (part-talkie)/premiered April 26, 1928: just under $1 million total (dom. & for.)
*"The Lion and the Mouse" (part-talkie)/premiered May 21, 1928: just under $1 million total (dom. & for.)
*"Lights of New York" (all-talking)/premiered July 6, 1928: $1.252 million total (dom. & for.)
*"The Singing Fool" (part-talkie)/premiered September 19, 1928: $5.916 million total (dom. & for.) [new Warner Bros. record] Scholar James Mark Purcell ranks the attendance of 1927's top three films in the following order: "Wings", "The Jazz Singer", "The King of Kings" (see Koszarski  , p. 33). For the earnings of "The King of Kings", see also cite web|author=David Pierce|url=http://www.cinemaweb.com/silentfilm/bookshelf/10_dwp_3.htm| title=Costs and Grosses for the Early Films of Cecil B. DeMille|publisher=Cinemaweb|work =The Silent Film Bookshelf|year =1991|accessdate = 2007-08-03 It is unclear if the $2.64 million figure gross income figure is total or only domestic. Note that the article correctly dates the film as 1927 in its main text and incorrectly as 1926 in the relevant table. Reported figures for "Wings" differ widely, but a survey of anecdotal accounts and a triangulation of box office claims combine to suggest—in accord with Purcell—that it was a slightly bigger smash than "The Jazz Singer".]
One of the keys to the film's success was an innovative marketing scheme conceived by Sam Morris, Warner Bros.' sales manager. In Crafton's description:
[A] special clause in Warners' Vitaphone exhibition contract virtually guaranteed long runs. Theaters had to book "The Jazz Singer" for full rather than split weeks. Instead of the traditional flat rental fee, Warners took a percentage of the gate. A sliding scale meant that the exhibitor's take increased the longer the film was held over. The signing of this contract by the greater New York Fox circuit was regarded as a headline-making precedent. [Crafton (1999), p. 111.]Similar arrangements, based on a percentage of the gross rather than flat rental fees, would soon become standard for the U.S. film industry's high-end or "A" product.
Though in retrospect, the success of "The Jazz Singer" signaled the end of the silent motion picture era, this was not immediately apparent. Mordaunt Hall, for example, praised Warner Bros. for "astutely realiz [ing] that a film conception of "The Jazz Singer" was one of the few subjects that would lend itself to the use of the Vitaphone." [Hall (1927).] In historian Richard Koszarski's words, "Silent films did not disappear overnight, nor did talking films immediately flood the theaters.... Nevertheless, 1927 remains the year that Warner Bros. moved to close the book on the history of silent pictures, even if their original goal had been somewhat more modest." [Koszarski (1994), 90.] Crafton points to the January 1928 national release of the sound version as the true turning point: two months later, Warners announced that "The Jazz Singer" was playing at a record 235 theaters (though many could still show it only silently). [Crafton (1999), p. 111.] In May, a consortium including the leading Hollywood studios signed up with
Western Electric's licensing division, ERPI, for sound conversion. In July, Warner Bros. released the first all-talking feature, " Lights of New York", a musical crime melodrama. Within another year, Hollywood would be producing almost exclusively sound films. Jolson went on to make a series of movies for Warners, including "The Singing Fool", a part-talkie, and the all-talking features " Say It with Songs" (1929), "Mammy" (1930), and "Big Boy" (1930).
Three subsequent screen versions of "The Jazz Singer" have been produced: a 1952 remake, starring
Danny Thomasand Peggy Lee; a 1959 television remake, starring Jerry Lewis; and a 1980 remake starring Neil Diamond, Lucie Arnaz, and Laurence Olivier.
Among the many references to "The Jazz Singer" in popular culture, perhaps the most notable is that of the classic
MGMmusical "Singin' in the Rain" (1952). The story, set in 1927, revolves around efforts to change a silent film production, "The Dueling Cavalier", into a talking picture in response to "The Jazz Singer"'s success. The plot of the "Simpsons" episode " Like Father, Like Clown" (1991) parallels the tale of Jakie Rabinowitz/Jack Robin. Krusty the Clown's rabbi father disapproves of his son's choice to be a comedian, telling him, "If you were a musician or a jazz singer, this I could forgive."
