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Reviews & Ratings for
The Jazz Singer More at IMDbPro »

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14 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

First "Talkie" in General Circulation

Author: Lee McIntyre from California
23 September 2006

I rate the movie a "10" for its historical significance. "The Jazz Singer" is the answer to the perennial trivia question, "What was the first sound motion picture?" Certainly there were other talkies before this, but this one, the first feature-length talkie in the world -- is the one that turned Hollywood and the movie-going public on its ear.

It's fascinating. We think of "The Jazz Singer" as a talkie, but most of the picture is in typical "silent pictures" style -- with intertitles (title cards) to convey character dialog. Only with Jolson's vocal numbers and two other scenes is the new sound technology is used, and we hear the voice of the man many have called the world's greatest entertainer.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

1927 Triumph in Motion Pictures

Author: hnrobinson from United States
27 December 2007

I have seen the Jazz Singer several times over my 60 years. I became interested in 1920 entertainers when I was in my mid teens. My grandfather had seen Jolson in a few Broadway shows and actually met him on a few occasions. Jolson was, as he claimed, "The Worlds Greatest Entertainer". He wasn't the greatest talent, such as Sammy Davis Jr. was, but his dynamic extroverted personality and the way he could capture an audience in his live Broadway Performances was never captured on screen. I know it may sound strange, but the movie producers just couldn't contain all of his energy and exuberance in front of a camera. His dialog delivery,singing and acting was quite good in this movie. Let us not forget that in 1927, black and white silent films were still the standard. That standard brought over dramatization,dark make up, etc. They were not going to take a chance on giving up the tried and proved silent ways completely. They weren't sure on how sound would go over with the movie attendees. How can that be? Silents were a technology that the audiences accepted. The use of all sound was taking a big risk, and difficult to produce using Vitaphone, which was basically synchronizing large recorded discs to the film. Nearly all of the movie houses were not set up for any type of sound at that time. In my opinion, the sound technology and the performance of Jolson carried the film.

I have great difficulty in understanding the comments listed in the posts of how today's human rights standards can be applied to a film that was created 80 years ago.

We are talking about 1927,and it is hard for me to understand how today's negative comments are made about the Black-face and other racial comments. This was a convention of the time 80 years ago. I do not for a moment agree that the way minorities were treated was correct, but that was 1927, not now! You cannot erase history to make it fit today's standards.

I thought Al Jolson did a superb job in his singing,dialog,and acting in this film for the era. One would need to review and compare the singing and acting styles,that of other performers of the era and make comparisons. Crosby, Sinatra, Eddie Fisher, even Elvis Presley & Jackie Wilson said that Al Jolson was a great influence on their careers. To say he could not sing as in some posts here, is absurd.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Is "The Jazz Singer" racist?

Author: lecole from United States
17 June 2006

The answer to this question isn't as easy as it seems at first blush. Yes, Al Jolson does wear blackface several times in the movie. However, the historical record suggests that the African American response to his portrayal was mostly quite positive; many blacks were reported to have wept (as did many whites) during the performance of "Mammy," because this was a *sympathetic* portrayal of the African American experience (in contrast to movies like "The Birth of a Nation"). Remember that in the 19-teens and 1920s, many African Americans had left families behind to come north. Given the cost of train travel and low wages for the jobs that hired them, they'd be unlikely to return frequently if ever, putting them in the same position as immigrants from across the Atlantic (or Pacific!). Thus the sympathetic portrayal combined with the common experience of leaving friends and family behind was responded to positively, even if we may react to it with jaundiced eyes 75+ years later.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Hollywood Icon

Author: PWNYCNY from United States
23 October 2007

Yes, the movie was made eighty years ago. Yes, the acting is stagy. Yes, the movie is a relic. Yes, the story is hokey and contrived. Nevertheless this is a great movie which withstands the test of time. It's about a man in conflict within himself and his family. It's about the immigrant experience in the United States. It's about the lure of show business. It's about life. It's about the American urban experience in the early 20th century. For the Jazz Singer is more than a curiosity piece, it is an icon of American culture and will be recalled and remembered as long as people have interest in movies. Although talkies are now taken for granted, the Jazz Singer hearkens back to a time when movies were silent and actors were seen but not heard, and this movie represents a technological breakthrough of monumental importance that cannot be overstated. Al Jolson was one of the greatest performers in American history. His place in the history is firmly established, and Jazz Singer is proof.

The Jazz Singer is a landmark in the history of movies. First, the Jazz Singer is the first commercially successful talkie ever produced, featuring both dialogue and songs, signifying the transition from silence to sound. Second, the movie dramatizes several social themes directly relevant to the immigrant experience: Old World versus New World; Young versus Old; Secular versus Religious; Ghetto versus Non-Ghetto; Tradition versus Change. Third, the movie stars Al Jolson, at the time one of the most popular entertainers in the United States. Fourth, the movie showcases aspects of the Jewish community in New York City as it existed at the time. Fifth, the movie depicts two genres of entertainment, the minstrel and black face, which in 1927 were accepted forms of entertainment but today are considered controversial. The Jazz Singer was remade three times: in 1952, with Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee; in 1959 with Jerry Lewis and Anna Maria Alberghetti; and in 1980 with Neil Diamond, Lucie Arnaz and Laurence Olivier.

