Saturday, February 6, 2010

Golden Oldie

The video below shows the fascinating and complex structuring of a sequence in the 1946 movie, “The Jolson Story.”

This may be the first movie I ever saw.

It is certainly the first one I remember.

And it had a profound effect on me.

To this day, I still have a VHS copy of the film, and the sequel, “Jolson Sings Again.”

The story has been made and remade a dozen times under various guises, beginning with the very first “talkie,” “The Jazz Singer,” starring Al Jolson himself.

“The Jazz Singer” has been remade first with Danny Thomas and then with Neil Diamond.

“Funny Girl,” although a bio of Fanny Brice, follows the same trajectory and themes – the great performer who lays so much out there on the stage for his/her love affair with the audience that he/she can’t possibly have a reasonable or successful personal life. Think Bette Davis – 75 different addresses and 4, I believe, husbands.

In the movie below, Larry Parks is playing Jolson, who, of course recorded all the music tracks.

Jolson was such an egotist that he wanted to play the part himself.

He was dissuaded, but you can see him from a distance – shot from the theatre balcony – in the “Swanee River” number later in the film.

Larry Parks was nominated for Best Actor, but lost to Fredrick March for his role in “The Best Years of our Lives.”

Parks’ career was destroyed shortly thereafter by the McCarthy hearings. He survived by doing Broadway and live theatre around the country.

We didn’t really see him again in the movies until 1962 in “Freud.”

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