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It's a terrific loss to those interested in the development of the Hollywood motion picture that so little of Al Jolson's films are currently available to watch or to purchase. In LaserDisc days, most of Jolson's Warner Brothers films were made available in one comprehensive collection. I hope that Warners will soon make some, if not all, of these entertaining films available on DVD to collectors and fans. Especially of interest to me are The Jazz Singer (I have the MGM/UA VHS), The Singing Fool, Say it With Songs, Wonder Bar and Go Into Your Dance. Am I alone in wanting a Jolson package collection set?

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Jerry,

 

Warner Bros released some wonderful films on laserdisc.

 

Now for them to release them on dvd means that they have to be remastered. While a number of films were restored for the laser release, Warners appears to be restoring films as they ready them for DVD. As I have said in previous posts, preservation and restoration is a costly and time consuming job.

 

Compared to other studios classic DVD output, WBros is the top of the pyramid.

 

The problem is there are so many films competing for the dollars in WBros classic Home Entertainment budget and only so many each year can be restored and released.

 

The market for these DVD sets, while encouraging, is quickly outpaced by the sales of new movies and old tv show boxed sets.

 

So as always, it comes down to dollars and cents.

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Thanks to you both. My comments are not meant to be complaints or to cause any offense. I am thankful that Warners has released a large number of classics on DVD (although not as many as MGM/UA did for the same inventory of films on VHS). These are simply my wish lists. I hope by sharing discussion it will encourage the release of even more classic films for public consumption.

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I hope by sharing discussion it will encourage the release of even more classic films for public consumption. >>

 

And encourage folks to buy classic DVDs at retail outlets or from stores on the internet where the purchases will be counted.

 

As wonderful and affordable as Ebay is, (and I know for some it is the only option) buying DVDs off Ebay that are available through brick and mortar stores and cyber stores those bought off Ebay don't necessarily get tallied into units sold.

 

And, the sad reality is, that units sold sometimes determines if a studio (other than Warners or Fox) will take a chance on releasing classic titles.

 

I applaud your encouragement Jerry and will join you in pressing your case!

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Roger Mayer said they are trying to restore the two-color Technicolor finale to Jolson's 1930 film "Mammy". TCM has all of Jolson's Warner Bros. films but have pretty much stopped scheduling them (apart from Jazz Singer) because everytime they do the network is heavily bombarded with complaints from African-American viewers because they find Jolson and his films highly offensive. It's doubtful titles lile "Singing Fool", "Say It With Song" or "Sonny Boy" will be schduled in the near future, if at all.

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i don't know why??? i'm of african-american descent and i don't let that type of stuff bother me. what's done is done and there's no use of crying of some old movie of white people in blackface. me and my mother actually find it funny now, because they were so ignorant in how they depicted us. i personally, would like to see this "mammy" number and hope they include it on this jolson boxed set WB has in the works.

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I agree with you on this one as well. I'm a Black American and don't find pictures like that offensive. Like you said what's done is done.

 

Remember, we weren't supposed to learn how to read and write years ago either. And some actually believed this would always be so. How ignorant is that?

 

Also, Black Americans of the golden age of the motion picture industry caught a lot of flack for portraying the stereo typical rolls we were given then such as maids, butlers and the like. But without them a lot of pictures would have fallen flat on their faces.

 

Sunshine Sammy Morrison, Louise Beavers, Mantan Moreland just to name a few all suffered through the hard times of racial ignorance, but they all became millionaires just the same.

 

In fact Hattie McDaniel is quoted for saying: "Hell, I'd rather play a maid than be one." Movie history is what it is. Like it or not.

 

Bill

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Bill...was that a Louise Beavers quote or Hattie McDaniel? (about better to play a maid then be one). I guess the important thing is that it is a point well taken.

 

I think basically all film, period, should be protected and saved because no matter what is on the film, it has become a Historical Document. We are the first few generations that gets to see our recent ancestors actually move, and speak. Also, as far as film, what they would pay to see. It is not our job to edit or censor for future generations. They need to see these films as they were made. All this includes Jolson's films.

