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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.
The Jazz Singer is mainly known today as being the first feature length
sound film. Other than this historical fact, it is not particularly
familiar to most audiences. This is unsurprising, as its technical
achievements are the only noteworthy aspect of the film.
The Jazz Singer tells the all too familiar story of a young man's clash with his traditional parents. Young Jakie Rabinowitz runs away from home after being brutally punished for playing ragtime music. He soon gains success as a jazz performer. However, after going back to New York to perform on Broadway, his parents come back to haunt him.
Aside from the pedestrian nature of the plot, the film suffers from an unconvincing main conflict. Jakie's father is demonstrably abusive, and it is hard to see why he would care what the man thought once he became an adult. Consequently, the climax, which revolves around the father's illness, is rendered silly, and you wish Jakie would tell the old man what he can do.
That said, the technical quality of the sound in the film is surprisingly good given how old it is. Jolson's voice comes across well, and will make you want to purchase his greatest hits album. The music is also good.
The film is now somewhat infamous for its use of black face. Although this definitely dates the film, it does not necessarily make it racist. For starters, the black face scenes only comprise a very small portion of the film towards the end. More importantly, the black face performance shown is not particularly racist, particularly when compared to contemporary films such as Birth of a Nation. Indeed, far less well known blackface scenes, such as Judy Garland's blackface audition in Everybody Sing, are far more offensive.
Justly remembered for revolutionizing the business (though more of the
movie is silent than the producers would have had you believe), The
Jazz Singer is nevertheless, at its best, a mediocre movie. It inspires
nothing in the hearts and minds of its audience, and it seems to be so
enamored with what we are hearing that it forgets to worry about what
we are watching.
This was the only major work of Al Jolson's career, but what he does here is very good and probably the best thing about the movie. Jolson is Jack Robin, a name he changed from Jakie Rabinowitz to escape his Jewish heritage. He grew up the son of a Jewish cantor and was expected to follow in his father's spiritual footsteps but instead leaves home to seek a career as a jazz singer. The big climax of the film is the night when Jack must make the decision to perform in a revue that could be his big break in New York or to sing in his dying father's place even though the cantor had disowned him.
Silent movies derive their strength less from their stories than their images; the Jazz Singer's story is not amazing, but with inspired imagery it could have been very moving. Instead, I found myself pretty bored. One could use the time period as an excuse for this, but when Charlie Chaplin can make brilliant movies like "The Gold Rush," one expects more from a hyped-up movie like this.
All that said, there is something exciting in the feeling that you are watching history like this. When Al Jolson said that famous line "You ain't heard nothing yet!" I felt I was a part of something far bigger than just a modern revolution in film made for commercial purposes; realizing the future movies that this one affected and knowing the art that it helped to create was an awe-inspiring moment that only those who love the movies can really understand. So as a piece of history, The Jazz Singer is worth seeing; but as a movie, it fails to inspire.
This Warner Bros. part-talkie was the smash hit that started to spell the
end for silent movies. But is it really that good a film?
Benefiting from the larger-than-life presence of the great Al Jolson as the cantor's son who wants to be a popular singer, the famous scenes where he sings (and ad-libs some talk including the often cited and mimicked 'wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain't heard nothing yet') are certainly more memorable than the dull remainder of the film.
The story would be remade twice - in the 1950s with likeable Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee; and in the 1980s, overblown, with Neil Diamond and Lucie Arnaz - but rightly, this is the version which has passed into legend. That poster with the famous outstretched hands is the most recalled image of Jolson. He didn't really make a massive success in movies as his personality was probably too big for the screen, but he was a true showman.
Warner 'Charlie Chan' Oland plays his father, who just wants him to toe the line and sing in the synagogue. May McAvoy is the romantic interest, while Eugenie Besserer also makes history in her few spoken words on the soundtrack.
Most of the part-talkies made from 1927 to 1929 have sadly been lost through the years, and those which remain can only be described as curios and relics of a changing time. 'The Jazz Singer' is important, but it is a hard slog for today's audiences.