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Selfish and Corny Emotional Blackmail

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
19 December 2010

In New York, the thirteen year-old Jewish Jakie is the son of the cantor Rabinowitz (Warner Oland). When Rabinowitz is informed by Moisha Yudelson (Otto Lederer) that Jakie is singing ragtime in a club, he beats his son. The traditional cantor expects that Jakie sings in the synagogue like his previous generations did, but the boy dreams on becoming a jazz singer. Jakie leaves home pursuing his dreams. Years later, Jakie (Al Jolson) is in London where his artistic name is Jack Robin. When he meets the famous stage performer Mary Dale (May McAvoy), she helps him in his career. Sooner he travels to New York for the greatest chance of his life in an important show on Broadway and he visits his parents. However, his father expels him from home. On the opening day, the manipulative Moisha Yudelson invites him to sing in the Atonement Day since his father is very ill, but the emotional blackmail of the Jewish leader does not work. When Jakie is ready to the rehearsal, Moisha brings Jakie's beloved mother to press him to sing in the synagogue. Now Jakie shall choose between his career and Mary Dale and the bonds with his family and religion.

"The Jazz Singer" is the first "post-silent movie" of cinema history, meaning the first film with sound. I was curious to see this film and now I am very disappointed with the corny plot that uses a selfish emotional blackmail of the leader of the Jewish congregation and the mother of the lead character to force Jakie to forget his dreams and his love for a lovely woman. The story is totally absurd, considering that Jakie left home years ago pursuing his dream and is in love with Mary Dale. The forty-one year-old Al Jolson is totally miscast in the role of a young man and May McAvoy has a lovely face. My vote is five.

Title (Brazil): "O Cantor de Jazz" ("The Jazz Singer")

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A jazz singer torn between two, equally important for him, worlds.

Author: Boba_Fett1138 from Groningen, The Netherlands
19 January 2007

Widely know as the first widely released 'talkie'. The first commercially successful feature-length movie with audible dialog, "The Jazz Singer" tells the story of the son of a Jewish Cantor, who must make the choice to pursue his singing career or carry on his Jewish family traditions and by singing in the synagogue as a Cantor. A tradition in the family, for 5 generations long already.

This movie is definitely better than currently given credit for on here. Not that many serious dramas were made in the '20's and those that were made can't really match up to this well written and directed movie.

Of course the movie is mostly legendary because of the fact that it is widely regarded and accepted as the first 'talkie', even though only few lines are actually spoken in the movie and it also isn't the first movie featuring audible dialog. Only the singing sequences have sound and the moments before and after it. When the first talking happens in the movie, it really hits and stuns you. You totally aren't prepared for it, since the movie begins just as purely a silent movie. Just imaging how this would have been for movie goers in the '20's. Love to have seen the crowd reaction. A revolutionary step in movie-making, though it took 3 to 4 more years before the silent-era was truly over. Making full length movies with sound added to it, simply was too costly at the time. This movie was an important movie that marked the coming ending of the silent period and introduced the 'talkie' movies. This movie forms the perfect and symbolic transition between these two completely different movie types.

But above all, the movie is just simply good. The story is very well written and features some good drama aspect when a young jazz singer has to make a choice between his family and reunite with his loving mother and his disappointed father who denounced him, or his career on the stage and a life with his great love, the well-known stage performer Mary Dale. It's a well written dramatic story that works well and is effective, especially toward the ending of the movie. It provides the movie with some deeper emotional layers.

Of course the acting is totally over-the-top, even though Al Jolson remains very good and likable in his role. Also the heavy make-up and lighting works distracting at times but that's all now part of the charm of it these days.

The whole racial problems some persons have with this movie is ridicules. Yes, toward the ending the main character puts on a so called 'blackface' but this is just part of his performance act. Al Jolson never plays an African-American character in the movie. Back in those days it wasn't uncommon that actors or singers put on a blackface and even black singers did it. People had no problem with it in 1927 but now, 80 years later, people suddenly start having problems with it and consider it racist. Also sort of too bad that most people just remember this movie because of the 'blackface', as if its the most significant part of the movie. The movie has so incredibly much more to offer.

A movie-historical important- and landmark movie but above all a simply just really great movie on its own!


