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By 1952 Hollywood decided to remake the Al Jolson first-talking
This time the Cantor's son was played by Danny Thomas. Coming home from the army, it is expected that he follow in the footsteps of his father and other male relatives by becoming a cantor. However, young Mr. Golding has quite a zest for show business.
At this time, he meets Peggy Lee, an aspiring singer. She acts very well and her rendition of her favorite song, Lover, is remarkable. The film writers were smart not to plug the obvious Jewish guy and non-Jewish girlfriend relationship. If anything, this is glossed over. In his anger, for betraying his pledge to become a cantor, his father makes the traditional Jewish sign indicative of a loss in the family. This would not be done under circumstances of breaking a pledge, it would be done if among the orthodox, an inter-faith marriage would take place.
Thomas does a really good job of playing the cantor's son. His singing is up to par as the film ends on a positive note.
Am surprised that technical advisers did not realize that women do not carry pocketbooks into synagogue on the sabbath or at all during that period.
Rich looking redo of the legendary Jolson film that revolutionized the
film industry ushering sound in and silence out.
The thing is that it was the technology that was the big deal about the film not the story which is pure hokum. However that seems to be something that the studio chose to ignore assuming the name recognition of the title would draw the crowds. The film did okay but it's a cornball exercise from start to finish. The main story was dated in '27 and is certainly no fresher in '52.
Danny Thomas just didn't have the strength of personality to make it on the big screen. Watching him it becomes apparent why he made it on TV and not cinema. He has a nice, likable demeanor, the sort that worked so well for Perry Como and Dinah Shore when they likewise abandoned the big screen for the small, but he doesn't dominate his scenes the way a leading man has to. He does sing well although not nearly well enough to be the rage of New York he's supposed to be.
That master of all genres Michael Curtiz moves the movie along well enough but it's too schmaltzy for him to be able to make it really memorable.
Putting all that aside the best reason to catch the film is the presence of Peggy Lee in the cast. This was her acting debut and while she doesn't have the instantly easy relaxed acting style of Doris Day the role doesn't put big demands on her, she did much better a few years on in Pete Kelly's Blues. It doesn't matter though when she sings which fortunately is often. When she does that all the hokeyness melts away and the viewer is treated to a legend doing what she does best, sing. An extra bonus is that she performs one of her biggest hits, Lover, in an elegant club setting giving you an idea of what it was actually like to see her in person.
Worth catching for Miss Lee but the story is sappy.
The Jazz Singer is one of a number of films made in the late 1940's and
1950 about the Jewish experience in the United States. Other than
Crossfire(1947) and Gentleman's Agreement(1947) which dealt with
anti-semitism they usually had a musical-theatre background. These
films included The Jolson Story(1946), Jolson Sings Again(1949), The
Eddy Duchin Story(1951), The Eddie Cantor Story(1953),The Benny Goodman
Story(1956) and Margorie Morningstar(1958). The leading actors in these
"Jewish" films were always played by non-Jews. For example Larry Parks
a non-Jew played Al Jolson and Gene Kelly played Noel Airman in
Marjorie Morningstar. This casting was probably done to make the Jewish
theme palpable to a mainly non-Jewish audience. The Jazz Singer(1952)
is no different. Danny Thomas was a devout Catholic and Peggy Lee was
certainly not Jewish although she plays a non-practicing Jewess in the
film. The clue to her background is when she attends the Golding's
family meal before entering she says "I haven't been to a sader
(passover service) since I left home".
The film is about a cantor's son who has just left the service after seeing action in Korea. His dilemma is whether to become a cantor, a family tradition or to be a singer in musical theatre. His choice of theatre leads to an inevitable conflict with his father.
However, there is much more to this film than this. This film was made after the Rosenberg trial during the McCarthy whitchhunts and the Hollywood blacklist. Therefore in this film the Jews are shown as good loyal citizens and
are quintessentialy American. The synagogue choir would rather play baseball than practice. The cantors friends also talk about baseball in fact one of them is a Major League umpire. The synagogue itself dates back to 1790 and George Washington is said to have visited. Therefore Jews are presented as part and parcel of American society. Nobody in this film has a Eastern European accent. Peggy Lee appeared in very few feature films. In this film you get to see her sing "Lover" and "Just One of Those Things" wonderful. Danny Thomas is quite credible and he acts and sings the part very well. The comedic routines could have been left out. Yes, the film is schmaltzy and sentimental but it is well worth seeing. I enjoyed it very much.
To be frank, this is probably the best version in my book as a sound movie
version of the Jazz Singer. The 1927 version is really a silent movie
despite its build-up as the first talkie.
Danny Thomas is a great comedian, and he sings very well. He does the Jewish stuff with feeling. Peggy Lee is great and any film that has her is always entertaining. Allan Joslyn is not too entertaining and we could have done without him. One question: since when do Cantors live in such luxurious houses???
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Michael Curtiz second musical directed in 2 years with Danny Thomas,
this one a remake of the 1927 classic of the same name. The movie is
quite watchable. Especially nostalgic is the color shots of Times
Square as it used to be before today's LCD ads.
Fans of Peggy Lee should catch this one. She looks fantastic and sounds great in the songs she does. The songs are good too. Thomas plays the Cantors son who wants to be a popular singer. Thomas does a lot of stand up comedy in this movie.
Thomas is quite touching doing a special song for his mother late in the film. It is kind of strange that the same night he is called to his dying father's bedside. Why is mom at the show while dad is home ill? That is a little different for this era the film was made.
The film is pretty good overall. Thomas fans will not want to miss this one either.
I saw this film back when it opened in the very early 50's at , I
think,The Brooklyn Museum with my aunt and cousin. I must have been 6-7
years old at the time, and to this day I have never forgotten the film.