I saw this movie for its historial value, but I stayed for its greatness.
Because, first talkie or not, this is just a great movie. The 6.3 rating
baffled me; didn't everyone else like this interesting story about a boy who
abandons tradition and his father who disowns him? I can't think of anything
not to like about the movie. It's a fabulous movie, and a filmmaking
I'd like to comment on someone else's comments now. Someone said this movie was very racist and that's why it was successful, saying, "Would this film have still been successful if it was just Jolson as himself and not black-faced? Probably not. That's because people watched it to make themselves feel better about themselves."
I wonder if this commenter actually saw the movie. Jolson is only wearing blackface for about 15 minutes for a performance. The rest of the movie, Jolson IS himself. Jolson never plays an African-American as his character in the movie, he just sings a song as one. Yes, the song is somewhat racist by today's standards, but most of this comment is not valid at all. In fact, I suspect the comment was written solely based on a glance at the video box cover.
Anyway, if you wanna see a historical landmark in film or if you wanna see a fabulous movie (half-talkie, half-silent), go ahead and see "The Jazz Singer."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain't heard nothing' yet! Adapted for the screen by screenwriter Alfred A. Cohn, and based on Samson Raphaelson's 1921 short story "The Day of Atonement" which also popular the 1926 Broadway play of the same name. The film tells the fictional story of a young Jewish man, Jakie Rabinowitz (Al Jolson), who defies the traditions of his devout family, in order to become a famous jazz singer, under the name, Jackie Robin. Without spoiling the movie, too much, Warner Bros.' and director Alan Crosland's 1927's 'The Jazz Singer' was a mixed bag for me. While, I do champion it, for being one of the pioneers of motion pictures with synchronized sound & dialogue, it's still far from being the great use of it. What confuses me about this film, is odd use of dialogue title cards. I don't get, why they kept most of the dialogue silent, if they did had the ability to put sound effects, music, and singing. It made the film, a little bit jarring. I know, the Vitaphone sound-on-disc system might have been expensive to use, but I felt the film should had either, go all the way, with the sound or none at all. Seeing the film, go halfway, felt a bit lazy. In total, the movie contains barely two minutes, worth of synchronized talking, much or all of it improvised. It's not a 'talkie', as much as film historian, think it is. Another complain, I have against this film is the idea that this, was the first 'talkie'. In truth, the development of commercial sound cinema have start, way before 'The Jazz Singer', became an idea for a film. The first synchronized sound probably started with a film made by William K.L. Dickson at the Thomas A. Edison laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey in the fall of 1894, however the phonograph cylinder have long been badly damaged that's it's nearly unplayable to modern viewers to prove the claim. Nevertheless, later films like 1905's Phonoscène short film about vaudeville artist, Polin by female pioneer Alice Guy-Blaché proves that synchronized singing has been, done, way before, this film, came out. So, why is this movie considered as the first talkie then? It's actually quite simple, Warner Bros was the first studio that took the talking movie seriously and also managed to commercialize it with great success. However, the film's success did not change things overnight; it took a few more years, until Hollywood was fully onboard with film with sound. Anyways, there is other things to praise about this film. It's one of the first movies to feature, a Jewish character outside of biblical films. It's very rare to see, a movie focus so much on the conflict of doing cultural assimilation versus keeping cultural diversity. The typical story of a man seeking his place, attempting to find his voice in the world and the struggles he faced, was pretty smart and compelling to see. No wonder, why the Warner Bros, like it. But the film suffers from the same problem that many films from this era, has, with portraying ethic characters in the modern era. It went a little too racism. The older Jews looks a little too straight out of 'Merchant of Venice' central casting for my taste. However, the most offensive thing in the film, is seeing Jackie Robin portraying in blackface on the Broadway stage. That's a little hard to watch for the modern viewer. Yes, I know, it was a common practice at the time, and help single-handedly introduce African-American culture to white audiences. Nevertheless, it's still troublesome, as most of the practice does portray black people as buffoons. Regardless, I tend to be more forgiving in this film's version of blackface, because it does