Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Mammy!" Yeah, I said "Mammy!.

So I buy the three-disc 80th Anniversary Edition of "The Jazz Singer" when I find out it contains over three hours of early talkie shorts. First I pop in the disc with the actual movie for the hell of it. I'd seen it on TV a bunch of years ago and thought that watching it again it would come off as just another interesting old movie. Right? Uh-uh. Damned if this ancient tearjerker didn't get to me. I know it's because of things I'm aware of now in my own family history but near the end when the dying cantor, played by the future Charlie Chan, Warner Oland, reached up to his son played by Al Jolson, and said "My son...I love you!". I lost it. I just couldn't help sobbing. Again at the end when Jolson is on stage singing "Mammy" and his mother watches him with tears in her eyes, I broke down again.

No wonder this movie was such a hit. Beyond the talking novely it does its job. Maybe a full-talking version with constant dialogue and music would have been over the top but this was brutally effective.

I also went through the wide=spanning extras on the set. There was a short of Jolson in blackface singing three songs and a bunch of trailers from his later movies, also a couple of late 30's shorts revolving around horse racing whose only connection seemed to be cameo shots of Jolson at the track. Strangest of all was a talkie short celebrating Warner Brothers' Silver Jubilee made in 1930. This featured a lot of shots of the current Warners stars of the time but not the crew you'd expect. George Arliss and John Barrymore were mentioned and a very young Walter Pidgeon and Loretta Young appeared but most of the actors even I had a hard time remebering. What about all the wisecracking, hard-boiled types that made the studio's eventual fortune? The only ones there were Joan Blondell, Edward G. Robinson and Frank McHugh. The other future stars, Powell, Cagney, Keeler, Bogart, obviously hadn't arrived yet. Hell, even Guy Kibbee and Ned Sparks were missing. It will be a treat checking out the many other goodies in this set.

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