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 »
Al Jolson made cinematic history in 1927, when he sang some songs & ad-libbed a few lines of dialogue, in the motion picture THE JAZZ SINGER - the first feature film with audible dialogue. What is not generally known, however, is that Jolson actually made his talkie debut the year earlier, in 1926, in a short entitled A PLANTATION ACT.
When sound-on-film was absolutely brand new, a large number of shorts were shot, mainly in New York, of various performers showing off their (mostly musical) talents. It was only natural that Jolson, the greatest Broadway star of the era, should be chosen to appear in one of these tiny films.
Rarely seen today, A PLANTATION ACT showcases Jolie at the height of his fame. He appears in rags, wig & blackface to sing three of the songs most closely associated with him - `When The Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbing Along', `April Showers' & `Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody'. He freely ad-libs dialogue between the songs & appears to be enjoying himself immensely - even though the restrictions of the microphone and the static camera require him to keep still & not move about.
The blackface makeup was Jolie's trademark for decades and should be seen in the context of the times. Rather than being racist, which here it is not, it is a salute to an older musical tradition. Jolson, to all intents & purposes, was the last of the great minstrels.
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