The jazz singer (1927)

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German title The jazz singer
Original title The Jazz Singer
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1927
length 88 minutes
Age rating FSK 6
Director Alan Crosland
script Jack Jarmuth ,
Alfred A. Cohn ,
Samson Raphaelson (play)
music James V. Monaco ,
Louis Silvers
camera Hal Mohr
cut Harold McCord

The Jazz Singer is a film drama directed by Alan Crosland with Al Jolson in the lead role from 1927. It is considered the first sound film in feature film quality, was a great commercial success and paved the way for the sound film. The drama was produced by the Warner Bros. film studio .


The film is about the rise of the poor Jewish singer Jakie Rabinowitz to a celebrated Broadway star and the conflict between tradition and modernity or the break between father and son, since the father of the “jazz singer” would have preferred his son to be a cantor in the synagogue. The plot has - coincidentally - a biographical reference to the main actor Al Jolson, who was actually the son of a synagogue cantor. The famous cantor Jossele Rosenblatt also appeared in a guest role with a Yiddish song in the film.

History of origin

Contrary to what the title suggests, relatively little was sung in the film (Jolson sings “Toot Toot Tootsie”, “Dirty Hands Dirty Face”, “ Blue Skies ” and twice the song “Mammy”), but the flick is considered that too first film musical . The film helped the innovation of that time, sound film, as shown in the musical Singin 'in the Rain (You should be my lucky star) (1952), to a breakthrough, but is still largely a silent film with the gestures and facial expressions typical for it and faded in Subtitles . It is made using the Vitaphone needle-tone process . The light tone should prevail no later than the beginning of the 1930s. The jazz singer was also not the first sound film, as is often claimed. B. experimented with sound in short films; But it was the film that made the talkie known to the masses and brought the end of the silent film within a very short time.

The monologues and dialogues were improvised. Warner Brothers only intended to make a film in which the music and vocals were synchronized, which meant that no dialog manuscript was necessary. This explains the content of Jolson's first monologue: “Wait a minute, wait a minute! You ain't heard nothin 'yet! Do you wanna hear 'Toot-toot-tootsie'? ” - one of his most famous expressions , which he also presented at his usual stage appearances. The only other - and actually unintentional - speech sequence was significantly longer with at least 354 words and took place between Jolson (340), Eugenie Besserer (13) and finally Warner Oland, who was only allowed to say a single word - and specifically, "Stop ". It was not originally planned that Al Jolson interrupt his singing part for the purpose of a dialogue. This and the great commercial success meant that the era of the silent film after "The Jazz Singer" and the second great era of pantomime came to an end within a few years.

Jolson ended up making about $ 750,000 from The Jazz Singer . Sam Warner , who had been the strongest advocate of the new technology at Warner Brothers, died the day before the world premiere and could no longer see the breakthrough of the talkies, which he had achieved against considerable resistance in the family and the industry.


“Undoubtedly the best Vitaphone has ever brought to the screen. The combination of religious heartbreaking story [...] and Jolson's chant 'Kol Nidre' in a synagogue while his father dies and two 'Mammy' hits as his mother appears during his performance in the theater and later when she sits in the front row, transmit power and appeal in abundance. "

“'The Jazz Singer' is more than just the first sound film. It could well be seen as a typical example of the transformation of Jewish life in the USA at the time: the opening up to a less strict religious dogma and the integration of Jews into American society in general and the Hollywood film industry in particular. "

- 1001 films - The best films of all time

The lexicon of international film calls the film "a revolution for film technology and aesthetics" because of the technical development.


Alfred A. Cohn was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay category at the 1929 Academy Awards (official count 1928/1929), but had to admit defeat to Benjamin Glazer ( In Seventh Heaven ). However, the work was the first sound film to be awarded an honorary Oscar.

In 1996, The Jazzsinger was included in the National Film Registry , a directory of American films that are considered particularly worth preserving.


In 1952 there was a (insignificant) remake with Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee . Another remake followed in 1980 with Neil Diamond , Oscar winner Laurence Olivier and Luzie Arnaz. The film was not very successful commercially and was also panned by critics . The soundtrack of the same name by Neil Diamond (song highlights: "America", "Hello Again" and "Love on the Rocks") made it into the top ten and in 1981 reached number 1 on the Billboard charts .


Promotion poster in the USA for the film

In many countries, the film was the first ever feature-length sound film. In the United States, it premiered on October 6, 1927. In Austria it premiered as such on January 21, 1929 in Vienna's Central Kino .

Web links


  1. cf. Film review in the Variety from January 1, 1927
  2. cf. Ferrari, Chiara: The jazz singer . In: Schneider, Steven Jay (Ed.): 1001 Films - The best films of all time . Zurich: Olms, 2005. - ISBN 3-283-00525-7
  3. The jazz singer. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed August 30, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used