The Jazz Singer - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Jazz Singer Reviews

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½ June 19, 2016
A bit dated and the blackface parts wouldnt fly today. Also what kids runs away at 13, obviously this also is something u wouldnt see today really. I mean the mother shouldve stood up more for her son, but such was life then and women werent the decision makers. What i liked was the great message and debate btw family loyalty and ur own destiny. Some ppl would say he shouldve just cut his dad out of his life bc he really didnt owe him anything, but bc he forgave him and stood by him in the end he is all the better for it. In the end he managed both his destiny and past wonderfully, altho it was quite a bumpy ride to get there. Movie moves slow at times and we dont find out how love story ends. i enjoyed this one tho for jazz history and kol nidre-beautiful. Apparently the main actor was a big jazz hit back then- al jolson and this was one of the first "talkie" movies even tho much of film is silent.
November 4, 2015
First 'speaking' or sound film in the history of cinema, The Jazz singer is actually a very likable musical film with a neat little story of tradition versus progress, reflecting very much the political era of the time. It's light and joyful, the musical numbers are very nicely done and overall the film feels like a wonderful walk through time and the roaring 20's. A great film to watch with your whole family.
September 17, 2015
This film takes place in New York in the early 1900-1920's. I believe this presents an accurate depiction of the times of the culture in the 1920's that does not look created or manufactured but looks real.

This was a really good movie for a film that is a silent film with a few places that incorporate songs. In some cases I felt like complete silence made the scene much stronger than having music at all.

I liked how some of the text slides had background images. That was a pleasant surprise.

What I liked about this film is how the locations set decorating all looked very real and believable rather than looking staged which I found impressive for a film made in this era.

The acting in this film I was also impressed with because there was something very believable about this film. Like some of the motions and body movements made this look so believable. It did not look fake.

There is something real about how this film presents the sets, acting reactions, set decorating

I think it is interesting how some of this is speed up and others are filmed or presented at a normal pace.

The singing has voices while the rest has just background score music.

This film is a strong as it is because this film touches and ask questions about choices about dealing with life issues, Rebellion from the culture you were born from, love, redemption, comedy, success, escape, finding own way, religion, race, culture and even Death. This film has a Realism that I can not explain why it all works together.

This film brings up how to deal with following culture acceptance verse family acceptance, verses relationships to family and religion and how far do you go before crossing moral issues.
This film touches on choices of Job carrier doing the play April Follies vs. religion and family.

What I found ironic for its time was a Jewish person putting on make-up to dress as an African American which seemed odd since they were both considered not the best to be considered in America back in the 1920's. They were considered undesirable or not preferred races of the day.
½ September 12, 2015
The Jazz Singer has a terrific, standout performance from Al Jolson, well developed characters, engaging story, a couple of famous moments and iconic quotes and it is an interesting half-sound, half-silent experiment, but it is just so problematic in terms of storytelling with an overreliance on excessive melodrama and overly simplistic dialogue. It is an interesting film and a groundbreaking one for sure, but still a troublesome one because the script is so-so and it is way over-the-top.
June 14, 2015
A landmark film that should be appreciated for its historic value and technical advancements. For that reason I recommend viewing it. From a story standpoint it falters into melodramatic silliness. The ending disappoints in that it doesn't allow the lead character to hold yrue to his convictions, by allowing a selfish old man to get his way without himself provideing any redemption.
April 27, 2015
Starring Al Jolson and Warner Oland. The first film to make use of recorded dialogue, "The Jazz Singer" is a rather mundane, predictable story of a cantor's son who wants to pursue popular music rather than sing in the synagogue. But it is worth viewing for the technological innovations the film offers, and for Al Jolson's dynamic performance. You ain't heard nothin' yet. Directed by Alan Crosland.
½ February 11, 2015
It has much historical significance, but its story is one for the ages as well. We must learn to balance the things that really in matter in life with our dreams. No man should have to sacrifice either one.
Super Reviewer
½ January 17, 2015
Back in the 1930's Al Jolson was the highest paid entertainer in the business. In the USA he was a massive massive star (the biggest!) but he was also hot stuff around the world having hit after hit alongside international tours with many movies to his name. Let me put it this way, Jolson was the Michael Jackson or Elvis Presley of his time.

