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On This Day In History....

Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by Mike K., Aug 6, 2008.

  1. If you're worried today about a robot taking your job, you now know how every successful silent film star felt about the advent of sound in 1927: career-oblivion risk was very real.
    V.C. Brunswick likes this.
  2. The talkie transition was a question mark for everyone -- actors, writers, directors, producers, distributors, and exhibitors all saw everything they did suddenly and completely upended over a period of about three years. I can't think of a single other industry that underwent so complete an upheaval over so short a period of time. Even the transition from radio to television took the better part of a decade.

    The thing with "The Jazz Singer," though, is that it was mostly a silent picture -- and not an especially good one. Remove the song sequences and you're left with a mawkish, sappy melodrama that looks like something left over from 1916 when viewed next to any of the better silent pictures of 1927. Jolson's next picture, "The Singing Fool," was even worse -- except for Jolson himself it had nothing going for it at all. But the sheer thrill of seeing Jolson -- "The World's Greatest Entertainer" -- blasting out of the screen carried both pictures. Watch him doing "Toot Toot Tootsie" in "The Jazz Singer" and just try to say you don't feel his charisma, even 90 years removed. He wasn't the Elvis of his time -- Elvis was the Jolson of *his* time.
    Fading Fast and V.C. Brunswick like this.

  3. Fun Fact: The first person to perform The Jazz Singer's iconic song My Mammy was not Jolson but William Frawley of later I Love Lucy fame.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2017
  4. And what a lot of people didn't realize even then was that that song was intended to be a satire of drippy sentimental "Southern" songs. But it ended up being taken much more seriously than it ever should have been.

    "The Jazz Singer" and "The Singing Fool" ended up inspiring a whole string of similar pictures during the early talkie period, stories about show-business personalities striving for success against a background of family strife and heart-tugging personal tragedy -- "Mother's Boy," "The Rainbow Man," "Is Everybody Happy," "My Man," "Blaze O' Glory, " "Say It With Songs," "Puttin' On The Ritz," ad infinitum. These films didn't have any particular genre name during their time, but modern-day critics have fixed them with the tag "mammy pictures." You'll know them if you see them.

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