I particularly remember Danny Thomas singing wonderfully in the film
and was very taken with not only his performance of Jerry Golding but
also of Eduard Franz who played his father. Wonderful remake of
Jolson's original version which opened almost 20 years before I was
born. I have always been a huge Jolson fan since I was a small boy, and
I wonder if this film did not reinforce that. Sorry it is rarely shown
on any Cable network. I have the original soundtrack and listen to it
all the time. Great songs, great story, great acting, great film! By
the way, I did not like the 1980 version at all.
The story of a Korean war veteran returning home to start a new life as an entertainer instead of taking over the reins of succeeding his father as a Cantor was, I think, very relevant for that time and I think was depicted beautifully. Glad the plot had Mr. Franz recovering from his illness to enjoy his son's success at the end of the film. Nice touch!
This is the second version of the much-filmed tale of the Jewish boy
who wants to sing modern music, rather than becoming a cantor in the
synagogue. This time, the character is called Jerry Golding and is
played by Danny Thomas, a second-string singer and comedian of the
fifties, perhaps best known for his TV series.
The story itself is sparse, but Thomas gets a chance to put across some swing numbers (one or two in the company of his lady friend Judy Lane, played by the sparky Peggy Lee, in a role originally planned for Doris Day). As Golding's parents, Eduard Franz and Mildred Dunnock give good value as they struggle to understand the culture clash which has seen their son look for fame as a popular crooner.
A minor film, and one not helped by the humorous approach (perhaps to accommodate Thomas's particular style). But, this version of 'The Jazz Singer' is as good a way as any to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Angels sing above the Temple Sinai in Philadelphia, while dashing Danny
Thomas (as Jerry Golding) returns from service in the Korean War.
Celebrating the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), Mr. Thomas' observant
parents Eduard Franz and Mildred Dunnock (as David and Ruth) are proud
of their son's honorable discharge. Father Franz retires as cantor at
the Temple so that Thomas can take over the position. The family has
served as cantor for six generations. However, Thomas has decided to
break with tradition. He wants to pursue a secular career in show
business. Mother Dunnock seems understanding, but father Franz is
righteously indignant. Life is tough for Thomas, but having singing
girlfriend Peggy Lee (as Judy Lane) around helps...
In a part played by George Jessel on Broadway (1925-1926) and Al Jolson in the movies (1927), Thomas has big shoes to fill. Although he recorded his songs, some of Thomas' dubbing doesn't look authentic. Also, he has stand-up comic skills far superior to the flat routines you see here, which are evident in his long career. Other than that, Thomas is convincing in the role...
While a little lax in the dramatic scenes, Ms. Lee is the film's main asset. Her voice is exquisite and, more importantly, she and director Michael Curtiz make each musical number feel like it belongs exactly where it appears in the script. Unfortunately, Lee's role has been revised to match the religion of Thomas' character. This weakens the story's central conflict (between Thomas and Franz). It looks spectacular in Technicolor, but we wonder why Thomas' parents live in a luxurious palace, where modestly-attired mother Dunnock stands out by refusing a fur coat and dressing like the help. A consistent best supporting actress, Dunnock and Mr. Curtiz make her mother role the most technically well-drawn, with her final scene wordlessly offering conflict resolution.
****** The Jazz Singer (12/30/52) Michael Curtiz ~ Danny Thomas, Peggy Lee, Mildred Dunnock, Eduard Franz
Jazz Singer, The (1952)
*** (out of 4)
Remake of the legendary 1927 Al Jolson picture has Danny Thomas playing Jerry Golding, a young Jewish man who returns home from the war and his father David (Eduard Franz) is expecting him to become the next Cantor. The Golding family males have been the Cantor for the past six generations but Jerry explains that he wants to try his hand at show business and this causes his father to turn his back on him. The 1927 version is best remembered for being the first talkie (even though it's mostly silent) and without that I think the movie is poor enough to where it would have been forgotten by today. I was really shocked by this remake because it's actually a very well-made little film with director Michael Curtiz really pouring his soul into it. I was surprised because it did seem like it was going to be a cheap, watered down musical but instead the direction was so good and the performances so strong that one really can't help getting caught up in the story. One major thing that works so well here is the relationship between the father and son. Their relationship really is expanded here and I think the love-hate thing works for some terrific drama. It also doesn't hurt that the performances are so strong. Thomas is wonderful in the leading role because he contains a certain kind of sensitive nature that you really care for him. He also has a terrific voice that makes you really understand why he wants to break into the business. Peggy Lee plays his love interest and is strong as well. Franz nearly steals the film as the strong father who expects his son to carry on the family tradition. Alex Gerry is also very good as the caring uncle. The soundtrack includes some very good numbers including Jerry Seelan's What Are New Yorkers Made Of, Cole Porter's Just One of Those Things, The Birth of the Blues and Peggy Lee's own This Is a Very Special Day. What really brings all of this together is the great direction by Curtiz. I was very surprised to see how loving and tender the actual story was and you can tell that there was something in the story that really stuck with the director because he goes all out in each scene to bring it some life. This version of THE JAZZ SINGER isn't that well known, which is a real shame.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was pleasantly surprised to find the stylistic arrangements of Ms.
Peggy Lee crooning several favorite tunes of the day. She has a most
melodic voice and is absolutely stunning! I found her performance the
most worthwhile aspect of this film.
Danny Kay appears to try overly hard to make his character believable and moves more towards the theatrical vs emotionally wrought. Kay's comedy routines fall flat and is overshadowed by Ms. Lee in every scene. I could not wait to see more of her and was disappointed in her mostly secondary role. I think the only scene that let her acting chops shine bright was the phone call to Kay from the swanky New York apartment party.
High recommend for Lee's rare film performance and sumptuous temple interior shots.
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