The Jazz Singer (1927)

jazz singer poster 1927 movie al jolson
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Brings sound to pictures, Jolson

Blackface scenes can be tough to swallow, weak story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Jazz Singer

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Genre(s):  Drama/Musical

Release Date(s):  October 6, 1927

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!

Jakie Rabinowitz (Bobby Gordon) love to sing, but his father Cantor Rabinowitz (Warner Oland) refuses to accept that he will not carry on his family’s Jewish tradition and instead wants to sing jazz on the stage.  Rejected, Jakie sets out on his own to make it as Jack Robin (Al Jolson)…a jazz singer!  Jack finds success and with a performer named Mary Dale (May McAvoy) getting his first big chance at success on Broadway.  When Jack learns that his father is dying and he is needed to perform the Kol Nidre, Jack must decide between his future and mending differences with his father.

Directed by Alan Crosland, The Jazz Singer adapts the Samson Raphaelson play The Day of Atonement.  The movie is considered the first “talkie” film with portions of the film having recordered dialogue on a Vitaphone sound-on-disc recording.  The movie was nominated by Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Engineering Effects with a special Academy Award presented for the production.  The movie was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry.


Yes mother…you shall be corrupted by the evil jazz!!!

The Jazz Singer was a revolution.  It changed film and made audio a real option for filmmakers.  Watching it now, you can see why it stands out as such a monumental change, but the film itself sometimes is a bit weak.

The movie’s story is pretty typical.  A father and son at odds about the future is rather typical.  The story falls out as you’d expect, but it is a bit surprising that the father really doesn’t come to accept Jack as a jazz singer…instead he forgives Jack as Jack does sing the Kol Nidre but there isn’t a weepy moment where Jack sings jazz and his father sees the joy it bring him and his fans.


Guess what old man…I’m going to sing jazz and now you can stop me (maniacal laughter)

Al Jolson has the expressive need that is necessary for silent and early pictures.  He can really get what he’s thinking expressed with his face and as a performer he is strong.  I can only imagine what it was like to see voices matching up with what was occurring on screen…it had to be a shock for the audiences.

To call the film a “talkie” however is a bit of a misnomer.  Yes, there are portions of singing and a few parts containing dialogue, but for the most part the movie is a silent picture with title cards and reading.  Other films had experiment with dialogue before The Jazz Singer and after The Jazz Singer, Warner Bros. Lights of New York (1928) is considered the first “all-talkie” film…as seen in films like Singing in the Rain, talkies changed the industry and its stars.


Don’t bother me…I’m getting racist.

A big moment in The Jazz Singer is controversial, and it deals with Al Jolson’s signature act.  Jolson often performed in blackface and The Jazz Singer features lots of big scenes in blackface.  Though it isn’t socially acceptable today, many critics say it works in this film especially since it points out that Jack is an outcast among his own people as well.  His mother and family friend don’t recognize him in the make-up (he’s Jakie’s shadow) and as a Jewish citizen also facing prejudice in America.  It does make the film a bit uncomfortable to watch by today’s standards however.

The Jazz Singer helped change everything about movies…plus, without The Jazz Singer, we wouldn’t have the great Merrie Melodies’ Tex Avery cartoon “I Love to Singa” with Owl Jolson.  The movie was remade in 1952 with Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee and in 1980 with Neil Diamond, Lucie Arnaz, and Laurence Olivier.  Even the makers knew that this movie would change things and as Al Jolson says in the movie, “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet”.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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