The nearly 30-year struggle to bring sound to motion pictures is the backdrop for this insightful documentary. Film historians, and survivors from the era take the audience from the early ... See full summary »
The curtain opens; behind it are two pianos where Charles Bourne and Phil Ellis, billed as the Music Boxes, are seated playing. After a few bars, Blossom Seeley and Bennie Fields enter - ... See full summary »
Elsie Janis entertains the troops from the back of a truck. She calls a French soldier up to sing with her, then dances to an American song while everyone sings, and finally shares the ... See full synopsis »
This film was believed lost, because in 1969 the United Artists Corporation presented to the Library of Congress the earliest surviving preprint material from the pre-1950 film library of Warner Bros. The film element is kept in archive until 1990s, and has never been shown on television. See more »
This short consists of Al Jolson standing in front of a set designed to look like a plantation home of a slave--and not surprisingly, he performs in black-face. It's on a stage, but I was impressed by the amount of detail on the set, as the background painting was great, the cabin looked real and a live chicken walked about as Jolson sang.
It begins with the song "When the Red, Red Robin comes Bob-Bob-Bobbin Along" and is followed by "April Showers" and "Rockabye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody". Between each song Jolson talks a bit and introduces the songs.
While people no doubt will be aghast at a minstrel show, it was a widely accepted sort of performance at the time and people just didn't think or care about how harmful such a stereotypical performance could be. It was a product of the times and can't be completely ignored just because it makes people uncomfortable--especially since this is such a super-important film to our film history. This is especially true since this short pre-dates Jolson's performance in the seminal film "The Jazz Singer".
Technically speaking this is an amazing film. It has exceptionally good sound for such an early film, gorgeous sets and wonderful cinematography and is a must for anyone who considers themselves to be a cinephile.
This film, by the way, was included on the first of three disks with the DVD release of "The Jazz Singer"--a marvelous collection of early talkies as well as documentaries.
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