According to film historian Krin Gabbard, "The Jazz Singer" has provided the basic narrative for the lives of jazz and popular musicians in the movies, including "The Benny Goodman Story" (1955) and "
The Glenn Miller Story(1954)." "If this argument means that sometime after 1959 the narrative must belong to pop rockers, it only proves the power of the original 1927 film to determine how Hollywood tells the stories of popular musicians."Gabbard, Krin. "Jammin' at the Margins", (1996) University of Chicago Press] rp|66 It is also significant that "a seemingly unique film like the 1927 "Jazz Singer" can become a paradigm for American success stories, regardless of what they are called." rp|63
In 1996, "The Jazz Singer" was selected for preservation in the American National Film Registry of "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" motion pictures. In 1998, the film was chosen in voting conducted by the
American Film Instituteas one of the best American films of all time, ranking at number ninety. [cite web|url=http://www.afi.com/tvevents/100years/movies.aspx| title=AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies|publisher=American Film Institute|year =1998|accessdate = 2007-08-03] In 2007, a three-disc deluxe DVD edition of the film was released. The supplemental material includes Jolson's 1926 Vitaphone short, " A Plantation Act".
Jack Robin's use of
blackfacein his Broadway stage act is the primary focus of many "Jazz Singer" studies. Its crucial and unusual role is described by scholar Corin Willis:
In contrast to the racial jokes and innuendo brought out in its subsequent persistence in early sound film, blackface imagery in "The Jazz Singer" is at the core of the film's central theme, an expressive and artistic exploration of the notion of duplicity and ethnic hybridity within American identity. Of the more than seventy examples of blackface in early sound film 1927–53 that I have viewed (including the nine blackface appearances Jolson subsequently made), "The Jazz Singer" is unique in that it is the only film where blackface is central to the narrative development and thematic expression. [Willis (2005), p. 127.]
The function and meaning of blackface in the film is intimately involved with Jack's own Jewish heritage and his desire to make his mark in mass American culture—much as the ethnically Jewish Jolson and the Warner brothers were doing themselves. Jack Robin "compounds both tradition and stardom. The Warner Brothers thesis is that, really to succeed, a man must first acknowledge his ethnic self," argues W. T. Lhamon. " [T] he whole film builds toward the blacking-up scene at the dress rehearsal. Jack Robin needs the blackface mask as the agency of his compounded identity. Blackface will hold all the identities together without freezing them in a singular relationship or replacing their parts." [Lhamon (1998), pp. 109, 110.]
Seymour Stark's view is less sanguine. In describing Jolson's extensive experience performing in blackface in stage musicals, he asserts, "The immigrant Jew as Broadway star...works within a blackface minstrel tradtion that obscures his Jewish pedigree, but proclaims his white identity. Jolson's slight Yiddish accent was hidden by a Southern veneer." [Stark (2000), p. 112.] Arguing that "The Jazz Singer" actually avoids honestly dealing with the tension between American assimilation and Jewish identity, he claims that its "covert message...is that the symbol of blackface provides the Jewish immigrant with the same rights and privileges accorded to earlier generations of European immigrants initiated into the rituals of the minstrel show." [Stark (2000), p. 116.]
Lisa Silberman Brenner contradicts this view. She returns to the intentions expressed by Samson Raphaelson, on whose play the film's script was closely based: "For Raphaelson, jazz is prayer, American style, and the blackface minstrel the new Jewish cantor. Based on the author's own words, the play is not about blackface as a means for Jews to become White, but about blackface as a means for Jews to express a new kind of Jewishness, that of the modern American Jew." [Brenner (2003) [p. 1 online] .] She observes that during the same period, the Jewish press was noting with pride that Jewish performers were adopting aspects of African American music.
Plot summary (with complete recorded dialogue)
Cantor Rabinowitz (
Warner Oland) wants his son to carry on the generations-old family tradition and become a cantor at the synagogue in the Jewish ghettoof Manhattan's Lower East Side. But thirteen-year-old Jakie Rabinowitz ( Bobby Gordon) has a taste for show business. Inside Muller's beer garden, young Jakie sings contemporary popular, or so-called jazz, tunes.
Moisha Yudelson (
Otto Lederer), "rigidly orthodox and a power in the affairs of the Ghetto," spots the boy singing. He tells Jakie's father, who storms off to the beer garden. He hauls the boy forcefully from the stage and drags him home. Jakie clings to his mother, Sara ( Eugenie Besserer), as his father declares, "I'll teach him better than to debase the voice God gave him!" Sara tries to calm him, but the cantor is insistent: "First he will get a whipping!" Jakie threatens: "If you whip me again, I'll run away — and "never come back!" After the whipping, Jakie kisses his mother goodbye and, true to his word, runs away.
