If Mammy is remembered for anything it is for providing Al Jolson with one of his biggest song hits, definitely the biggest song hit he had written especially for the screen. Irving Berlin wrote this number for Jolson and he does it three times in his usual bravura style and on two of those occasions without black-face.
Al Jolson got his start in minstrel shows which were still popular at the turn of the 20th century. He's Al Fuller in this show, lead singer in this troupe and a man with a case of unrequited love for the owner of the show. From there springs the plot.
It's unfortunate for Jolson's current reputation that he did not abandon the black-face which was a carryover from his minstrel days. It's considered offensive now and rightly so. But listen to him sing Let Me Sing and I'm Happy and the rest of the score and you're hearing one of the great song stylists ever.
Irving Berlin wrote some original material for this film which was interpolated with some other standards. It is also good to hear Jolson do two of his comedy numbers, Who Paid the Rent for Mrs. Rip Van Winkle and Why Do They All Take the Night Boat to Albany. It's his ballads that he's remembered for today, but these numbers give you an idea of more of the kind of material he did on stage.
A lot of people will be rightly offended in seeing Mammy now, but like Bing Crosby's Dixie, it's an interesting piece of cinema history.
5 of 10 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this