 

I have seen "The Jazz Singer", for its historical significance, and parts of some of his other films. Just my opinion, but Jolson's performances I find aggravating and hard to watch. I asked my mother many years ago ( she is now 88), what is the deal with Al Jolson? Why was he so popular? She told me she had read that his Live Performances were outstanding and audiences just loved him, because he gave them EVERYTHING he had. For some, (like me) it just didn't translate to the screen.

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Quite naturally there will always be entertainers that don't appeal to everyone. That's just a fact of life. I'm all for preserving the past, no matter if its a Jolson film, a D.W. Griffith film like Birth Of A Nation (1915) or what have you.

 

I think from learning about the past (through film) we as people of this Human Race should grow and reach beyond that.

 

I'm still intrigued when I see old civil rights film footages. So what real harm can Al Jolson in black face really do to a people that hasn't already been done a thousand times over, and worse?

 

Bill

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TCM has shown JAZZ SINGER, WONDER BAR and the SINGING FOOL. I've not seen the others in ages - if ever on the network. HALLELUJAH I'M A BUM is on DVD.

 

Most of his films were released on VHS - as well as the laser disks you mention, including MAMMY and SAY IT WITH SONGS. I think patience is probably warranted and we'll finally get them.

 

By the way, WONDER BAR isn't on the Berkeley set - I think the mirror number is on the bonus disc as a supplement - but TCM does not edit it when shown. That sort of revisionist censure is against their policy.

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  • 2 weeks later...

TCM owns all of the Jolson films that were the rage in the late 20's and the early 30's. I can see why he has never been "Star of the Month", but couldn' they at least show a film of his once in awhile.? Apart from "The Jazz Singer"(1927) I have never seen him on the screen and I am interested in seeing what all the fuss was about.

 

Why has there never been an Al Jolson day? i.e. - showing a block of his films in the morning or early afternoon?

 

If it's due to political correctness, I think that's ridiculous.

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Perhaps not so much political correctness --- as a bad case of jitters --- is what likely keeps Jolson's work largely under wraps. Add to that the likely bafflement as to how to design and market his films, which would surely involve elimination of all black-face elements from advertising and packaging --- not to mention the addition of a hand-wringing introduction to the films that would plea for forgiveness and more or less imply "Don't blame us!"

 

All that aside, it's as unforgivable as it is sad that 2006 will likely not see the planned 80th Anniversary release of Jolson's JAZZ SINGER --- a title which underwent (I'm told) dramatic restoration of it's picture and sound elements, and would anchor a multi-disc set that would highlight early Vitaphone films, as well as duplicating (as nearly as possible) the original Vitaphone program that prefaced THE JAZZ SINGER upon it's original release.

 

All isn't doom and gloom however, as it appears the Politically Correct Pendulum has begun to swing the other way --- back from the absurd extremes it reached in the past few years. We've seen release of material that was once shuttered away (The Charlie Chan films, etc.) and there seems to be a general realization that film history can't be rewritten or hidden (as was once hoped) but it can be presented cautiously (as evidenced by the warning prologues on various Disney & WB releases) and slowly.

 

Still --- old feelings still prevail (the glaring omission of "Goin' To Heaven On A Mule" in the Busby Berkeley DVD set) at least for the moment.

 

Let's hope that THE JAZZ SINGER resurfaces again --- gloriously restored --- before it's 90th Anniversary.

 

Jeff

vitaphone@aol.com

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I was fortunate to catch an isolated screening of the restored version of MAMMY! (1930) a few years ago, and the difference was startling. What always struck me as a rather lifeless and drab film seemed suddenly vibrant and immensely entertaining --- due primarily to the beautiful new print (the B&W portions of the film were restored as well) and, especially, the full rich soundtrack which was re-mastered from a set of existing Vitaphone sound discs (which included the overture and exit music cues as well.)