Yom Kippurservice, Rabinowitz mournfully tells one of his fellow celebrants, "My son was to stand at my side and sing tonight — but now I have no son." As the sacred Kol Nidreis sung, Jakie sneaks back into his home and retrieves a picture of his loving mother.
Approximately ten years later, Jakie has changed his name to the more assimilated Jack Robin (
Al Jolson). Jack is called up from his table at a cabaret to perform on stage. He belts out "'Dirty Hands, Dirty Face," which details the trials and greater joys of being parent to a young son. The crowd responds enthusiastically. Then Jack addresses them with the live-recorded, spoken words that made motion picture history:Jack wows the crowd with his energized rendition, including that remarkable bird-whistle chorus. Afterward, Jack is introduced to the beautiful Mary Dale ( May McAvoy), a musical theater dancer. "There are lots of jazz singers, but "you" have a tear in your voice," she says, offering to help with his still-budding career.
Back at the family home Jack abandoned long ago, the elder Rabinowitz instructs a young student in the traditional cantorial art. Jack's visibly aged mother receives a letter that Yudleson reads to her:
Dear Mama: I'm getting along great, making $250.00 a week. A wonderful girl, Mary Dale, got me my big chance. Write me c/o State Theatre in Chicago. Last time you forgot and addressed me Jakie Rabinowitz. "Jack Robin" is my name now. Your loving son, Jakie.His mother wonders if he has become romantically involved with a "
shiksa," another step away from his religious roots. Yudleson cautions her against jumping to conclusions: "Maybe not — you know Rosie Levy on the theayter is Rosemarie Lee." When Sara shows her husband the letter, he is furious: "We have no son!" Sara weeps.
As it happens, both Jack and Mary are in Chicago. With her help, he's gained a place on the vaudeville circuit and is now in constant travel around the country: Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake, Denver, Omaha. For one glorious week, their paths have crossed and they're appearing on the same bill. Now, however, they must part for an indefinite period as Mary has won a lead role in a Broadway show.
In Chicago, Jack attends a concert of sacred songs performed by renowned cantor
Jossele Rosenblatt(playing himself). Jack is reminded poignantly of his father. About to board a train for the next stop on the circuit, Jack is told that his booking has been dropped. Far from being canned however, he's won a shot at the big time: a spot in a Broadway revue, which will bring him close to both Mary and his treasured mother, whom he's not seen in ages.
At the Rabinowitz home, Sara organizes presents that have arrived in celebration of her husband's sixtieth birthday. It is also the day of Jack's return. Greeted warmly by his mother after his long absence, he surprises her with an expensive piece of jewelry. At his father's piano, he sings and plays
Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" for her, one of the tunes he will try out in the Broadway show. Then, as Jack continues to tinkle on the piano with his left hand throughout, comes the first true dialogue sequence ever heard in a feature-length film (Sara's lines, for the most part, are not fully enunciated, and at times are difficult to understand amid her frequent giggling):cquote|"Jack": Did you like that, Mama? "Sara": Yes...
"Jack": I'm glad of it. I'd rather please you than anybody I know of. Oh, darlin', will you gimme something?
"Jack": You'll never guess. Shut your eyes, Mama. Shut 'em for little Jakie [pronounced "Jack-ee," not "Jayk-ee"] . Haw, I'm gonna steal something [he kisses her] . Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!
"Sara": Oh, Jakie, oh...
"Jack": I'll give it back to you someday too, you see if I don't. Mama darling, if I'm a success in this show, well, we're gonna move from here.
"Sara": Oh, no.
"Jack": Oh yes, we're gonna move up in the Bronx. A lot of nice green grass up there, and a whole lot of people you know. There's the Ginsbergs, the Guttenbergs, and the Goldbergs. Oh, a whole lot of Bergs. I don't know 'em all. And I'm gonna buy you a nice black silk dress, Mama.
"Jack": You'll see, Mrs. Friedman, the butcher's wife, she'll be jealous of you.
"Sara": Oh, no...
"Jack": Yes she will. You'll see if she isn't. And I'm going to get you a nice pink dress that will go with your brown eyes.
"Sara": Oh, no, Jakie, no. I...I...
"Jack": What do you mean, "no"?
"Sara": Oh, no, dear.
