Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Jazz Singer (1927)

The Jazz Singer, the 1927 Al Jolson classic, is the first feature-length synchronized sound film with dialog. Only some of the dialog is heard; much of it is silent and interpreted through intertitles. It's definitely a hybrid. I thought I had seen this before, but I must have only seen clips because much of it was unfamiliar.

It's too sappy/sweet for my taste. The moral seems to be that you can actually have everything and please everybody in the end. Yeah, right. Not in my experience.

via youtube: ends its article with this:
There have been many remakes of the story on-screen and onstage, Jolson’s performance in blackface has long been studied for what it says about stereotypes and the problems of assimilation often encountered by ethnic groups. closes by saying,
Perhaps the one irony is that despite its place in the history of the sound film, the sound system utilized for The Jazz Singer —Vitaphone—was not the system that ultimately became standard in the industry. Vitaphone utilized sound on disc, and the future of the industry lay with sound on film.
EW gives a grade of "C", horrified by the blackface, and says,
Watching Jolson treat Jewish ritual as just another form of "showmanship," thereby equating blackface with cantorial melodies as an expression of a mournful history, remains a remarkable act of ethnic drag.
DVD Talk calls it "less a fossil from the dawn of sound than a fully realized star-vehicle musical that uses its talkie sequences to wow the audience." The book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die says it's an "example of Jewish transformation in U.S. society". has a 3-page article, consisting mainly of an extensive summary and says, "The commercialization of sound-on-film, and the transformation of the industry from silent films to talkies became a reality with the success of this film." It gets a score of 76% from Rotten Tomatoes critics.


  1. To me it always seemed like the Jazz Singer was a movie not quite ready to be a talkie or maybe a talkie before the talkie part was ready. Many silent movies are much more watchable

    1. i agree. i'm glad i've seen it, but i won't watch it again.