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Joe Lane kills another man in a fistfight after learning that the man has made improper advances towards his wife. Joe goes to prison for the murder. When Joe gets out of prison, he visits his son "Little Pal" at school. Little Pal tries to follow Joe downtown, but is hit by a truck. Written by
When Marian Nixon gets Al Jolson's record of "Little Pal" out of an album to play for their son Davey Lee, in the long shot the record is on the real-life Victor label, but in the insert closeup the record is on the fictitious "Metropolitan" label. See more »
Say It With Songs is the first all talking film that Al Jolson did on initial Warner Brothers contract and for him the first flop in his Hollywood career.
You can't say that the Brothers Warner didn't follow the usual Hollywood formula in that if something succeeds, copy it as best you can. Jolson had scored well with his second film The Singing Fool and his singing of Sonny Boy to four year old Davey Lee was the big hit. What to do, team them again and you even get the crack songwriting team of DeSylva,Brown&Henderson to write this score as well.
Except for the song Little Pal none of the other songs had any lasting staying power from Say It With Songs. Little Pal did become a Jolson standard though not to the same degree as Sonny Boy. But the score is serviceable for the plot which has Jolson as a radio singer.
Being a radio singer obviated the need for Jolson's usual blackface persona. Say It With Songs became the first of two films he did without the blackface, a fact I hadn't known before. I had assumed and I'd seen it written that Hallelujah, I'm a Bum was the only film he did without the blackface.
More's the pity here because if Say It With Songs had been a hit Jolson might have abandoned the burnt cork and his historic reputation wouldn't have suffered so.
The plot has Jolson a happy go lucky radio singer who unfortunately likes to drink and gamble and generally carouse. A wolfish radio manager has some designs on wife Marian Nixon and offers her an indecent proposal. When Jolie hears of it he kills him when he hits the wolf just a little too hard and his head strikes a cement curb. That lands him in jail.
Marian Nixon has to support herself and goes to work for a doctor who's always had an eye on her as well. Of course when Jolie hears about in prison he's all for it, but not for her taking up their kid as well.
Jolie gets one of the earliest paroles in penal history, even for what probably is a manslaughter 2 conviction because little Davey Lee ages not a bit. But little Davey also gets himself hit by a car while chasing his dad. Davey becomes paralyzed and what's Jolie to do? By coincidence the doctor is a specialist and he offers Jolie the indecent proposal this time.
I think with the general description of this plot you get the idea of the general mawkishness of the plot. Director Lloyd Bacon doesn't try to control Jolson's incredible overacting for the camera. Those two factors were what mainly sank the film.
Yet Jolson's dynamism as an entertainer still shines through and when he's singing you almost forget about the plot. Almost that is.
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