 

The restored Technicolor sequences, among the best of this period I've ever seen, were an added treat and served well to highlight the dramatic, as well as the climactic musical portions of the film.

 

At the screening, it was announced that the film would be screened on TCM some time soon --- but, like I said, years have come and gone since.

 

Jeff

 

P.S. - I wouldn't hold out for MAMMY! on DVD. If they're jittery about THE JAZZ SINGER, then MAMMY! is certainly not being given so much as a passing thought.

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I knew way back is was going to be years before Jolson made it to DVD as he did to laser disc.

 

I'm just glad I transferred my lasers to DVD before my machine crapped out.

 

It's such a waste, really, of all that material not to show it.

 

I just can't believe that anyone could mistake what's happening on the screen for what happens in real life today.

 

Yancey.

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I am very happy to see so much interest in reviving the Jolson films. I was beginning to think no one cared about him anymore.

 

I encourage fans and collectors to continue to express their interest, both in airing the Jolson Warner Brothers films on TCM and in producing a Jolson package for DVD. 2007 would be an appropriate time to celebrate the 80th anniversary of The Jazz Singer and to include a healthy selection of other Jolson pics in the same package. Keep writing in!

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I found this in the digital bits. it was an interview with gerorge feltenstein.

 

"It is my hope eventually? you know, we want to do The Jazz Singer? that's actually being restored right now. If we can put things out profitably and to our standards of quality, we're going to do everything we can. And if The Jazz Singer sells well, I'd love to be able to put out some of the other Jolsons. We just found the original negative to Go into Your Dance, mislabeled in a vault in New Jersey, and a few years ago, the Technicolor sequence to Mammy in Finland. So there are always developments going on the search-and-find dept."

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The George Feltenstein quote has to be at least five or six years old... or even older, since it seems to predate the restoration and public screening of MAMMY.

 

It would appear the enthusiasm (and plans) for a JAZZ SINGER anniversary edition have long since fizzled out or been, at the very least, severely sidetracked.

 

Jeff

vitaphone@aol.com

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I don't mind being wrong one bit if the end result is the one you suggested!

 

It's just odd that he should refer to the Technicolor footage from MAMMY! as being an in-progress situation, is all.

 

Fantastic, by the way, to learn that pristine source material was located for GO INTO YOUR DANCE, a film badly in need of a picture and audio overhaul. On the downside, it remains inexplicable that no Jolson footage was used for the new Busby Berkeley DVD set, especially "Goin' To Heaven On a Mule."

 

Any speculation there?

 

Jeff

vitaphone@aol.com

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To Vitaphone and to tcmprogrammer,

 

I was speaking with a good friend of mine and he said, that knows people that work for the Vitaphone Project and he told me that TCM has never aired aired the Warner's 2 strip technicolor musical "UNDER A TEXAS MOON"(1930)and this film has been restored by the UCLA Film And Televison Archive, over ten years ago and it surprises me that this film(and is owned by Time Warner) has never seen the light of day on home video or TCM, for that matter.

 

This also comes to Jolson 1930 feauture "MAMMY", since this film was fully restored several years ago, the newly restored verison has not been seen on TCM, with the technicolor sequences presevred for this feature.I am a big fan of the early sound WB musicals and a fan of Jolson. himself, and it's kinda sad that TCM only airs "THE JAZZ SINGER"(1927) which will be shown next month during TCM'S RACE IN HOLLYWOOD series and why is this the only Jolson feature that gets aired all the time on TCM and nothing else of Jolson's film work?

 

I personally think that it's not just Jolson gets neglected by TCM, but the other early sound technicolor sound features(that does survives) that Warner Bros. made gets the same treatment and this is not a knock on TCM, but there has been many good early sound features, that may have been lost for decades, that have been found and preserved and are ready to be seen again on TCM.

 

So, TCM please show "MAMMY" and "UNDER A TEXAS MOON" with all of their natural technicolor glory. fully restored....Come on guys, you own these films and please put them to great use.

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