The Jazz Singer Reviews
It is a good film on it's own despite it's historical importance. The concept of this orthodox Jew turn between family tradition and a career in entertainment is fascinating to watch.
Al Johnson was fantastic as the silent & singing lead and really was the main vehicle of the film. It is a little creaky in parts but it's interesting seeing the major change in musical entertainment & society in general.
This is a key film in cinema history to see one of the most important films of all time....
Having seen it at last, I can check off one of the 1001 Films I Apparently Must See.
That said, the film's music is the best part, and while the story of a Jewish boy how is forced from his home when his father won't accept his love of jazz is an interesting one, I think it gets a bit slow at times, and overly sentimental. It hardly distracts from this watershed of a film, and I couldn't think of a better choice of the first "talkie" than a musical, particularly jazz.
When The Jazz Singer is viewed through the eyes of a modern audience, it is difficult to comprehend the impact this seemingly insignificant film had on cinema. It spurred what many view as the greatest revolution in the history of film. Despite its many flaws, I cannot bring myself to fail it, as it has influenced films in so many ways. I can also be somewhat generous with my rating because it had the challenge of being the very first film to be done in this manner. After decades of silent films with title cards being tradition, I can imagine that it would have been hard to make the very first film of its kind, not having any other examples to go by. The Jazz Singer is full of holes but its historical significance cannot go unnoticed.
Based off the play by Samson Raphaelson, the story centers on Jack Robin (Jolson in a performance that's very histrionic) who only wants to be a successful entertainer. Jack does not want to be like his father, who is the head Cantor at the local Jewish synagogue in New York City. One day, Jack comes home to perform a minstrel review for the public, which just so happens to open on the Day of Atonement. A sacred Jewish tradition that Jack has avoided since he was a young boy. On the eve of the Day of Atonement, Jack learns that his father is dying. Jack must then decide which is better: his career, or his family that he left behind.
"The Jazz Singer" is remarkable in a few ways. First and foremost, this movie brought sound to the film industry. Because of this, many other studios followed suite. Finally, the movie brought forth the death of silent cinema. Many actors and actresses of the silent cinema, including one Charlie Chaplin, thought the idea of the studios putting them in a sound picture would not further their career. Unfortunately, the studios said "Get with the program, or you're fired." Eventually, most of the silent film stars, including Chaplin, moved onto sound films. All thanks to "The Jazz Singer" and its use of putting sound into the movies. In fact, the 1952 film "Singin' in the Rain" describes the process of how studios transferred from silent cinema to talking pictures.
Despite the praises that this film gets, "The Jazz Singer" is a severely flawed movie. By this I mean that there are numerous things wrong with the film. For one thing, the film has a look to it that you can watch it and know it was for a certain era. The sound is pretty dated, but you must understand that this was the early days of talking pictures. The editing is a bit sloppy, but that's to be expected in early movies. Finally, the entire production fells like it's attempting to be a full-on stage show.
But what really bothers me is the story. It's pretty much something we all know quite well. The father of the family wants the son to follow in his footsteps, but the son has other ambitions. It's only until the end of the movie that the father realizes his mistake and ultimately forgives his son in the process before the father dies.
It's pretty corny and very predictable. In fact, Hollywood has remade "The Jazz Singer" twice. Once in 1952 done in color, and finally in 1980 with Neil Diamond. It should be clear that if Hollywood decides to remake this movie again, the writers better produce a pretty good story.
Overall, the 1927 version of "The Jazz Singer" should be watched for its historical importance, and that's about it. With the dawn of the sound cinema to lead the way for the future, "The Jazz Singer" is probably a poor choice to start the era of with, but it's still good, nonetheless. Eventually, the technology improved in the sound industry and films got better. Again, this is all thanks to Warner Bros. 1927 movie "The Jazz Singer".
Often referred to as the first 'Talking Picture' which is incorrect, 'Singer' was actually the first to utilize Synchronous Sound sewing everything together and creating the best of 'The Talkies' at the time.
I viewed this film on the big screen during Warner Bros. 75th Anniversary celebration which toured the country. If you can see it on screen, I recommend it. A great technological achievement and a massive leap forward for the film industry, it also began the downfall of the Silent Era stars who couldn't adapt and the birth of the 'Dream Factories' in Hollywood's greatest age.