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12 minutes ago, speedracer5 said:

Do you think it could be because Jolson had the fortune of appearing in the first sound film? I'm wondering if his reverence is merely because he just happened to appear in a milestone Hollywood film--not so much because Jolson himself was actually good.

I was joking about people being dumb back then, as I realize that it's a question of changing tastes, although I like to think that I wouldn't have liked his act back then, either, had I been a contemporary. I don't like most popular music in my era, either, so just because something was popular doesn't mean it was universally loved.

As for the sound movie appearance, I believe Jolson was a major theatrical (vaudeville?) star before then. I'm not sure how big of a movie star he was prior, seeing as his act was mainly a musical one, but he had a lot of fans before The Jazz Singer.

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Al Jolson was convinced and said so many times that he could win anyone over with a song. I am not surprised at his success because he was much of his own times and so thoroughly so. I am not a fan particularly myself but if I could put myself back then and see him performing in person, I might be overwhelmed with his type performance, so infectious as it evidently was then, though not so much now.

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First, anybody who saw Jolson perform live made it very clear that film never captured his full personality. And Jolson is certainly not the only performer for whom this can be said. Second, Jolson's way of putting over a song was different than anything anyone on Broadway had been doing. He was the Elvis Presley of his generation. As for his voice, only magnetic tape when employed on the Kraft Music Hall came anywhere near reproducing his resonance, and that was after he had had one lung was removed and he was singing four keys lower than in his early years. People who had seen Jolson at the Winter Garden said when he sang, the bricks at the back of the theater vibrated. And I can believe that, having seen Joseph Buloff in THE PRICE in New York. Certainly not the same phenom, but enough of a similarity that I understood and believed the claims about Jolson.

I'm afraid today Jolson is, for the most part, a curiosity. But there is no doubt that he was the biggest thing in entertainment during the pre-motion picture days. And that he single-handedly jump-started talking pictures. And that his re-emergence after his pioneering (he blazed the trail for Hope et al) entertaining of the troops during WWII led to THE JOLSON STORY and the biggest comeback in show business history.

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