Quick recap: The son of a well respected Jewish Cantor, Jakie Rabinowitz, is expected to follow in his family’s footsteps. Instead he becomes a jazz singer because that’s how you rebelled in the 1920s.
Fun (?) fact: Although The Jazz Singer was the first movie with audible dialogue, it did not mean that movie studios stopped making silent films. The technology was still really expensive at the time, often doubling the budget of a film.
My thoughts: The Jazz Singer is one of those movies I know is important and yet before last night, I didn’t know anything about it except that it had sound and was about a jazz singer. Never in a million years would I have predicted it would be about the battle between tradition and the modern Jewish family because it seemed like a light hearted, fluffy comedy musical.
Starting with the positive, I thought the story was sweet overall with the father finally coming around and welcoming his son back into the family before dying, although he never actually told his son that. Small details, I suppose. Moving on, I also appreciated the pace of the movie since silent films have a history of dragging on during certain times. The audio can only be heard in a couple of scenes along with the singing and it surprised me how excited I got when sound was introduced. I of course have grown up with ‘talkies’ as have most people alive today, and yet there is something special about witnessing something for the first time, like people in the 20s did.
What I didn’t love about The Jazz Singer is Al Jolson. I realize he is ‘the jazz guy’ and deserves to be the main character, but the dude creeped me out. First of all, the movie ages him from a cute 9 or 10 year old boy to a man in his late 40s who looks like he has been cooped up in the morgue for the past 20 years embalming dead people. At no time did I see Jolson as cute or sexy or anything other than ‘creepy undertaker’.
The whole ‘blackface’ thing was also more racist than I imagined, if that were even possible. The movie is about a minority (the Jewish people) and how they come to terms with tradition versus modern times. And Jakie, played by Jolson has this revelation that he needs to be ‘true to my race’ as he is in blackface! The end of the movie is supposed to be sweet as Jakie’s mother is in the audience and her son sings a song about her (‘Mammy’, seriously). All I could think about is that maybe Jakie’s father had a point and he should’ve stayed a Cantor instead.
Final review: 2/5. Yay for historical importance but the rest of the movie is a little ridiculous.
Up next: The Adventures of Robin Hood