Released 1927 (USA)
American, in English (Most of the movie is silent, but the scene cards and most of the songs are in English; there are a handful of cantor songs that were in, I believe, Yiddish and/or Hebrew. They aren’t translated.)
Director - Alan Crosland
Stars - Al Jolson, Warner Oland, Eugenie Besserer
It’s the age-old tale of a young man rebelling against his conservative father. All young Jakie Rabinowitz (Jolson) wants is to be a jazz singer. His father (Oland) wants him to follow in his footsteps as cantor of their Jewish synagogue. Conflict ensues. Besserer co-stars as Jakie’s mother, Sara.
Oh god, black face. Why have you betrayed me so, movie? There was something particularly offensive about a man waxing poetic on the draw to heed the “call of his [Jewish] people” while in black face for the whole scene.
It was kind of weird that most of the movie was silent while parts of it - singing and some occasional dialogue - were in sound. I mean, I understand why. No doubt people went to this movie to hear Jolson sing. I still found it odd, though, and some of it wasn’t synced terribly well. (Note: This movie is widely recognized as the first "talkie," but it was sound on disc, not sound on film.)
My biggest problem with silent movies is the overacting. I assume it’s a recipe of one part not having the benefit of being heard and one part moving from stage to film, but I find it distracting and, occasionally, funny when it’s not meant to be. For example, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to laugh during a [SPOILER] death scene [SPOILER] and yet I did.
The orchestral music was overbearing.
With the exception of the above-mentioned scene, which I’m going to blame on the director, I really enjoyed the acting of Eugenie Besserer. Her character was my favorite.
It was really fun to see Jolson sing and dance on-screen. I love old timey jazz, so this was very enjoyable for me.
Loved the costuming.
On the one hand, I found this movie satisfying. It has a good heart. I was tickled by the ultra-progressive message of it because it was so 1920s. And I really did enjoy the singing, especially Jolson’s performance of “Toot, Toot, Tootsie! Goodbye.” I’m not going to ding it for the black face, even though I find it horribly offensive. I understand that was a thing back then and IIRC, it was particularly part of Jolson’s schtick. What I am dinging this movie for is how two-dimensional all the characters, and the story, are. It’s enjoyable, but at the end of the day it’s just fluff, 1920s fluff. The style of it was groundbreaking for the time. The substance is not.
I give it 3.75 stars.