Now admittedly many of his movies were never really much cop due to changing tastes over the years and the fact his movies tended to be very samey. It was always that first talkie movie he starred in that really stuck out, probably because it was the first...well actually the second but 'A Plantation Act' was more of a selection of songs and not an actual movie. The Jazz Singer is based on Jolson's life growing up in New York. The story was actually written by Samson Raphaelson after interviewing Jolson on his upbringing, he later adapted the story for the theatre and it became a hit. Warner Bros then acquired the rights to the play and naturally wanted to make a movie out of it, at first Jolson wasn't in line to star in the movie but eventually, long story short, he obviously got it and the rest is history.

I guess you could say this film is a biography of sorts, I'm not entirely sure how much is accurate but I thinks its pretty close to Jolson's early years and beyond. The story follows a young Jolson (in the film Jakie Rabinowitz...can't get more Jewish than that folks) getting in trouble with his strict Jewish father for singing in local beer gardens and acting the fool. His father is a cantor at the local synagogue on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a fully Jewish area. I'm sure you can guess what goes down here, Jakie's father wants his son to be a good religious boy and follow in his footsteps as a cantor, following family tradition and following his destiny. Unfortunately the rebellious young Jakie wants to do other things and ends up running away to choose his own destiny. Over the years Jakie becomes a talented budding singer with a very bright future but as you can guess all this conflicts with his father and eventually he must choose between his career and his family roots and heritage.

Now I won't lie and say this film is amazing simply because it is historically very important (the film was chosen for preservation in the US Library of Congress's National Film Registry), in all honesty most of the story is rather dull. Hold your horses let me explain, the film is of course black and white but that's not a problem for me. There is of course no sound or dialog for the most part accept for Jolson singing (silent film remember), this means we have lots of rather bland full screen old fashioned subtitles that explain very little. They are also rather limited in appearance so half the time your kinda guessing what's going on by the musical score and peoples expressions. It doesn't help at times that the language of the age is also slightly different, the way people wrote, certain words used etc...a different era. The acting is naturally a bit crappy throughout with the odd exception, Otto Lederer is easily the most entertaining character in the movie with his cheerful comedic turn. You can relate to his feelings on what's happening around him whilst everyone else is deathly serious and boring, plus he has an amusing face which helps.

Of course the real highlight of the entire feature is seeing and hearing Al Jolson hammer out his legendary tunes (only six though). This is really why you watch the movie, the plot is extremely predictable and basic (taking into account the age of the film of course) and its not really that gripping, you're here for the jazz singer himself and he doesn't disappoint. As I was growing up my dad would play Al Jolson every Christmas, it was a family tradition to have old Al singing in the background while our little family would enjoy the festive period. So I know how Jolson sounds, I know most of his hits and some of the famous lyrics, but its something else to actually watch the man perform for real.
A small quirky fella with big bright eyes, highly animated and amusing to watch as he bobs his head around like crazy whilst clapping, mugging at the camera and generally showing off. His routines are full of energy and his voice is loud, bold and pitch perfect, the man is clearly getting a buzz enjoying every second. Its all so very charming and delightful you can't help but smile seeing how people enjoyed the simple things back then. There is even a small sequence where Jolson improvises a lot of dialog with Eugenie Besserer (who plays his old mother) which shows the mans sky high confidence in what he could do both musically and verbally. Besserer clearly has trouble keeping pace and shows us one reason why many actors/actresses back then were scared of talkies...their voices sounded terrible!