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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

The Very First Version of Pump Up The Volume

Author: dataconflossmoor from United States
19 November 2007

This is where it all began, the illumination of sound to major motion pictures, it started with the movie "The Jazz Singer". The film "Singin in the Rain" centered around this particular time in 1927 when this film ("The Jazz Singer") was made!! Very innovative as well as very controversial, "The Jazz Singer" delved into a complex story line and incorporated the use of sound in this picture to bring on an undaunted form of entertainment to the movie audience!! The plot to this movie was a precise depiction of how breaking into the entertainment business when you were raised by such a strict Jewish orthodox code of ethics hence welcomes an onslaught of complications into the lives of all parties concerned!! The film "The Jazz Singer" is considered by AFI to be one of the 100 best films ever made!! Given how groundbreaking this film was, it would stand to reason that it would become the recipient of such an accolade!! I thought that "The Jazz Singer" was an excellent movie, and it signified the potential for progress in the cinema not only for the use of sound, but also, for the introduction to the American movie viewer of complex emotional plots!! "The Jazz Singer" is an all time classic and deservedly so!! I definitely recommend seeing this film!! In a sense, this is where films of today all began!!

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

You need to see Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer and it'll all start to make sense.

Author: Spent Bullets from Chinatown, California
15 May 2007

Director Alan Crosland's and Warner Bros.' 1927 historic milestone film entitled The Jazz Singer was not the first sound film, nor the first "talkie" film or the first movie musical. It's completely baffling to hear many people actually associate this film with the visitation of sound, however, if one can recall the 1926 silent film featuring John Barrymore entitled Don Juan, than they would know that it was the first feature film with a Vitaphone soundtrack, though, like The Jazz Singer, it is by no means the first sound film either. The first sound film can be dated as far back to 1895.

Though, not being the first "talkie", The Jazz Singer, is certainly a remarkable film; it still holds its place as an cinematic landmark for being the first feature-length Hollywood "talke" film in which "spoken dialogue was used as part of the dramatic action." However, it's still largely a silent film with a synchronized musical score and a handful of sound sequences built around singing. It's also become something of a controversial case because of Al Jolson's (arguably the most popular entertainer of his time) use of blackface in some of the musical sequences, forgetful of the fact that this was a theatrical artifice from the era; it wasn't intended as "mean-spirited" as so many claim it to be. It was actually praised by black newspapers in 1927, and was being done by another much defamed minority, a Jew.

You can see what an impact sound must have had in 1927, because it certainly wasn't the movie that made this production a phenomenon. Though, the film itself, is more than just a movie about a guy who likes music. It's also a story about a Jewish kid who turns his back on his heritage to try and make it big on the stage - exceptionally daring subject matter for its era, and still enthralling today. It's certainly not ragged and dull, though, the magic moment when Jolson turns to the camera to announce, "You ain't heard nothing' yet" - a line so loaded with unconscious irony that it still raises a few goose bumps. Audiences were captivated by this and still are to this very day. A must see!!!

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Besides Its Historical Importance, Still Worth Seeing In Its Own Right

Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
18 October 2004

Almost every movie fan knows the historical importance of the Al Jolson version of "The Jazz Singer", even if they've never had the chance to see it from start to finish. Although it's actually not, as it is often described to be, 'the first talking picture', it was the one feature that, more so than any other, captured the public's attention on behalf of sound movies. It's also still worth seeing in its own right, and while it is far from a masterpiece, as a movie it is somewhat better than its reputation.

The movie is actually a hybrid, with some silent sequences and some sound sequences. Successful experiments with sound movies go back to the 1890s, and got closer and closer to the goal during the 1920s. "The Jazz Singer" was really just one of a number of steps on the way towards full-length all-talking pictures becoming commonplace, but it probably would not have caused such a sensation if it did not also have some good material to go along with the new technology. The sound quality and other technical aspects do reflect the limitations of the time, and some of the material does also reflect the perspectives of its era, and thus now seems odd or uncomfortable. But there is still a solid core of the story that is still worthwhile, in the conflict between Jack's talents and dreams on the one hand, and his family and heritage on the other.

In following Jack as he pursues his career and tries to make his family understand, the specific details of the situation and setting aren't really crucial to understanding his position. Anyone whose family or friends want them to do one thing, but who feels called in his or her heart to do something else, can easily identify with this kind of struggle. These themes are handled rather well, although some of the time the story is simply used as a device to set up the musical numbers. Most of these do not seem especially noteworthy now, at least in themselves, but they must have impressed the movie's original audiences.

The year 1927 produced an unusual number of great (silent) movies that have deservedly become highly-regarded classics. This version of "The Jazz Singer" doesn't stand up to those classics on its own merits, but in itself it is still as good as any other movie version of the story, and for anyone who enjoys either classic movies or movie history, it's definitely worth seeing.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A fun-filled landmark in the history of motion picture

Author: daisyduke8000 from NS, Canada
8 March 2003

Al Jolson is a true legend and this movie is rightfully called a milestone in film-making. The blackface number, though somewhat disturbing, is hardly something to base the movie solely on. Those of you who say that this movie would not be as popular had the blackface number not been in it, I beg to differ. In 1927, hearing people speak in films was something unheard of, and so when it eventually happened naturally everyone had to go and see it. THAT is why this movie is a milestone. Add to that the fact that the legendary Al Jolson stars and sings some of his greatest songs in it, makes this film very enjoyable.

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