"Jack": Who, who is tellin' ya? What do you mean, "no"? Yes, you'll wear pink or else. Or else you'll wear pink. Hm, hm, hm, hm. And darlin', ohh, I'm gonna take you to Coney Island.
"Jack": Yes, you're gonna ride on the shoot-the-chute.
"Sara": Oh ho...
"Jack": And you know the dark mill.
"Jack": Ever been in the dark mill?
"Sara": Oh, no, I wouldn't.
"Jack": Well, with me it's alright. I'll kiss ya and hug ya—you'll see if I don't. Now Mama, Mama, stop now, you're gettin' kittenish. Mama, listen, I'm gonna sing this like I will if I go on the stage, you know, with the show. I'm gonna sing it jazzy. Now get this.Having performed a relatively straightforward version of the song, Jack now demonstrates for his mother the energetic method with which he plans to perform it on Broadway. In the middle of the song, he interjects, referring to his flamboyant piano style,Jack's father enters and watches Jack perform for a few moments. Stunned and still not fully comprehending, he shouts the last recorded line of speech in the movie:Jack tries to explain his modern point of view, but the traditionalist cantor is appalled. Jack is banished once again: "Leave my house! I never want to see you again — you "jazz singer!" Jack makes a prediction as he departs: "I came home with a heart full of love, but you don't want to understand. Some day you'll understand, the same as Mama does." Sara fears Jack will never return: "He came back once, Papa, but — he'll never come back again." The cantor slumps defeatedly.
Two weeks after Jack's expulsion from the family home and twenty-four hours before opening night of "April Follies" on Broadway, Jack's father becomes gravely ill. Jack is asked to choose between the show and duty to his family and faith: in order to sing the Kol Nidre at temple in his sick father's place for Yom Kippur the following night, he will have to miss the big premiere.
Dress rehearsal is at one o'clock the next day. Jack is told, "Come full of pep!" That evening, the eve of Yom Kippur, Yudleson tells the Jewish elders, "For the first time, we have no Cantor on the Day of Atonement." Lying in his bed, weak and gaunt, Cantor Rabinowitz tells Sara that he cannot perform on the most sacred of holy days: "My heart is breaking, Mama. I cannot sing. My son came to me in my dreams — he sang Kol Nidre so beautifully. If he would only sing like that tonight — surely he would be forgiven."
As Jack prepares for rehearsal by applying blackface makeup, he and Mary have a heated discussion about his career aspirations and the familial pressures they agree he must rebuff. Sara and Yudleson comes to Jack's dressing room to plea for him to come to his father and sing in his stead. Jack is torn. He delivers his blackface performance ("Mother of Mine, I Still Have You"), and Sara sees her son onstage for the first time. She has a tearful revelation: "Here he belongs. If God wanted him in His house, He would have kept him there. He's not "my" boy anymore — he belongs to the whole world now."
Jack returns to the Rabinowitz home after the rehearsal. He kneels at his father's bedside and the two converse fondly: "My son — I love you." Yudleson assumes that he has come to replace Cantor Rabinowitz at the Yom Kippur service; Sara encourages him as a way to heal his father. Just then, the producer and Mary arrive to urge Jack to return with them to the "April Follies" premiere. The producer warns Jack that he'll never work on Broadway again if he fails to appear on opening night. Jack can't decide. Mary challenges him: "Were you lying when you said your career came before "everything?" Jack is unsure if he even can replace his father: "I haven't sung Kol Nidre since I was a little boy." His mother tells him, "Do what is in your heart, Jakie — if you sing and God is not in your voice — your father will know." The producer cajoles Jack: "You're a "jazz singer" at heart!"
At the theater, the opening night audience is told that there will be no performance. Jack sings the Kol Nidre in the synagogue in his father's place. His father listens from his deathbed to the nearby ceremony and speaks his last, forgiving words: "Mama, we have our son again." The spirit of Jack's father is shown at his side in the synagogue. Mary has come to listen. She sees how Jack has reconciled the division in his soul: "a jazz singer — singing to his God."
"The season passes — and time heals — the show goes on." Jack, as "The Jazz Singer," is now appearing at the Winter Garden theater, apparently as the featured performer opening for a show called "Back Room". In the film's final scene, his beloved mother sits alongside Yudleson in the front row of the packed theater. In blackface, Jack performs the song "
My Mammy" for her and for the world.
