Thursday, 14 August 2014

Movie Review: The Jazz Singer (1927)

Let me take you back to 1927. Cinema has taken off like nobody could imagine. The roaring 20's was in full flow, it was as F.Scott Fitzgerald called the Jazz age, and Cinema goers were treated to such fine films, like the comedies of Chaplin and Keaton, the action films of Fairbanks, European suspense cinema from such legends as Fritz Lang in Germany and a certain Alfred Hitchcock in Great Britain. Now all these films blew audiences away, they thought this was it the bees knees so to speak.

Enter Warner Brothers who wanted to do something a bit different. They wanted to release a film with Al Jolson in the lead. One thing tho Al Jolson was a singer..... cinema was silent.... but not for long the biggest and most important change to Cinema was about to begin the age of the.... 'Talkie'. WB had created a system called vitaphone. Vitaphone record the sound onto a disk (not yet on the film itself!). This disc was played along with the film in perfect unison instead of a pianist. This believe I or not was quite revolutionary, nobody had thought of this before, and it worked going on to be used for over 1,000 movies!.

Often hailed as the the first ever 'Talkie', and talked about in so many documentaries and books on movies and movie history. I was a bit shocked to find that its actually half silent and half talkie. But looking at it in context it was quite the achievement. The story revolves around a man who ran away from home as a boy, because he did not want to sing the religious songs his father wanted him to sing, his calling is 'Jazz'.

This happens to be Al Jolson of course. Now the story is told in the usual silent movie way scenes interspersed with cards of what the characters are saying and doing etc. But this was the shocker to come.... when Al gets on stage he talks and sings, not just that we can hear him!!. Now just imagine sat in a cinema in 1927, you only hear the sound of the piano been played by someone next to the screen, the movies are silent... but you have just witnessed history and in the words of Al ''You ain't heard nothing yet!''. I have posted a video from YouTube copyright of Warner Brothers at the bottom of this review of this classic moment.

The story is quite emotional... for the time, like I have mentioned the boy runs from home because his father is a Jewish cantor, whom does not approve of Jazz at all. The boy even leaves his mum behind (whom happens to believe in him), but we see him become The Jazz Singer, but he has to make some tough choices on the way.

Its the typical rebellion, chasing dreams against a fathers wishes, but a typical feel good movie. It is fairly average even for the time I think, but viewed as a piece of movie history, it is of great importance and worth a watch for Thayer alone. Al Jolson is pretty good in the movie too singing 'mammy' with his whole heart for his Mother who stood by him, he was certainly star and is cemented in movie history with this film. Cinema would never be the same again.

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