The nearly 30-year struggle to bring sound to motion pictures is the backdrop for this insightful documentary. Film historians, and survivors from the era take the audience from the early ... See full summary »
Mr. and Mrs. Warner Bros. Pictures and their precocious offspring, Little Miss Vitaphone, host a dinner in honor of Warner Bros. Silver Jubilee, attended by most of the major players and song writers under contract to WB at that time.
John G. Adolfi
Betty Jane Graham
This film was believed lost for many years. In the 1990s the film element was found in the Library of Congress, having been mislabeled as a trailer for The Jazz Singer (1927). Several months later the Vitaphone disk surfaced from a collector in Maryland, who had retained it despite it having been broken into five pieces. Through extraordinary restoration efforts, the print of the film is in excellent condition with wonderful sound (and no trace of the broken disk). See more »
This short consists of Al Jolson standing in front of a set designed to look like a plantation home of a slave--and not surprisingly, he performs in black-face. It's on a stage, but I was impressed by the amount of detail on the set, as the background painting was great, the cabin looked real and a live chicken walked about as Jolson sang.
It begins with the song "When the Red, Red Robin comes Bob-Bob-Bobbin Along" and is followed by "April Showers" and "Rockabye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody". Between each song Jolson talks a bit and introduces the songs.
While people no doubt will be aghast at a minstrel show, it was a widely accepted sort of performance at the time and people just didn't think or care about how harmful such a stereotypical performance could be. It was a product of the times and can't be completely ignored just because it makes people uncomfortable--especially since this is such a super-important film to our film history. This is especially true since this short pre-dates Jolson's performance in the seminal film "The Jazz Singer".
Technically speaking this is an amazing film. It has exceptionally good sound for such an early film, gorgeous sets and wonderful cinematography and is a must for anyone who considers themselves to be a cinephile.
This film, by the way, was included on the first of three disks with the DVD release of "The Jazz Singer"--a marvelous collection of early talkies as well as documentaries.
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