The Jazz Singer

The first "talkie" told the story of a Jewish man seeking his future on Broadway.

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"Maybe not," the friend says, trying desperately to alleviate her concern. "You know Rose Levy on the theayter is Rosemarie Lee!"

But Mary Dale ain't no Rose Levy, and between the showbiz and the shikse, Cantor Rabinowitz has little to be proud of.

"I told you never to open his letters," he warns his sullen wife. "we nave no son."

Later, however, Jakie scores a point for conciliation when he says to Papa, "You taught me that music is the voice of God! It is as honorable to sing in the theater as in the synagogue." If only it were as easy in real life to come up with the right things to say so quickly.

A Historic Film

Not surprisingly, some of The Jazz Singer's primitive technical values and flat dialogue make it difficult for modern audiences to take seriously. But there is no denying its importance to movie history, and to the history of popular music. At the first Academy Awards presentation in May 1929, Warner Brothers was given a statuette (not yet called an Oscar) "for producing The Jazz Singer, the pioneer talking picture, which has revo­lutionized the industry."

Even today, The Jazz Singer gives audiences the chance to hear the biggest musical superstar of his day sing in the biggest movie blockbuster of that de­cade. Not only to hear him sing, but to hear him talk, too! It was Sam Warner himself, one of the founders of the studio that made the film, who suggested adding a few lines of dialogue between choruses of "Blue Skies." So in the middle of the song, performed in his parent's apartment, Jakie tells Mama to shut her eyes, and when she does, he kisses her on the cheek and tells her that if his new Broadway show is a hit, he is going to buy her a better place in which to live. By the expression on Eugenie Besserer's face, audiences know she was as surprised as they were to hear him speak.

Thanks in part to Sam Warner's suggestion, the studio, after several years of struggle, regained its hold on tremendous profits. And one of the first Jewish moth­ers on screen renewed her faith in the love of a successful son.

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Joel Samberg, a humor and opinion columnist, also is the author of The Jewish Book of Lists.