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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!!
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.
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")
The Jazz Singer is a historically important film for being the first use of sound- though the film is one that is part silent and part sound- and being the first successful talkie. But it's also a film that is more than just a curio. Because while it is very of the time, and has some crude lighting at times and has some broad over-acting(particularly Warner Oland, who I feel is more suited in comedy than in drama, Eugenie Besserer is guilty sometimes of stock gesturing), it is still a good film in its own right. The Jazz Singer is well-shot and has production values that still hold up reasonably well. The songs are terrific, especially Toot, Toot Tootsie, My Mammy and Blue Skies(also have a soft spot for Mother of Mine), and the use of classical music is well-done, Bruch's Kol Nidrei stands out as being utilised very touchingly(the oft-repeated Romeo and Juliet Overture while an amazing piece had times where it was a tad out of place). What was also great was how remarkably rich the orchestra sounded. The story is sentimental, but not overly-schmaltzy and certainly not crude, it still comes across as very moving and powerful especially in the depiction of Jolson's love and devotion for his mother. Some have called The Jazz Singer out for being racist which I don't agree with, any scenes that may give off that vibe are barely seen here and when they are it's shown in an optimistic light and came across as being more reflective of the time it's set in rather than trying to intentionally offend. The Jazz Singer is notable for its historical importance and its music but it's notable also for the very charismatic and immensely charming lead performance of Al Jolson, he also sings his songs with a lot of emotion and spirit and has an interesting if personable quality to his voice. May McAvoy is touching, as is on the most part Eugenie Besserer, while Otto Lederer is both amusing and likable. Watch out too for William Demarest and Myrna Loy. Overall, a pioneering film of historical significance but also a good one. 7/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Beautifully depicted drama about the struggle to be an individual
amidst the conflicting influences of one's culture and society.
Al Jolson is stellar as Jaky Rabinowitz, who has been called from a young age to sing the jazz songs of his time. But his father, a fourth-generation cantor, would rather disown Jaky than watch him assimilate.
"Would you be the first Rabinowitz in five generations to fail his God?"
"I'd love to sing for my people but I belong here," Jaky says of the theater.
His mother, who loves her husband as deeply as her only child, believes God wishes Jaky to follow his heart.
One feels deeply for the struggle of the protagonist, even as we see him apply black-face makeup, a convention of the time, and warble songs like "Mammy" that seem dated and campy now.
The film affectionately depicts Jewish domestic life, employing Yiddish intonation through the card titles. The traditional Jewish liturgy finds sensitive portrayal in the movie's climactic Kol Nidre scene.
The performances here are uniformly strong. Jolson is believable in his classic struggle to find his true self. Eugenie Besserer and Warner Oland, neither of whom was Jewish, are convincing as Jaky's pious parents. Otto Lederer is warmly endearing as the "kibitzer" Yudelson. And beautiful May McAvoy is a joy as Jaky's inspiring love interest.
Everything about this movie rings true for me.
"Remember, a son's a son no matter if his papa throws him out a hundred times."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
But for it's reputation as cinema's first talking film, I didn't find
"The Jazz Singer" to be particularly appealing, be it story wise or in
entertainment value. Going only by it's reputation for my first
viewing, I was puzzled by the actual lack of speech at the start of the
picture, along with the generous use of dialog cards complementing a
good number of the scenes. The rare times Jolson's (or anyone's) voice
is heard is in connection with the song offerings throughout the
picture, with very limited use elsewhere. In all, the film breaks out
to about eighty/twenty in terms of it's silent to talk ratio, but it
was enough to capture the public's imagination creating a clamorous
desire for more talkies. Interestingly, Jolson's very next picture,
"The Singing Fool" a year later was about sixty/forty, and was so
successfully received that it remained the movie box office champion
until 1939's "Gone With the Wind". Now there's a statistic that bears
My summary line belongs to Jack Robin's (Jolson) mother (Eugenie Besserer) as she agonizes over her son's choice of profession. I found it particularly fitting to describe Jolson's own career, already booming at the time the movie came out. With his appearance in the film, he became an even greater sensation. However in one of those odd consequences due to the passage of time and tastes, the 'World's Greatest Entertainer' for over forty years is relatively unknown today except to cinema fans who point to this film as one of his crowning achievements.
