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(Review originally written at 19 January 2007)

Widely know as the first widely released 'talkie'. The first commercially successful feature-length movie with audible dialog, "The Jazz Singer" tells the story of the son of a Jewish Cantor, who must make the choice to pursue his singing career or carry on his Jewish family traditions and by singing in the synagogue as a Cantor. A tradition in the family, for 5 generations long already.

This movie is definitely better than currently given credit for on here. Not that many serious dramas were made in the '20's and those that were made can't really match up to this well written and directed movie.

Of course the movie is mostly legendary because of the fact that it is widely regarded and accepted as the first 'talkie', even though only few lines are actually spoken in the movie and it also isn't the first movie featuring audible dialog. Only the singing sequences have sound and the moments before and after it. When the first talking happens in the movie, it really hits and stuns you. You totally aren't prepared for it, since the movie begins just as purely a silent movie. Just imaging how this would have been for movie goers in the '20's. Love to have seen the crowd reaction. A revolutionary step in movie-making, though it took 3 to 4 more years before the silent-era was truly over. Making full length movies with sound added to it, simply was too costly at the time. This movie was an important movie that marked the coming ending of the silent period and introduced the 'talkie' movies. This movie forms the perfect and symbolic transition between these two completely different movie types.


But above all, the movie is just simply good. The story is very well written and features some good drama aspect when a young jazz singer has to make a choice between his family and reunite with his loving mother and his disappointed father who denounced him, or his career on the stage and a life with his great love, the well-known stage performer Mary Dale. It's a well written dramatic story that works well and is effective, especially toward the ending of the movie. It provides the movie with some deeper emotional layers.


Of course the acting is totally over-the-top, even though Al Jolson remains very good and likable in his role. Also the heavy make-up and lighting works distracting at times but that's all now part of the charm of it these days.


The whole racial problems some persons have with this movie is ridicules. Yes, toward the ending the main character puts on a so called 'blackface' but this is just part of his performance act. Al Jolson never plays an African-American character in the movie. Back in those days it wasn't uncommon that actors or singers put on a blackface and even black singers did it. People had no problem with it in 1927 but now, 80 years later, people suddenly start having problems with it and consider it racist. Also sort of too bad that most people just remember this movie because of the 'blackface', as if its the most significant part of the movie. The movie has so incredibly much more to offer.


A movie-historical important- and landmark movie but above all a simply just really great movie on its own!


9/10

About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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