seem like Al Jolson and his character had good reasons to donning the paint. I believe, the film was trying to portray the troubles, most African-Americans and Jewish people were going through, in America through a metaphor of mutual suffering. After all, some of the songs that Al sing, during the film was about life in the poverty line and helping break down racial attitudes. If anything, the performance in blackface feels more like satire, mockery of white society portrayal of Negro culture than on African American, themselves. Pretty much, like the way, people portray author Harriet Beecher Stowe's 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'. It raise eyebrows. Regardless, it's still uncomfortable to watch, even if Al Jolson in real-life, was known for fighting against discrimination. With that say, I would rather have a black Jewish actor portray Jack, than Al Jolson. I really don't think Jolson is a great actor or singer. He comes across, very corny and amateurism. The music that comes with 'the Jazz Singer', also fall to impress me. It doesn't even sound like Jazz. Where was all the scat singing!? I was really hoping for something, more entertaining, like a tune from Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong, or Adelaide Hall. None of the songs were really that memorable. Some of the music, they chose, doesn't even fit the tone of the film like composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's orchestic work 'Romeo and Juliet'. That was just odd! Overall: I can't say, this movie was the most entertaining film about achieving a singing career. But, at least, I can say, it's better than the 1952, 1959 & 1980's remakes of the same name. In the end, it does deserve to be preservation in the National Film Registry of "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" motion pictures. However, it shouldn't be, nowhere near the top of IMDb 250 films of all-time.
The Jazz Singer is an important movie in the history of cinema. First
feature-length movie with audible dialogue. It was also the the first
film musical. These factors are enough for the film lovers to watch it
immediately. But, more than that this is a beautiful, emotional musical
Jackie is the only son of a Cantor. He was very much interested in music, but it was Jazz music. When his father came to know about it, he whips Jackie. Jackie runs away. Years later, he becomes a successful jazz singer. He meets a beautiful girl. He makes a comeback to home on his greatest achievement of his life. But, that puts him under a tough situation. A dilemma. He has to make a choice. "~It's a choice between giving up the biggest chance of my life and breaking my mother's heart~".
Emotions, situations, music, love, affection all mixed up to get a beautiful movie. One of the best Hollywood films that portrays Mother-Son-Father bond.
Do not miss the first talkie. Highly recommended.
This is one of the few if not the only movies I actually read about in
history books! It's great that I've watched something that is such a
landmark in history! The weird thing is that most of this film is in
fact a silent movie. Now, there are a lot of songs that are sung with
actual sound, but there's only a single sequence that the actors
actually use dialogue while talking normally. It's weird how they used
it just then. I guess it was so early it would have been too difficult
to make the whole movie like that. Yeah, easily the best part. I really
wonder what the first completely talking movie was.
Perhaps it was The Marx Brothers' "The Coconauts"? It's easy to see some of these scenes being reenacted in "The Artist". The weird thing is that plot wise, the film is most known for having Al Jolson in blackface. That actually doesn't appear until two thirds into the movie, so it might not be that big a deal. I admit that the story itself could be better. It's a guy who becomes a jazz singer against the wishes of his Jewish father. Were there some Hanukah references in there? There should be some Hanukah movies. It's still nicely acted with a good plot. It will live on forever! ***
If you've never seen it what you have to get into your head is that THE JAZZ SINGER wasn't the first all-talking picture. In fact, it was a silent picture to which a certain amount of talking and, of course, singing was later added and in such a perfunctory way it's little wonder people said it would never catch on. This looks like an experiment and not a very good one. It was based on a play by Samson Raphaelson though it was hardly likely to be remembered as great drama; indeed it is shamelessly sentimental and melodramatic. Fundamentally this is a vehicle for the great Al Jolson who, even in these primitive circumstances, brings the stamp of his considerable personality to every scene in which he sings. As the man himself says, "You ain't heard nothing' yet". You can just imagine how cinema audiences must have felt at the time.
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