But as I remarked earlier, the story in "The Jazz Singer" is not particularly compelling, and approaches a rather odd creakiness in the present day. Some of the acting is confined to over-emoting, not unusual for early talkies, and the players come across somewhat as caricatures. The most natural seemed to be May McAvoy as Jack Robin's girlfriend, an unusually resilient character who took it in stride when Jack admitted that his career came even before her. In fact, she even applauded him for it, which to my mind made her one in a million.
Reecently I did another review of a silent black and white movie called
Sherlock Junior starring the great Buster Keaton from 1924 as I am a
film student at university. In that review I was commenting on how
someone whom was born in the post production cinema era of sound,
colour and digital technology, old silent black and white movies are
old and outdated and something I could never get into.
But I mildly enjoyed Sherlock Junior and from this movie I have gathered an appreciation for silent movie era dating back to the late 1890s when the origins of cinema were first established.
Apart from Sherlock Junior I have watched other silent films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligrahi, Battleship Potomkin and Citizen Kane (though that was a sound movie) and thought they were rubbish.
I had low expectations when it came to my weekly lecture screening of the film this week, which was The Jazz Singer (1927) starring Al Jonson as out of the ten movies I have watched so far Sherlock Junior was the only one I liked.
But as I started watching The Jazz Singer I became interested, only at first as film student but then as a member of the audience. Of course The Jazz Singer is a revolutionary film made by Warner Bros for ending the silent movie era and bringing sound to the cinema.
Only parts of The Jazz Singer are in sound and that's partly what made me feel comfortable with it as it was the beginnings of modern cinema with what is apparent today.
First off Warner Bros have to be commended for a terrific achievement. They successfully in the film accurately implemented the synchronised sound in terms of dialogue mainly when the actor Al Jonson who plays Jack Robin was singing to the visual spectacle perfectly though there was a couple of moments like right at the start when The Jazz Singer is a young boy and singing the camera went for long shots to cover the mis-synchronsiation of the dialogue, but this was the 1920s and the technology was new so it wasn't going to be perfect.
The main strength of this film was the narrative, it was constructed beautifully as we see the story unfold of how Jack feels split between his dream of being a jazz singer and his loyalty to his family as he is Jewish with his father who is opposed to the idea and his mother stuck in the middle.
This was the first mostly silent, black and white film where I felt emotionally connected or in any such way to the narrative, Al Jonson and the other supporting actors convey superb facial expressions in terms of the emotions felt.
A small subplot of where Jack falls for Mary Dale (played excellently by May McAvoy) is done great. Through both Jonson and May's facial expressions of falling for each other made the chemistry really good and there romance was charming and made me feel happy.
And of course the singing, Al Jonson's singing was terrific and had me humming along, which surprised me.
The length of the film I was also happy with 89 minutes I thought was the appropriate length of time as well.
This film for me is such a success for someone who dosen't usually like silent, black and white movies not only because of the sound but it was the narrative that made me want to watch and through that the acting really stood out that for me makes this unique, so this is the second silent movie that I have liked.
I best be careful liking these sorts of movies could become a habit, but I can't help but like this movie, to win over a twenty year old modern critic who dislikes old films this much is a phenomenal accomplishment. Well done to all involved!
"The Jazz Singer" is widely cited as the first full-length sound film
and the film that led to the decline of the silent film era. The story
focuses on a Jewish man, Jakie Rabinowitz, who wants to pursue a career
as a jazz singer despite his father's wish that he become a Cantor
following family tradition.
This film has value beyond its significance as a historical piece. Tension and a touching story are effectively developed around an inner-conflict between honoring family tradition related to his faith and his career aspirations. However, some well-placed humor is injected into the story as well, particularly involving a number of people purchasing someone the same birthday gift. There are also three interesting effects in the film that enhance it involving editing footage into a shot, an example being the editing of footage onto a mirror.