Towards the finale we do see the famous blackface routine which was commonplace at the time. These days of course it would be frowned upon and admittedly its hard to watch without feeling a tad awkward. I found myself wondering why on earth they did it in the first place, how did it make their performances any better? why hide away behind the makeup? I think it derives from centuries old history where people would perform theatrical shows, plays or skits and perform as black people simply because there weren't any black people around to do so. Anyway the blackface performance by Jolson is really the central part of the film, everything builds up to this one outstanding performance, the moment he cracks the big time. I believe it is displaying how both Jolson (in reality) and his character broke away from the burdens of a heavily religious Jewish life and made their mark in America, both in show business and personally. The blackface performance, his music...it all helps him prove to himself that he can be something other than a Jewish immigrant...but naturally for the sake of the movie there is a happy ending honouring his family traditions.

It does feel weird knowing you're watching the first ever talkie movie...despite the fact its only the songs that have sound. It is a real gem of a time capsule seeing old 1920's New York, the people, the attire etc...its very interesting in more ways than one. Its funny even at the time the critics said it was a simple schmaltzy affair and they weren't wrong. Its cram-packed full of sickly sentimental family customs, rituals and traditional beliefs...in short...its all very Jewish (and I know about that). Honesty its not really a movie as such, you could almost say it was a bit of a gimmick to both promote Jolson and at the same time use him to promote talking pictures in the best way possible. More of an experiment with talking pictures which at the same time takes the opportunity to capture the greatest performer of the age.

'wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain't heard nothin' yet!'
½ September 28, 2014
Mostly remembered for being the first feature film to have audible dialogue, however, it still looks fresh after watching it almost a century later.
September 2, 2014
Un clásico que cambió la historia del cine para siempre.
September 2, 2014
horrible movie that just doesnt hold up well
Super Reviewer
September 2, 2014
Notable for being the first feature film with audible dialogue and touching as it shows a man torn apart by a difficult decision, it however becomes a disgusting melodrama in the last fifteen minutes, when its two possible endings are thrown in together and the character makes a most unacceptable choice.
August 22, 2014
If it weren't for being the first movie with audible dialogue this movie wouldn't be remembered at all. One of the more tedious and boring movies I have seen.
August 10, 2014
As history, this film is a must-see; as an early part-talkie film, the story is tripe, but Jolson is electrifying.
½ April 20, 2014
A historic silent film - with several sections of added sound. Revolutionary film with several iconic tunes.
½ April 7, 2014
The Jazz Singer relies on the charm of its leading man Al Jolson and the chill inducing moment when his voice rings across your speakers and he utters those famous words "ladies and gentlemen you ain't heard nothing yet" to set it apart from any other film of the 20s and 30s. True that it was the first film that used voice but other then that groundbreaking technique and Jolson's performance The Jazz Singer is just an average film from early cinema history.
½ March 24, 2014
Disregarding the history, "The Jazz Singer" is a mildly entertaining film. That said...it is the first feature length film to feature synchronized dialogue. Sound had been synced to film before...dialogue in some shorts, and a full synced music track on a feature...but this was the first feature to use dialogue, and it was a huge hit...sound made it's make on film. Filmgoers didn't quite know it, but they ain't heard nothin' yet. Al Jolson plays a guy dying to get his big break as a jazz singer, but his father, a Jewish Cantor, disowns him for not following his father and his ancestors into being a Cantor for the Synagogue. Jolson portrays the anguish of being torn between his passion for jazz and his past of being Jewish well, but most of the acting in this is over the top. No restraint like in some of the better silent films, which this film mostly is (only a few scenes feature sound). Sure the blackface stuff is dated, but I honestly expected it to be more inflammatory. An important landmark in cinema history, but certainly a tad dated.
March 15, 2014
History in the making, coupled with a serviceable storyline and wonderful performances by Al Jolson.
March 15, 2014
History in the making, coupled with a serviceable storyline and wonderful performances by Al Jolson.
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