* "My Gal Sal" (music and lyrics by
Paul Dresser; sung by Bobby Gordon)
* "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee" (music by Lewis F. Muir and lyrics by
L. Wolfe Gilbert; sung by Bobby Gordon)
Kol Nidre" (traditional; sung by Joseph Diskay with Warner Oland on screen; sung also by Al Jolson)
* "Dirty Hands, Dirty Face" (music by
James V. Monacoand lyrics by Edgar Leslieand Grant Clarke; sung by Al Jolson)
* "Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goo' Bye)" (music and lyrics by
Gus Kahn, Ernie Erdman, and Dan Russo [title orthography and songwriting credits per original sheet music cover; [cite web|url=http://parlorsongs.com/issues/2002-12/thismonth/featureb.asp| title=The Music of Al Jolson, Page 2|publisher=Parlor Songs Association|month =December | year =2002|accessdate = 2007-08-03] other sources do not mention Russo and name either or both Ted Fio Ritoand Robert A. King in his place] ; sung by Al Jolson)
Kaddish" (traditional; sung by Cantor Jossele Rosenblatt)
* "Blue Skies" (music and lyrics by
Irving Berlin; sung by Al Jolson)
* "Mother of Mine, I Still Have You" (music by
Louis Silversand lyrics by Grant Clarke [Jolson also credited by some sources] ; sung by Al Jolson)
My Mammy" (music by Walter Donaldsonand lyrics by Sam M. Lewisand Joe Young; sung by Al Jolson)
Awards and nominations
Academy Awardto Warner Bros. production chief Darryl F. Zanuck"for producing "The Jazz Singer", the pioneer outstanding talking picture, which has revolutionized the industry"
Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay— Alfred A. Cohn
Academy Award for Engineering Effects— Nugent Slaughter
*Bradley, Edwin M. (1996). "The First Hollywood Musicals: A Critical Filmography of 171 Features, 1927 Through 1932". Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-2029-4
*Brenner, Lisa Silberman (2003). "Blackface as Religious Expression," "Cross Currents", fall (available [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2096/is_3_53/ai_112212968 online] ).
*Crafton, Donald (1999  ). "The Talkies: American Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1926–1931". Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22128-1
*Glancy, H. Mark (1995). "Warner Bros. Film Grosses, 1921–51: The William Schaefer Ledger," "Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television", March (available [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2584/is_n1_v15/ai_16922275/pg_1 online] ).
*Gomery, Douglas (2005). "The Coming of Sound: A History". New York and Oxon, UK: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-96900-X
*Hall, Mordaunt (1927). "Al Jolson and the Vitaphone [review of "The Jazz Singer"] ", "New York Times", October 7 (available [http://movies2.nytimes.com/mem/movies/review.html?_r=1&title1=&title2=Jazz%20Singer%2C%20The&reviewer=MORDAUNT%20HALL.&v_id=25963&pdate=19271007&oref=slogin online] ).
*Koszarski, Richard (1994  ). "An Evening's Entertainment: The Age of the Silent Feature Picture, 1915–1928". Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-08535-3
*Lhamon, W. T. (1998). "Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop". Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-74711-9
*Rees, Nigel (1999). "Brewer's Famous Quotations: 5000 Quotations and the Stories Behind Them". Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-304-36799-0
*Schatz, Thomas (1998  ). "The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era". London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-19596-2
*Stark, Seymour (2000). "Men in Blackface: True Stories of the Minstrel Show". Xlibris. ISBN 0-7388-5735-1
*"Variety" staff (1927). "The Jazz Singer"," "Variety" (available [http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117792128.html?categoryid=31&cs=1&p=0 online] ).
*Willis, Corin (2005). "Meaning and Value in "The Jazz Singer" (Alan Crosland, 1927)," in "Style And Meaning: Studies In The Detailed Analysis Of Film", ed. John Gibbs and Douglas Pye. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-6524-0
* [http://www.filmsite.org/jazz.html "The Jazz Singer"] part of "Filmsite.org"
* [http://www.jolson.org/ Al Jolson Society Official Website] includes clip from "The Jazz Singer" of Jolson's first onscreen speech and performance of "Toot, Toot, Tootsie" (follow links: His Work–Films–The Jazz Singer–Toot, Toot, Tootsie)
* [http://www.archive.org/details/LetsGoToTheM "Let's Go To The Movies" (1948)] film clip, with excerpt of "My Mammy" at 2:30; part of "Archive.org"
* [http://www.archive.org/details/Lux01 Lux Radio Theater/"The Jazz Singer"] radio version originally broadcast on
August 10, 1936; part of the "Internet Archive"
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