It should be noted that despite this film's role as the first full-length sound film, most of the dialogue is presented in the conventional silent film format of showing the characters mouthing the dialogue without sound and then showing the dialogue text. The dialogue itself is well-written and the characters are all expressive and believable though we don't hear them most of the time. The film's sound comes in the form of several songs and some spoken lines prior to and following the songs. Al Jolson has a strong singing voice and the songs he has to work with are for the most part quite good, especially "Mammy". "The Jazz Singer" is known for its historical role in film, but it is a solid film in its own right.
I heard that this movie was the first ever "talkie," a movie that actually
had people talking, obviously, and was kind of interested to see it. I
missed the opening, but still got there in time to hear Al Jolson say "You
ain't heard nothin' yet!" A lot of my friends think silent movies are weird
and never bother to watch them because then they would be considered "nerdy"
at school, but I actually enjoyed this film, and think that it would be good
to watch, as to get a little bit of cinema "history" in
There's actually a lot more to this movie than a lot of people think. We open up to Jakie Robinowitz (whose stage name is Jack Robin) played by Al Jolson, of course, singing jazz in a club, or some place like that. After the show, he gets acquainted and becomes friends with a young woman named Mary Dale (May McAvoy) who is also hoping to become a great singer. I'm not sure, but Jack and his buddies are able to somehow get Mary a singing audition for a part on Broadway. Overjoyed, Mary promises Jack that she will remember him if she ever makes it to the top.
So, Mary wins the part and tells the director about her friend Jack Robin, who would be perfect for the men's role in the musical. Whaddya know, they call Jack up and he lands the part! Meanwhile, he goes to see his parents to tell them the happy news. Jack was always a bit of a mama's boy, so, of course, wins his mother's gladness and admiration. Dad, on the other hand, who is a Cantor, hates Jazz music and only allows his son to sing the traditional Jewish hymns of their family (Jack's family is very religious, if you haven't figured that out by now). Jack father is so angry his son is becoming a Jazz Singer rather than carrying on the family tradition of being a Cantor, he throws him out of the house!
Well, Jack gets over the little mishap with Dad--he's gonna be earning big bucks on Broadway soon anyway--and the rehearsals are going smoothly. Everything about the play seems to be going fine, but then Jack gets terrible news: his father is sick and may soon die. The Cantor's dying wish is to hear his son sing Kol Nidre in his place. Jack is torn between the love for his family and his love for singing--it's the night to sing Kol Nidre *and* the opening night of the play. Jack knows that his father may die and wants to fulfill his last wish, but you have to remember he personally kicked him out of the house and said he never wanted to see him again. What will Jack do? I guess I'll stop here, as to make it suspenseful. :-)
One of the things about this movie is that people assume every bit of it is a talking picture--it's not, it's really just bits of dialogue and the songs that are spoken. The rest is silent. "The Jazz Singer" may be nothing great compared to the films today, but you should still try to watch this movie if you can! :-)
Before watching "The Jazz Singer", I really didn't know what to expect. I
knew very little about silent films, had seen very few silent films and
didn't know anything about Al Jolson. I did know that this movie was the
first movie to ever use sound, although it is used sparingly (In 5 Jolson
songs and a small bit of dialogue). A keen listener will also notice that
the noise level of the voice doesn't change in perspective to the distance
between the camera and the person speaking. Basically, this movie could be
considered a silent picture.
The movie itself was based on the idea that Jolson was to continue the family tradition of being a cantor but leaned towards Jazz music which was all the rage at the time. This greatly angered his father causing him to disown his son and refuse to talk to him. Of course, in the end they reconcile just before the father's death and right after Jolson delivers his cantoring at the synagogue. I wasn't really affected by this film and felt indifferent to the relationship between Jolson's character and his father. The relationship between Jolson's character and his girlfriend never really gets off the ground which might be a result of relationship beliefs at the time of filming.
I am baffled at how this movie made the AFI's top 100 list and can only attribute this to the fact that it was the first ever talkie. I would however recommend this film to anyone who is interested in seeing this important piece of film history.
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